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Those Friendship Epiphanies Are A Good Thing

This story is partly a plea for advise, as I had no idea how to handle the situation when it was occurring.

In my first year at university, I naturally gravitated towards a group of girls in my seminar group. This group consisted of most of the girls in the seminar group (there were three seminar groups in the year). Since we were all about the same age and studying the same subject, we got on pretty well and had quite few things in common. We sat together in lectures (several degrees shared units and lecturers) and often ate lunch together. We hadn’t known each other very long, but I was under the impression that we all got on well enough.

Then, one day at the beginning of a lecture, one of the girls asked the rest of the group, “So, what time are we meeting up tonight?”

It turned out that the other girls had arranged to go out for the evening at some point. This was the first I had heard of it, so it had obviously been discussed while I wasn’t present. I was a little hurt at not being invited, but the last thing I wanted to do was demand an invitation to an event I wasn’t wanted at, so I didn’t say anything.

This proceeded to continue on a quite regular basis. The other girls in the group would make plans to meet up or go out together, often talking right over my head to debate meeting times and what clubs/restaurants/bars to go to. Another thing they would often do is discuss what a great time they had all had the night/weekend before, seemingly oblivious to my dismay at being excluded yet again. The thing that made it worse was that there was no obviously overt maliciousness in their actions – they just seemed completely clueless that discussing an event that a member of the conversation hadn’t been invited to might be hurtful.

I eventually took the hint and withdrew from the group, but it caused a real knock to my confidence. Even then, there was one final twist of the knife. At the end of the year, having completed our final exam and now being able to relax somewhat, our seminar group were discussing how we thought it had gone, when a member of the group declared (right in the middle of the conversation) that they should all go to her place to relax and celebrate the exams being over. With that, they left, leaving me standing there.

The story does fortunately have a happy ending. After going back for the summer and spending time with the friends I’d known for years, I realized I’d put up with being excluded because I was afraid of not making any other friends at university. A group of students from another seminar group in the same year kept in touch with me throughout the summer, and on the first lecture after returning, asked me if I’d like to join them to go out for dinner. I now spend a great deal of time with them, both in and out of university. I also became heavily involved in several clubs and societies and made a great deal of friends there, regularly meeting up for drinks and coffee and all the things the other group of girls used to plan over my head.

In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time with the group before deciding I’d had enough. I never confronted them on their exclusion of me, as I still have seminars and team projects with them, and they even declare sometimes how we “Never see each other anymore!”. To my knowledge, they still have no idea why I stopped hanging around with them. 0824-12

Your experience isn’t that uncommon.  Everyone, til the day they die, will miscalculate the level of relationship intimacy among friends and have an epiphany realization that they have invested in a relationship that just wasn’t worth the time and emotional expenditure.  My most recent one was when I had cancer three years ago.  Get cancer and you will discover real fast who your true friends are.  People I thought I was very close with abandoned me with no solace, no cards, no further contact as if my cancer was like leprosy.   On the other hand, people I had minimal acquaintance with came out of the woodwork and invested weekly to see how I was doing.   So I’m not entirely sure such trials and revelations into the character of one’s friends is all that bad of a thing to happen.  It’s like relationship closet cleaning..out with the bad, in with the new and good.


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  • 2browneyes4 August 29, 2012, 9:48 am

    I had a situation where my college roommate was of a different race than the rest of my friends and me. However, she really didn’t socialize with anyone else other than our group. We would make plans and I think she thought she was not invited because she is of a different race. It wasn’t that she wasn’t invited, it was because I’m a social clod and never thought to say “Wendy, we’re going to the dance on campus, do you want to go?”

    After the first time I realized that this is what happened, I said to her “I’m an idiot and I didn’t think to ask you if you wanted to go, I just assumed that if you wanted to come, you would. You are welcome anywhere and everywhere I’m going. So, if you see me going somewhere, consider yourself invited.” My other friends felt that way as well.

    So, from then on, if she saw me getting ready and she wanted to go, she just grabbed her coat and followed me out the door!! And, she is my absolute dearest friend from college still, 22 years later!!

  • Tuco August 29, 2012, 10:49 am

    I’ve had so many experiences with being excluded, mostly unintentionally, that I can’t even begin to count them. I went through school a different way and ended up being a junior at a major university at 18. My usual strategy is to never bring up my age (but if someone asks, I’ll tell it). My first year at school, I was in a dorm full of people who were freshmen but the same age. Unfortunately, my birthday is at the beginning of the school year and my mom sent me a cake. I shared it with my dorm mates, one thing led to another, and soon everyone knew I was the young junior. It didn’t help that I didn’t drink, didn’t go to any of the frat parties they went to, and didn’t have any of their freshman classes.

    Well, you say, simply don’t hang out with them. That was well and good in the spring semester, when I had cultivated an outside group of friends (I am a very slow friend-maker), but that fall was difficult. They would have cattle-calls where they would shout down the hall “Dinner!!! We’re all going to dinner!!!” and knock on doors of pretty much everyone (but me). If I did show up and go to dinner with them, it was painful for me and for anyone who tried to talk to me, since the conversation would often turn to what kind of mixers they preferred with their whiskey, etc. I never spoke about my abstention from alcohol, but it became pretty obvious after a while. I truly don’t think anyone was malicious at all in this situation…I just had nothing to contribute to the conversation. Eventually, I just stopped torturing everyone (including myself) and going to dinner. I would still dread dinnertime, when I would hear everyone outside my room loudly gathering and heading to dinner. I would sneak out before or after or buy a frozen food meal.

    So…the point of all that was that I would do the same thing as OP did. Inviting yourself somewhere when you are not all that welcome can end up putting stress on everyone involved. I learned how to hang out with myself (I regularly buy a ticket at the movies for one!), and make the kind of friends that actually like me. When in a group of new acquaintances whose friendship I am uncertain of, I am simply quiet. Then the worst they can think is “well, Tuco seems nice but she’s pretty quiet, huh?”, rather than “wow, Tuco is kind of making a fool of herself now”.

  • siobhan August 29, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Stacey Frith-Smith said

    ” Never make someone a priority in your life who makes you an option in theirs.”

    That is an excellent declaration, and one I wish I had learned long ago. Thank you!

  • Bre August 30, 2012, 9:52 pm

    I recently completed a stint of University, and I was shocked at how many times this sort of thing happened to me.

    Most notably, in my last year, most of my loans stopped — some errors on the company’s part, but it took them too long to fix it. I started pulling full time both at school and at work just to make basic ends meet — in a program which required ten plus hours of work a day, for the most part. I got something around three hours of sleep a night for the entirety of the second semester.

    The moment I wasn’t around in the lab all the time anymore, people who I’d thought were good friends forgot that I existed. The group liked to make Facebook events for their parties, and I would never receive invites (they were not public events, I couldn’t and would not want to, invite myself). I would show up in the lab the next day, and occasionally someone would ask why I didn’t come out the night before, as most of the people in our year were — I would politely state that I did not receive an invitation or in some cases know what was going on, and that would be that.

    As I ran out of money — and energy, from the long work hours — I would show up to lab classes visibly upset, several times having to explain to the prof why I couldn’t afford the materials to finish my work, and leaving in tears. No one ever asked how I was doing. These were people I believed I had been friends with for years at this point.

    I haven’t heard from a single one of them, since we finished. Good riddance; I wouldn’t even treat my enemies the way they treated me.

  • AnnaH September 1, 2012, 4:17 pm

    This has happened to me on so many occassions. The most common scenario being that a group of people I considered my friends, had a party and never invited me. They actually did not even metion it -until it already happened! Then they would spend days talking over my head on how fun and crazy it was. I HAVE asked why I wasn’t invited, but the answer has been either crickets or “we thought you were just going to say no anyway” (how do you know when you never invite me to anything?!).

    At university I was also in a similar situation where I hung out with a group of girls who would make plans to study together for exams. Like “come over at my place this saturday, I can bake a cake…” and blah blah blah. I was sitting right there, amongst them, and not once for YEARS did anyone of them say “hey, are you coming?” or something like it. It’s seems so easy for people here to say that you should just invite yourself, just show up or ask if you can come too, but in reality it’s not that easy.
    People not making specific plans, but just plans to call each other later that night to decide a time and place – you know you are left out when you don’t get a phone call.
    Subtle things like looks and inside jokes…you know when you aren’t welcome, believe me.

    I kept in touch with the univeristy girls for a while after we graduated, but pretty quickly it became clear to me that the communication was one way. They never contacted me, I was the one keeping in touch. And when I did meet up with one of them, they would tell me stories of what fun thing they had been doing with their little group. So they keep in touch with each other, just not me. It stung really really bad.

    For someone like me who always had trouble making friends and being shy, I hung on to hope for maybe too long. Today I only consider them aqcuaitances at best.

  • kingsrings September 2, 2012, 9:09 pm

    Social networking sites like Facebook are also a wonderful way to find out you weren’t invited to such-and-such event. There’s nothing better than to read comments or see photos of an event you were left out of, for one reason or another. It’s very hurtful.

    I’m of the viewpoint that unless you were specifically asked, you weren’t invited. It’s just good manners, and I wouldn’t want a pity invite or put anyone in an uncomfortable situation, even though they’re doing wrong by talking about it in front of me. I’m experiencing this now with a committee I belong to in business group I’m a member of. Every day after our committee meeting, two of the members will go out for lunch. They have never invited myself or any other of the committee members along. They’ll ask each other if they want to go, then discuss where they’re going, right smack in front of myself and others. It’s so baffling, because other than that, they’re both really nice, inclusive people. How they can’t realize how wrong and rude this, I have no idea.

  • anonymous September 22, 2012, 12:41 am

    I do feel that if you withdraw because of feeling excluded as you were, and someone says “I never see you anymore” later on, you are within your rights to say “honestly, you guys would frequently meet up with each other – which is fine – and then talk about it around me when I hadn’t been invited. That felt awful, so I moved on.”

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