Only When Her Real Friends Are Busy

Only When Her Real Friends Are Busy

Today’s question comes from a woman who feels that a friend only seeks her out when her “real” friends are busy. But Nina wonders if our letter writer’s assumptions are getting in the way of her enjoying the friendship as it is now.

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Dear Nina,

I had a friend who I used to consider one of my closer friends in town. A few years ago for her birthday she invited a group of friends for a girls’ weekend away, and when I was not included, I realized that I viewed our relationship differently than she did. Though it hurt, I made my peace with it and we continued to be friends.

However, I feel like she only seeks me out when her “real” friends are unavailable. In some ways I’m fine with that. I realize not everyone needs to be a best friend, and I certainly have other friends with whom I’m much closer and socialize with more often. But in other ways, it still feels a bit insulting and hurtful.

Is it ridiculous to keep up this charade where I know she only seeks me out as a last choice, but we both pretend that’s not the case? Do I call her out on it and let her know that I realize what she’s doing (even if perhaps she’s doing it unconsciously)? Or do I continue as is, knowing our “deal” and taking whatever friendship we have at face value?


Thank you,

Tired of Being Picked Last


Dear Tired of Being Picked Last,

First, we need to discuss how gracefully you handled that group trip. I think one of the hardest aspects of friendship at any age is knowing that our friends are spending time together without us.

However, as I discussed back in January in “The More The Merrier Vs. Quality Time,” if we want to connect with a few friends without inviting eight more along every time, we have to accept that we will also not get invited to every outing. It sounds like you don’t need to read my answer to that dilemma, but I wanted to mention it here because others could likely use the advice.

You also gracefully handled a second issue that comes up in this column often: changing the status of a friendship. Once a friendship has gone from close to casual (a “how-to” question all on its own), how do you deal with the fact that you’re no longer in the inner circle? Do you keep the friendship to enjoy the connection in its new form, or does the comparison to the past relationship make a less intense friendship impossible?

It sounds like you and Trip Planner found a way to recalibrate the friendship for a while (instigated by Trip Planner’s birthday getaway), but now you’re plagued by the nagging feeling that she does not appreciate what you bring to the table even in this new version of the friendship.

I think it’s important to note that you don’t know whether Trip Planner is only seeking you out when everyone else is unavailable. You may sense it, but you cannot possibly be privy to all of her communications with other friends. It’s your assumption that she’s generally picking you last.

I also wonder how often you reach out to Trip Planner. Is she doing all the plan making because you still feel slighted a bit from the trip? Perhaps if you’re not ever the one reaching out, she’s getting the signal from you that you’re not very interested in staying friends.

Now, here’s my two cents on your direct questions.

“Do I call her out on it and let her know that I realize what she’s doing (even if perhaps she’s doing it unconsciously)?” No, do not call her out on this. I think this is a case of “actions speak louder than words,” and what your actions should be depends on what you want.

If your goal is to be closer friends again or to at least maintain the new version of the friendship, then you can reach out more (if you’re not already). You have to do your part to drive the relationship. However, if your goal is simply to “stick it” to Trip Planner somehow, then that tells me you really don’t want to be friends, even casual friends. In that case, not only should you not reach out to her, but you should not feel the pressure to say yes every time she asks if you’re available.

“Or do I continue as is, knowing our “deal” and taking whatever friendship we have at face value?” That depends on a formula that is central to every relationship. Do the pluses outweigh the minuses? If the answer is yes, then keep her in your life. If you enjoy the time you spend together, if she’s insightful, fun, a great exercise partner, kind in ways not represented in this question, or in some way brings more to your life than she takes away from it, then I say enjoy the relationship for what it is. If you feel bad around her more than you feel good, then that’s another story. But before you decide that’s the case, make sure it’s not your assumptions about who she called first that are making you pick the “minuses” over the “pluses.”

Good luck, Tired of Being Picked Last!

Readers: Any advice you would add?


FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1Nina is a contributing writer for,, and Great New Books. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and have been syndicated in The Times of Israel as well as Jewish newspapers across the country. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Contact her on Twitter @ninabadzin and on her blog.


  1. Friendships do change over time. We naturally grow in different directions, drifting apart, but sometimes life intervenes causing us to narrow our focus to more manageable group. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of it. I’ve had to remind myself not to take it personally. I think that leads to your point, Nina, of not making assumptions. That can be hard too, of course, but it does help me move on faster.
    Jackie Cangro recently posted…The One With the Good IntentionsMy Profile

  2. Pam says:

    Nina, I agree with your advice… I would also be curious to know what the history of the friendship is. I wish the advice-seeker had shared this. Without knowing this, I am kind of scratching my head wondering why this person is bothered by the situation. I have a lot of friends that I know I am not the first person they call. but it’s mutual and I am totally ok with that. If it bothered me for some reason, without having a long history with the person, I might seriously de-prioritze the friendship. Life is too short to hang out with people who don’t make you feel good.
    Pam recently posted…The Perfect (re)TreatMy Profile

  3. Diann says:

    As always your response is so thoughtful, and gives me food for thought.

    Maybe because there’s so little information in the question, but I find myself considering it more deeply (I suppose trying to suss out background). And in that considering, this strikes me:
    “But in other ways, it still feels a bit insulting and hurtful.”

    Although there may well be assumption behind both Picked Last’s take as well as my own, I’m guessing we’ve all had those “user” friends who kind of go to you just when they need something. I’m sensing that this may be what’s going on here, PL’s sense that her “friend” is like, “Well, I have nothing to do/I’m bored/etc., I’ll call PL b/c nobody else is around.” And just like during dating if you got a sense that a guy is not good for you in a similar way, I say trust your gut. As Pam above comments, life is just too short to be around people who make you feel bad.

    That said, as you bring up, if PL is miffed after the change in friendship status and is playing out those feelings, that’s another matter and requires an honest internal look.
    Diann recently posted…Running Love, Audrey Hepburn’s Healthy Living Secrets, and the Empathetic BrainMy Profile

  4. Fabulous advice as always, Nina. My initial response was similar to the other commenters: that if you’re not happy with a friendship and have other, more meaningful friendships – walk away. Your insight about weighing plusses and minuses is so spot on: in the end, that’s the big question — whether PL is getting ANY benefit from the relationship.

    I know I sound like a broken record: but you should have been a psych major, Nina. 😉
    Melissa Crytzer Fry recently posted…Spring Memories ~ IIMy Profile

  5. Allie says:

    This is tricky, but I do think that there are friends you “go away with,” and those you don’t. For me, I usually reserve my trips for friends I’ve known a really long time and don’t get to see often. Also, you have to consider the mix. Maybe she wasn’t certain if Tired of Being Picked Last would gel with all parties. Who was in charge of the planning? Maybe her friend didn’t even have a say in who got to go. Either way, I think she needs to ask, or walk away.
    Allie recently posted…Book Review: The Idea of LoveMy Profile

  6. This is a tough one. The over-night she wasn’t invited to clearly left TBPL feeling hurt, but isn’t necessarily a sign that the other party doesn’t wish to be friends. As you point out—there could be a lot of explanations why she wasn’t invited, and it’s best not to make assumptions. Your advice is gorgeous and heartfelt, as always, Nina.

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