• When a Group of Friends Falls Apart


    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina is tackling the sticky issue of maintaining individual friendships when a group of friends falls apart. Have you been in this situation as an adult or even in younger years, perhaps? We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Don’t be afraid to add your two cents.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina:

    I’ve shared a close friendship with a group of women for several years. However, the dynamic of the group is evolving and the group of friends is falling apart because of external and internal reasons. I’ve maintained individual relationships with each woman; however, now I feel like I am in the middle, because although I get along with each person individually that isn’t the case across the board.

    Should I address this with the group or let it go? And if I choose to let go of the group, how do I continue to maintain individual friendships without stepping on anyone’s toes?

    Any advice is appreciated.




    Dear Confused,

    Without knowing the details of why your group is falling apart or any of the other micro issues, I know others will relate to the problem of being connected to a group of friends that is long past its expiration date.

    Before I go on, I want to address the people reading this question (and answer) who are silently asking themselves, “Why is an adult part of a group of friends anyway?”

    Reasons Why Adults End Up in a Group of Friends

    • The group is a carryover from high school or college with some new configurations, but it started “way back when.”
    • The members of the group all met in a common setting like a class or in a work environment that no longer meets regularly so the group formed to keep the individuals together.
    • There can be a bit of mystery to how and why a group forms. Frankly, sometimes the group can feel manufactured, which is usually the first kind to fall apart.

    I’m not going to say all groups disintegrate because I couldn’t possibly know that, but every group I’ve been a part of has gone through significant permutations over time. Some of those permutations have led to an ultimate disintegration, but in each case, the new reality has been more of a relief than a problem.

    In other words, I’ve never been part of a group that was worth keeping together under all circumstances. The group’s history should never become more important that its current health. (By “health” I mean, the members of the group are kind to each other and as free from drama as possible.)

    Ultimately, the individual relationships are what matter most, especially when the group dynamics feel forced at best and unpleasant at worst. Sounds like you’re in at least one of those positions right now so let’s get practical.

    How to keep your relationships strong with the individuals you like:

    #1. Based on your question, this needs to be said: It is not your problem whether other members of the group continue to stay friends or whether they form a new group. At this point, you need to focus on who brings out the best in you and vice versa. I wouldn’t make any formal announcements about your desire to step away from the group. This will be a case of actions speaking louder than words, or you simply slipping under the radar, which is probably for the best.

    #2. Make consistent plans with the women you enjoy. Lunch, walks, coffee, tickets to a show—anything that means time spent with one other person. Personally, I find walks the best way to catch up with one friend at a time. Also, there’s a natural end time, which is a nice plus (in my opinion).

    #3. Be careful to avoid allowing the growing bonds with certain individuals to revolve around a common frustration with the former group. It’s tempting to get others to feel the way you do about the group or to commiserate with individuals who already share your aggravation, but too much of this chitchat will create a false sense of closeness. Don’t fall for it!

    By the way, these group permutations happen in families, too. Sometimes different groupings of siblings and siblings-in-law are closer and sometimes they’re in a moment (or years) of drifting apart. Same goes for cousins and other relatives. David Sedaris had a great essay recently in the New Yorker that is seemingly about shopping in Tokyo, but is really about these shifting group dynamics. Other than enjoying the standard cleverness of Sedaris, I also liked the matter-of-fact attitude in which he talks about how relationships morph again and again.

    Thanks so much for your question, Confused. I hoped at the very least I helped you see how normal the shifting dynamics are.

    Good luck!



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  • HerTake: I Like You, But Not Enough for a Long Distance Visit

    When a friend’s expectations are far beyond what you would do for that person, how do you get out of the situation without hurting someone’s feelings? In this month’s letter, a long distance friend wants to come for a visit, but the letter writer feels that anything involving an airplane is beyond the boundaries of the friendship. What would you do?

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina,

    A few years ago I moved to a small town where I didn’t know anyone. It was a very difficult situation especially since I was overtly ignored or excluded by most women in town because of my newcomer status. But there was one woman (I’ll call her Tracey.) who was not only friendly but also very welcoming, even inviting us over for Christmas dinner. She and I continued to socialize mostly with our children and families and I enjoyed chatting with her.

    When my husband and I moved our family again, I said goodbye to Tracey and made sure to get her contact information for the occasional catch up. But on one of her first check-ins, she asked about making plans to come visit with her family. I was surprised because I didn’t think we had made it to visiting status, especially when it involves an airplane ride. And I certainly have no desire to ever go back to that town again!

    I feel guilty when I hear from Tracey and feel like I need to invest more in the relationship like she has, but I’m not sure I want to. I feel terrible! What do I do?


    I like you, but not enough for a long distance visit!


    Dear I like you,

    I chose your letter because it describes the trickiest of friendship conundrums: How can we let someone down or even change the status of a friendship while still demonstrating kindness?

    Your situation would be a simpler if Tracey had been a mediocre friend. I realize you two did not have an extremely deep connection, but the way she welcomed you to town when most others did not certainly puts her in a special status. Special status aside, I understand that an indefinite long-distance friendship takes a dedication that requires a deeper emotional base, and an equal effort, too. Friendships do not have to be 50-50 in effort, but 90-10 won’t work.

    My point is that I understand why you feel torn up about what to do. You don’t want to hurt Tracey’s feelings, but meeting her in the middle on effort and enthusiasm would require you to become a performer. I gather that you would prefer to have the type of long-distance friendship that manifests itself in friendly and genuine emails and mutual Facebook appreciation rather than visits back and forth or meeting in a neutral city in the middle. There is nothing wrong with you or “mean” about you for preferring the latter. If the chemistry for a deeper kind of friendship is not there, then it is not there. There’s no point in even analyzing why. Sometimes people do not click beyond a surface level no matter how much kindness has been bestowed.

    Still, because of Tracey’s track record of thoughtfulness and inclusivity, you want to be extra gentle in your approach to conveying that a visit is not going to work for you. The way I see it, you have two options: #1. Be direct, which requires saying that you think a visit feels out of bounds. Or #2. Be indirect and therefore spare Tracey’s feelings.

    I wish I had a good idea for how to handle this situation with absolute honesty and integrity, but to spare Tracey’s feelings, you will probably have to say some things that are not 100% true. Yes, I’m giving you permission to craft a white lie. I’m guessing from your letter that there is a spouse/partner and a kid or two in your household. Could you or your spouse have too many “up in the air” work commitments this year to say for sure when a visit would make sense? That’s just one idea, but you get where I’m coming from, I hope. Don’t make up something wildly untrue. You’re trying to state that it’s too hard to pin down a time, while hopefully getting the message across that if it were important enough to you, then you would find a weekend and just make it work.

    It’s not what you will say that will get the message across, it’s what you’re not saying. By not committing to a date, I can’t see how Tracey won’t figure out that this long-distance friendship is going to be less intense than perhaps she had hoped. And that’s okay. I imagine you were a good friend to her, too, while you lived in the same town and you don’t owe her lifelong friendship. All you owe her is that you treat her with as much kindness as possible.

    Good luck!



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    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.






    **Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience released last month, and was recently endorsed by the Singapore Committee for UN Women! You can buy a paperback or e-book here.

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  • When to Stop Saving the Friendship

    If a friend starts pulling away while claiming nothing is wrong, how far would you go to save the friendship? How far should you go to get an answer about why she is no longer interested in being friends?

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina,

    I became friends with another woman in my community two years ago. Our kids went to the same camp and we instantly hit it off. Over the past two years we’ve spent tons of time together individually, with our kids, and with our spouses. We even took a trip together with our kids (sans husbands). We used to email or text almost every day and saw each other at least once a week, often more because we’d walk together several days a week.

    Lately I’ve been getting the brush off from her. Over the last few weeks, she’s stopped initiating plans. We still see each other often because our kids do several of the same extracurricular activities and we have mutual friends who get together once or twice a month for dinner and other activities. When I do see her, she’s very polite, but completely disengaged. It’s a stark contrast to the connection we had before.

    I asked her in person if everything was okay and told her I was getting the feeling she was upset with me. She sidestepped the question then redirected our conversation to other surface topics. Later, I texted her reiterating the vibe I’m getting and admitted that maybe I was being oversensitive and needy. I asked if everything with okay with her, thinking maybe she’s going through something. Again, she talked around the question then said, “I wasn’t upset with you when I saw you today. I was actually upset about work.” She never directly answered to tell me if she’s been upset with me before that day though because honestly the cold vibe started way before the “work” explanation.

    I don’t know how much this plays into what’s going on right now, but we’re about as opposite as you can get. I’m more emotional; she’s more logical. I’m drawn to literature and arts; she’s drawn to science and math. I enjoyed this aspect of our friendship a lot, but now that something doesn’t feel right between us, I realize that we probably approach conflicts like this very differently. I feel the need to address issues when they arise, and she clearly doesn’t want to.

    Is there anything else I can do to address her coldness, or have I done what I can? Is she just politely brushing me off and clearly doesn’t see the value in discussing it with me? I guess I’m most scared of this. I’m starting to doubt the depth of our friendship, and I feel silly for thinking we were ever “close” friends. My husband says that I need to move forward and accept that this might not be the friendship I thought it was, but I’d still like to salvage it if possible. I don’t know if I can discuss it with her again. I’ve tried to bring it up twice and her responses (or non-responses) make me feel bad. It feels like I’m asking her for constant reassurance, and I don’t want to be that person. Do I stop trying on my end? I feel like I’m losing friend, and I’d like to at least know why.

    Thanks for your insight.

    Just call me Needy Nancy!


    Dear Needy Nancy,

     In last month’s question about whether to unfriend an ex-friend on Facebook, I heard from a woman who was equally frustrated about a close friend’s unilateral decision to end a friendship without an explanation. The two women had been best friends for thirteen years before the letter writer’s friend starting fading away in the same way you’re describing.

    But what happened next is something I would like to help you avoid. The letter writer spent the next five years attempting to communicate with her former best friend with the purpose of hearing what had gone wrong. She never quite got the answer she was looking for, and I’m not convinced that hearing a list of reasons would have made the end of that friendship any easier for the letter-writer. We (as in most people) generally do not like getting left behind and no explanation makes the abandonment more palatable.

    I have a feeling that there is nothing your friend can say to make you feel better about her decision to cut you out of her life. The reality is that you’ve invested time and emotional capital into the friendship and her sudden decision to fade away feels like a rejection. And I’m not making light of your feelings. I think many woman would agree (including me) that the rejection of a friend can feel significantly worse than a romantic breakup. In a monogamous relationship it’s understood that we can only have one special partner. But in friendships we can have many close relationships, even several “best” friends. It’s easy to obsessively ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?,” when a friend, who can have many friends, decides to cut you out of her life.

    You’ve asked me and yourself an important question: Is there anything else I can do to address her coldness, or have I done what I can? It sounds to me like you’ve done what you can. It really does. We simply do not get to decide how another person behaves, nor do we get to decide the fate of our friendships. Your friend certainly has her reasons, and I bet only some of them fall on your shoulders. If she’s not returning calls or answering questions directly when you see her in person, then your only other choice is to write an email or a handwritten letter explaining your hurt and disappointment. But you should only do that knowing you may never get a response, or at least not a satisfying response. She may not tell you the truth. Or, more likely, she will tell you her truth, which could feel far from your experience of the friendship.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t try one last time to talk things out with her, but I am urging you to keep your expectations low and to use it more as a chance to potentially learn something useful for your other friendships. I happened to read two personal essays in October about dealing with the end of friendships and both illustrated how we can learn from our part in the endings, even if we’re the ones left behind. Check out Laura Turner’s, “How Do You Grieve a Friendship When You Never Wanted to Let it Die” in Jezebel. I also liked Kaitlin Ugolik’s, “How I Realized I Was the Toxic Friend,” in Refinery29. I would read all the comments on both pieces, too, which are full of women (and some men) commiserating about being the friend left behind. Most of us have been there.

    There is one area where I hope to alleviate some of your worry. You said, “I’m starting to doubt the depth of our friendship, and I feel silly for thinking we were ever “close” friends. My husband says that I need to move forward and accept that this might not be the friendship I thought it was . . . ”

     I only agree with half of your husband’s statement. Yes, I think you have to accept that the friendship as you knew it (and by the way, it was a really intense one in my estimation) is over, but that doesn’t mean this friend was not a close and intimate person in your life. It doesn’t mean that the friendship was fake. I want you to decide that two truths can exist at once. Yes, you two were important to each other and the two years you had together mattered to both of you because of the depth of the friendship. But also, the friendship as you knew it is ending and it rightfully hurts.

    Finally, “Needy Nancy,” I’m sorry you’re going through this loss. It is most definitely a loss and it’s okay to wallow in the pain of it for a while. But then (soon!) you have to look up and notice your other friends and think about the potential of future friendships. Each relationship, even the ones we can’t save, offers us the chance to grow and change for the better. And remember that this one friend drifting away does not make you an unworthy person.

    Thank you for sharing your experience here. I have no doubt that many readers will relate.




    Readers: How have you successfully moved forward after the end of a close friendship?

    **Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience released last week! You can buy a paperback or e-book here.

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    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.



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  • When to Unfriend on Facebook

    When do you unfriend someone on Facebook? If you’ve done it, did you have any regrets? We’re still in new territory when it comes to friendship boundaries online and all opinions are welcome here. Let us know what you would do in the same situation.


    when to unfriend on Facebook

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Dear Nina,

    Five years ago my best friend of thirteen years and I had a falling out. It took me five years to get over the tragic loss of this relationship and especially the lack of civility in our parting. I sent her a sappy email several times over the years. I even left a note at her house once, but she never acknowledged receiving it. That was the turning point when I forced myself to stop trying. I realized that she didn’t care, which helped me move on even though I missed the friendship.

    Then out of nowhere, she called. She left me a voicemail and all at once I felt validated. “She does care,” I thought. “She doesn’t hate me. She misses me!”

    Quickly though, I felt fear. After all, I had just gotten to a point where I really didn’t care if we ever talked again and it felt freeing and healthy. That said, I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to have a conversation that could lead to some closure. If calling her back meant that I would have resolution and that maybe we could be the kind of friends who send a Christmas card or just say “Hi,” every few years or so, then that would feel like a better way to honor the good years we had together. I didn’t want things to be so black and white.

    I got up the nerve to call her back. I was so nervous, but I threw caution to the wind and left my shaky, awkward voicemail and then waited. She didn’t call me back. I felt as raw as when it had first happened five years earlier. How could she come back into my life and then disappear again?

    Three months later I was coming off a huge project, I was on my way out of the country for a big trip, and I was on a great high from life. She texted me: “I think about you a lot and I hope that you and your family are doing great.” I almost texted right back in all my happy elation from the events and the text.

    But then I stopped myself. How would I feel if she didn’t text back? I was back in economics 101, opportunity cost, weighing and measuring my reward to investment in a human relationship. So I didn’t text. I decided to see how I felt after my trip.

    When I got back in town, I saw that she sent me a friend request on Facebook. I thought, “This is it! She’s serious about being in communication.” However, something didn’t feel right about a person who wasn’t there for me having full access to the history of my past five years and day-to-day life. On the other hand, I didn’t want to make a decision out of fear so I accepted the request and I wrote her back.

    It was more of the same, “I hope you’re well.” I asked how she was and tried to start more of a conversation and her answers were one-word responses. I asked her more and she didn’t respond at all.

    Communication to me is not a one liner. I am really happy to know that she thinks about me and that the freeze has melted, but her not returning my voicemail really hurt as did the way our friendship ended five years ago.

    However, trying to come to a resolution with her sounds daunting, and I can see that she will never want to talk about what happened five years ago. I feel uncomfortable with her as a Facebook friend, but I fear that if I unfriend her, I will be sending a juvenile, “I’m still mad at you” message.

    What do you think I should do?


    Hovering Over the Unfriend Option


    Dear Hovering Over the Unfriend Option,

    Before we delve into your Facebook options, it’s worth mentioning that while your hurt feelings about the end of a thirteen-year friendship are completely understandable, you might have a false sense of how at peace you’d be if you only knew why your friend severed ties.

    Having been dumped by a friend many years ago in much the same way you described, I know that it takes years to get over the loss. One of the main issues to contend with is the lack of control you had over the fate of the friendship as well as a total absence of closure.

    I remember pouring my heart out to my former friend years later when we reconnected for a short time (in pre-Facebook years) and she generally said, “Oh that? I can’t remember.” It was wholly unsatisfying and her nonchalant attitude created a new sense of confusion over the good parts of the friendship, too.

    The end of a friendship is tricky no matter how the details play out. If your friend had provided a list of reasons five years ago, I doubt you would have felt better about her unilateral decision. You might have felt more hurt and rejected.

    Now let’s discuss the part of your predicament that affects many relationships on Facebook.

    In “real life,” we don’t let every person we know into the inner circle, so how does the same decision-making function online? Who should get to see the status updates and pictures we share?

    What does Facebook mean for you?

    The answer to that question depends on how you view the role of Facebook. The discussion that follows pertains to Facebook friendships in general, not just your situation with this one particular friend. I also want to be clear that there is not one right answer for how one shares and receives information on Facebook.

    My local (and Facebook!) friend, Dana, said, “I try to be selective on my social network and ask myself if I ran into this person would I be really excited to see them and maybe get a coffee. If not then they shouldn’t have so much access to my life on the Internet.”

    For someone like me, a blogger for almost five years and a personal essay writer with work online, I have a looser set of boundaries for my virtual connections. I organize my Facebook friends in a way that lets me share photos of my kids with my “friends” category whereas my links to online essays I’ve written or enjoyed fall in the “public” or “friends” plus “acquaintances” categories. You have to keep your Facebook connections organized for the privacy functions to work this way. More on that later.

    Nina’s policy: when to unfriend someone on Facebook

    As for my personal policy on unfriending: I have never unfriended anybody because there are other options that are less extreme. Yes, I think unfriending can be an extreme choice, especially in the realm of close friends and family members. (Note that the friend at the center of your letter does not fit into either of those categories.)

    If I felt that family members were criticizing my posts, I’d restrict their access. I’ve never felt the need to hide anyone else’s posts, but if a friend’s updates really bothered me, I would choose the hide or unfollow route before I unfriended. The unfriend and especially the block option seems more appropriate for when someone is harassing you with obnoxious comments or in any other capacity.

    More reasons for hesitation about unfriending

    When you choose to unfriend on Facebook, you’re saying, “I want to cut off all online access to that person as well as cut off that person’s access to me.” Let’s say you vehemently disagree with a friend’s politics, yet you still want to push “like” on a picture of her kids once in a while to stay connected. That is still possible with the hide, unfollow, and restrict options, but once you hit “unfriend,” any relationship on Facebook is over.

    And I’d argue it damages the relationship off Facebook, too. It can be surprisingly hurtful to be on the receiving end of that kind of instant “I don’t want anything to do with you” message in a situation that really called for a more gentle approach.

    All that said, in the case of your non-communicating former friend, I think that “unfriend” might still be the best choice. But for readers with different Facebook issues, let’s explore the other options in more detail.


    When you go to a friend’s Facebook page, you will see a box under “friends” that says “following,” which is the default setting. “Following” means that this person’s posts can appear in the newsfeed. (The “newsfeed” are the posts you scroll through when you’re “reading” Facebook.) A friend will not know if you’ve chosen to unfollow her. If you open the drop down menu in the “following” box, you will see an option to “unfollow.”

    By clicking unfollow, you’re telling Facebook to keep this person’s posts out of your feed. You will have the option to visit this person’s page any time you want because you’re still “friends,” but you won’t be confronted with her information in the feed. You can choose to follow this friend again at any time, such as after the election season, a year after her book release, or whenever you’re ready to see her posts in the newsfeed again.


    Next to each Facebook post there’s an arrow with a drop down menu. The first option in the menu is “hide post.” If you want to only see a friend’s posts occasionally, then Facebook will get the idea and stop showing you her posts so often if you hide her posts now and then. Again, nobody gets notified when you hide a post.


    The restrict option requires knowing how to make friend lists and how to choose the audience for each post. Facebook has good tutorials for both. (This one is for lists. This is one for audience selection.) People do not know when they’ve been added or removed from your lists.

    Here is what Facebook says about the “restricted” list: “Putting someone on the Restricted list means that you’re still friends, but that you only share your posts with them when you choose Public as the audience, or when you tag them in the post. For example, if you’re friends with your boss and you put them on your Restricted list, then post a photo and choose Friends as the audience, you aren’t sharing that photo with your boss, or anyone else on your Restricted list. However, if you tag your boss in the photo, or chose Public as the audience, they’ll be able to see the photo.”

     Sometimes unfriending is best 

     The restrict and unfollow combo might do the trick in this situation, and it’s certainly the easier path to take, but another wise friend of mine in town had this to say about your question. I think her view is worth considering.

    “From what I’ve read, it sounds like the friend who disappeared five years ago hasn’t reconnected on Facebook at all except for making the friend request. She hasn’t replied to the Facebook message, she hasn’t commented on pictures. Does she ever push like on a post or a picture? If not, there are not really any virtual ties except for the fact they are ‘friends on Facebook.’

    Maybe the friend accidentally requested her to be a friend. Maybe the friend has hidden the letter writer from her newsfeed and doesn’t ever attempt to have access to her life. It sounds like having the former friend as a ‘friend’ on Facebook is causing too much distress and better to unfriend and move on. If the letter writer just unfollows or restricts the former close friend, the temptation to revisit the past is harder to ignore.

    I agree that unfriending is harsh, but in this case, unfriending seems appropriate as the letter writer initially accepted the request hoping that they could reconnect, which didn’t happen. There may be reasons that have nothing to do with the letter writer specifically, but since she’s not getting any response, it seems it’s time to end the virtual (non) relationship.”

    When someone gets unfriended, she does not receive a notification, but she will see that you’re not friends if she were ever to visit your page. You will also no longer have access to her page unless she posts some updates as “public.” To my wise friend’s point, restricting your access to her information might be an important step in moving on from this past relationship.

     The main problem, the bigger problem than the Facebook one, is that you are still mad at your old friend.

    You have a right to feel rejected, however, you already know that your intense focus on that hurt has not helped you. The old friendship, the way it ended, and the small ways that this friend has weakly reached out then scurried back into oblivion have already required too much emotional energy. So yes, I agree that some Facebook boundaries are in order with this friend. I just can’t say definitively which route to take.

     Perhaps some of the HerStories readers have a stronger opinion. Comment away, readers!

    Editor’s note: The topic of unfriending on Facebook has become even more complicated because of last year’s election. We did a survey of the effects of the election on friendships. You might be surprised to learn how many of our readers have been unfriended (or have unfriended themselves) because of politics! (Here’s the post.)


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  • 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.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Ask (1)


    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.

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  • Superficial Friendships: How to Change Shallow Friendships

    UPDATE (2019): Find Nina and her advice column at HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE


    Today’s question is from an introverted woman who is unsatisfied with her superficial friendships. She feels she lacks deep friendships in her life, despite many acquaintances and social activities. What should she do when she feels like she only has shallow relationships?

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    shallow friendships

    Dear Nina,

    During the years after college, I drifted away from most of my friends from that time. Since then I’ve worked in several places, pursued hobbies, had a child, and met other moms. After separating from my child’s father, I’ve put work into a new social life. I keep in touch with my colleagues, and I’m active in my religious community. I really love those activities, and I don’t do them just to meet people.

    Still, I hardly have any close friends. I have nice acquaintances, and my social life is interesting as long as I show up. As soon as I don’t, due to holidays, work, whatever, it easily happens that I don’t talk to anyone for a week or more.

    I know that a deep friendship is something rare, and that relationships develop slowly, especially at an age close to 50. Also, I like doing things on my own, I don’t need company all the time. Still I’m getting slightly desperate, because I seem unable to get beyond other people’s C-list. (A term I learned from this column!) It seems that other moms at school quickly become close. For example, other families from the group we joined for a canoeing trip exchanged phone numbers. For the record, I did exchange contact information with a nice family. We planned to meet, but it didn’t work out. After that, I wrote two e-mails, got no answer, and that was it. That’s pretty much how it goes all the time.

    Is something wrong with me? Probably not. I’m an introvert, sometimes I seem unfriendly at first sight. Still, I’m not anti-social. I’m able to establish contact. I can both talk and listen, I’m fun (if I may say so myself!), and people like me in general. Still, when I reach out a little more, I find there are limits. I get nervous when my kid suggests we invite people for New Year’s Eve or other occasions. On days like that I literally can’t invite anyone – everybody already has plans. I’ve almost stopped planning birthday parties for myself, although I love to do this. I’m just infinitely tired of people’s explanations about why they can’t come. When I need someone to look after the flowers during holidays, or when I’m sick and could use some help, things get complicated. (To be fair, I have to say that so far I’ve always found someone. It mostly felt awkward though and very different from when I was younger and my friends and I could call one another any time.)

    In your column and elsewhere so many people complain about imbalance in relationships, loneliness, and breaking up with a best friend. Sometimes I ask myself: Where do all those people live? I only seem to meet people who are perfectly happy and completely uninterested in new friends.

    I’m grateful for the many fulfilling things and friendly people in my life. Still there are feelings of loneliness and of losing courage to try for deeper and less shallow friendships. I’d be very grateful to hear your opinion and your readers’ opinions,

    Too Many Shallow Friendships


    Dear Too Many Shallow Friendships,

    To quote Winston Churchill, never, never, never give up. I believe those words apply strongly here. I could end the advice on that point, however, there are some details to attend to as well.

    Let’s get something straight. The social life you’ve created should bring you significant pride. You’re right that it takes time and energy to make close, deep friendships. But it also takes time, energy, and skill to keep up with acquaintances and to stay involved in hobbies and other activities outside of work and home, especially after a separation.

    In the short run, it’s easier to stay home and binge watch Game of Thrones on Netflix and enjoy that introverted side of your personality. I want to applaud you for getting out there to achieve your desired goal of making A-list friends. In fact, I believe making close friends is not too different from dating for a significant other. The only difference is that in the case of close friends, maybe you’ll end up with two or three instead of one particular life partner. (That said, even just one close friend is great.) I do want to say that I disagree with your statement that deep friendships are rare. I’d say they’re special, but not rare. There’s a difference.

    Don’t Make Assumptions

    With only your letter to draw on, I’m guessing that you’re making major assumptions about other people’s lives that are exacerbating your feelings of inadequacy in the friendship department. I also wonder if you have an unrealistic view of what a close friendship looks like and are therefore chasing something that does not exist. You might be closer to your goal than you think!

    You said, “I have nice acquaintances, and my social life is interesting as long as I show up. As soon as I don’t, due to holidays, work, whatever, it easily happens that I don’t talk to anyone for a week or more.”

    This is a perfect example of you feeling inadequate over something that is true for most people. The only person I speak to on the phone regularly is my sister-in-law, and I have a good amount of close, deep friendships with women both in and out of town. Even when it comes to my close friends in town, we can easily go weeks or a month or more without speaking on the phone or seeing each other in person. I know this is true for my friends and their other friends, too. If you focus on quantity of time over quality, I think you’ll always feel like you have shallow friendships. The depth of a friendship cannot be measured in minutes together or minutes on the phone.

    The Only One With Superficial Friendships?

    You then said, “It seems to me that other moms at school quickly become close.” How do you know that the banter you’re witnessing in the hallway or pickup line at school is anything more than very friendly acquaintances happy to see each other? Even if what you’re seeing is an example good friends interacting, it does not mean that these people would call each other to water the plants or to help when someone in the household is sick. (We’ll come back to flowers and sick calls later.)

    You also said, “Other families from the group we joined for a canoeing trip exchanged phone numbers.” Again, how could you possibly know that their attempts to make plans ended any differently than yours with that one family? Or maybe they got together once or twice then never again. You cannot presume to know what happened after the numbers were exchanged. I wouldn’t take it personally that it didn’t work out to get together with that one family. Most people suck at follow through with new people. It’s a bummer and it’s frustrating, but it’s not personal. They don’t even know you!

    Your situation is likely better than you think. You even pointed out that while it was hard to find someone to help you with the flowers or the few times you’ve needed extra hands around, you did find friends to come over eventually.

    When To Ask For Help

    While we’re on the topic of watering flowers, I think it’s worth mentioning that when it comes to things like watering flowers or bringing in the garbage cans, I’m not likely to ask a friend unless she lives next door or across the street. If I didn’t want to ask a neighbor for that favor, I would pay a high school kid in the neighborhood a few bucks a day to do the chore while we’re gone. I do think it’s healthy to be careful and reasonable about how much you expect from your friends.

    As you said of some of your friends, “As soon as I reach out to them a little more, I find there are limits.” That is true and very normal. There are always limits because friends are not family. Friends may be “like family” in the best case scenarios, but they are not family. There are limits to what you can expect from other people who also have kids, or jobs, or homes they’re maintaining.

    I think you have to differentiate between asking for help in times of real need and asking for help with the flowers. I would drop anything to drive a friend to chemo or help in an emergency. Helping water the plants for anyone other than a neighbor? I would have no problem saying I have too much going on that week. I don’t think that makes me a bad friend.

    Too Many Shallow Friendships, you said many true and important statements in your letter that you simply have to allow yourself to believe with conviction. Yes, it takes time to make close and less superficial friends. Yes, you have to keep trying. Yes, you have to both talk and listen. (Remember you want to listen twice as much as you talk. I have to constantly remind myself to be quiet. You may be usurping more time on your topics than you realize.)

    Your Superficial Friends Don’t Have Perfect Lives Either

    Now I’m going to be the one to make a big assumption. Of all the details you provided in your letter, the following comment is probably the biggest issue standing between your satisfaction with your friendships and not. “I only seem to meet people who are perfectly happy.”

    Losing Courage, that is simply not possible. There is not one person who gets a pass on periods of unhappiness. The people we love get sick. They die. We get sick. We suffer from mental illness or live with someone who does. We feel lonely. We feel unsuccessful, unattractive, and unloveable. We cannot afford necessities. We cannot afford luxuries and suffer from envy or forget the difference between necessities and luxuries. We cannot have children. Our children drive us crazy. We are in unhappy marriages. We are desperate to get married.

    The possibilities for unhappiness are endless. The happiest among us focus on the better pieces of our lives, but that does not mean we do not suffer or have problems. Either you are living in an exceptional place (not likely) or you are painting the people you come across with a wide brush of sparkly sheen.

    The Ground Rules

    Now, some ground rules as you continue “dating” for a few closer friends while still enjoying and appreciating your acquaintances.

    • As we discussed, twice as much listening as talking. Twice as much!
    • Be open-minded. Join new groups. Look outside of work, your kid’s school, and your religious community if those three areas are not working.
    • Don’t try too hard. If the chemistry is not there, keep looking. Plenty of fish in the sea as they say.
    • Act worthy of those deep friendships you desire because you are worthy. Get those questionable assumptions out of the way, and I think it will put you back on the right road.

    My final piece of advice: If you truly feel that you are unable to connect beyond the surface or that all of your continued efforts are not yielding good results (fewer shallow friendships), I encourage you to ask someone who knows you well to tell you honestly how you are coming off with other people. Perhaps a sibling-in-law, a cousin, a coworker, or someone who has known you for years who will not be afraid to tell you the truth. You have to assure this person that you will not turn on him or her if you don’t like what you hear.

    Thank you for trusting me with your question. Readers, what did I miss? Have you been in this situation of feeling like you have too many shallow friendships? Please add your thoughts in the comments.

    Good luck,




    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.


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