Is there any way to salvage this friendship?
February 3, 2013 2:38 PM   Subscribe

A friend I used to be close to (at least I thought so...) isn't speaking to me. Is there any way to make amends, or do I just give up and try to cobble together an entirely new friend group?

A little backstory, first. The past six months have been absolutely devastating for me, possibly the worst in my entire life so far, for reasons I can't really talk about publicly (both for fear of being identified and, in one aspect, because of a contract I signed). It is the sort of time in a person's life when she needs her friends to be there for her more than ever. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened: my friends have all pulled away, and I've been almost completely isolated as a result. There have been entire months when the only human contact I've had was a minute or so each with my roommate and the bodega guy. It's not that my friends aren't going out - they are, just almost exclusively without me. I've tried to initiate stuff myself, but always get excuses like "I'm broke" or "I'm way too busy." (But not too broke or busy to hang out with everyone else....) I've also asked whether people are mad at me, and everyone swears they're not - but yet there they are, leaving me out of everything. It almost feels like I'm being gaslighted, how much it looks like they're mad at me and don't want me around but swear that's not the case.

This came to a head, I guess, a few weeks ago. I tried to have a birthday party, and followed all the right procedures - announcing it weeks in advance, holding it at a low-key place in public (my dream birthday party is a house party, but I'm afraid I'll never be able to pull that off), following up with friends in person to remind them. But much like last time, only two people showed up, over an hour late, and I was so devastated by the time they did (because I'd been sitting in a restaurant for over an hour alone trying to explain to the servers what was happening) that I'm sure they had a miserable time, although they did a good job of putting up with me. And of everyone I invited, only two people bothered to offer to hang out sometime else, and only one person ever followed up with any concrete date or time.

This has been the pattern with me for years, pretty much - I've never had a social circle or community I truly felt like a part of, and never felt assured that I had friends - so one thing I am trying to do this year is not bottle up my feelings, because it just leads to grudges that last forever. So the day after everyone hung out without me yet again, I wrote an email to one of the friends I thought I was closest to explaining my feelings: saying I really wished I'd have been invited, saying how confused I was by all this, etc. I tried to be diplomatic about it - using I-statements instead of you-statements, trying not to make statements of blame, stressing that I didn't want to lose any friendships, googling fucking WikiHow shit on how to send this kind of email, etc. I even copied and pasted some wording from an email one of my friends had sent that came across diplomatic and non-dramatic, and ran the whole thing past my mother (who'd gone through a similar situation recently and sent a similar email, albeit of the "fuck you, I'm out" variety), who said it didn't sound rash at all.

But it's been several days since, and I've heard nothing. Even a "fuck you, how dare you send me something like this" response would have been better. I haven't tried to make further contact because I don't want to come across as annoying or overdramatic, but here we are. It all makes me feel even worse - like my feelings don't matter, like it was a mistake to even let on that I have feelings, like I just have to accept being alone. And, you know, this also means I have that much fewer friends, which is the last thing I ever wanted to happen - but it seems to have happened anyway. Is there any way to salvage this? And maybe not even salvage it, but actually manage to go out with my friends (if they even are my friends) again?
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (148 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

Try to make some new friends -- volunteer or take a class or something. I'm not saying to dump or forget about this group, but feeling so socially needy is making you incredibly vulnerable to all of their actions/signals and also likely underlies the behavior that makes them want to avoid you, if in fact they are avoiding you. Get those needs met independently and you can engage with this group from a better place.

(I just moved to a new town and started taking a class a for fun. After the third time it met someone suggested we go out for drinks afterward, and it turns out basically everyone was hoping we'd start doing that.)
posted by ecsh at 3:00 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

First of all, they're not your friends. You've said that they've abandoned you in a time of terrible stress, they explicitly don't invite you to outings they've planned, they make a minimal (if anything) attempt to attend an event you planned, and they don't return your emails. They're not your friends. Period. Don't waste another second on these people.

You need new friends. How you get there is up to you, but in your case I'd go for some therapy. You've got some longstanding issues here, and working through them with a therapist might mean that you come out the other side ready and able to find good, quality people to spend your time with.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [21 favorites]

Perhaps therapy would be helpful? You've posted a few similar questions and it's hard to know if our advice is enough. Plus, it sounds like maybe there are family issues at work, if your Mom deals with similar circumstances. You could work on ways to build healthy, lasting friendships, and ways to deal when things go poorly. You don't have to keep living this way, but you will need to get help and possibly do some hard work. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

(before the bandwagon gets too far off the rails: I'm already in therapy. Have been since April. I'd prefer advice that is more pertinent to the exact situation at hand.)
posted by dekathelon at 3:13 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with BlahLaLa--therapy would be helpful for you.

There is a pattern of neediness, poor self image, and score keeping in your questions here that must be totally devastating for you--and totally draining for your friends. In my experience, people don't mind being emotionally supportive for people who are otherwise fun to be around, emotionally healthy, and reciprocal. For all of those things, you need to really like yourself. But it doesn't feel like you do, from the vast majority of 22 questions you asked. It feels like you are waiting for other people to like you first, and you are resentful when they don't. That resentment is a drag on even healthy friendships.

Please, talk to a trained professional. I have watched my mother live a similar sort of life, full of borderline splitting, fingerpointing, and resentment. She never got help because getting help is hard--it means confronting parts of yourself and fixing them. That's hard work, but the alternative is a really lonely life. You are young and deserve to have a better life than that. It's just going to take some work, okay?

Best of luck.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:13 PM on February 3, 2013 [35 favorites]

Sorry, we cross posted. If you are in talk therapy, cbt might be more helpful--focusing on changing unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:15 PM on February 3, 2013

It certainly doesn't sound like your so-called friends are particularly loyal to you, and they also sound rude.

But I wonder if perhaps another problem is that they no longer enjoy spending time with you very much. That would be sad if true, but do not dwell on that part. If you think it might be true, and if things used to be different, then I would concentrate on trying to recapture whatever it is that they used to find charming or enjoyable or likable about you.

That probably means no declarations about how badly you need them or how unhappy you are. No making them feel guilty for abandoning you. It may mean pretending to be happier. You may well feel like you are faking it and putting on a false face. But it might work, and it might make you feel better too.
posted by willbaude at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

As for this specific friend group, I think you've done all you can. I don't think additional outreach is the answer if they're avoiding you. Avoidance isn't nice but sometimes it's all people can handle doing with someone who is bothering them. Perhaps they will be amenable after a cooling-off period.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Okay, so you don't like our therapy suggestion. But you yourself say that "this has been a pattern with me for years" -- so in this case, the thing you need to work on is not this group of "friends," it's YOU.

Have you explicitly brought up this issue with your therapist? Does he/she have suggestions or a plan for you to work on? If not, perhaps it's time to switch therapists.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Please. Don't derail this. Please just make this about the situation at hand and how I can get my friends back. This is a request for everyone.
posted by dekathelon at 3:29 PM on February 3, 2013

That's just it, the suggestions you're getting is that you can't get your friends back - you've already done everything you can realistically do and it's not working. I know this is hard to hear, but it doesn't appear as if there is a solution, short of finding new friends and changing your approach with them so the pattern doesn't keep repeating. This isn't a derail, you asked if there was a way to salvage this and overwhelmingly the answer is no. I'm sorry.
posted by Jubey at 3:45 PM on February 3, 2013 [42 favorites]

I don't think you can fix these situations without changing your patterns of behavior. So if you don't like the therapy suggestion, I suspect that you are just going to find yourself in this position over and over again.
posted by florencetnoa at 3:46 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honestly, if you've they've ditched you when you need friends the most, leave you out of plans (and lie about it), and ignored an e-mail in which you specifically addressed your issues, they don't want to be your friends. I would give it a week on the e-mail; it's possible they may be trying to figure out what to say to you/are embarrassed about their behavior and don't know what to say. But honestly, I wouldn't count on it. Them not wanting to be friends with you doesn't say anything about you, it says they are lying, inconsiderate, and immature. You deserve a group of friends that you want to hang out with and wants to hang out with you as well. As was suggested upthread, you can do that by joining a social club, going to Meetups, taking a class, or going to Couchsurfing meetings. Good luck.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 3:47 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

First of all let me say that I sympathize A LOT with this question and your other ones too. I know it's a catch-22 that not having any friends is itself a barrier to getting and keeping new friends so I don't want any of this to sound like I'm blaming you, because I'm not.

I don't know that there is a way to salvage things with this particular group. There might be changes you can make to how you interact with others and how you perceive yourself but without knowing you in person it's hard to say for sure. One thing is for sure though, for your own well-being you will be more comfortable in general if you learn how to be at peace with the way things are in the present moment even if it's not right and you don't like it. Buddhist meditation is supposed to be good for that. In addition to that, cultivating your own self and your interests without involving others or caring what they think. Spending your time cultivating your own self first you will be a more attractive friend to have. This is what they say, anyway, and at least it's a direction to go in.
posted by bleep at 3:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Friends are people who like you.

People who like you will not avoid you.

People who like you will be considerate of your feelings.

People who like you would not blow off your birthday party.

You cannot make people like you.

Most of the people you meet will not end up being your friends.

All the above are completely true for everybody, not just for you.

People who want more friends than they already have should therefore not waste their time trying to recapture illusions they've previously held onto regarding their existing acquaintances. Instead, they should meet enough people to find the tiny minority of actual friends that will exist within that pool.
posted by flabdablet at 3:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [36 favorites]

I don't think it's really helpful to see this situation as "my friend isn't speaking to me." You sent them an email a couple days ago that they haven't answered. There are LOTS of reasons why they might not have answered yet -- it's the weekend, they're busy, they haven't been home and don't want to type on their phone, they aren't sure what to say, who knows. It's possible that an email you spent so much time and thought crafting came across as too intense in a way that weirded them out or made them uncomfortable. It's possible they're just flakey about email.

"My friend isn't speaking to me" implies anger and intent -- that you did something to upset them and now they're deliberately and consciously cutting you off. Whereas this sounds more like someone being flakey or uncomfortable or just innocuously unavailable.

Something that isn't serving you very well in this situation is a mismatch of intensity -- for you this is a BIG DEAL, you're understandably upset, you've been struggling with similar problems for a long time and the process has been really draining.

For them, this situation isn't a big deal. It may not even be a "deal" at all. I don't know your friends or you so I hesitate to make any assumptions about what's going on in their heads, but it's possible NOTHING is going on in their heads. It's possible that for whatever reason, you just aren't really on their radar -- they have other things going on, other people they're keeping track of, other stuff that's keeping them busy. There are lots of people in my life that are perfectly nice, who I know on Facebook or whatever, who invite me to large parties from time to time that I may or may not attend, but who I wouldn't think to invite to my own events in my small apartment. Not because I don't like them or because I'm avoiding them, or because they did something wrong; they just aren't part of my mental picture of my core social life.

One reason people in this thread are telling you to find new friends, rather than "fix" things with this group, is because there may not be anything WRONG with this group, exactly, that can be fixed. These people aren't including you in their plans, but it's very possible that there's no malice or judgement or anger or irritation involved. Their lack of action may be entirely benign, if really unpleasant for you to deal with.

So you can either...haha, wow, this will sound pretty cynical? But you can put on a smile and keep your interactions with people really light and pleasant for a few months, and make an effort to spend one-on-one time with a couple of individuals you especially like, hopefully allowing you to forge a close enough friendship that they can also support you when you're upset and unhappy...

...or you can decide you've sunk enough resources into this group and move on.

Which is SHITTY and unpleasant to deal with when you're already feeling so vulnerable and sad and lonely. Like, I am not saying any of this and thinking it's a super easy situation to deal with.

I would just hate for you to throw more energy down the black hole of this social circle.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:51 PM on February 3, 2013 [26 favorites]

dekathelon, I mean this very kindly and not in a de-railing way, but why do you want these friends back? They pull away when you need support, they go out without you, they bail on your birthday without follow-up, they don't answer your e-mails. They aren't being nice to you. What are they giving you in your life? Do they make it better, or do they make you feel more stressed, more alone, more desperate?

People are suggesting therapy because you don't seem to be identifying this. It must be really hard and I don't blame you for hurting, but maybe seeking to repair these relationships isn't the healthy path. You're asking the question, "How can I get my friends back?" when maybe a more appropriate question should be, "Why am I tolerating this in a friendship?" You talk about yourself so disparagingly in this messaging (people "putting up" with you, how you wouldn't be able to pull off your dream party), I just want to give you a hug. You are deserving of love, despite what you might feel about yourself.

You've invited them to events without responses, you've reached out to them for clarification, and still nothing. They I think you'd be best following ecsh's advice about branching out socially and trying new activities.

And, if you're still in touch with some of these people (ie. the ones that attended your birthday) AND they're kind, loving friendships (ie. there's a give and take of support without scorekeeping), you can put effort into cultivating more intimacy with these folk. Forget about the others and their petty exclusion, you don't need your life to be a popularity contest with mean people.
posted by Paper rabies at 3:51 PM on February 3, 2013 [20 favorites]

Although I agree with everyone else, I would suggest beginning with one particular friend in the group, making concrete plans with them for even something as simple as coffee or going on a walk together, and then, while you are spending time with them, be fun. Don't talk about how you feel abandoned or hurt. Don't ask them why people aren't inviting you to stuff.

Your friends will start inviting you to do stuff again if and when they believe you'll be fun to be around. So, since you aren't getting invited to group activities, try to start as small as possible--with one friend--find a way to do something low key and for a short time period together in person, and then just have a good time with them for that brief time. Then do it again. And again.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think what everyone is trying to say is that you can't 'get [your] friends back'. They are obviously not interested in being very good friends, so it's time to move on. And since they aren't real friends, they aren't going to take the time to tell you why they don't want to be your friend.

But yes, judging from this and your past posts, what PhoBWan said seems to be the case. You do seem to have very serious self-esteem issues, and seeking self-assurance from friendship isn't a healthy tactic, and is the opposite way to make and maintain friendships, especially close, emotionally mutally-supportive friends.

I have gone through this exact thing, about three years ago now, in NYC also. NYC is a bad place to feel this way about yourself, because no one is going to stick around to help you out because they can move on to other, more pleasant friends. I came from a small town where, since there is a limited social scene, everyone puts up with everyone's emotion stuff because they have to, otherwise they'd have no friends all at. Not the case with NYC. It's easier to peace out. I had my friends do this to me at a time when I needed them, because I was really struggling with some major issues.

But lo-and-behold I found the perfect head-meds (after years of depression) and my life has greatly improved. I have a few friends here and there. I would say I now have a solid three or four go-to close friends in town, and a wider group of about fifteen friends whom I can call up to go to a yoga class or get a drink or see a show or whatever. I think this is a perfect amount for me now. I still only had five of the thirteen people I invited show up to my birthday dinner recently, but I wasn't superbummed. People had their reasons, and those who showed up I was happy to see and hang out with.

Maybe you should re-frame your birthday experience as two people showing up being an improvement on none showing up like last year. And it allows you to weed out those friends that weren't even good enough to respond to your invite.

If I were you, I would start by just seeking out activity based friends--friends that you go to a class with, or go to a play with, or share a hobby with. I think you should try casual friendships that can later develop into deeper relationships, because it's hard to start friendships on just an emotional level. For example, instead of just getting a drink or dinner with someone where you intimate conversation is expected, invite someone to go see a show or something where you can just enjoy the activity and relate that way. It will give you a social outlet so you don't have to feel alone, but it won't place the burden of your personal issues on someone else.

This is what I had to do, and it worked for me, but only after I dealt with my emotional/chemical issues first.

Feel free to memail me if you want.

Good luck.
posted by greta simone at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

The best way to make and keep a "circle of friends", as an adult in the adult world (very very different than childhood, teen and college years), is to be a fun and uplifting person to be around. Someone who makes others feel good about themselves, who encourages people to talk about themselves and life. Someone who isn't needy. And that takes being happy with yourself, liking yourself, being confident in who you are, and being able to deal with your issues outside of the friends. Over time, as you become truly a part of that community, then opportunities to have a deeper friendship, and that loyalty, will grow out of that.

It is very possible that these friends you have been hanging with have never considered you a part of the group, but someone they let hang with them from time to time, and it has not developed into more for whatever reason.

I've been there, I understand what you are describing, but seriously, until you learn to interact with people in a different way, this may continue happening. Also, please keep in mind that most people have just one or two people in their lives that they are really close to, and then a handfull of people to do things with, but with whom they are far less close. This is normal for adults. The "lets go out for a drink" kind of friendships are generally not intimate -- they are more superficial, and trying to make them something they are not can create issues.
posted by batikrose at 3:58 PM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have had people in my social circle where you are. The reason they ended up there is because every interaction with them was in some way about the friendship or interaction itself. It was impossible to hang out and do anything, because any time we hung out we had to spend time reassuring them that yes we want to be there hanging out, or talking them through a self-loathing meltdown, or basically acting as a therapist telling them how they can upset less people in the future.

There comes a point where all your interactions with someone are defined by the fact that person isn't able to have healthy interactions, and you stop responding to them. You can't say "yes I'm upset" to these people when they send you email after email asking if you're upset, because then you're going to get this big processing email and now you've got another problem to solve.

Ask yourself: How much of your interactions with people is about managing your emotions and fears and conflict regarding your interactions with people? How many times do you hangout and have fun compared to how many times you talk to them asking if they're mad or trying to get promises that they're going to be at your party?

I've read all of your past questions here and I'm answering because if I were you, I'd want someone to tell me. You've asked the question a dozen different ways, but here's the answer: You are the person in the group that everyone is frustrated with and can't do anything about because it'll just send them into a spiral of self-deprecating or a super heavy emotional processing session. You're the person that everyone is worried will find out they're hanging out together because if you're not invited then they're going to get an email about it.

I don't think you're a bad person and I don't think you don't deserve friends, but these people aren't your friends. If I were you I would print out each and every one of your Ask Metafilter questions and bring them to your therapist, because it's very clear that you need to re-learn from the ground up how to interact with people without it being a challening experience for everyone involved.

I hope you are able to find a community that you can be a healthy part of. Good luck.
posted by Jairus at 3:59 PM on February 3, 2013 [77 favorites]

I don't see a way to salvage things with this group. I'm sorry.

I think one thing that strikes me about your questions about social problems is that your friends never sound very nice. I've never met them and maybe I'm way off the mark here, but when I read your questions I have a hard time picturing decent people doing these things to you (this question less so, but past questions have felt that way). They always strike me as kind of catty, immature and just plain mean. It seems to me that you need to find some friends that are nice people. They may or may not be the shiniest people in the room but either way they'll be more fun.

It sounds like there's something in the way that you relate to groups that's not working for you and that you're working on that, and I understand that making friends is hard, but I think that's the best route. And maybe look in some new places.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:02 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find new friends. For whatever reason, this group doesn't want to hang out with you anymore and they're letting you know by avoiding you.

I don't want to come across as harsh, but I think you need to be realistic about this. If you continue to try and salvage it, it will mostly come across as annoying and desperate. When people have their minds made up, it is hard to change them.

You also don't need to take this as personally as I think you might. They don't want to hang out with you and it's totally fine! You'll go through a lot of friends in your life and some of them may be really cool and nice people but they just aren't for you. It might be the same for you and them. You don't have to accept being alone.

Perhaps, you can start with the two people that did come to your party. Ask them if they want to hang out and don't be super pushy about it. If they say no or they're vague about plans, let it go.
posted by cyml at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I skipped down to here because you seem to keep asking 'how can I get these friends back'. You can't. They aren't really your friends. It's like when someone breaks up with you- it may be unilateral but it's over.

Friends don't really owe you anything and you can't hold them to anything in a way....once the friendship has run it's course then you have to let it go. Start volunteering. I know it sounds ridiculous and cliched and I used to think people were 'stupid' for suggesting it but honestly it's the best part of my week. Find something you like and do it. Don't try to force people to be anywhere. Last year I planned to spend my birthday alone, I didn't in the end, but I was ready to because I didn't have anyone particularly special to spend it with and I didn't feel like making my friends go to yet another bd dinner.

In a way my response sounds very negative but I just think you are barking up the wrong tree. No one is going to say 'write them three emails, all 10 lines long, with the third word of each starting with O, and then they will be your friends again.' No, it's impossible. Just let it go. And work on yourself...another cliche but cliches are cliches for a reason.
posted by bquarters at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry to threadsit, but the reason I'm so confused is that when we're not hanging out, they act exactly like friends would. They say things that real friends would (again, I can't say what because this is way too identifiable already and I don't think it'll exactly help matters if anyone connects it to me, but then again I can't exactly ask a friend for advice here; just trust they're not "acquaintance" things to say.) This is the first time I've ever not gotten an email back from this person, for instance. Most of them are colleagues, too, so I kind of am a little more invested in them liking me. And this isn't one-sided at all, I've helped them through a lot of stuff in the past. I'm just really confused, is all. I don't know what's in it for them to pretend to be friendly to me. I really don't.
posted by dekathelon at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2013

Wait...these are work friends?

That complicates this entire situation a little.

People can be very, very weird about work friends.

Also, I mean...hmm...can you make up a non-specific example of the kind of interaction you mean by "They say things that real friends would"?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh kiddo, this sounds incredibly rough and exhaustiing for you. I think you should confront the fact that - maybe, not definitively - these people, or at least some or even most of them, don't want to be friends with you, but they are too chickenshit to say so.

Friends truly don't leave someone hanging at a restaurant on their birthdays, if they said they would come. Did they say they would come? Or just offer maybes?

I think, like others above, there is a streak of pessimism here, where you are taking the negative interactions and eliding the positive ones. Some people did show up, some people did offer to catch up at another time.

Additionally, maybe think about others factors influencing people saying yes or no that go well beyond you: are people generally poor - if so, sometimes going out can be more opportunism and finding extra money etc, what about transport? Taxis etc can be expensive. Do you live near this circle of friends? Do they live near or with each other but not with you?

I think, from your question, that you are taking an awful lot of responsibility - in a negative and destructive way - for things that might not have much to do with you, and perhaps overstating how much these people see each other also.

It might be helpful to re-examine your ideas of friendship, what it can be. There are lots of different types of friendships, and ways of being friends. You say this is a pattern: are your expectations about friendships and intimacy close to the norm, or perhaps away from the norm? Do you discount friendships unless they reach a certain threshold of intimacy? Are you cultivating relationships outside this group through work, through mutual hobbies, through or whatever? Are you being a good friend to these people - there's not a lot about that in your question, it's all about their interaction with you. And remember, a good friend by your definition may not be a good friend by theirs.

I think, if you want to see these friends more, you need to be the kind of friend it's easy to hang out with. I don't know what that might be, it may be living close by, it may be being relentlessly light and upbeat around them, it may be asking them about themselves, or just meeting during the day, or just at night, or whatever. And take it slow. I get a sense you are so hungry for connection right now you might be diving in feet first.

More broadly, I would say, if this is a pattern for you, then:
a) You have a problem choosing inappropriate friends (in the sense that they're inappropriate for you and your friendship expectations), or
b) You have a problem with behaviours in friendships.

Honestly, I hate to say it, but I think your therapist could offer more constructive advice here. If you want to "win" them back, take it slow, take no offense, be light and fun, and ask them about themselves; don't volunteer info about yourself unless asked, and when asked, keep it short and relatively positive. Good luck,

PS stop keeping tallies. It's fine in the most broad, general sense, but a very destructive thing to do in any kind of relationships. Tallies only matter if you are doing something you're not happy/resentful to do, and vice versa. There should not be any of that in a healthy relationship so tallies should be irrelevant.
posted by smoke at 4:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't know what's in it for them to pretend to be friendly to me.

You answered your own question with

Most of them are colleagues, too

As noted above, it's not a fantastic idea to send dramatic group emails or make most interactions with non-colleague friends about the State of the Friendship, but you really cannot do this with colleague-friends. You have to be extra guarded, and you can never have a 'real' falling out with them, only fade and cool things down (which appears to be what they're doing with you). I don't know anyone whose colleague-friends are their primary/deepest group of friends.
posted by ecsh at 4:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

I don't know what's in it for them to pretend to be friendly to me. I really don't.

They may not be pretending. They may actually be friendly with you. They're just not your friends. There's a difference.

I have been friendly with most of my coworkers at every job I've ever had. I smiled when I saw them and asked how their weekends went and lent them a dollar for the soda machine and sent email congratulations when I heard that they got engaged or pregnant or bought a new home. I did those things both because doing them made me feel good, and also because, as you said, I'm invested in my coworkers liking me because it makes my work-life easier. So I'm friendly with my coworkers. But that doesn't mean that we're friends.

Friends are people who will support you when you have problems. Friends are people who genuinely like spending time with you enough that they will seek you out. Friends are people who think you are hilarious and kind and smart and awesome and special in lots of different ways. These people, these people who ditch you and talk about you behind your back and ignore you? These people are not your friends. It may be that they don't really know how to be friends with anyone, because it sounds as though they behave in this decidedly un-friend-like way with lots of people, not just with you. But their behavior is not about you, and it's not a sign that you're bad or wrong or unworthy. It's just that these people are not your friends.
posted by decathecting at 4:20 PM on February 3, 2013 [16 favorites]

Oh, the fact these are "work friends" changes things a bit, too. Work friends very rarely, in my experience, make the jump to real friends. I am actively uncomfortable socialising with most of my "work friends" outside of work or work-related activities. I avoid it wherever I can, often with chickenshit "oh next time" excuses, but there will be no next time. They know it, I know it. It's totally okay. Frankly, I like them, but I don't want all but my very favourites getting too close to me emotionally. It's dangerous for careers, dangerous for tranquil workplaces, dangerous for emotional stability at and outside of work, for all concerned.

"Work friends" are almost always just acquaintances, even when they act like friends.
posted by smoke at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's easier (and most people think it's nicer) to say what other people want to hear. It's is super common for people to say, especially to co-workers or colleagues, "oh sure, let's get coffee sometime" or whatever. Which, unless they actually make solid plans to get coffee, means "I have no real problem with you, and we have to maintain order in the office, but I have no real intention of being friends because I already have enough friends, or I don't see us being friends outside of the office". It's more diplomatic than saying the actual words above.

when we're not hanging out, they act exactly like friends would
This makes no sense really. If they aren't hanging out, then they aren't friends, no matter how they act or what they say otherwise. If they aren't following through on friendship, then they aren't friends. It means they are just acting friendly, not acting as friends. There's a difference.

Ha, on preview, what decathecting said.
posted by greta simone at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

(god I hate to threadsit, but - again I realize this is really difficult without giving examples - these aren't "friendly acquaintance" things that are being said to me, they are actual-friend things that are being said to me. I know the difference. Just trust me. Sure, sometimes they can come off as actual friends and sometimes as acquaintances - it reminds me of one thing in this terrible YA book series The Clique that I used to read in middle school, where the main character said something like "every day I had to impress them anew, as if all the strides I'd made the previous day disappeared" -- but the actual-friend stuff seems real. And for what it's worth, in my field it seems REALLY common that colleagues are good friends, far more common than the opposite actually. We're not coworkers, in other words.)
posted by dekathelon at 4:24 PM on February 3, 2013

Sure, sometimes they can come off as actual friends and sometimes as acquaintances

I'm sorry, but this is the point everyone is trying to make. Friends don't sometimes act like acquaintances. Please don't model your friendships on a "terrible" YA novel.
posted by Mouse Army at 4:33 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

The friends you're talking about are conflict-avoidant. Either they're avoidant of conflict in general or they're specifically avoidant of conflict with you. Conflict in this case would be whatever conversation is necessary to set things back to zero where things are cool and you're all hanging out.

Most people - unless they're conflict-avoidant to the point of it being a neurosis - will knuckle up and have that conversation with someone who's, say, a close friend or someone they don't want to lose from their life. It's math. They'll say something if an issue needs smoothing over - "Hey, that thing you said upset me," or whatever. This is a manageable risk. The relationship is big and the conflict is small.

What that means - and this may not be easy to hear - is that these people do not consider it worth the effort to maintain a close friendship with you. They are fine with you being peripheral to their life, or someone who's at a lot of the same parties you're at, but they are not interested in making you a big part of their life, and they're not interested in making the effort to overcome whatever's making them think of you that way.

And I have no idea why that is. Maybe they're all assholes, and maybe this has been a pattern for years because you've associated with assholes for years. Maybe you're kind of exhausting to be around - I've had friends like that. People I'm on good terms with but I'm really only up for seeing them once in a while and they keep asking to do things in this high-pressure way and it makes me less inclined to see much of them (not saying this is you). Maybe you tend to cross boundaries in a way you're not aware of. Maybe you're kind of negative or just a general source of drama (which is to say, maybe things like this tend to happen a lot - or maybe they don't, again, I have no idea) or just generally not a lot of fun to be around, or maybe the problem is entirely on their end. I don't know. Nobody reading this thread knows. There is no way for you to know how you come across to other people. The only people who could tell you are people who know you in person, and it is not in their interest to get into that with you.

You say that they're saying actual-friend things to you. Here's a thought: In high school I once had someone described to me as "a really nice guy when he's not in the room." Maybe these people like you in principle but in person it's a different story. Again, don't know.

The email: The person you wrote it to has not responded most likely because there is no actual answer to give. There isn't any one thing you did wrong. This is a question of social dynamic and how well you get along with these people, and that's not something they can or should tell you. It's not their job to fix it.

So the answer to the question of how to get these people to be your friends again is that you can't. Their level of involvement and interaction with you is exactly where they want it to be, and that is a function of how well or how poorly you mesh with them, either one-to-one or with a group. There are no magic words you can say.

What you can do is stay in therapy and keep working through this and figure out what is basically going on and then maybe down the road they'll notice you've changed and want to be around you more often. In the meantime, I suggest that you maintain friendships with the people who did show up, and make plans with the person who set a concrete date. In the future, if something like this happens again and two people show up, be happy that they're there - celebrate what you have instead of mourning what you don't.

And look. I love helping people when they're having trouble and all that, but the next time you find yourself wanting to post another AskMe about why you don't have friends or why your friends don't call you, please remind yourself that these questions are completely impossible to answer without knowing what you're like in person. The best we can do is guess wildly, and that's not going to be super helpful.

Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

Ignore what people say. Pay attention to what people do. What matters is that people follow through with what they say. Actions speak louder than words and all that.
posted by greta simone at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm a little confused with the work friends/not work friends thing (you don't have to explain it if you don't want) but it sounds like these "friends" don't really enjoy your company. Or they do up to a point, or in certain circumstances, but not all the time, or not to a degree that you want.

But you want them to hang out with you despite this. In my experience when people are willing to hang out with those whose company they don't really enjoy, it's for some other perk. The disliked "friend" is tolerated because they are rich and pay for everything, or they have a job or connection that provides access to people or places or events everyone wants to meet/see/attend, or they have the best apartment to stay at/party in, or they have some other added attraction with which they can buy feigned affection and popularity.

If you want my real advice, people like this are horrible and you need new friends. If you want to know how to hang out with these people again, in my experience, you need to get yourself some external perk they can't refuse. (Which will only make you feel worse, most likely, and which does not mean they will truly be your friends.)

Now I'm wondering, reading your updates - and I might be WAY off - if you and they are in some field like the performing arts where people who work together tend to act really close but it's all around a particular project like a show, and that leads to socializing outside of work too, but it's a very blurry line. I'm sure there are other fields like this too, my example is just one I'm personally familiar with. In this case I think a few people will always be left out of the "after hours" hanging out, like the group will gel in some ways but not the entire group all the time. Why do those few people get left out? It varies. it could be you're not fun to be with - you seem needy or depressed. it could be they're shallow and you're just not "cool" enough. Or they happen to all get along so well for some nebulous reasons you'll never understand, but they don't get along with you quite as much. All you can do in this case is get really good at being happy doing things on your own or with different people. That way if they find you dull or sad, you won't seem that way anymore, and if they never come around, you don't need them anyway.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

ADDENDUM: If you want an opinion on how you're coming across from someone who has no dog in the fight, grab your phone and take a video of yourself (ideally not extreme close up - the phone should be across a table from you, give or take; a webcam is fine too) talking for about five minutes about a time you were really happy and a time when you were really sad and then put it somewhere private (YouTube allows you to make videos unlisted so a person without the link can't find it) and MeMail the link to me and I will tell you what I can figure out. I usually get a read on people pretty well, so that's something. I won't send it to anyone else and you can delete it once you hear back; I just don't like being confronted with problems I can't solve or even contribute to meaningfully. I understand if you're reluctant but the offer's there if you want it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

If they seem like friends sometimes, take what they can give and demand no more. I have friends that wouldn't come to my birthday party for any number of reasons. Oh well. They do a lot of other nice things that make them worth having in my life. No friend can do it all, and I'd probably drop any friend who constantly wanted more, more, more.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm going to disagree with many people here and say that these folks aren't horrible people, nor are they behaving badly. They're just following unwritten but largely understood social constructs about what constitutes acceptable interactions with co-workers. You are behaving in ways that run contrary to those constructs, and it's making them uncomfortable.

My work friends and I sometimes talk about really intimate things--our sex lives/sexual preferences, our health, our parents' health, religion, politics, etcetera. I know about their children and ask after them; they know my partner's name and what he does for work. I know about one co-worker's family history of mental illness and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. They know about my MS. In other words, sometimes we talk about "actual friend" stuff.

So why, then, aren't these people "actual friends" to me? Because these conversations always occur within the confines of our shared time at work, and when we say goodbye after our shift is over, we don't (and nor do we expect to) speak again until the next time we work together.

It's not because I don't like them enough, or don't enjoy their company enough. Had I met some of them in other circumstances, I imagine we would be "actual" friends. But we were co-workers first, and therefore those rules of engagement will supercede all others. The potentially bad outcomes of deep friendship (hurt feelings, drama, etc.) simply aren't appropriate in the workplace.

Just because co-workers share intimate details of their lives with you does not mean they are your friends, and your attempts to make actual friends out of them is a violation of that unwritten social construct. Enjoy the time you spend with them at work, intimacies and all, and then find other friends to hang out with on your own time. I'm sorry, but you can't make your work friends into something they're not.
posted by jesourie at 5:12 PM on February 3, 2013 [22 favorites]

I'm not sure how old you are, but I'm going to give you some advice that may become relevant as you head through your twenties and into your thirties.

Birthdays are much less a thing, the older you get. If you plan elaborate parties at restaurants with lists of invited guests and RSVPs and reservations, you will inevitably be disappointed. Because people have lives.

Frankly, now that I'm in my thirties, I make a practice of not attending those kinds of birthday parties unless it's a very close friend and a big milestone birthday. Because for all the drama and fanfare, they're never even any fun. At the end of the day, it's me paying money I might not have to eat in a restaurant I didn't pick with a bunch of people who probably aren't my first choice to hang out with. Meanwhile, the birthday girl is so overwhelmed by FRIENDS GIFTS FOOD BEVERAGES OVERLOAD that it's not like I'm getting any one on one time with the person I'm supposed to be celebrating with. Frankly, I'd rather be one of two guests at someone's birthday dinner. That sounds a million times better than being one of fifteen.

My usual birthday plan is a low-key happy hour. I invite only people I think would actually come, and I do no head counting beyond the original mass email. I do not expect gifts or any financial outlay of any kind. Seriously, this past year some friends brought cupcakes from the grocery store and it was super fun and exciting. (I didn't even plan to have a cake or any Happy Birthday singing). A lot of years, it's been just one or two friends. And that's fine. Sure, I probably sent the email to a dozen people. But who's counting?

Stop using your birthday as an opportunity to keep score of how popular you are, or whatever you're doing, here. It's amazing how much happier you'll be when your happiness is about you and not other people.
posted by Sara C. at 5:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [22 favorites]

these aren't "friendly acquaintance" things that are being said to me, they are actual-friend things that are being said to me. I know the difference. Just trust me.

But what if you don't? What if this is part of the pattern that keeps leading you toward friendship dead ends? "When we're not hanging out, they act exactly like friends would" and "sometimes they can come off as actual friends and sometimes as acquaintances," and the fact that they are also colleagues, are all glaring signs that they are in fact acquaintances, or "work friends" at best.

Work friendships are tricky, and not to be confused for real friendship. When I think back through all my past colleagues, most of them were people I genuinely liked a lot and looked forward to seeing at work. We joked around, bantered, commiserated, consoled each other when things were rough, and even met outside of work sometimes, but I can count on one hand the number of colleagues I still hang out with and consider to be real friends. Many people prefer to keep their work spheres and personal spheres separate, and it's nothing personal.

So what happens when your "friends" want to keep the relationship at an arm's length, but you want a close friendship? There's no nice way to say it, so things get awkward and uncomfortable. When people feel awkward but don't want to deal with a confrontation, they start avoiding. They hope you'll eventually get the hint. It's not a great way of dealing with it, but then again nobody owes anybody else a friendship. If you feel like people are avoiding you, all you can do is put the ball in their court, let them know you're up for hanging out, and then leave it be. Forcing a confrontation will make them even more uncomfortable, and there is nothing you can say or do to "get them back" if they weren't really your friends in the first place.

What can you do then? Well, there are lots and lots of really nice, pleasant, cool people in the world. But the two nicest, coolest, most pleasant people in the world could meet and not necessarily form a friendship, because not everybody will click in that way. Friendship is a bit like dating to some degree. You won't have the right chemistry with everyone, even if you have lots in common. You'll meet a lot of people who aren't really looking for new friends or don't have time... they're kind of "taken" already. The key is recognizing when it's not clicking and moving on with your self-esteem and dignity intact, instead of clinging onto people and trying to force friendships to develop. You might have to meet a lot of people before you find friends you truly click with. It's not easy to make new friendships outside of school, where people have the advantages of shared history and experiences to forge friendships. You just have to keep your chin up and be patient.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Also, to answer your question more directly, with this friend you think is "not talking to you"?

Just call her. She's probably not ignoring you. She probably just saw your big needy drama queen email, had no idea where to even begin.

Also? The "why is everyone hanging out without me?" stuff is the very definition of the expression "junior varsity". Nobody is deliberately hanging out without you. And if they are, they're not your friends and nothing you can do will make them be your friends.
posted by Sara C. at 5:24 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know the difference. Just trust me.

All we can do is advise on the basis of the limited information available. Whether or not you take that advice seriously is totally your call.

The strong impression I personally get from the limited information available to me here is that the difference between a friendly person and a friend is exactly what you don't yet get. My best advice, given that, is to work that specific issue through with your therapist.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

I am being your friends to a particular person in my social circle right now. I hate to admit it, but I am. We were once very good friends, and I did a lot of emotionally supporting them, and they did a lot of emotionally supporting me, and we sought each other out and hung out and did real friend things.

The reasons I am doing this have been described by other people above. My friend's mental illness has progressed to a point where more than half of our interactions are about emotionally supporting them. This is absolutely, completely exhausting. When I hear from my friend now, I feel drained instead of happy.

So I don't respond, and I don't hang out with this person except in very limited bursts. Other people also find this person exhausting, and also seek to limit their time with this person, because this person is not fun to be around.

I would hang out with this friend again if they (took the advice of some posters above) worked more on themselves, didn't respond to all suggestions with negation, and thus become more fun to be around. And I would be more direct about why this was happening if I didn't know that that conversation would be just as long and dramatic and painful as any other conversations about this person's feelings are.
posted by woodvine at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would suggest beginning with one particular friend in the group, making concrete plans with them for even something as simple as coffee or going on a walk together, and then, while you are spending time with them, be fun. Don't talk about how you feel abandoned or hurt. Don't ask them why people aren't inviting you to stuff.

Also, this.

A lot of your questions to AskMetafilter are about your "friends". Plural. Your social circle. Them. Over and over, it seems to me like you see having a social life as a crowd of friends whose job it is to just, like, validate you and show up for stuff. Like bit players in the movie of your life.

That's not really what friendship is. A group of friends isn't like the Borg, a collective organism who can have cohesive aims like EXCLUDE DEKATHELON IMMEDIATELY. A group of friends is a mass of individual people, each one of which you need to have an individual relationship with, or they're not really your friend (and can't be expected to do things like show for your birthday or remember to invite you to the big thing this weekend).

I think you should start small. Those two people who came to your birthday party? They're your "circle of friends" right now. You should make a deep effort to build close friendships with each of them, individually. Don't worry about anyone else, and don't worry about what those people do or don't invite you to, or what they're doing when they're not hanging out with you. Just concentrate on being fun and a good friend.
posted by Sara C. at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2013 [38 favorites]

again I realize this is really difficult without giving examples - these aren't "friendly acquaintance" things that are being said to me, they are actual-friend things that are being said to me. I know the difference. Just trust me.

We can't, and here's why.

There is absolutely nothing that is quantifiably, 100% actual-friend things that can be said to any person. There is no way to say, "They said X to me, they must be a real friend."

Let's take a random example that /I/ am making up, so you don't have to feel like you're revealing too many specifics.

Let's say I come upon a not-friend having a hard time or crying or in some way seeming down. I am going to ask them what's wrong. I am going to probably sit down for an hour or so and listen to them talk and try to give them good advice and get them some help - whether or not I ever want to see them again. Let's suppose said not-friend is depressed or suicidal. I will tell them to call me if they need an ear to talk to, whether or not I actually ever want to see them again. I don't say these things because I'm lying. I say them because I mean them, but only in the same sense that I would, say, stop to pick up a kitten in the street and take it to the vet. It is pure human sympathy and courtesy, NOT friendship.

If these people who I've listened to and advised call me and say, "I need to talk, I need help," I will in fact listen to them, as I promised I would, and give them advice. But I am never going to invite them to my birthday party. I am never going to go to their birthday party. I will hang out with large groups of people of whom they are not a part. They are not my friend. I would never describe them to another person as my friend.

These people are not your friends.
posted by corb at 5:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

I just have two simple points:

- An email like the one you sent would probably take me more than a couple days to reply to, no matter how flawless it was.

- Your question over and over seems to be "how can I get more out of these friendships?" The answer is that you can't, and attempts to do so are counterproductive. You must reduce your expectations of these friendships / whatever-they-are. These people may like you perfectly well and not be able to live up to these expectations for any number of reasons (they have a full social calendar already, they don't go there with work friends), or they may not enjoy spending time with you -- it's irrelevant. Your job is to adjust your expectations to match reality, where "reality" is based on recent empirical observations. Then, you should find other ways to get your remaining social and support needs met, because it sounds like this group is not going to fulfill those needs. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 6:21 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

"these aren't "friendly acquaintance" things that are being said to me, they are actual-friend things that are being said to me. I know the difference. Just trust me. "

We CAN'T trust you on this -- you've had several questions about why your friends are treating you terribly and locking you out. You DON'T know the difference. If you want different things to happen to you, you need to do things differently.

Here's some don'ts:
Don't be good friends with colleagues. Even if they're not co-workers. Nine times out of ten, your good friends come from outside your professional circle; you just can't get that close with someone who's in your work orbit.

Don't do birthdays. Most adults don't like birthday celebrations unless they're major milestones. (Having a "dream birthday party" as an adult makes me think you pump way too much significance into this and people can tell.)

Don't send e-mails like the one in your question; there is just no way for this to be non-drama. If you MUST have that discussion, you have got to do it in person.

Don't be friends with people who make you sign non-disclosure contracts such that you can't even tell us what real friends might say in a very general sense.

Don't keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:25 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

hi. i don't think there is much you can do to salvage these friendships at this point. they have told you they are not mad at you and it's probably more that they are not that interested in a friendship with you. most people, especially work colleagues, will not come right out and tell you this because that is considered to be highly rude. that is the way it is. in a work environment that is a good way to ruin your work reputation. you did have some people show up to your birthday party so i think you would be wise to focus on those folks for building closer friendships. try to focus more on what is working rather than always focusing so much on what is lacking.

i did read some of your old threads and i think it is great you're in therapy. since you seem to really want feedback from others regarding your social skills you might want to strongly consider group therapy. that is a perfect environment where you can get feedback from peers on what you need to improve on in your communication & relational skills. it may not be easy to hear what they say though. i've never done it but my sister has and she got some really good & much needed feedback for some inappropriate behaviors of hers. also, you might want to consider codependents anonymous. that could be another good place for you to hear others' stories and learn from their experiences. they won't comment on yours though as that is not allowed in meetings. good luck.
posted by wildflower at 6:41 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might want to try group therapy. I think you could benefit from direct feedback on your behavior and communication style with people IRL.
posted by Majorita at 6:43 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

More clarifications, because apparently I have to clarify:

- When I say "social circle" I mean "group of X people that always hangs out together." Everyone I know is in a setup like this. Along those lines:

- It is COMMONPLACE in my field for colleagues to be besties. More common than not. I could list dozens of such friend ties if it wouldn't be identifiable. (Side note to that: the contract I mentioned has absolutely nothing to do with this situation, it is just a factor in why the past 6 months sucked so much.) Everyone I am talking about in this question are colleagues with others. The fact that they were "work friends" (even though they're not, not really) was not an impediment for them. Because they are not coworkers. I freelance. I don't have an office. I have zero coworkers.

- Because nobody seems to want to take me at face value even though I've said to, here is a comparable statement to what I have been told (not what I've actually been told but comparable): "I care a lot about you." That isn't an acquaintance statement. It's too intense or whatever. That is a friend statement.

- Nobody told me they'd show up to my party, the closest I got was "I'll try to make it." But among the people I know, twenties and thirties and on, birthdays are a big deal. The popular people I know can have dozens, even hundreds of people show up to their parties.

- re: corb's comment in specific: I just don't think that's true. People have ways of not giving a shit about other people. The Kitty Genovese thing, you know (and yes, I know the actual case is probably a hoax, doesn't mean it doesn't happen).
posted by dekathelon at 6:56 PM on February 3, 2013


I think one thing you should think about working on in therapy is accepting your life for what it is. You can't get hundreds of folks to come out for your birthday. I certainly can't, either. I also can't raise thousands of dollars when I do fundraising like some people I know. And I've definitely been the odd girl out at more than one workplace, like the one where I couldn't afford designer clothes. But you know what? You cannot live your life trying to be other people, you'll make yourself crazy. It's easy to think something IS COMMONPLACE but A, it's really not, and B, if it is, so what? Who wants a common life? You really need to figure out how to shake your desperate need to feel fully included with these people. It's never going to happen, certainly not if they can sense how sad being around them makes you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:11 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

"I care a lot about you" can easily mean that they just don't wish you any harm and want you to be happy. That does not mean they are your bestie. It just means they aren't your enemy, so maybe stop looking at it as a love/hate dichotomy, because it's not. And again, because they say they care, but don't actively care (by showing up to your party, responding to your messages/attempts to hang out), means they aren't your friends. You really do need to understand the difference. I care about many people, and I don't wish them any harm, and I may even engage them in a conversation or buy them a cup of coffee every now and then, but it doesn't make us Friends with a capital F.

And just because everyone in your field is besties, doesn't mean they want to be besties with you. Not everyone is always friends with everyone. And this isn't high school--if the 'popular kids' aren't inviting your to their parties and no one shows up to yours, then you FIND NEW FRIENDS. Who cares about their parties? There are literally millions of other people in this city, and you are not such a special snowflake as to be the most awful, hated person of them all, so go make other friends. If you think you have to be friends with everyone in your field, then find a different field. You can only fix yourself and your circumstances, not everyone else and their behaviors. Sorry for the harsh words, but it's the truth.

Stop wrapping your self-worth up in the opinion of these people that you think should be your friends, when, for whatever reasons, they aren't. I agree that group therapy would benefit you so that you can get feedback on your social skills in a safe, helpful environment.
posted by greta simone at 7:16 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

- Nobody told me they'd show up to my party, the closest I got was "I'll try to make it."

Here's the thing about parties. Anyone who RSVP's any form of "maybe," you need to count that person as a "no" in order to plan accurately. People who RSVP "maybe" almost never end up coming. "Maybe" includes statements like "I'll try" "I should be able to, as long as," and so on. You also need to count lack of response as a no. This is just a practical piece of advice for when you plan things in the future. If you are planning something that requires reservations, then you wait for replies until a certain point and then make the reservation only for the number of unambiguous yes's you get. If that number is none then the party isn't happening.


I know you are in therapy but you need to specifically go to a therapist who is focusing heavily on helping you increase your social skills, are you doing that?

There are some specific social skills that you need to work on, which have been covered in this thread and in the past ones. There are some specific kinds of social cues that you clearly miss, or misread, which have also been covered. There are certain ways that you act, or react, to social situations, that are digging you further into the hole that you are already in - these have also been covered. Probably there are some other skills, social cues, and behaviors that you need assistance with which we don't know about or haven't been covered yet.

You need to go to a person who can help you work on all of those things in-person, and you need to listen to what that person tells you. There is no way for us to solve this problem because we can't observe you in person, and we can't help you in a systematic way. This is also going to take time to improve, a lot of time, and it is going to require way more time than it takes to write and read an AskMe comment.

Specific therapy for social skills. That is your answer.
posted by cairdeas at 7:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [19 favorites]

[OP, this is the probably the point where further clarifications aren't going to change the answers you will receive. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:20 PM on February 3, 2013

You are trying to hold on too tightly and your expectations are too high. Sending someone an intense, emotional email that you work very hard on and have vetted by your mom and expecting that your friend respond right away is setting yourself up for disappointment. (It would have been much lower stakes just to casually ask the friend in a roundabout way next time you saw the friend one on one.) You seem to want very specific things from your friends that you build up in your head and you feel hurt when the reality doesn't match up. It might be easier if you relax those expectations and see what happens and enjoy what your friends can offer rather than feel like they have failed you if they do not behave the way you expect and believe is commonplace.

If you really want to win these friends back, I think your best move is to back way way off, work on yourself for a while, then take another run at it.
posted by *s at 7:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, just based on what happens here on MeFi, it sounds like people try to tell you what the problem is and you react by telling them why they are wrong or their answer isn't really relevant or it's not what you are looking for. I strongly suspect that this has happened in real life too, where people have tried to tell you what the issue is that is causing you to have these problems with this social circle, but you thought they were wrong or they were saying something that wasn't really relevant. This is another reason you need a therapist who is concentrating on helping you with social skills, to help you see the relevance of the things that people are trying to tell you. Because if something seems so obviously on-point to a group of people on the internet but obviously irrelevant to you (and maybe if something seems obviously on-point to your social circle but obviously irrelevant to you...) well, it's worth really giving it another look to see just how relevant it really might be.
posted by cairdeas at 7:31 PM on February 3, 2013 [30 favorites]

dekathelon, I mean this comment to be helpful so I hope you can hear it and take it that way. I can hear the defensiveness and frustration in your responses here and can only imagine what that must like in your actual dealings with people. Like you know something more or better than everyone else and if we would just get it, we would be able to give you the answers. But you're getting the best answers possible. What you offer as clarification doesn't clarify anything because it's filtered through your opinion and perception of what's going on, not actual facts or details.

I think you should consider that your opinion and perception might be off. The fact is, these friendship problems keep happening which tells me that whatever you're doing isn't working.

As for corb's comment, I think it's right on the money.

Here's an example from my own life: I moved to a new city 15 mos ago. I don't have a "social circle" here. I wouldn't even say I have friends. And in my industry people bond and make lifelong friends with their co-workers/colleagues. Some women at work took me under their wing and invite me to weekly happy hour. But they're not my friends. I've had very personal conversations with them: about childhood stuff, relationships, you name it. Conversations where at least one of them has expressed something along the lines of caring a lot about me. They're still not my friends. They have a longer history and a lot more in common with each other. They go to dinner, movies, bars to watch whatever game is on and don't invite me. And that's ok because they're not my friends. They are a group of friends (to each other) who are friendly (to me).

I think it would help you to recognize patterns like this in your own life so that you can focus your energy elsewhere.
posted by Majorita at 7:31 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

The popular people I know

Are you in high school?


Then stop worrying about what the "popular people" have.

There are no popular people.

Nobody is sitting around judging who has how many friends, or ranking who is socially important from most to least.

Stop worrying about how many people came to your birthday party, and if you can't, stop having big epic birthday parties that require a lot of advance planning or which could result in social embarrassment if people don't show up.

Also, know for the future that "I'll try to make it" usually means "I probably won't come", and that if you're getting this from friendly coworkers, that's par for the course.
posted by Sara C. at 7:34 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

"I care a lot about you." That isn't an acquaintance statement. It's too intense or whatever. That is a friend statement.

Yeah, I'm sorry, but you're just wrong about that. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would say that, or something very close to it, to someone I specifically didn't want to be friends with, but wanted to be kind to in a way that creates some distance between us. I've said very nearly those exact words to the following people in my life, among others:
-a client at work whom I was trying to convince to do something that would be good for him
-a family member I really strongly dislike personally, but to whom I owe a debt of gratitude
-a guy I was in the middle of breaking up with.

In other words, I would make that statement because to me, it conveys, "I want good things for you, but I also want you away from me." And I don't mean that to be mean. But in my mind, that statement is one that creates distance.

I'm really not trying to be mean. But I think that, especially given your repeated attempts to "clarify" things when people gave you answers you disagree with, it's important to drive home the fact that your perceptions of your situation are very likely not accurate. You are not picking up on some of the unwritten signals that people in your life are sending out to you, and then you are getting upset because they're not behaving the way you think they should. And that, to me, reinforces the idea that you need to be in counseling specifically to learn communication skills. I agree with the recommendation for CBT or group therapy. But the bottom line is that you can't rely on your own beliefs about what's going on and then get upset when others don't get on board, and when other people tell you what's going on and give you advice for how to fix it, you can't simply insist over and over again that they don't get it. Not to be a jerk, but if you're right and everyone else is wrong about what's going on in your life, why isn't your way working?
posted by decathecting at 7:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [17 favorites]

If I may seems that some of these issues are exacerbated because of your feeling of isolation. If I am correct in that you live in the NYC area....why not try out some metafilter meetups sometime? I have been to one where I live (SF Bay Area) and it was incredibly welcoming and hella nerdy and fun. I haven't gone to one since (lazy+living in the east bay).

Regarding your actual question: Perhaps you need to take a step back from these people. Especially when you describe them as being "popular" and "birthdays are very important to them"...those things just reek of high school to me and well....I don't know about you, but for me, high school was never very fun.

There are also so many different types of friends out there. I have had work friends, in the way people here have described them. I have also had photo friends (I am a photographer) where we make plans to go on photo excursions, but I do not consider them my close friends. I also have friends from college whom I rarely see, but when we do hang out, it is like no time has passed at all. I also have friends I consider part of my family, and I have roommates (current and past) whom often felt like part of an extended family. Friends are wonderful because they can fit in our lives in many different ways, and often they only play small roles where they are needed. If you expect a few people to fit all of your roles in your head AND become a perfect tight-knit social circle, they might buckle under the pressure.
posted by ruhroh at 7:44 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

- Because nobody seems to want to take me at face value even though I've said to, here is a comparable statement to what I have been told (not what I've actually been told but comparable): "I care a lot about you." That isn't an acquaintance statement. It's too intense or whatever. That is a friend statement.

As decatheting says, not necessarily. I know this specific statement is an example, but even if they did make some kind of absolute declaration of friendship . . . unfortunately, not everyone means what they say all the time. This can be hard for me to swallow, since I (and probably you) happen to be the kind of person who generally says only what they mean unless they're actively choosing to lie. But there are a lot of people who just . . . let their mouths run. Words are cheap. Some people are just like that. This is what the saying "Actions speak louder than words" was invented for.

Also, again, I know "I care a lot about you" is just an example, but you can care about someone, take a lot of interest in their welfare, even be willing to put yourself to a lot of trouble if they're having an emergency, and still not enjoy spending time with them day to day. Unfortunately, this is especially true if the person is having some kind of difficult period that's causing them a lot of unhappiness -- it's difficult to be happy or enjoy yourself in the presence of someone who is unhappy. I know because I'm pretty sure I've had that effect on people myself. That doesn't mean you have to fix everything before you can have friends, but try to present yourself to your friends in the best possible mood most of the time. Listen to psych-up music, etc. I know it sounds corny, but it works, and it's important. If you still want to pursue friendship with these particular people, that would be my advice on how to do it.
posted by ostro at 7:45 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Last thought from me:

It all makes me feel even worse - like my feelings don't matter, like it was a mistake to even let on that I have feelings

Sometimes it is a mistake, and there's nothing wrong with that. When your two friends showed up to your birthday dinner you say that because you were so devastated that nobody else came, you are "sure they had a miserable time" and they "did a good job of putting up with" you.

I'm not blaming you for this because I have a feeling you genuinely do not realize it. But as the host of a party it is your responsibility to make your your guests have a good time and your guests having a good time should be your priority. Your priority when your two friends showed up should have been to make sure they had the best time you could possibly give them, because you were the host. It is absolutely not the job of guests at a dinner or party to have a miserable time putting up with an unhappy host, in order to give her emotional support.

Emotions aren't always wondrous gifts that our friends should be happy to receive from us. Sometimes your emotions need to come last. In general, casual social situations are not the place for anyone to be giving you emotional support. People are there to have fun. If you suddenly received horrible news of a death or got physically injured somehow, that's totally different, I am talking about ordinary scenarios where you just feel bad for one reason or another. This is, again, something you really need a therapist to help you navigate.
posted by cairdeas at 7:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [25 favorites]

I think it's pretty commonly difficult, as well as painful, to try to navigate adult friendships without a couple solid, older friendships to take the pressure off of your new friendships. It sounds like you're kind of starting from scratch and hoping that your new friends can skip the years of friendship-building and act like old, close friends right away. I really like cairdeas's suggestion of pursuing therapy specifically to evaluate your behavior patterns in social situations/friendships and develop better social skills. I like that advice because what you're currently doing isn't working. You can have all the follow-up information in the world about why we're wrong and these people really are your friends, but at the end of the day, you're not happy.

You're struggling with friendships in a way that suggests you feel that there's some missing piece, some trick or secret handshake that, once you know it, will let you into a warm, supportive social circle (full of the same people who previously snubbed you). But that's not how it works. You don't have friends who are waiting for you to do the secret handshake correctly. You have people who aren't able to be the friends you want right now--whether it's because they're mean, or just a bad match for you, or don't know you well enough yet.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dude, most of these replies cover anything I'd say. But you break my heart, because I used to be you and on my lower days I still am.

So real talk:
After lots of therapy, some meds, and a couple streaks of basically dumb good luck, I now have like 4 friends locally. Right now all of them are in new shiny relationships which means I've seen each of them exactly one time (four hangouts total) since 2013 started. Which means at least 30 nights spent hangin' out in my tiny apartment with the cat.

(Aside: Do you have a cat? Consider a cat.)

Anyway. Friendships are fantastic and lovely but they are not a cure-all for unhappiness and loneliness.

I get the sense that you want a crew, a posse. And I am guessing, maybe wrongly, that you want in to the shiny in-crowd. (Evidence: you mention so many cliques, gossip, sniping, exclusion. Only the shiny in-crowd is allowed to act like such epic dumbshits past the age of 18.) Meantime, you are wearing an enormous sign on your face and back that says OH MY GOD ACCEPT ME I WILL DO ANYTHING JUST ACCEPT ME. Which is in-crowd code for KICK ME IN MY FACE.

Your current situation is a dead shark in the water. Leave it to be eaten by plankton. Going forward, I would say you have two options:

1) Change how you relate to people. You must learn to give almost no shits whatsoever about "what people think." They seldom think at all, and what they think is usually wrong and dumb. Confident and shiny people want to be around confident and shiny people. You are an insecure raincloud, love. Make yourself confident and shiny. Make it like your JOB.

2) Change who you're trying to relate to. Gravitate toward people who make or do things, instead of people who look and compare and gossip. Places to find these people: doing something that requires you to be both outwardly-absorbed and selfless (volunteer with veterans, work with kids, volunteer to walk dogs for the Humane Society, escort patients at Planned Parenthood).

I mean there is Option 3: Do Nothing And Wait For Magic. But I gotta tell you, I did that for like 5 years and that's when I almost jumped off the GW Bridge. Don't be that lady.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2013 [70 favorites]

I should have added - did it occur to you that for friend to show up to a birthday dinner, and have the host be inconsolably miserable that they were the "only" person who came, could be a seriously hurtful insult to that friend? Could make the friend feel really unwanted and pathetic? Could make the friend think there was no point in ever hanging out with you?

Again, I absolutely don't think you were insulting anyone on purpose. But this might just be an example of how you could be really insulting people and really putting them off, without realizing it at all.
posted by cairdeas at 7:54 PM on February 3, 2013 [16 favorites]

From a communications and social psychology perspective, relationships tend to develop due to:
1) proximity and 2) frequency.

Therefore, the closer someone is in physical distance to others, the more inclined they are to develop relationships. Additionally, the more often and consistently people see each other, the more likely they are to become friends.

This is very important to make note of because:
1. You don't have an office. You don't have co-workers (based on what you stated) and you don't see these people as often as they see each other. Therefore, it's more difficult for you to cultivate relationships on the same level that this group of co-workers can.
2. The people that are friends and hang out most likely sit near each other in the office, work the same shifts, and have regular contact with each other. This makes it easier for them to become friends compared to trying to develop a relationship with yourself (someone that's outside of the office and misses out on a lot of the office jokes, workplace gossip, etc..)

If you're looking to salvage what has happened then:
1. Do not refer back to your previous statements, feeling left out, or rejected because you didn't receive a reply or invitation from them.
2. Allow these people to initiate conversations with you when they want to. Do not initiate conversations or ask to hang out anymore. Accept that they may never communicate with you again or that the communication will be very curt. But this is okay. I think you're better off with other people in your life anyways. It doesn't seem like your personalities mesh well with each other. And, from what you've said, they don't sound that nice and require different things then you do from these relationships.
2. If they do talk to you, show them that you are relaxed and a generally happy person. Be polite. Do not over-share. Do not complain or criticize either. People like to hang out with laid back individuals rather than people who create drama or express signs of neediness and clinginess.

Also, I'd strongly recommend being careful with how open you are with your feelings.

I know this might be difficult to understand, but over-disclosure deviates from what is appropriate in a large part of Canada and the USA. People are uncomfortable with over-disclosure, especially when the disclosure is coming from an acquaintance. People don't want the burden of dealing with clingy, needy, or overly emotional people and will generally be polite while backing off from these types of relationships.

With that being said, it's not impossible to cultivate friendships with others. You can have relationships that are fun, honest, and loyal, but you need to start off in small numbers. Focus on the quality of relationships rather than the quantity of relationships. Develop relationships outside of this particular setting. Cultivate a few interpersonal relationships by attending classes of interest, improv, slam poetry nights, the gym regularly, etc.. I think you'll find these interpersonal relationships more meaningful and easier to handle based on what you've written in this post and previous posts too.

Perhaps one day, you'll be able to cultivate meaningful relationships in a small group setting too. But for now, it honestly doesn't sound feasible. It seems like it would be too much of a stretch for you. You need to develop a better relationship with yourself and I think you'll get there with the help of your therapist (or therapy in general).

You also need more practice with one-on-one situations before pursuing group relationships. Trying to pursue group relationships without foundation and a healthy relationship with yourself and others (interpersonally) is kind of like running a marathon without ever practicing running around the neighbourhood block first. You won't succeed with these bigger group settings unless you practice your social skills on a small, yet meaningful scale first.
posted by livinglearning at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hope you're getting something out of this, I truly do. Just to give you an idea of how your perceptions about this should not be trusted and are way, way off base, this statement:

- Nobody told me they'd show up to my party, the closest I got was "I'll try to make it.".... The popular people I know can have dozens, even hundreds of people show up to their parties.

Is like... really way, way, way outside the norm. Like miles. No one iI know could get hundreds of people to come for a party - and I work in Communications/PR! - and very few would get more than a dozen people that they actually know and like show up to anything. That is reality. I dunno what bizzaro circle you move in but it is not, NOT, representative.

Further, "I'll try to make it" is a no. Everyone knows that's a no. Consider it "the gentlemen's no". Are you telling us you booked a restaurant and tables and stuff, despite the fact that no one actually said they would come? Friend, that is on you, not on your friends. And that is well beyond typical behaviour. Well, well beyond.

Finally, numbers of people at a party is not score of anything, anything at all. The fact you think it is, the fact you think you could out yourself by talking about your JOB, in NEW YORK (are you kidding me, what do you work in a field with 20 people in it?), that fact you think your 'friends' could and would read this, could and would care, and are thinking about you the same way you think about yourself - and spending the same amount of time doing it - is really, deeply untrue. And I think you are enabling it, because despite the misery, it is fulfilling some kind of need for you; you certainly are enabling it on this thread and site.

You can fulfill that need other, better ways, OP. You can. You are not well. The patterns you have shown in this and other threads, transposed to real life, are the patterns of a person who is unwell and needs help. Not like, dangerous, but someone who is unwell, and is hurting themselves through their own actions. Don't ask your mum about this; ask a professional.
posted by smoke at 8:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [28 favorites]

I have some good, relatively strong friendships with some co-workers, so I think perhaps the "You can never have a true friend who is a co-worker" stuff perhaps is getting hammered in a bit too much here. There are lots of kinds of friends who act in your life in different ways, and work friends can definitely have a place that's more meaningful than, "we say hello when we see each other at the coffee machine." But it sounds like you don't even see these people on a regular basis, which makes it more difficult to build that friendship up from something casual to something deeper. Not every friendship can bear the weight of real emotional depth and mutual support, especially if it's new, more casual, or more based on having a good, meaningless chat over a round of beers than anything deeper. You're trying to hang your swing on a sapling because you don't have a 20-year oak around to do the job.
posted by PussKillian at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was at my last job, I felt like I had lots of friends. We went to happy hours several times a week, got lunch together nearly every day, we had parties, went out on the weekends, we had a softball team, etc.

When I got a new job, only a few of them stayed in touch. I had said several times, I want to come to happy hours and still hang out, my office is only a few blocks away, we can still get together for lunch, etc. My birthday was six months later and only a few people from work came to the party. I had worked there for five years. So I felt sad but I've gotten over it. With few exceptions, work friends aren't real friends. So work on making some real friends.
posted by kat518 at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whether or not they are 'work-friends' is irrelevant. The advice given still applies to people who consider you a casual acquaintance, a non-friend, a colleague, whatever. Instead of getting defensive and focusing on the details, try to see the forest for the trees. I think the main take-aways from this thread are as follows, and apply to the issue(s) at hand.

1. This specific group of people are not your friends.
2. You may be misreading social cues and people's intentions.
3. You need to seek new social outlets/friends while working on your social skills, ideally in a group therapy setting, and continuing individual therapy to work on your self-esteem issues.

If you continue to deflect any and all advice, there is little more we as a group of anonymous strangers can help you with.
posted by greta simone at 8:34 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your aggressive and defensive reactions in this thread raise red flags to me. This group of people do not seem to like you very much. You need to find new friends. I am sorry you are going through this.
posted by anthropomorphic at 8:46 PM on February 3, 2013

You are the person in the group that everyone is frustrated with and can't do anything about because it'll just send them into a spiral of self-deprecating or a super heavy emotional processing session. You're the person that everyone is worried will find out they're hanging out together because if you're not invited then they're going to get an email about it.

I suspect that this may be correct. I have had friends like this, and you know what? I stopped being friends with them because they made my life worse for being their friend. I spent so much time trying to make them feel better that I relapsed into my own depression, and in return I got exactly nothing.

You talk so much about how you want friends. Do you know how to BE a friend? Do you have anything to offer in a friendship? Or do you just expect people to deliver happiness into your lap without giving them anything in return?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 PM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm currently in your friends' situation, being on the receiving end of a "what the heck, I thought we were friends" e-mail that I have no idea how to respond to. She's someone I know in a borderline-professional artistic capacity; we were friendly; we had a few boozy late-night serious talks. But I don't want to be friends with her — she's needy and immature and we don't have the same ideas of what "normal friendship" looks like. That said, there's no way in hell I'm writing that in an e-mail. The last thing I want is an email back saying all the ways she'll change, or all the ways I'm wrong, or holy shit, how can I be so insensitive when she is Going Through Things, etc. We are grown-ups. If I don't want to be friends with someone, I…don't have to. And if I want to friend-break up, it works the same as romantic break up: Wanting to break up is a good enough reason. The end. I'm not trying to be cruel here, though it sort of sounds like you're hoping someone will be, but here's the actual deal: These people aren't your friends. Maybe they once were, maybe they never were, maybe they are horrible sacks of pigshit, or maybe they're just not feeling it and want to fade away per social convention. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter.

So what can you do to get these people back? Move. The. Hell. On. Live a good life! Living well is the best revenge, but it's also, you know, living well, revenge or no revenge.

Here's a little story about me during my Dark Times, aka the first 20 or so years of my life. I was really big on tests. I would orchestrate small little tests of friendship — If I don't call Carla for one week, will she call me? If I act really pouty around Dianne, will she ask me what's wrong? — specifically, though subconsciously, with the idea that people would fail them. Then I could be mad, and we could have a fight, and they'd be forced to admit that they never really liked me, and they were only hanging out with me out of pity/as a joke/because they thought they had to, and AHA! I'd be proved right: That I was terrible and worthless, just like I always knew. I called this "being honest," and genuinely felt like everyone else, with their social niceties, was living a lie. Living like this really sucked. I didn't know how bad it sucked until it stopped, and at that point it was like "wait, the world isn't a giant orb of garbage, and I'm not a walking embodiment of dog crap? DID EVERYONE ELSE KNOW THIS THE WHOLE TIME?" Turns out yes, they did. From your user history, and from this question alone really, it sounds like you are living in garbage-orb world. See all of us waving our hands over on this side? Shouting and jumping? We're here to tell you there's a non-garbage world. And we'd love for you to join us.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2013 [58 favorites]

For the sake of argument, I'll go ahead and assume that these are not work friends but are friend friends who you met doing anything in the world other than work. Even if that is the case, they are not being friends in the way that you want or need them to be. That means that either a) they have to change or b) you have to change. Since you can't make them change, *you have to change.*

I have a wonderful friend who has tons of other friends. Everyone loves him like crazy because he's amazing. Early on in our friendship, I used to feel sad frequently because I had really high expectations for him, like that we would talk or hang out several times a week. At one point, I realized that my expectations were detrimental to our relationship. He was busy and couldn't give me what I wanted but I still think the world of him so I changed myself and my expectations for our relationship. And it got *so* much better. I think that before he felt pressured to hang out because I would be upset if we didn't spend time together. Now I feel like whenever we do spend time together, it's a gift, because it is! If you change what you want out of your friendships, they will get better.

And I'm sorry that you're going through a tough time and that your birthday sucked. I get sad sometimes because my birthday doesn't live up to expectations but at one point, I started taking things into my own hands and decided, even if people can't be there, I'm going to spend my birthday the way *I* want to spend it. This year, that meant yoga; in previous years, it has meant volunteering, visiting family, traveling, just treating myself to a nice lunch and a manicure/pedicure. When you take things like that in to your own hands, it makes you happier because you're less reliant on outside things like other people to make you happy.

When you're going through rough times, friends don't always know what to do. When my mom died, my best friend didn't know what to do because she's never had someone close to her die. I was sad that she didn't really understand but I learned to take care of myself and that was important. Similarly now I'm going through a stressful time at work, but several times a week, I have made time to go to yoga because it's important to me and it's me time. It's how I take care of myself. That has meant that my husband and I have been having a lot of spagetti for dinner but this is temporary and in the future, we can go back to having spagetti and a side salad or whatever. I don't complain about the apartment being messy. I deal with it, either by cleaning it myself or tolerating a little mess. Getting through this time is job #1 for me right now. My messy bathroom can wait.

Don't force people to fit into the boxes you want them to fit into. Allow them to be themselves and from time to time, they will pleasantly surprise you.
posted by kat518 at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was once in a situation where a close friend took me aside and said that we couldn't be friends anymore unless I got help. I was going through a tough time, and said friend told me that he felt like all our conversations were about me and my drama, and like he was expending all his emotional energy on my shit and as bad as he felt for me, he just couldn't do it anymore.

I started therapy (which, yes, I know you're already doing).

After a short breather, we resumed our friendship and are still close friends even now.

So, bottom line, if your friendship with someone is strong, it can survive the drama you describe. It can survive intense emails and "are you ignoring me" and "I don't think I can do this anymore" and "you need more than I can give." But whether it will survive is probably up to you, not up to your friend you think is avoiding you.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

"I care a lot about you." That isn't an acquaintance statement. It's too intense or whatever. That is a friend statement.

Other people have said this too, but I will chime in as well. I've said things of a similar nature to people as a sop to their emotional needs simply to give them what they appeared to want without actual effort on my part. In fact, I tend to assume that the more intense the expression of regard, the less actual feeling is behind it.

Friends are not what people say, because saying things is easy. Friends are what they do.
posted by winna at 9:49 PM on February 3, 2013

Hey uh, are you sort of letting the people who you hang out with know that you feel like you have no friends and nobody cares? Because it's kind of indirectly telling the people right there in front of you that they're nobody and don't matter.

And if people don't invite you to things all the time it doesn't mean they are mad at you. What could they be mad for? They aren't mad and punishing you for something. I think it's really pretty rare for casual acquaintances/ friends to get mad at someone and intentionally exclude them for that reason, this isn't middle school - they probably just think you aren't interested or don't want to hang out with them.

In general it seems like your point of departure is that you must have done something wrong and therefore, everyone is retaliating in some way and deliberately messing with you. I am sure that is not what is happening. But are you are reading every situation that way? Like everything is centered on you & if these people don't invite you somewhere, it's an intentional attempt to hurt your feelings, and you have to decide whether to blame them or not? I think your perspective is just way off base.

I'm not trying to sound mean here, but haven't you asked a fair number of questions on this same kind of subject? If your interactions with your friends/colleagues have the same degree of bitterness/resentment as here (even if you don't say these things to them directly, but if you express this sort of a worldview in general), they might have a way of keeping their distance. Try to be gracious, kind, appreciative of the time you do spend with them, tell them it's good to see them and you had a good time, ask how they are, take an interest, don't sit around and stew in feelings of being excluded.

I can think of one particular person who's been quietly excluded from a casual/friendly group we have in my city. I'm not mad at her, no one is, and none of us have even discussed it actually. But I can sense that we are all uncomfortable spending time with her because she's deeply, deeply angry and bitter and it doesn't take much for her to start saying negative, mean-spirited things - they're not snarky funny, they're dark, resentful and mean, even though not directed at any of us. It's very uncomfortable to be around.
posted by citron at 10:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, here's something that might help you deal with this...

Some people ruin friendships by being too distant. They get friendly with someone, hang out a few times, but refuse to really connect. So the friendship falls apart.

Other people, however, ruin friendships by being too close. They get friendly with someone, hang out a few times, and then expect far too high an emotional commitment from the other. So the friendship falls apart.

The most immediate issues you seem to be facing right now make it sound like you're the latter kind. You're too close to these people, and it's smothering the friendship. So, give it some breathing room. Don't send any follow-up e-mails. Don't expect more invites. Don't expect these people to help you through emotional outbursts... Just let it be. It'll suck, and it'll be hard, and I bet it'll feel absolutely awful, but I think it's the only really option available to you. Let these other people make the next move; let it be okay if that takes a while, or maybe doesn't involve the exact kind of interaction you would like. If the friendship can be healed, it will likely be slow and require them reaching out to you. Be cool; go with the flow.

And, yes, I know... Like I said, it will SUCK. I bet it will feel completely unnatural and painful and you probably should talk to your therapist about it. But, think of it this way: your relationship with these people has clearly been fractured, and your attempts to fix it by getting closer (by inviting them to your party, by bearing your emotions in e-mail, etc) haven't been succeeding. So try to fix it be allowing yourself to move a bit away. And note that if you find it is just IMPOSSIBLE to do this, that tells you something useful and you may want to work with your therapist to understand why it feels impossible to you.
posted by meese at 10:08 PM on February 3, 2013

Evidence: you mention so many cliques, gossip, sniping, exclusion. Only the shiny in-crowd is allowed to act like such epic dumbshits past the age of 18.

Let me strongly agree with that, with the following clarification: only the self-styled shiny in-crowd thinks there's any reason at all to act like such epic dumbshits past the age of 18.

The rest of us - the ones jumping up and down and waving from beyond the garbage orb - have worked out that what goes around comes around, so it's clearly in our collective interest to ensure that what we each choose to put around contributes to the collective good.

Your dismayed reaction to to the malicious gossip about "Jessica" says to me that this is actually already one of your deeply internalized values. Great! Good start! Now all you have to do is look around for other people likely to share that value.

There is no point - none at all - in wasting your time trying to salvage a past-its-use-by-date not-really-friendship with somebody you already know for sure tends toward clique-forming and judgemental gossip, when you could instead be looking around for different people: people more likely to be uncomplicatedly kind.

The suggestions above re. volunteering would, it seems to me, definitely be worth pursuing for this reason alone. Sure, you will still encounter certain volunteers who seem to be in it mainly for some kind of self-aggrandisement, but the very fact that the sub-population in question consists of people who can actually be bothered showing up to volunteer tends to push these types a fair way down the bell curve.

Another thing you might consider is widening your search for friends to include people maybe ten years older than you.

Seriously, leave the kiddies to their posturing and their gossiping and their sniping and their two-faced status-seeking misery treadmill. Go look for some real people. Your people.

Give up Facebook and learn to show your face.
posted by flabdablet at 12:13 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just want to chime in to say that there are some really great comments in this thread. I know you were posting a lot of clarifications, but I hope you're also taking the time to read these through. Maybe even read them as if they're not directed to you, if that helps.

Friendships as an adult can be really hard. And friendships within one little world (like this work world) are even more of a crapshoot. Sometimes a group of people might click in a way that leaves you out. It really sucks when that happens.

Anyway, keep going. I don't know how old you are, but I could give you snapshots of the parties I've thrown (including yes, one where only 1 person showed up (and I think I spent like $75 on refreshments for that party, lol)). What I notice is how different those pictures are. The numbers change; the people change. Now I have fewer friends than before, but I'm happier because the friendships feel more real and I spend less time in awkward situations. Maybe in two years, I'll be a social butterfly again, who knows.

My main point is only, keep going, don't worry too much about this. I bet any number of us could've written a similar question at one moment of our life or another. The current situation is not a referendum on you; there's too much chance in the circumstances and in who these people are. Keep trying different things, meeting new people, building the life you want, and working on yourself, and eventually you'll find yourself in more comfortable circumstances. You may even one day decide that what you were "doing wrong," if anything, was that you were asking what you were doing wrong and interpreting this hard moment through a lens of inferiority, instead of focusing on how to find people that you clicked with more naturally. Or you may find a solution in therapy that helps a lot, or you may find good friends elsewhere.

But try easing up on this current moment. It's like how when someone is trying to get healthier, it doesn't help to jump on the scales a lot, if ever; it's better to just learn healthy habits and trust they'll pay off over time. I feel like you're kind of "on the scales" scrutinizing your current friendships. I mean, it's natural to do it when something isn't feeling good, but sometimes it doesn't help to try to stop and fix a situation. It might be better to just keep going forward in the best way you know how.
posted by salvia at 12:31 AM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

I feel for you, I really do. I can *feel* the pain this question. I want to give you a hug. Have you seen Boggle the Owl? Boggle's good at hugs.

What stood out for me in this question was the procedural definition of friendship. As in, you followed all the correct procedures to have a party, yet no-one came. You sent a correctly-worded email, but no response. You have conversations and use words that friends use, and yet something is missing.

This is cargo-cult friendship. Trying to make something happen by re-creating the observable signs of it, without understanding the underlying truth from which those signs arise. And no matter perfectly you perform the rituals, your airport is still made of straw, and no planes are going to land. This is why it's so heartbreaking to see.

Friendships happen when you connect with someone and feel a bond, end of story. All the other stuff, like caring, and coming to parties, and lending emotional support, all happen naturally, without effort, when that bond is there. Parties just arise when you chat with friends and make plans for fun things to do together, and you do that all the time because you enjoy each other's company, because of that bond. When the bond is not there, you will never make these things happen beyond the levels of basic politeness.

Connecting with people is hard. I know from experience; so do many people in this thread. It means reaching out beyond the self. That in turn requires quieting the anxieties, worries, and self-doubt, and building healthy boundaries, so that you are both safe and capable of turning your perceptions and thoughts away from your inner self, where they are now, and pointing them outward, towards other people. For the moment, it appears to me that you may be seeking friends mainly because you need them, to validate your self-worth, to support you. But this would mean you can only see potential friends in terms of how they help you fill your own needs -- you're looking inward, at yourself, even when you look at other people. Other people perceive this as a physical pull, a drain. As if someone is reaching in and drawing energy out. They may venture to let their inner person come out to meet you, but instead of coming out to meet them in the middle, you're grabbing them and pulling them in. The connection can only happen when you have repaired the damage internally and are able to perceive other people as entities in their own right separate from your own self.

Friendship is a need, and so is love, and it is okay to need these things. But even in a loving relationship, boundaries are vital. Having a firm core that doesn't depend on other people to prop it up is precisely what gives you to strength to take steps beyond that core, to reach out to other people while remaining grounded in who you are, and to connect and form bonds. I think you should try to let go of the desire to build a big group of friends. There is something deeper going on that is making you feel that you *need* these friends to prop you up, and this has nothing to do with the specific friends -- it's something internal to yourself. In your future interactions with other people, and I love the advice to focus on a very small number of possible friends first, I think the key to success will be how well you are able to protect these people from that deeper unresolved need.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:24 AM on February 4, 2013 [46 favorites]

- Because nobody seems to want to take me at face value even though I've said to, here is a comparable statement to what I have been told (not what I've actually been told but comparable): "I care a lot about you." That isn't an acquaintance statement. It's too intense or whatever. That is a friend statement.

I am going to be blunt, in the hope that it will actually help you, because none of the people you see in real life are.

You are lonely, and unhappy, and reading too much into stuff - holding onto the scraps of what someone says as a sign that you do, in fact, have access to a large social circle, that you are not unpopular, that you're in with the in crowd and have made it.

And that's why you're so defensive in this thread - because you have to believe that you've made it, that these people are really your friends and this is a temporary, fixable problem, and then you can have access to the heady in-crowd.

You are a hanger-on. They will never respect you or admit you while you behave like this, and you are driving away the only people who might actually be friends with you (like those two people who showed up) because they're not cool enough for you to care about. You are replicating the behaviors of the in-group you see without having the power to enact them without consequence.

Stop trying to desperately clutch onto the shreds and straws of half-friendships, and try to start giving value to the people who could offer real friendship.
posted by corb at 6:23 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

I had a long post about how I have been in your position and was trying to lay out the things i have learned about friendships and how to BE a friend, but I am not going to be saying anything that hasn't been said above. I'm just going to URGE you to do what was suggested above and print off all your askmefi questions including this one and bring it in to your therapist to discuss. Go over what your expecatations of friendship are, talk about what you think being a friend means, talk about what YOU do to BE a good friend, talk about the different times you feel you have been let down by your friends. You can even discuss the answers people have give you here, and discuss with them about how we are all wrong and don't understand. Discuss all of this with your therapist. I really feel you have ideas about what friendship is, what constitutes a friend, and what you believe other people have in friendships that you aren't getting, and I think your ideas are actually a little off from what most people believe and experience. This doesn't make you a bad person or stupid. This is not something to beat yourself up over. This IS however making your life a lot harder than it needs to be. Work with your therapist to understand how everyone else understands friendships, what everyone else thinks being a friend means, and what a normal adult friendship/social group looks and behaves like. Once you sort this out (and you can, trust me) I think things will be a LOT easier for you. You'll stop being disappointed and hurt all the time. You'll stop beating yourself up over not meeting some unrealistic expectation of friendship. (ie. dozens at a birthday party? I have never experienced this or heard of this. Seriously, this is seriously off the mark.)

I wish you all the luck in the world.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:54 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, while it's true that "wherever you go, there you are"...NYC is balls for anyone who isn't supremely secure and confident. It's so full of outliers that maintaining perspective is EXCEEDINGLY difficult. In Manhattan especially, you really will be surrounded by what seems like 100% saturation of gorgeous (model-gorgeous), wealthy (think sultan-wealthy) people. All the time. Average feels like bridge troll. Especially in your 20s, when it's easier to live on vodka and cocaine...

-There really are people with hundred-person birthday parties. I went to lots of those there.

-There really are people who ask a dozen of their closest friends (but not you, you don't have the right clothes and they know it) to hang at their Hamptons villa all weekend.

-There really are people who judge you for your crooked teeth and out-of-season shoes.

When I lived in Manhattan I was the fattest, poorest, ugliest person I knew. When I left, suddenly I was pretty, thin, and middle class. What changed? NOTHING EXCEPT LOCATION.

So honestly, if you're thinking you want out of NYC (as a recent question suggested)...maybe give it a shot. Move to, say, Minneapolis, Philly, or Chicago. Somewhere where people are laid back and less wealthy overall, somewhere where the competition in life is not so cutthroat.

Leaving NYC did not solve all my problems, but swear to dog it made some of them a Lot better.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

If you really value this friendship for the relationship that you have and not just for the "not being alone" factor, give it a week or two and then see about making a coffee date where you can talk in person.

Without knowing more of the details you can't share, you should also consider whether you're putting your friends in an awkward position vis-a-vis work. I'm assuming the non-disclosure didn't come from a family fiasco, so it may be that folks need to give you room because you're asking them to condemn, through their sympathy, someone they need to be able to continue to work with. It may be that they feel caught in the middle in some way.

I second everything everyone here has said about organic friendships being hard. I think one thing you ought to do is work out a list of things you might enjoy and make a schedule for starting to do them. Take classes, volunteer. Commit yourself to the project, don't just look through the local Meetup list and give up. Find your local alt-weekly, look for a one day a week job (or a full time job, I don't know) that puts you in contact with people so you can take the edge off of your isolation. New York City has Housing Works, maybe your city has a similar opportunity to volunteer in a meaningful way that puts you around people. Join a food coop and do lots of work shifts where you're around people. Or ... find something more inline with what you enjoy.

And start thinking about dividing your world into a few kinds of friends. Maybe you have some folks you socialize with but don't lean on, and then you have folks you do lean on, people you know you can count on. It sounds like your mom fits into that latter category. I'm having a hard time saying "talk to your mom about your feelings" but the truth is that I lean hard on my mother and trust her deeply to be honest and to love me unequivocally. You can't get that from a lot of people. If you have that with your mom, let her be your support. Let your current crop of colleagues be a little more fair weather.

If you're thinking "I only want help with this one problem" you're doing it wrong: part of this one problem is possibly that you're asking a small group of people to be all the friends you need. One solution is to find more friends.
posted by amandabee at 8:07 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think you are doing anything wrong, or not being a good friend, or not properly organizing social engagements.

I do agree, though, with many of the answerers above: I am beginning to think that, maybe, you really have confused friendly acquaintanceship with friendship (perhaps by misreading communication or by hanging out with the kind of people who can be very effusive, even with those they consider more casual contacts), and that these individuals (maybe some, maybe all) aren't your friends. Or, you know, that you perceive one level of friendship with them, and they perceive another (more casual, less connected) with you.

It's really hard for us to say, though, because we're on the Internet, and can't see what's going on. This is why therapy keeps getting suggested.

On the plus side: you sound like you're just fine. You just need to start meeting new people. Making friends can be hard as an adult, or it can take more time, because adults are busy. Keep cultivating the friendships you have (2 people did show up!) and start getting out there and meeting new people.
posted by vivid postcard at 8:52 AM on February 4, 2013

I am a popular person and I've always had a wide group of friends. So instead of telling you what not to do, I'll tell you what to do.

1. When your friends are excluding you, turn to your other friends. Eventually, you'll build tighter, stronger bonds with them, and the jerky friends will move down in rank, sometimes, they'll move off the list entirely. No harm, no foul. In most cases though, your jerky friends will start coming around again, because clearly you're out living a great life (without them) and they'll become curious about it.

2. Always be doing things that involve meeting new people. Networking functions, professional associations, classes at the learning annex, grad school. The more folks who cycle through your life, the more opportunities to connect with people, the more friends you have.

3. Nurture your relationships. Like The Sims, each person will need a bit of your time to keep the relationship going. Phone calls, emails, hang outs, lunch/shopping dates. Whatever it is, the more time you spend, the better it is for your friendship.

4. Don't be a downer. Sure, bad things happen, and your best friends will rally, but if you're still talking about a breakup 6 months after the fact, it gets old. That's just reality. Even if you're unhappy about your life in general, fake it until you make it when you're out with your friends. Be a downer with your therapist. That's why you HAVE a therapist.

5. When inviting people to things, shake it up a bit. One friend and I were very busy, so we'd make a date to go grocery shopping together. We'd get our groceries and catch up with each other. Grocery shopping is a good date too!

6. Work Friends. I met most of my good, close friends at work. But not everyone I've worked with was a friend. HUGE difference. Huge.

In all, you need a net of about 100 people to yield about 4 good friends. If you only know about 5 people total, then chances are you'll always feel neglected and left out. You come across as a bottomless pit of need and it will burn out your relationships FAST.

Don't NEED your friends so much, and they'll be more comfortable around you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2013 [30 favorites]

I like what Ruthless Bunny says.

To answer your question, no, I don't think these friendships can be salvaged. I think you have to let it go, don't count on these people to show up or do anything in particular, but be polite and friendly to them when you see them or if they contact you.

The thing that makes this hard is 1) When you don't have a solid social circle, it makes your self-work even more difficult. 2) Your issue seems to be firmly in your blind spot. Whatever it is, you are certain it's not the problem. Blind spots suck.

So ... try some of the suggestions here. Even if you don't think they are the real source of pain ... you don't have any better leads, right? And there's nothing to lose by trying. You have repeated suggestions to work on being kind to yourself, being positive, being less defensive, etc. These are great things to work on.

Also, that defensiveness will keep you from finding out the truth. It's not easy to say "We didn't invite you because you have BO, you interrupt other people constantly, you don't listen to our stories or seem interested in our lives, you try too hard, you're a downer, you talk about inappropriate topics, you chew with your mouth open, you insult people, you make everything about you, you don't wear a bra, you're an outspoken democrat and we're all republicans, you've announced that polygamists are idiots when a few of us are secretly poly and now we can' t include you in any situation where we want to be frank about who we are ..."

You can make it easier for people to tell you the truth, though. If you respond to people's suggestions with a "Wow, I'll have to think about this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me," - You acknowledge that they made the effort to have a difficult convo, you save face and the door is left open. You can chew on it in your spare time and discuss it with your therapist and see if there's an action for you to take.
posted by bunderful at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I say "social circle" I mean "group of X people that always hangs out together." Everyone I know is in a setup like this.

It may be true for everyone you know right now, but it's not true in general. When I was in my early-to-mid 20s, I knew a group of people from college who all lived in the same dorm back before they graduated who always hung out together. Honestly, over time, they grew out of it-- they got married, moved away, etc., and while they remained friends, their social lives stopped revolving around things like, "hey, let's all meet at so-and-so's house and watch the finale of that TV show we like."

You sound like you have a bunch of preconceived notions about what your social lives should be like: that people in your field become "besties" with each other, that you should have a "social circle" that "always hangs out together", etc. And maybe that's the reason why you don't have a lot of social contact in any other situations.

I am kind of part of a "social circle" where I live, and I'll be honest-- I only have a few friends from that social circle, and there are times it can be burdensome: when I am organizing a party, there might be some people who aren't my kind of people who I don't especially enjoy hanging out with, but I'll invite them so they don't feel snubbed. But I wouldn't consider them my friends. More of my social life revolves around hanging out with people who are my friends but have other social circles. So I will go to my friend's charity fundraisers and hang out with her charity fundraiser crowd, and then I'll go to my Swedish friend's birthday party and hang out with her boyfriend and her Swedish friends and work friends, and so on. The "social circle" is more an opportunity to engage in "social" activities and possibly meet some new people who might move in an out. The social circle isn't made up of my friends, it's a forum in which I meet up with my friends who are part of it and hopefully meet new friends. (and the social circle exists as an outgrowth of the fact that I live someplace where few people here have roots and pre-existing connections from school or home, so we formed a social group).

Here is a suggestion for a new social habit for you to develop: find a new social circle, but don't act like they're your friends. Instead, keep aware of when the social circle is having happy hours and get-togethers, and use them as an opportunity to socialize, have a few drinks, meet some new people, and go home. Do this with a few social circles, and over time, you might develop friendships.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Actually, upon a little more reflection, I'm hoping you might be able to clarify something. In November you wrote:

Plus, I suspect something that's happened lately has really bothered my friend group to the point of not inviting me anywhere anymore. (I'd rather not get into details, but it involves a guy.)

Is this the same friend group? If so, could you please expand on this a little? If it is in fact the same friend group, please don't brush it off by saying it's not relevant or whatever - this seems like it would actually be a huge factor in any helpful answer you might receive and I'm wondering why it was left out. Can you fill that in a little?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, it's the same friend group. I kind of really don't want to go into details, but I feel like you can use your imagination on that one and get the gist.

And if I seem defensive, it's because I really don't want to think that the people who have been friends to me for so long were faking it all that time. I still like everyone. I miss the good times. The thought of having to start over, especially when I've been to so many meetups etc to no avail, makes me want to just give up forever.
posted by dekathelon at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2013

Yes, it's the same friend group. I kind of really don't want to go into details, but I feel like you can use your imagination on that one and get the gist.

I can't. "It involves a guy" could mean basically anything. You can PM it if you'd prefer - I have no interest in airing out anyone's dirty laundry - but this is a huge puzzle piece.

These people aren't necessarily faking it, but it's going to be really hard to suggest what to do about what's going on if we don't have a clear picture of what actually is going on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

And if I seem defensive, it's because I really don't want to think that the people who have been friends to me for so long were faking it all that time.

Nobody's faking it (necessarily). Being an acquaintance is not "faking" being a friend. Being an acquaintance is like step 3 on the road to being a friend. It's followed by "close acquaintance," "buddy/comrade," then "friend" then "close friend." At any phase, the relationship may stall. Some acquaintances may never become friends. Some may become friends but never close friends.

And some friendships make it all the way to close friendship and then still die a natural death. Such are the breaks.

But I'm concerned that you say "for so long," when it seems like from your question history they can't possibly have been your friends for more than a few months/a year...? You post about your total and complete isolation fairly on the reg, m'dear.

Honestly I'm starting to think from your posts that while everything you say is emotionally true, almost none of it is literally true. I think you might be the unreliable narrator of your own life.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]

People don't generally fake being friends, and a falling-out does mean they were faking it. See geek social fallacies and the discussion of 'friendship tests'. Bonds are fragile and they wax and wane over time, and what we've been telling you is that the bonds were maybe tentative and not strong enough to survive the struggles you've been going through.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2013

And if I seem defensive, it's because I really don't want to think that the people who have been friends to me for so long were faking it all that time.

It's not that they were faking it, it's that they were at a certain level in the friendship, and you were at another.

If there was an incident with a guy, either you stole a friend's boyfriend, or you brought a guy into the group that they didn't like, or...who knows, you want advice, we're offering it, you're saying we're not on target because of X, but you won't expand on X.

For whatever reason, assume that you've royally pissed these folks off. Assume that because you work together, they're taking the high road and not downright icing you out, but you're no longer part of that friend-circle.

Either they like you as a work-bud, or they liked you before the thing with the dude, or they liked you before you started going through all kinds of stuff and suddenly, they're over the whole situation.

You say you don't want to be annoying or over-dramatic, and you are.

Things change in relationships and healthy people move on from friendships where it's more of a hassle than a pleasure to be with the friend. I know...OUCH!

I'm sure at one time, they enjoyed your company and embraced your friendship. For whatever reasons, it's changed. Either you accept it and move on, or continue to indulge in the infantile belief that there's something you can do to get them back.

If they're your friends, they'll eventually contact you and invite you out somewhere. If they don't, then take the gentle hint.

And get more friends. It will take time, but it will happen.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you've done something like having an affair with the boyfriend or husband of another member of the group (that's the first place my imagination goes) then it's not really surprising that you might lose friendships over it or, at best, have your standing in the group drop several notches.

But honestly it seems most of the advice in this thread still applies, because you still have a ton of info on about feeling isolated and struggling with social issues. IMO people have been really thoughtful and have given a lot of well-meaning advice and shared their own experiences, some of which are pretty revealing. That's a very kind gift. Accept it.
posted by bunderful at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry, a falling-out does NOT mean they were faking it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, because my last response felt harsh even to me, and because you're clearly trying very hard to obliterate any identifying details (which could be why your timelines feel so vague and contradictory to me):

I still like everyone. I miss the good times. The thought of having to start over, especially when I've been to so many meetups etc to no avail, makes me want to just give up forever.

I know. It sucks, it really does. Time passes and things change and good things end, and it's painful and discouraging.

But denial doesn't make anything better. It just means that you delay the healthy grieving that will help you improve your situation.

Fairly or unfairly, a part of your life that you enjoyed is gone. Maybe gone forever, maybe gone for a while while people lick their wounds...? But it's gone, and you can't fix it. You can't. There's no tricks. You can't hop into your TARDIS and undo whatever it is that pissed these people off. You just have to sit, breathe, accept that they're gone, and feel as sad as that makes you feel.

You've had breakups, right? You know how you just have to deal with a breakup, because it's broken? This is a breakup. Your friends may have been your friends, but now they are your exes. So buy yourself some ben & jerry's, watch Beaches til you've run out of crying, and then pick yourself up and dust yourself off and leave the house to do things you enjoy.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2013

Yeah, the details are highly relevant here in this case or we simply cannot give you good advice. Are any of the people involved in this even on Metafilter? Is there any reason on Matt's green website that we cannot have the truth?
posted by corb at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2013

The people involved in this are likely to read Metafilter, yes. I'm half-convinced someone's already seen this. I guess the only other detail I can give is that everyone involved was single, there was no cheating or assisting-in-cheating involved.
posted by dekathelon at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2013

If the people involved in this read Mefi, they already know this is you. Giving more information isn't going to out you.

There's a balance between "bottling up your feelings" and "writing a long email, vetted by your mother, to one friend about your whole group of friends".

I really hope you work things out. Even if it doesn't work with these friends, I hope you can make new ones with whom it will work.
posted by jeather at 1:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really don't want to think that the people who have been friends to me for so long were faking it all that time.

I don't know whether you were close friends with these people and had a falling out or whether you were never that close friends with them in the first place. But let me give you an example of one of my not-friends from my social circle. He's a decent guy. We actually work in a similar area professionally, but I just don't mesh well with his personality. But I'll greet him when we're at the same social event and catch up on what he's up to, and I'll invite him to house parties. However, if for some reason he became highly emotionally burdensome or screwed over one of my actual friends and created drama, I'd really stop being so careful to include him in activities that I also invited the rest of the social circle to, and I'd blow off his social invitations to events he organizes (which I already do about half the time already, honestly).

But I know where he's from, what his parents do for a living, what his sister is grappling with professionally, and I know anecdotes about people he has dated. But we're not "friends" in the sense that I would help him move or expect to support him through a tough breakup (I would definitely lend him an ear if he came to me, if only because I would figure he must be in a really bad state if I am the only person he can come to). I'm not "faking" anything with him. I know him and consider him to be a fairly decent and benign person who I socially overlap with. And as long as the whole thing is benign, it will stay that way. But once the social burden of dealing with him exceeds the rewards I get from staying in touch with him and telling him about outings and activities, he will fall off the priority list. I realize this makes me sound kind of dickish, but I didn't "choose" all the people in my social circle-- the social circle is open to a lot of people, not all of whom would be my choice of friends, though they are mostly decent enough. If you want to keep up with a social circle, you can't make it burdensome for them. People want to be around friendly, happy people who enjoy a good time. That's the point of having a social group. If you can't be that person, and the social circle sees you bringing them down, they're going to start avoiding you. And sometimes this isn't fair and sometimes it's the other person creating drama, not you but it's a social risk you have to accept and manage by trying to avoid those sorts of people in the first place.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hi, there.

It’s taken me a while to respond because I had a panic attack while reading this question. After all of these excellent answers, mine will be redundant. I’ll try anyway.

I’ve been you for a long time. Since, like, elementary school. In middle school someone started the rumor/idea that I had awful body odor, and that followed me for a long while. People came up with all kinds of insulting nicknames for me. It was like they were erasing my existence. Even now I’m obsessive about wearing deodorant. Even now I’m scared that people will ask me if I’ve shit my pants because I smell like ass.

Yeah, I had no friends.

I hated how I had no one be with. Whenever someone mentioned having a “best friend”, I used to be so jealous because you know what? I truly believed that no one would ever call me their best friend. The girl I thought was my best friend refused to give me that title because there was some girl in California where she lived six years ago who held the Best Friend title. I wanted a best friend more than anything else in the world, more than even a boyfriend, because I viewed a romantic relationship as such a grand impossibility.

The few “friends” I had either bullied/abused me – like serious, physical abuse—or ignored me in favor of other, more popular friends when it suited them. People threw me out of groups every year. After a while I gave up and played sick during lunch so I wouldn’t have to be rejected by vast groups of super-chummy people. I understand why they were jerks—who wanted to be seen with a girl nicknamed “Skunk”?. The funny thing is that I’m actually very close to some of those friends now because the social pressures from high school wore off as soon as we graduated. Took me a while to understand that my friends were going through their own shit then, and I just have to write that off. It was hard, but I managed to forget. Some of it was desperation, because I so badly wanted to have friends, but part of it was because I genuinely enjoyed their company and the good outweighed the bad.

I thought things would get better when I went to college. They did, sort of. People referred to me by name. But I also had asshole roommates who tried to illegally evict me from a shared living situation. (See: Not Successful With Groups) I started dating a guy—which was exciting and awesome—but he was rough around the edges in the beginning and that ate into my ability to enjoy school or find female friendships. He couldn’t be the best friend I needed him to be. At that time, I also had debilitating physical issues related to having sex, so I resented him for that, too.

As a result of these stresses, I kept leaning on one friend—one of my high school friends—a little too hard and she snapped. All of a sudden I had no support and a lot of time to think.
During that time I finally realized one thing: it’s really hard to want people in your life and not have them. It’s really really hard. Some people have coping mechanisms and others don’t. I’ve always been an extrovert and I need to be around people. A lot of people don’t understand that this is where the “neediness” comes from. (Yes, extroverts may have it easier when it comes to socializing…sometimes. Having the need to socialize doesn’t always mean that you’re successful in that respect. In fact, I always resented myself and others for needing something but not ever getting it. I feel that introverts, who have rich inner lives, also have much better coping mechanisms regarding loneliness.)

Not having friends forced me to become an avid reader—all those lonely lunch hours!—but it’s difficult to have a two-way conversation with a book. And when I’m tired, my brain just turns off. I can’t concentrate but I’m still aware of the loneliness.

But whatever it was, I had to try. So I did.

Most of my attempts to socialize failed spectacularly. One of my attempts at making a friendship happened to be with someone who turned out to be a right-wing Indian activist. She almost killed me. There were many more failures, but that was the most spectacular one.

Then, I joined a sorority. It was a local thing, nothing tremendous, but since we had a common purpose I didn’t have to talk about myself. I was a stranger, but so were the all the others in my pledge class. The girl who roped me in was a psychopath, but the others were amazing. I thought I found the group I really wanted until the craziness from being too close started to become clear to me. My best friends from college are from that sorority, but the dozen or so of us failed to survive as an entity. We split up and moved on.

Since I went to school in a semi-city, I tried to make low-impact friendships wherever I went. I made friends with taxi drivers. We often played chess together. I made friends with a homeless Vietnam vet named George and bought him coffees from time to time. I visited bookstores and restaurants so frequently that owners/staff new me by name. I was motivated by the fact that it felt so good to have a friendly face everywhere I went. It became like a game for me, and it paid off. By the time I graduated I never ran out of people to talk to.

Everything fell apart when I graduated. I had to move back home with my parents. That really meant no contact with friends or with the outside world. And a lot of down time in which to reflect on that fact. I also didn’t live in a city, though I did commute to NYC now and again for music-related studies. I felt more than a little worthless and friendless. I didn’t have the resources to do anything because I wasn’t around enough humans/stimulation. Also, because of the recession, the friendships I made at school kind of dissolved. Business owners were put out of business. A few of my taxi driver friends died—I heard about their deaths third-hand and that hurt.

Like I said, I don’t blame you for constantly trying. I can’t presume to say that you’re like me, because I don’t know you. But I know what it’s like to feel disgusted with myself because I didn’t have any friends. Disgusted not necessarily because I was unpopular—though you mention popularity a lot, and that has been very well addressed in previous comments—but because I clearly couldn’t take care of my own needs, needs which included having friendly non-abusive people in my life. So I reached out to the people I knew/left behind in minor ways through emails and phone calls. Then I drove into the next town and did my unpaid freelance work from the local library so that I could get to know local business owners and fellow café-visitors. (I HIGHLY recommend this tactic, which is totally do-able if you live in NYC.)

Because I didn’t feel like socializing in groups, because groups rejected me, it just felt a lot easier to pick various people off, to understand people as individuals rather than trying to glom onto pre-existing groups. Groups just don’t work for late-adopters. This tactic worked. I got one friend to meet me for coffee every week on Wednesdays. That evolved into dinner. I asked to meet a city friend once a week so that we could visit museums together. Slowly—and painfully—I filled up my social calendar. I went to online NaNoWriMo meet-ups and met people from there IRL. They turned out to be such valuable friendships. I got back in touch with a lawyer-friend when I had a dumb legal question (a pretext under which to socialize, because I remember having fun with her in college) and now we meet once a week. These weekly meet-ups add up. Now, for every day of the week, I’m meeting someone either for lunch or dinner.

I have about, say, twelve close friends and about as many acquaintances. Since I began my new job, I even have work friends. They’re all strangers to one another. I will never have a huge group of friends and that’s OK. If I had a party, it would consist of people who don’t know each other and wouldn’t get along.

But that’s actually better than the alternative. Pre-existing cliques and groups mean drama. They mean that your own, personal needs are less likely to be met. And people are just jerks in groups. And, like many others have said in the comments, sometimes large groups of friends contain different friend-dynamics, and it’s hard to find a foothold for yourself when it’s like that. Make your own group of individuals. Pick people off from the edges.

Everyone else has said it already, so I think you know what to do, even if the truth sounds painful. And it is, because it really truly sucks to have to try and fail all the time. I know that, too. But I hope things get better for you, and I wish you all the best.
posted by orangutan at 2:01 PM on February 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

"I am kind of part of a "social circle" where I live, and I'll be honest-- I only have a few friends from that social circle, and there are times it can be burdensome: when I am organizing a party, there might be some people who aren't my kind of people who I don't especially enjoy hanging out with, but I'll invite them so they don't feel snubbed. But I wouldn't consider them my friends. More of my social life revolves around hanging out with people who are my friends but have other social circles."

Same here. There are friends in my social circle who I call up on a regular basis to chat or hang out with, others who I enjoy hanging out with when we all meet as a group but who I don't really spend time with one-on-one, and there are a couple others whose company I wouldn't seek out but tolerate. Most of us in this social circle, myself included, have best friends or very close friends in other social circles that don't often or may never mix. We don't rely on this one social circle to meet all our social needs, and this is a normal and healthy thing.

Film and literature (especially YA genres) glamorize and simplify friendships in ways that are convenient for the sake of telling a story - limiting the number of characters that need to be introduced and developed, focusing the storyline on certain relationships and conflicts, etc. - but don't necessarily reflect real life. Many adults don't have one definite "bestie" or "BFF", yet they have perfectly healthy, happy social lives with friends at varying levels of closeness. Many adults don't have one go-to friend group, like the show Friends, but instead have friends from many different social groups that they take turns socializing with.

The bottom line is, you can't point a laser focus onto this one group. You have to spread your efforts out and let individual friendships develop naturally. As long as you're getting your social needs met (in appropriate, non-codependent ways), it doesn't matter whether or not you have a bestie, or if you have a tribe-like friend group. You don't need to hang onto this group as if it's the last life raft on a sinking ship. Instead of focusing on breaking into friend groups, focus on one friendship at a time. Maybe this will result in you being incorporated into a friend group. But maybe it won't and you'll just have one new friend, and that's okay! Is it really important for you to have a whole crew or posse? If so, why is that? And if so, do you see how it doesn't make sense trying to leap from no friends to dozens of friends in one bound?

I can see how this feels like a Catch 22 to you - how do take a no-pressure approach to new friendships, when you feel like you really, REALLY need friends NOW? But you've got to fake it, even if you're dying for friends. Putting too much on developing friendships will smother them.

"Things change in relationships and healthy people move on from friendships where it's more of a hassle than a pleasure to be with the friend. I know...OUCH!"

This is harsh, but the absolute truth. People who already have healthy friend networks aren't going to bother putting a ton of effort into cultivating or maintaining your friendship, not when they don't need you and aren't getting any net benefit out of being friends with you. And you can't do things for other people while expecting friendship in return. It sucks to provide emotional support for a budding friend and not have it reciprocated when you need it, but when this happens you just have to move on. If someone is not acting like a good friend to you, there's nothing you can do to force them. Even worse is if you've become friendly with someone, and then jump the gun to full-on friendship level emotional support by unloading all your issues on them. You can't do that and expect people to stick around. Unless you and your friend have a real history together, you can't expect loyalty out of thin air.

And that's where being able to accurately gauge social signals comes in, and knowing how much you can lean on someone before it's too much. Sometimes confiding a bit in new friends can help strengthen the bond, but too much and you'll do damage. I don't believe you when you say that you know the difference between "friendly acquaintance" and "actual friend." You haven't even known these people long enough to get to "actual friend"! And you say they've been freezing you out for some time now, so it sounds like whatever happened between you and this circle was too much. It's time to move on. Be friendly and civil to these folks, but move on.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of pain emanates from your questions. I always hesitate to answer your posts, because I don't want to participate in making you feel worse about yourself. The thing is, I don't believe that you are a reliable narrator of what is going on in your social life. I do believe that the things you are feeling are real, though. But the way you frame things here -- and the way you've framed them in many questions in the past -- practically invites a pile-on for people to criticize you and tell you all the ways you must be failing socially. But ... for all any of us know, you could be perfectly fine in your interactions but you're just having a hard time making real connections in the biggest city. And I feel that by inviting us to tell you what's wrong with you -- especially when none of us have any of the details -- you are asking us to participate in your self-abuse. It reinforces this narrative you've written about how dekathelon is fundamentally unloveable and unlikeable. I bet when you read some of these "blunt" answers you say to yourself, "See, even the strangers on the internet can tell that I'm a loser."

Frankly, I think you need to start treating yourself way, way better than you have. Be kind to yourself. Set yourself up for success. Stop abusing yourself on Metafilter, and stop inviting us to further abuse you. Do things that give you enjoyment, even if they seem frivolous or expensive or whatever. Get a part-time job that gets you out of your house, because the daily isolation is harming you. Stop comparing your insides to other people's outsides. (It sounds like the first step to that would be to disengage from all social media. It's not helping.) Be the helpful person at your sister's wedding that helps out the old folks and feel great when you sidestep your dad's drama. Be a kind, friendly person in a real way, not in a Facebook-colleague-partyhopper kind of way. Before you start saving up for plastic surgery, buy yourself a pretty lipstick because it's fun to have a pretty lipstick, not because you need it. But just be kind to yourself. Don't invite people to kick you when you're feeling down. You deserve better than this. Try to find joy in your life, in your self. Treat yourself well, and you will be able to find friends who you treat you well.
posted by stowaway at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2013 [48 favorites]

Okay, so if there was a falling out over a single thing, then that's good news (the issue may not be your social skills generally as some here postulated). But you'll have to address the thing itself if you want to fix things.

Also, stowaway's comment says far better than I did what I was thinking when I commented last night, so I recommend you read that comment a few times.
posted by salvia at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2013

You can't save this friendship but you can have great friendships in the future.

A key ingredient to making friends is authenticity. It sounds as though you have not yet discovered your authentic self.

Once you walk the road toward authenticity, friendships will make themselves. You will gravitate toward and attract just the right sort of people to be friends with all through your life.

Being authentic is a much more successful strategy than trying to be popular. And you know those really popular people who don't have looks, status or money? The ones some cliquey people look at and sneer "what makes them think they are so special"? Well, what makes them special is that they are their authentic selves. Authenticity is a really attractive trait.

Authentic people give others the space to be their authentic selves too. They know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and they know they are responsible for their own thoughts and feelings. They are able to weather the hard knocks of life more successfully because they know that most stuff is not about them; they don't take the ebbs and flows of friendships personally.

Finding our authentic selves can be scary because it is about identifying aspects of ourselves that may not fit with what we wish we could be or, worse still, what we think we should be. But we can't be authentic without acceptance of who we are right now.

I know you may not feel it here now, but there has been a tremendous amount of love and compassion expressed towards you in this thread. And none of us are your "friends". But I am sure many of us would be your friend, maybe even close friend, if we knew your authentic you.

You have an excellent archive of questions and answers to take to your therapist. You must try to be truthful, honest and vulnerable with them so they can do their job of helping you travel the road to authenticity.

You may also like to read up on Brene Brown's work on shame. Good luck, Sweetie.
posted by Kerasia at 5:12 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Please, for the love of god, LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE. A great deal of them have been in this exact situation before, and they're saying exactly what they wish they had the opportunity to say to their past selves. A great deal of them have seen others in the same self-destructive loop and thinking that you're in right now, and been absolutely helpless to do anything about it lest get caught up in that cycle since it's something only the person undergoing can consciously choose to solve. And a great deal of them, including me, have been both, since realistically the situation that you outline is not as uncommon as you think.

Please stop dismissing their advice because you don't think they know. They know. They know exactly what it's like to be you, and it's hurtful to see you constantly again and again refute their advice and fall into the same traps again and again.

You know that big scene in the movies where something horrible happens to the main character and she gets that giant rally of support from all of her caring friends and this heart-warming touching moment with hugs and tears and everything's resolved? Well, you know that things are always dramatized in movies - this is what the scene looks like in real life. The biggest difference is - unlike the movies, things don't get magically resolved. And as much as we'd all like to reach out and help you here, we can't. Even if some of us knew you in real life and were willing to sacrifice our sanity and all of our emotional energy to put up with all of the negativity you're radiating (and it sounds like some people here would), we all know that's not going to solve anything in the long run because you'll still be miserable and lonely and making the same mistakes with everyone else and making everyone around you miserable too.

So please give what they're saying a chance.

posted by Conspire at 6:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm trying. The thing that makes it so hard is that I really miss everyone, that hasn't gone away at all, and I miss having the reassurance that everything is okay. Right now it's the opposite, this constant knowledge that everything is not okay and that maybe I've hurt people but I don't know for sure and I can't apologize either way because it'd just fall on deaf ears or be ignored again. It's all I can concentrate on. It's not like there's anything I can do to distract myself, because all my friends are gone and there is no one I can talk to. It isn't even like a breakup - at least with a breakup you have closure. It'd be more like your getting into a fight and then the other person disappearing without a word after months or years.

I guess what I'm saying is if I feel defensive, it's because what I really want is to know how to reach out to mend all of this and make things better and have everyone like me again, and how not to make things even worse, and only a few people have even suggested things that are gambles. (One person upthread mentioned going out to coffee, which would be an excellent idea if part of what caused all this is my being sad and upset that I couldn't get anyone to spend time with me. It'd just be another round of pulling teeth and ending up with nothing.)
posted by dekathelon at 7:08 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It feels like we are talking at cross angles here. There's some very good advice above about fixing your house that's fallen down and you're saying but but but I just wanna rehang this picture frame that fell off the wall.

So, try this exercise: reread what you've written above, what you've written in several other very similar questions, and now imagine a friend is asking those questions of you. What advice would you tell them to help solve their problem?
posted by jamaro at 8:06 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

We know you're trying, and that's what makes it so hard. Not just for you, but for everyone. Because the thing is - it's really, really difficult to support people when they're constantly like this. Some of us have been mentioning that this is a constant, constant pattern over months and years, and from the sounds of it (the email, the you being depressed at your birthday party to the two people who DID show up), you're subjecting your real life friends to this too. When an online community that rarely has contact with you begins commenting that they find this constant re-occurrence an issue, that points to a major problem in the real world in my eyes.

I admire that you're trying. It's tough, I really know it is. But here's the thing: as people, we judge by actions, and not by words or effort. When people see that you've been struggling with the same issue for years and years or months and months without making any leeway, we just can't help but feel hopeless and helpless at it all. You're yearning for normal relationships - but if I were your friend, I couldn't have that with you as unhealthy as you are right now. It wouldn't be because I don't care about you or love you or anything, it would be because I would just feel emotionally exhausted and sick around you to the point that I couldn't spend more than an hour a month on you.

So ultimately, you need to try smarter. Not harder, but smarter. You need to take ownership of your issues and tell yourself that you're not budging an inch until everything's better. And it needs to be a constant thing you tell yourself too, not just that one time you're feeling particularly motivated. Even if you're feeling super crappy, that just doesn't change anything - your issues are still your own, and you're the only one who can do anything about it. You need to stop spending so much energy on backpedaling and second-guessing every move you take.

You need to accept compromises and make sacrifices sometimes and realize that when we ask you "how are you?", we just want to hear "fine" back at times because even though you know you're not fine and we know that you're not fine, we love you and we don't want to hurt you even further by trying to tackle on an issue that's far beyond our scope, and trying to take ownership of what's rightfully your obstacle to overcome, and that doesn't necessarily make us bad or shallow people, just exactly how a friend needs to act. I know hiding it and pretending that everything is fine hurts. But you're scaring people, and you're trapped in this negative feedback loop where you're hurt and scared but scaring everyone off until you're alone and hurt and scared even more than you were in the first place.

So please, if there's one piece of advice in this thread that you absolutely NEED to take as your first step, it's to print out all of the AskMe threads you've made - and all of the extremely loving answers you've gotten - and bring it to your therapist. I know it's embarrassing, and I know it seems like no one does that (actually, lots of people do, they just don't tell you.) Then, your therapist as a professional, can help you get better. From there, you can take further steps. Maybe even win these friends back as an eventual goal. But the thing is: you're not of sound mind right now, and if you were to try right now, you'd just fall flat and fail. Think of it as sports: you have to run a marathon, but you're trying to do so right now with broken legs, and you need to get some medical attention from a professional and heal yourself because you can actually try lest you make things even worse for yourself. So while I know it hurts really badly at not being able to succeed right now, the you right now isn't you at your best, and if you want a real chance at winning these friends back, at making new friends, you've got to try your best to work past all of this nervous, negative thinking and potential other issues that we can't see past the computer screen.

Don't take the gambles now, don't try to mend things now. Get better first, then do so.
posted by Conspire at 8:26 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

You know how banks won't give out loans to people who express a desperate need for one?

Ponder that.
posted by flabdablet at 9:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's really painful to accept that sometimes you simply can't mend things and make it all better and make everyone like you again. You don't have the kind of friendships you thought you did, and some of them might never have been friendships at all, in which case there's not even anything to fix! You're suffering a loss right now, and that suffering is going to be around for a while. No advice could possibly make your pain go away overnight, because some of what you had, or thought you had, doesn't exist and isn't coming back, ever. Only time can ease that pain. That, and learning what you didn't know about friendship before now, so that you're able to recognize it in the future. From PercussivePaul's awesome comment:

Friendships happen when you connect with someone and feel a bond, end of story. All the other stuff, like caring, and coming to parties, and lending emotional support, all happen naturally, without effort, when that bond is there. Parties just arise when you chat with friends and make plans for fun things to do together, and you do that all the time because you enjoy each other's company, because of that bond. When the bond is not there, you will never make these things happen beyond the levels of basic politeness.

His whole comment is full of wisdom, which I even find helpful for myself, because in the past I've tried to force relationships to be more than they really were: I've mistaken acquaintances for friends, and mistaken good friends for *best* friends, and I've suffered deeply when reality finally intruded. And I've been tempted to toss those relationships out as unsalvageable. But that *also* would have been a mistake, because some of the people I thought were friends are still pleasant to treat as acquaintances when I see them. And some of the people I thought were best friends are still, well, just good friends now. Accepting they had never been my best friends was really hard, like, six months or a year to stop hurting, and I still feel the hollow empty place inside me because I haven't truly replaced what I thought was there. But they are people who will show up for my birthday, and that's worth something.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 9:07 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

at least with a breakup you have closure. It'd be more like your getting into a fight and then the other person disappearing without a word after months or years.

Yo I don't know about you, but I have had more than one breakup that was THIS EXACTLY, and there was an AskMe thread about a breakup just like that, only a few weeks ago.

It's really not different. With a breakup the real closure only ever comes from inside you: you have to accept, for real, that it's over and you and this person don't have a life together.

Any time, ANY TIME, I find myself in the endless hopeless loops you're in? It's because I'm refusing to accept something as true. Figure out what the thing you're refusing to accept might be. Is it that these friendships are over? Is it that they weren't what you thought? Is it (and I suspect it might be) a refusal to accept that people can be lonely and life is hard?

You have got to get quiet (I know you don't want to, anything less than being in a huge group of people feels like torture to you because you hate yourself with the fire of a thousand suns), and you have got to start owning the truths, girl.

Nothing changes til you do. If you want this part of your life to last FOREVER, keep doing what you're doing. If you don't, start movin'.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

what I really want is to know how to reach out to mend all of this and make things better and have everyone like me again

Even the way you phrase this suggests that you know yourself that this is a fairy-tale-impossible outcome. There is no magic word for friendships.

You keep explaining to us over and over the reasons why you feel awful taking the advice that's given here. We get it. (And I don't mean to sound unsympathetic -- this sounds like a very painful situation that'd be hard for anyone to resign themselves to.) But there's a word for this kind of protracted inactivity and excuse-making, and that word is "wallowing." What you need to do is acknowledge the fact that you hate having to take this advice, and take it anyway.
posted by ostro at 11:42 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

My computer battery is dying, but: Is there anything you enjoy that isn't social? Sometimes I feel pretty down about friends, or dating, or whatever, but I also run, read, cook, hang out with my dog, etc. Even a weekend alone is pretty full.

In other words, try to be a fun person independent of your social life.

Also: Life is not like the movies. TV shows and such have tight knit groups of friends because it's too expensive to pay more than a handful of series regulars. Stop thinking about how your life should be and become the person that you want to be.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:49 PM on February 4, 2013

Hi. Okay I'm going to be blunt in this entry. I'm not popular. I have been in your shoes before and I've been angry and resentful, but I've recently gotten an attitude makeover so things have been improving steadily (plus I'm as happy as a clam because I don't give a damn. I'm a poet and didn't even know it! :D). I'm roughly around the same age as you. So I have full confidence that you can also (in this order):
1) makeover your thought patterns,
2) get small lunch/coffee/dinner dates with one or two real friends and then
3) be able to function within a group of friends.

Firstly to answer your question: you can, but not now. You're nowhere in the right state of mind for friends, let alone a group of friends. Now you need to take care of yourself first. You can't change or control others, so why not do something you can do? Right now you need to do a reboot of yourself. Meaning you have to practise new patterns of thought by only seeing the positive side of things (for now). For example:

Objective reality 1: You invited many people to come to your birthday party. They RSVP-ed in an indeterminate manner and two people ended up coming.

The old you: Goddamnit, no one likes me. Only two losers came after all my effort and adherence to social protocol, and I bet they came because they felt sorry for me. It was a waste of time for them to come anyway. They're just putting up with me at the moment.

Awesome, new you: So it's gonna be a small intimate affair! I'll be able to really spend some time talking to them. Plus I'll pay less too, tee hee hee.

Objective reality 2: You were not invited to events that your friends attended.

The old you: No one invites me out! I must be a drag. My other so-called friends just don't want me around.

Awesome, new you: It's not personal! I guess they just forgot or something, silly friends! So anyway... back to the programme...

Okay I guess I'm being flippant in this second example. We'll tackle the underlying problems.

Basically what is happening is people are not responding to your invitations to go out. There are two things you need to do here:

First, have a new, positive way of thinking that you've practiced over and over again. Like above. Also, for the time being, don't take anything personally. Even when it's personal, pretend it's not personal and go on your merry way.

Secondly, you have to orchestrate a little campaign on Facebook that says that you're fun to go out with. Start small. Go out alone first. Take awesome pictures and post them on Facebook. Have fun (biking, or climbing or contra dancing or whatever) and show it off on Facebook. Do this for a few weeks, Then with your new positive image on Facebook plus your positive attitude, ask one or two people out on a low-stakes coffee date.

If you wanna go to college you gotta have a basic education. If you wanna have friends, you must like yourself. If you wanna be popular, you gotta have friends who'll go out with you. So... you gotta start small.

You wrote in one of your questions that people are not allowed to be at home doing nothing on weekends. Of course they are (: You can do whatever you want! I do that a lot, with zero guilt.

TL,DR: Don't take things personally. Even when it is personal, do not take it personally. Fake it till you make it. Practise seeing the positive side again and again.

It'll take months and loads and loads of practice to get used to thinking positively. This is what the posters above mean by "the other side"! Every time you think positive, you're one step closer to the other side. (: Then from there you'll know what to do. DON'T GIVE UP.
posted by rozaine at 1:01 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't know how you come across in the real world, but here, you come across as desperate for friends, desperate for approval, desperate for validation from outside of yourself. No one is comfortable hanging around a desperate person for too long. Your social circle has reached its limit with you.

Living in a big city is a blessing and a curse for any sort of relationship. The blessing is with so many people out there, there are, without a doubt, people for you out there. People with whom you will have a natural chemistry. The curse is that there are millions of people out there and it can take time to find your people. Also, with millions of people out there, people can move on from you if and when you become more hassle than you're worth. Take that fact and add it on to your current desperation and you're in a bit of a tough spot at the moment.

This very much can be fixed. It can't be fixed overnight and it can't be fixed without addressing the underlying issue, which is you. You are not cool with yourself. You cannot validate yourself. You cannot entertain yourself. You have fantasies about how your life should be and you get down on yourself when it doesn't match your actual life. You work on resetting you and once you're in a new place, you can approach this social circle and any other social circle with a new energy. You're in therapy and this resetting of how you think about yourself should be a top priority. Please print out this thread and every other question you've asked and bring them to your therapist. This is not easy work and it can be painful but its necessary.

Also I want to second everyone who has said get a hobby. You shouldn't fear being alone as much as you seem to. It doesn't need to be an in the house hobby. Take up photography, learn contra dancing, take a spanish class, volunteer somewhere. Have something in your life where you've got one night a week where you've got plans no matter what. Hell, since you freelance and it sounds like you work a home, have two hobbies. You might meet people doing this or you might not, but don't let it be about people. Let it be about you achieving something and feeling good about it.

And just to be extra real, you could end up doing all this work and bounce back a positive fun person that loves herself and you might still find that this social group isn't interested in you. Any relationship is a risk and they might never have really felt close to you, or they may feel that you've had several chances and they don't want to give you another one, but it could happen. Of course, new positive you will have the tools to deal with, move on and meet new people. That's why there is an overwhelming push from posters here to work on yourself. Any friendship can come to an end and if you aren't right with yourself its even harder than normal. So please, take time to tend to yourself. Don't worry about those people. Focus on you for a while and when you're in a better place, you'll have an easier time navigating friendships.
posted by GilvearSt at 4:58 AM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

There is so, so much good advice in this thread.

What GolvearSt & rozaine said - especially this - Have fun (biking, or climbing or contra dancing or whatever) and show it off on Facebook. Do this for a few weeks, Then with your new positive image on Facebook plus your positive attitude resonated with me.

This is something I did when having a rough time and feeling like I was really unlikeable - I got a hobby. Actually, several hobbies. It was hard sometimes because some of these hobbies would be, in my mind, so much more fun with friends instead of alone - going to museums, or for a walk, or to take some snapshots somewhere pretty.

So here's a thought. You are only doing these things alone temporarily. If it helps pretend you have a best bud who is away at some long boring business trip in a boring, remote location and they have asked you to do fun things while they are away so they can live vicaiously through your status updates or instagram pics. You want to cheer them up by being your best self living a fun life.

And if you do these things, a couple things will happen. One is that it is incredibly likely you will be happier, even when alone, because you will be having new experiences and finding small joys. Two is that you will also, over time, attract people in your life who share these hobbies and activities and you'll have fertile, healthy ground for friendships. Sure, there will be some weeds but you'll probably get some gorgeous flowers* too.

* or maybe you hate flowers. Maybe you like carnivorous plants or cacti. That's cool because you will come across otehrs who do too!

Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 6:05 AM on February 5, 2013

I'm trying. The thing that makes it so hard is that I really miss everyone, that hasn't gone away at all, and I miss having the reassurance that everything is okay. Right now it's the opposite, this constant knowledge that everything is not okay and that maybe I've hurt people but I don't know for sure and I can't apologize either way because it'd just fall on deaf ears or be ignored again. It's all I can concentrate on. It's not like there's anything I can do to distract myself, because all my friends are gone and there is no one I can talk to. It isn't even like a breakup - at least with a breakup you have closure. It'd be more like your getting into a fight and then the other person disappearing without a word after months or years.

Okay, so, story time. Like I said upthread, my own mother acts very similarly. Like your mother, she's prone to cutting people off completely, often in dramatic and confrontational ways--but she never really gets over it. Like, years later, she'll sit there obsessing over how her sister doesn't talk to her and why not and what did she ever do when it's pretty obvious to third party observers that my mother was the one who actually acted in a way that's distancing.

Since I grew up in that environment, that seems normal to me. Friendships die and I never really got over it--often I'd dramatically confront people about it, or whatnot, until I started working on these things in therapy.

And here's an example of how a good therapist is invaluable. I had a friend in college--we were fairly close until he started dating his now-wife. I haven't spoken to him in about seven years at this point. A mutual friend recently told me that this guy says he "just doesn't care for me" (why this mutual friend would do that, I dunno, but whatever). I drove home from my coffee date with this mutual friend sobbing because I was so upset that this guy didn't like me. In that moment, I missed him so much--I was angry and resentful. I drafted an email which I didn't send all about how much his friendship had once meant to me. VERY desperate and dramatic. But I didn't send it. I went and spoke to my therapist instead.

My therapist pointed out that the college friend was likely just being polite. Polite! Because saying you just don't care for someone is a conversation deflector. He asked me when I last spoke to the friend--seven years ago, I said. He asked if me and the friend had anything in common anymore. I don't really know him anymore, I said. We're totally different people than we were at 22. Well then, he said, what's the big deal? Friendships fade. That's natural. Sending a confrontational email is only going to make things more awkward and create needless drama when the guy was probably just trying to politely extricate himself from the conversation. Don't take it so personally, he said. Dude doesn't even know you anymore.

And he's right! Never sent that email. Feel glad I didn't. Now my mother, she would always force those confrontations. I think it has something to do with seeking attention whether positive or negative. If you can get someone engaged with you in a big dramatic fight, then at least they're looking at you. I'm here to tell you that that's crazy talk, and when you have a healthy self-image, you'll get more conflict avoidant, too. Because healthy people aren't so desperate to be seen that they'd prefer a "fuck you, how dare you send me something like this" response to silence. Healthy people are confidant enough in themselves that peace is preferable to drama.

And honey, of course you can distract yourself. Go for a walk in the park. Go see a movie. Find a game store and play Magic: The Gathering with some friendly nerds, if that's your bag. You live in the biggest city in the US, and life is full of distractions if you seek those out rather than drama.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:54 AM on February 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

First, to your original question: it's been several days since you sent your email and you haven't heard anything. Give it another week or two. If you don't hear anything, give her a call. I wouldn't open with "What did you think of my email?" - I'd say, "how is everything going?" - keep it light and take it from there. I wouldn't say there's anything to salvage per se at this point. but to go out with this friend again, I would give it time and keep it light. If you ask her to do something and she says she's broke or busy, I'd check in again in a month. If you get the same answer, I'd let this one go. Notice that I'm talking about this one friend, when you asked about going out with friends, plural. I think that's where you gotta start, with just one person, or the two that showed up to your party, as others have suggested.

You've said that this is a pattern for you - not having a social circle or community or assured that you had friends. Maybe social circles and groups don't work for you, similar to orangutan. (What an amazing, story by the way - she tried for years and years to find what works for her, and it wasn't a social group or friend group. It was lots of individuals, and one-on-one friendships. I'm sort of like this too - although I do small groups too, like 2 or 3 people.)

About the email that you sent - I haven't received an email like that, but if I had, I don't think I'd know how to respond. Basically you're saying you feel left out and you want to be included… but what if they don't want to include you for whatever reason? If they're decent people, they're not going to say "fuck off" nor are they going to say, "Sorry we don't want you around, we don't like you for these reasons, etc." They're just going to be at a loss for words, then forget about it because they have busy lives, then move on with their lives. You have to do that too.

I'm trying to think about what it's like in your shoes. Moving to a huge city where you don't know anyone, freelancing (I couldn't do it, so I admire you just for that) - what would I do? I'd probably surf the net a lot. I'd try to get out, get exercise, eat well, take walks, take photos, since I'm into photography. I'd go to events that seem interesting. I'd go to meetups, which I know you've done, and try to find friends via OKCupid/Craigslist (and probably feel ridiculous doing it, but I've seen ads for platonic friends on both, so I'd feel comforted by the fact I'm not the only one). I'd probably go to a few favourite coffee shops/restaurants and get to know the staff. I'd take a class in something. I think it would take a long time to develop friendships, but it wouldn't take long to find activities where I'm interacting with people regularly. That would be good enough for me, to start, I'm not sure it is for you? It definitely seems like you have a fixed idea of what friendships and social interaction should look like, and if it isn't happening for you that way, then it must mean you suck. So I echo everyone's advice to change your expectations.

I also think about what it must be like to be in an industry where colleagues hang out and have BFFs. I would feel like crap about myself too, if it seems like it's happening for everyone else and not for me. At some point you have to realize that these are not your people. Something similar happened in my last two workplaces (9-5 office jobs, steady paycheck), where people were friends with each other, hung out outside of work hours, would go to the gym together, would go over to each other's houses, etc. It definitely stung a bit to see this happening, but when it came down to it, they were into things that I weren't, had different worldviews and values from me and I realized that I didn't really want to have them as friends. It's important to be friendly and work well together, but if we were going to be friends, it would have happened. It didn't, and that's ok.

maybe I've hurt people but I don't know for sure and I can't apologize either way because it'd just fall on deaf ears or be ignored again. It's all I can concentrate on. It's not like there's anything I can do to distract myself, because all my friends are gone and there is no one I can talk to. It isn't even like a breakup - at least with a breakup you have closure.
Maybe you haven't hurt people. I think it's easy to blame yourself if something isn't happening the way you want - X isn't talking to me, I must've done something, I must apologize. That's just not necessarily the case. X could be busy, lost interest, is going through a rough time - it may not have to do with you at all. The way you're thinking about this could be entirely wrong.

You can distract yourself - exercise, other activities, writing, more internet surfing!… If all you want is someone to talk to, get a haircut and talk to your stylist! I've heard stories about people's hairstylists being their confidants even if they're not friends. You're sitting there for a half hour, you have a captive audience - people do do that! (It's not my cup of tea, I prefer to read a magazine and not talk, but it's something that many people do.)

what I really want is to know how to reach out to mend all of this and make things better and have everyone like me again, and how not to make things even worse, and only a few people have even suggested things that are gambles.
Again, there may not be anything to mend, at least in these peoples' minds. You may not have done *anything* to them; they may just not be your people. The way you're framing it is like, "If I just do this one thing, everything will be ok again." It's not like flipping a switch. I suggested above to reach out to the friend you emailed and going that course. You may not have everyone like you again (if indeed they actively dislike you, and I think it takes a lot of energy to dislike someone, so most people don't do it unless they are very negative in general. And if people dislike you, it will be very very difficult for them to change their minds about you to liking you). I think that's a very unrealistic goal that will just end in more sadness and disappointment for you. How to not make things worse? Just take a BIG step back. And like everyone else says, work on yourself.

I can't remember if I recommended this to you before, but I suggest getting some penpals. This is another way to build friendships - it obviously isn't the hangout-and-do-cool-things-sort of friendship, but it feels awesome knowing that there are people around the world willing to take the time to write to you, who want to get to know you, share their thoughts with you. That's what friendship is! Plus receiving mail and writing letters is tons of fun. And you get to learn about other people around the world, about different cultures, etc. You can also get into long rambling discussions, it's safe to be totally open, you don't to worry about social niceties and cues... Writing is very therapeutic... Lots of great reasons to try it. Hell, if you want to try it with me, memail me and I'll give you my snail mail address! I won't share any details about you with anyone on Mefi or IRL - I have no reason to. Hope to hear from you!
posted by foxjacket at 8:24 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

You want people to want to spend time with you?
You know the saying, "Want to be loved? Love and be loveable" ? The same applies to friendships. Be a good friend and be friendly. And that doesn't just mean be nice, it also means be someone that others want to spend time with. No one wants to spend time with someone who is needy, depressive, and confrontational. They want fun, cheerful, nice, interesting, confident. You don't have to fake being a bubbly nut, but you have to add more to the room than what you take from it.

Go find your confidence, make yourself someone that YOU and others would want to spend time with. Good luck!

PS: I'm still kind of confused why you would send that email. You put the recipient in a very uncomfortable position of either ignoring you and letting you know exactly why people chose to not spend time with you. Very awkward. And that makes me question your social skills.
posted by Neekee at 9:34 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, this.
posted by rozaine at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2013

Friendship is one of those things, like love, that everyone deserves and no one deserves. As human beings, we're all worthy of love. But as individuals, we have to give out love and have something to offer to others in order to receive love and awesomeness in return. And the more I read your updates, the more I'm struck by the similarities between the way you're feeling and communicating right now and some of the conversations we've had on Metafilter about "nice guys" and the "friendzone" when we talk about love and dating.

Basically, there's a certain situation that a fair number of young men find themselves in where they have female friends they secretly have crushes on, and they hang around being really sweet and supportive hoping that their friends will develop romantic feelings for them, and they get their hopes up when their female friends want to spend time with them and express how much they enjoy the guy's company, and then they get really bitter when they see their female friends dating guys who are not as "nice" as they are, because those guys don't deserve it as much. And a lot of people find their view problematic, because it's a very objectifying way of looking at people, as some sort of machines where if you put in enough of the right inputs (good deeds, kindness, etc.), the output will be love or sex, which the women should give because the men have done what's necessary to deserve it.

I'm not at all meaning this to say that you're doing something bad. But it does seem, listening to you, that you have sort of the same idea about friendship that they have about relationships. If you input the correct invitations to parties or showing up to things or the right kinds of conversations, and if the response you get includes the correct words or gestures, you've gotten to the point where you deserve friendship, and you have a lot of hurt and anger and bitterness over the fact that you're not getting what you've earned. A lot of your comments here are basically marshaling evidence that you've done all the same things the friends have done without the same result, and so you are upset that people are choosing to be friends with other people but not with you. And that's just not the way it works.

The fact is that, in both romantic and platonic relationships, each individual has the right to decide who they do or don't want to spend time with, and at what level they want to open their lives up to other people. And just like the prototypical "nice guy's" crush has decided that she only wants to be his friend, the people you're reaching out to have decided, for whatever reason, that they only want to be your acquaintances or colleagues, and perhaps even that they want to have no relationship at all with you. And that hurts you, a lot, especially because as far as you can tell, you've done all the right things, the things that have "earned" everyone else these awesome friendships that you don't have. And it's really upsetting to be on the receiving end of that. But whatever the problem is with what you're putting out there (and we can't know, because we don't know you), you absolutely have to let go of this idea that everyone else is getting friends by performing the correct series of rituals, and that if you perform the same rituals, you will unlock the achievement of having friends.

You talk a lot about wanting to be invited to do stuff and feeling left out of events. But that's not what friendship is, and even if you were getting invited to parties, you still might not be a friend or have friends. What friendship is really about is feeling a kinship with other people, having warm and fuzzy feelings about them, and having mutual trust and support. And you can't get that just by showing up. You certainly can't get it by demanding it, or demanding explanations for why you don't have it.

If I were you, I'd try to stop thinking about what everyone else is doing to get invited to parties and what conversations they're having without you, and start thinking about what you can offer to the world and to specific people who might be attracted by those qualities and want to be close to you. And I know that's hard, because it's pretty clear that you don't think very highly of yourself and what you have to offer. But there are things about you that are awesome. And you need to figure out what they are and how to spend more of your time focused on those things and how to reach out to other people who will recognize and celebrate your awesomeness.

The best response here is not the one some people have given in this thread (and that I admit I've given you in response to past questions), the response that a lot of "nice guys" develop after their crushes reject them: Fuck those bitches, they suck and are terrible people and that's why they don't love you back. That may well be true, but thinking that way isn't helping you. The best response is to realize that the reason these people don't want to be your friends is the same reason the crush-ladies don't want to go out with their "nice" male friends: they're just not attracted in that way to what you're putting out there. It's a bad match. So you need to swallow that, grieve it a little, and then move on with your life. Because bitterness and hurt and upset are natural reactions to what you're going through, but in the long run, they're going to destroy you.

Again, feel free to MeMail me if you want to talk more and you think it would be helpful.
posted by decathecting at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

I'm going to make a specific suggestion in case some of the comments asking you to dig deeper into your thoughts and feelings and your therapy are resonating with you at this point -

I don't know if your therapist does CBT with you, but you might get some use out of an app I've used called iCBT. You can enter the "event" that instigated your negative feelings/anxiety/whatever. In this case, you could enter as your "event" the birthday party or the email to your friend and her lack of response (so far). The app will then walk you through your feelings about it and you can rate your anxiety/depression levels at the beginning and end of the exercise. You can also email the whole thing to your therapist. A lot of people recommend the Feeling Good Handbook and CBT generally on AskMe, but personally I think you really need your therapist to help you with it and mix it with other things, because it can be really challenging to try to fit all your moods and feelings into a handful of disordered thinking categories. It only works when you do it over and over and over and have a real (trained) person to discuss with, because some things just fall out of the exercises.

As for your question on how to salvage this thing with your friend you sent the email to, I'm not sure. Personally, I don't have a social circle as such, I have about six or more groups I am sort at the outer fringes of. Maybe closer in in some groups, but I sort of float between a bunch of groups and have for years. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of these groups have known each other longer than they've known me. I did have my own little social circle group of people from high school that I moved to New York with but I sort of dropped out of it because some people in that group were super critical and I got tired of it.

Anyway, the reason I'm saying this is that in these social groups I am at the fringes of, sometimes people invite me to things with the whole group, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they even talk about something they are basically all doing next weekend, and sometimes they are like 'oh sweetkid you should come' and sometimes they don't.

I wouldn't send them an email about it if they didn't invite me to something though, because I really don't care. I like when they invite me and I don't even have time to go to everything the group does because I have all these other groups and work and just crap I need to do.
They've all known each other longer and even if they didn't, people are allowed to do stuff in whatever configuration of people they want. If I want to see all of them I can plan something.

I know it seems counterintuitive to suggest that maybe you need many groups of friends when you feel like you can't sustain one, but trust me all this came pretty gradually for me. And I wouldn't try any of this without working through your own issues first.

I think your social life should just be like play for the most part. You have to ease up on yourself. If you just talk to the bodega guy some weeks, so what? Everyone has lonely weeks. Also not everyone even has a bodega guy to talk to.

If you overshare with a friend, so what? Next time share less. If people seem curious, share more! Spend time with different people. Try different topics - television, weather, travel. See what sparks. If one topic tanks or someone looks at you weird, try again with another topic. Just play. Words aren't permanent and no one is going to like penalize you if you occasionally say the wrong thing, or overshare or make someone feel awkward. And honestly if someone feels sooo awkward because of something you said one time, they're not really worth your time because who wants to walk on eggshells that way?
posted by sweetkid at 12:22 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I go to therapy tomorrow, but I can already guess how it will go, because it goes the same way every week: I sit on the couch and try not to cry and say nothing, she says nothing as well, I get really bored trying to fill 45 minutes with essentially doing nothing, and at the end I am $75 poorer.

And there really isn't anything I can do to distract myself. I can't write, I can't work, can barely stand to leave the house (and where the fuck would I go anyway), hobbies cost money I don't have, and whenever I try to do anything else like read a book or watch a movie I can't focus because I'm too upset about all of this. It is impossible to forget about because the fact that I am alone now and every night is a constant reminder. The only way I will stop being upset about all of this is if it resolves itself or if I could just be asleep for a year or so.

The reason I sent the email is because the alternative is bottling up my feelings and being secretly resentful, which was what I did for the entire past year. And the problem with the "nice guy" meme is that the guys involved are misogynist. You cannot separate the misogyny from the meme, and I'm actually insulted that you would equate the two scenarios.
posted by dekathelon at 2:40 PM on February 5, 2013

Oh jeez, that sounds like shitty therapy. It may be time to shop around for another one! I think stoaway's comment is a very good one - you may be using threads like this to provide yourself with more and more 'objective' evidence that you're flawed. I think maybe the realization that's really missing for you right now is that there are no objectives in the world. There are no 'popular' or 'beautiful' or 'lovable' people. It's all relative, not absolute. You've alluded to many cognitive distortions here, but this is the one that stands out most, and that you should work on with a different therapist. There is no secret, Godly book out there, in which there are lists of people who are attractive or not, affable or not, successful human beings or not.
posted by namesarehard at 2:48 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

sit on the couch and try not to cry and say nothing, she says nothing as well, I get really bored trying to fill 45 minutes with essentially doing nothing


Why not go in tomorrow and say, "I'm having a conflict with this one friend of mine, and I sent her an email about it, and she hasn't responded and I'm really freaking out"?

It doesn't sound like you're getting much out of therapy, possibly because you're not putting anything in.
posted by Sara C. at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, what Sara C. said. Also, why are you trying not to cry? I spent 45 minutes crying with my therapist today (and laughing, and deconstructing my relationship with my mom). It was super productive. You have to dig deep and uncover all those fears. I know it's hard, but a good beginning is to just say "this feels super awkward and I'm sitting here trying not to cry and I feel terrified." If your therapist is any good, that disclosure should give you guys both a way to dive in.

Also all those "I can'ts" are all depression talking, not logic. I know they feel logical but depression is a hungry ghost--it makes recovery seem impossible so that you can never vanquish it. Don't listen. Stab that fucker in the gut. Go out, do something, no matter how much that voice in the back of your head says it's not working. Keep trying anyway. Eventually it will work.

The worst thing you can do is to give into the voice, though, and just stay at home.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll probably say that tomorrow, but I don't really expect it will lead to a conversation or any advice, because it never does. She never initiates conversations, and I have nothing to initiate with most days. The reason it looks the same every week is because I have nothing to say, nothing happens in my life because I spend every day alone, and if I'm being put on the spot it's not like a conversation topic will magically materialize. Calls to my mother are like that too anymore.

I'm trying not to cry because there is not a single moment of my waking life that I am trying not to cry, but when I'm thinking about situations like this (which is all the time now) it is impossible not to. There's no place it's acceptable to, either. I can't do it at home because my landlord hears it and tells my roommate, who tells me she can't have me crying in the house, even when I'm alone there.
posted by dekathelon at 2:56 PM on February 5, 2013

Why not go in tomorrow and say, "I'm having a conflict with this one friend of mine, and I sent her an email about it, and she hasn't responded and I'm really freaking out"?

Yes, this, or, try the iCBT thing, or, print your emails, or, write a list of all the things you are worrying about and hand it to the therapist (I have done all these things). There is no way a qualified therapist is going to look at a detailed written description of a problem and just say nothing. Unless they start talking to you and YOU say nothing, which you can't do.

You have to say things back to the therapist. That is how they help you.
posted by sweetkid at 2:57 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

The reason it looks the same every week is because I have nothing to say, nothing happens in my life because I spend every day alone, and if I'm being put on the spot it's not like a conversation topic will magically materialize.

That's odd. You have twenty-two questions on AskMe, mostly about social/emotional issues. You don't think that's what you should be talking to your therapist about?

Seriously, what do you think most people talk about in therapy?

Also, don't worry about crying. Crying in front of your therapist is par for the course.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

sit on the couch and try not to cry and say nothing, she says nothing as well, I get really bored trying to fill 45 minutes with essentially doing nothing


I'm trying not to cry because there is not a single moment of my waking life that I am trying not to cry, but when I'm thinking about situations like this (which is all the time now) it is impossible not to. There's no place it's acceptable to, either.

This is another instance where I think you are, as others have said, an unreliable narrator of your own life. Therapy is precisely the place where it is acceptable to cry. Crying is one part of the emotional hard work that therapy entails -- hard, scary, uncertain work that you will have to perform if you are to get anything out of therapy.
posted by scody at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are you on antidepressants? I sure hope so... :(
posted by namesarehard at 3:01 PM on February 5, 2013

You don't think that's what I have been talking about, and have exhausted all answers on her part for? Anymore I bring up a topic and there is silence.
posted by dekathelon at 3:03 PM on February 5, 2013

If you are literally bringing up topics to talk about and your therapist refuses to engage you, then the answer is to find a new therapist.
posted by scody at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

nothing happens in my life because I spend every day alone

Every couple weeks you post another question to AskMetafilter about a huge emotional topic like how friendship works or how to process your emotions about your sister getting married or whether you should get plastic surgery or move away.

Clearly stuff is happening in your life that you could discuss with your therapist.

And I agree with scody -- if the issue is that you are bringing this stuff to your therapist, and you're literally getting radio silence in return, it's time to get a new therapist.
posted by Sara C. at 3:11 PM on February 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

You sound so, so incredibly depressed. If your therapist not only refuses to engage you, but fails to recognize that you desperately need treatment for your depression, then please, please fire her and find a new therapist, and see a doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist.

Nothing in your life is going to get better until you start getting proper treatment. Depression is very much a medical illness, and if you are struggling through every minute of your life on the verge of tears, you are in perilous health and this is approaching an emergency situation.

There are also crisis hotlines you can contact if you need help obtaining treatment. Sorry, I don't know of the numbers in NY, but I'm sure someone here will.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:43 PM on February 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm not suggesting that you're suicidal, but there are crisis hotline phone numbers listed here by county. You don't need to be suicidal to ask for help, to be referred to available resources, or just to have someone listen.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:56 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

[OP this thread is really for asking/answering not an ongoing discussion about your issues, please contact us if you have questions. Thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2013

I'm going to just continue the recommendations that you get a different therapist, or find someone who can prescribe anti-depressants -- you are thinking about crying all the time and consumed by all the problems in your life, and you need better help in getting past that than what you are getting now.

You seem really nice and thoughtful and completely stuck, and you don't have to be. It's hard work but you can get to a point where you're happier and you will find people are more easily drawn to you.
posted by jeather at 5:33 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Either you need a new therapist or you need to change how you talk to the one you have. Try this: tomorrow, print out all your questions having to do with emotional/social issues you're having (no need to print the answers, just your questions) and hand them to the therapist and say these exact words: "these are the problems I'm having right now that I need to work on. Please TEACH ME how to be different than this person." If, after handing articulate and typed out questions to them as well as asking directly for instruction on how to change your behavior/thinking, you still get a blank stare, then change therapists.

You need lessons on how to be different than you are, in your manner of interactions with people in your work/social life and on how to challenge your habit of negative thinking. It's not easy if it's deeply ingrained patterns and habits, but you honestly don't know how to be any different and we here on the internet can't be involved intimately enough to teach you on an ongoing basis. That's what therapy does.

Also, if you have a habit of arguing with your therapist at every suggestion they give and giving excuses for why you're refusing to try things that you don't want to do, then honestly it's not surprising if your therapist doesn't say anything really. (This is what I've noticed in pretty much every askme of yours). There's not a lot to say after the umpteenth time telling you the same thing that you shoot down each and every time.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:08 PM on February 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

is there any way a mod can delete this? it has gotten to the point where I am really uncomfortable having it online/findable. thanks.
posted by dekathelon at 8:15 PM on February 5, 2013

You can use the contact form to ask the mods this. It's sort of unfair to all the people who answered that this is all you got out of this though.
posted by sweetkid at 8:21 PM on February 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

Yes, it sounds like therapy isn't working for you. Have you told her it feels like "it goes the same way every week: I sit on the couch and try not to cry and say nothing, she says nothing as well, I get really bored trying to fill 45 minutes with essentially doing nothing, and at the end I am $75 poorer?" It might be worth seeking out a new therapist, though first I'd admit to this therapist that you're feeling stuck.
posted by salvia at 8:36 PM on February 5, 2013

You don't think that's what I have been talking about, and have exhausted all answers on her part for? Anymore I bring up a topic and there is silence.

Get a new therapist.

If you need a step-by-step, here it is. I hope this helps.

1. Find a new therapist. I don't know your specifics so I can't tell you who or how, but the channels you went through to find your current one would be a good start. Hell, use google. It's what I did.

1a. It's completely normal and expected to have to go through a couple different therapists before finding a good fit.

2. You will know you've found a good fit when talking is easy and the hour goes by quickly. Give it a few appointments, but if it's not there, move on. Do not get discouraged. These are large issues that have been bothering you for a very long time and they will take a lot of work and effort to fix. This is part of the process. Trust the process. Results will come slowly, but they will come. No single step will fix all your problems.

3. Two people showed up to your birthday, and one made concrete plans. These people are your friends. Make plans with your friends! Do so in a light and fun way. Be a fun person. Shoot them a text - "Hey there! Anything going on Friday? There's this thing I was wanting to go to, you should come if you're free!" Keep this to about one invite per person per week. Slow it down to once every two or three weeks if you notice that they aren't initiating contact.

4. Keep doing group things. Find groups for stuff you enjoy and go to them. Become fearless in meeting new people. When you meet someone new, do more listening than talking and do not complain about anything.

5. Every day - every single day - do at least one thing that makes your life better in some way. Get some exercise. Do the dishes. Go try on some clothes and don't buy any but get a sense of what looks great and keep it in your head for later. Find a place where you can learn something for free or for cheap - NYC is full of these - and go learn something for free or for cheap. Watch Youtube videos that teach you something, like how to moonwalk or do the box step. Eliminate clutter in your room and take old stuff to a thrift store. It can be something tiny, but every day you must do at least one thing.

6. Now, as to how to fix things with your current friend group: They've made up their minds about you at the moment so your best bet is to take a step back and leave them to it for the time being. Become less of a known quantity. Make them wonder what you've been up to. Make some minor changes to your appearance - a new hairstyle, a dye job you like, some new glasses, a new jacket. Whatever. Stay in therapy - that part will be important. What I'm saying is: hit the reset button in their heads. That's the only thing for it, and it'll work better than you expect. In the meantime, work on you. You have a lot of work to do, and every day you put it off, the day it'll be done moves further away. When you are ready to start floating around this social group again, the reset button will have been hit and you will look a bit different and you will have had a lot of fun experiences and learned things and that will give you a pretty good shot at what you want.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:57 AM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Hi. Thanks for your help, it's appreciated. I will probably not be checking in here further, but thanks again.
posted by dekathelon at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2013

« Older Help me make better day-to-day impression with the...   |   Non-lame books for starting a business? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.