Losing Friends and Alienating People 101

In the game of life, at some point nearly everyone suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous friendship. We all have a tale of a boyfriend-stealer or ne’er-do-well, that friend you thought had your back, but instead plunged a knife in it. There are the backhanded compliment friends, the to-your-face insult friends, the shock value friends, the ones with selective memories, and the creepy single-white-female friends.

In my life, it seems that most of my relationships with women—even in business—are doomed. I can’t tell you how many female “friends” have cycled in and out for one reason or another. In a few instances, there were very obvious reasons for the breakup; I am not perplexed by these lost friendships. When someone kicks you when you’re down, abuses your time, or lies to your face, you never feel quite the same about them.

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my friendships, past and present. In my first months as an expat, all I had was time since I wasn’t working and knew no one other than my husband. I spent many hours alone and this much I discovered: when you move across the world, it becomes very obvious who really cares about you and who doesn’t.

In pondering my relationships and friendships, I have realized that it doesn’t necessarily take an incident or an insult to piss people off. Excellence of any sort is often more detrimental to a friendship than any quip, lie, remark, or deed. Especially with women. When there is a tangible infraction, there is a source and a reason for loathing and acrimony. But when women are jealous or insecure, simply being you is enough to provoke an altercation. My mother always disliked my platonic male friendships but I understand now why they were so good for me then, and why they have endured to this day: there is no competition. My guy friends don’t compete with me, don’t compare the size of their ass to mine, don’t hate me for what I have or what I’ve achieved. I’m not a competitive friend or spouse—I don’t punish or insult those who have done well for themselves. Friendship is love. If you aren’t loving the fact that your friend is amazing and doing well for herself, you are not a true friend.

Sketch by Stephen Stahlberg, androidblues.com
Sketch by Steven Stahlberg, androidblues.com

That said, if you really want to lose friends and alienate people, you don’t have to be an asshole. Most of the time, you only have to be confident, hard-working, honest, and have standards for people to loathe you. If you’re a woman actively practicing any of  the following, beware. There is probably a green-eyed monster lurking in the shadows that looks remarkably like one of your friends, and she’s liable to strike at any time…

  1. March to the beat of your own drum. When you don’t fully subscribe to the conventions and expectations of society, and you actually have the courage to make choices others don’t make, and take risks, it really gets to people.
  2. Be confident. Stand up straight and tall and believe in yourself and your ideas. People hate that.
  3. Have great style. Sometimes just being able to put an outfit together, or having the confidence it takes to wear what no one else can or will is just too much. Why should you be able to pull it off and they can’t?
  4. Have a moral compass. Do believe that sleeping with a married man is wrong and don’t do it. Do have integrity and learn from your mistakes. But know that your goodness just makes others feel worse about their badness.
  5. Be smart. Intelligence can be lethal to friendships as well. See, no one really takes an airhead seriously, so anything an airhead does is excused or dismissed. God help you if you have half a brain. Cause then you’re stylish and confident and beautiful and honest and cunning. And in plain English, you’re screwed.
  6. Be childless by choice. The ultimate friendship killer. All of a sudden your friends’ social calendars consist of playdates and the PTA. Obviously, the dynamic is going to shift, and radically. But the other part of this…to be a woman of child-bearing age and not want to bear a child…oh no. What is wrong with you? How dare you be able to go to the gym whenever you want, take an hour-long bath, sleep in? You’re so selfish. You’re so vain. You’re so free. You’re so…enviable.

28 comments

  1. I love this post! I agree with so much of this! But have to disagree with number 6, I would guess most people with kids aren’t jealous of they’re friends who don’t have kids (even though they may joke about how nice it would be to sleep until 10am)– unless of course they’re teenaged moms, they probably would be.
    .-= flgirlinsydney´s last blog ..Oh Yes I Did! =-.

  2. Hey Flygirl, thanks for the comment. I agree that most parents aren’t jealous of non-parents. you are right. But sometimes it seems that some moms seem to have it out for you for no apparent reason. It is that fraction I am speaking about…they’re just chronically pissed off, and you get the sense that they hate you. There is just this tension in the air. Anyway, thanks again for visiting! Still impressed by those killer cupcakes you made!

  3. Hi V!

    I totally understand….this soooo resonnates unfortunately. And yet, I am fortunate to be part of a 3-Muskateers girlfriend group that has been going nicely along since our highschool years. I think a lot of its success is because all three of us are so very different in lifestyle choices, personalities, styles and so forth but somehow it all just “works” between us. Other females have been not so true-friendly throughout the years though, so I feel for ya’ with knowing how this feels myself.

    One of my best friends is a much-younger guy here in town that both the hubby and I are good friends with. In fact, I work in the same company now as Fletch’s girlfriend and we’re friends with her as well. He and I have a lot of the same interests and we all hang-out in a big groupa’ friends so it’s great. The two of us can talk forever and no one minds which is really cool.

    Yeah, women can be so catty and I agree that (with a very, very few exceptions) when one chooses to not have children, folks get a little outta’-kilter as to how to respond to that. After almost 20 years of marriage now, and going on into the middle-age of my mid-40’s, I STILL get people who try to convince me to have a child. What is THAT all about eh? It’s really strange… Like J. and I being super-happy within our own little family unit of 2 is just not enough for others??? Good grief!

    Anyway, I always enjoy your blog and the Carrot Top one was toooo hilarious…n’ quite scary! This post was such a good one and hang-in-there- I’ll be hoping that some real true female friends come your way soon whichever side a’ the globe you’re hanging out in…USA and AU 🙂 Best, Lac

  4. Hey Lac~

    Thanks for the blog love! Ha…thinking about the Carrot Top post…so creepy. But glad you enjoyed.

    Yeah, I’m sure you’ve caught a LOT of heat over the years about the no kids thing. I think what gets me most about people who ask about kids (and ultimately try to convince you to have them) is their insensitivity. How do they know whether it is choice or inability? It’s so rude and so stupid to assume that if you don’t have kids, it’s always by choice. Granted, in my case it is, so far as I know. But I cringe thinking of all the women who get lectured that would so love to be mothers but can’t. You’d think other women would have a little more of a clue before laying into them, but they don’t. I wish women were kinder to each other.

    Anyway, glad to know you are well and happy! I’m hoppin’ over to your blog in a sec…did I see something about WELLIES!!!!!??? On my list to buy. I’m obsessed. Just have like no where to wear them. Boo.

  5. Hey V!

    Yeah, ole’ Wellies…such fun! You could get a pair and wear ’em in wet weather and around woods, parks and so on. Plus I do see them out n’ about occassionally as fashion statements which look totally great on much-taller folks than barely 5’4″ me. You’d totally rock-’em!

    They’re too-wide in styling on me and “cut” me off in what scarce little leg-length I have however for me try to wear fashionably but I’m big on wearing more fitted black or brown higher-heeled leather boots. That’s actually my fav thing to sport year-round: heeled leather boots. Underneath pants, over pants legs, under long, mid and short skirts and even with casual dresses as well. When J. and I were in London last spring, my footwear for that was mainly my most comfortable pair of black leather boots with a mid-heel.

    SInce my days of overseas traveling, which started waaay back (lol) in highschool, I absolutely refuse to wear running shoes, casual blue jeans, bright colors and any kind of sweats or sports attire as an American in another country. 😉 (and actually I never really wear that around here anyway) Sloppy-American-Tourists are a pet peeve of mine and heck, I’m American so I can imagine what non-Americans think of the tired, “just barely rolled out of bed” bedraggled look so many of my fellow countrymen n’ women are sporting around the globe…ugh. I guess somebody’s gotta’ present the USA nicely here n’ there and so for my small part, I try to. And I’m guessin’ that you feel the same way about this. I always dress-up even with the long journeying that is going-to-Australia, as you well know, and nine times out of ten, I get a nice upgrade. Business is always a vast improvement over Coach and First Class is amazing when ya’ can get it n’ spectacular when ya’ can get it for free 🙂 We flew First to London n’ back and ahhh, I slept so well even in dressed-up attire.

    Anyhoo, I could “chat” about that all day ad nauseum, lol.

    Totally agree: women especially should be hyper-nice about other women not having children for whatever reason. That’s another annoyance and I have an answer to the inevitable question of, “…and do you have children?” I answer, “oh yes, two boys!” And they always reply to that, “What ages are they?” And I answer with a bright smile on my face, “45 and 69″….and let ’em work that one out for awhile, haha! I’m meaning of course J. and my Dad. It’s actually become fun to answer this question now.

    Best to ya’ from here and now… I’ve got to get back to some more online school work tonight, Lac

  6. Lac…wow, we share even more similarities than I thought! I never, ever travel in leisure wear. Never. Running shoes are for training only, and I absolutely despise flip flops as credible footwear. They belong on the beach, by the pool, in the yard, or when you’re just zipping out for some bread and milk and you’re not likely to run into anyone you know. And no makeup? Forget it. Never ever. Even to go to the gym. And the beach. Mascara and gloss at minimum.

    Though I’ve never scored an upgrade on a flight, looking pulled together when traveling (or shopping) DOES get you extra help, extra attention, and extra credibility. I just don’t feel comfortable going totally casual unless I’m hitting the gym. It’s just not me.

  7. Googling for something on friendship, I was intrigued by the title, the opposite of the Dale Carnegie book. After reading your article, I was brought, in my thinking, back to my last job. While you may think that what you experienced is a female phenomenon, let me assure you …it is not.

    If I’m going to be in a place for 8 to 12 hours per day, there’s going to be something for me to do beside just sitting there listening to my cells age. I also like to learn: because of that, I looked for and took courses, attended seminars and conferences. I also had confidence in myself and my abilities. With one exception, all the members of the “team” were male. Jealousy was thick and heavy in that environment. “Catty” comments were made, from time to time, including the suggestion that I was brown nosing. One man, seeing me carrying a textbook, made a point of coming over to me to make the statement to me that he had, “No need to learn anything more” and my reply was, “And your point is?” My taking a course really has nothing to do with you and yet it seems to upset you for some reason, why is that?” There was no answer forthcoming and he left in a snit. The courses, that interested me, I had hunted them down, applied for company approval and took, were all available to the other guys. The others chose not to take any courses and not attend seminars or conferences, it was all just too much for them; nonetheless, remained very jealous, believing in their warped way, that I was getting special treatment / consideration. I can’t get my head around that kind of thinking and, I tend to see it as borderline insanity

    Yes the differences between males and females are many, varied and some are huge …but, when it comes to Jealousy, and the other thing “men don’t do” gossip, the only difference is subtlety.

    1. Ken~

      Welcome, and thank you for offering a male perspective as well. I know men are competitive, but I didn’t realize there is just as much jealousy, backbiting, and acrimony. Which sucks. But as you more or less pointed out, it’s not our fault if we hold ourselves to a certain standard or feel compelled to challenge ourselves and learn more, be more, do more.

      This blog is definitely not targeted toward male readers, but if you have time, I’d love to hear your perspective of this post: http://www.gritandglamour.com/2010/02/09/flowers-could-be-misinterpreted-and-other-stupid-myths/.

      Thanks again!

  8. what a thing this childless, middle aged single blah. i’m in my dream job – which is nothing fabulous – local rural community health industry -having escaped my nightmare job and still i feel like a pariah. i just dunno. too many hormones circulating, not enough burdens to boast of.. well it’s all making me feel very insecure and rather depressed. past lives?? i didn’t mean it whatever it was…i feel like an alien but do try to keep a brave face. and often wonder to myself “what happened to my social life?” which is ironic, i’m sure there are times when a lot of married mothers think similarly…

  9. This is a great post–and sadly so true. I had a “best friend” all throughout college who couldn’t handle it when my poetry started getting published when her’s didn’t. Then when I got married before her. Then when I got in grad school before her. The hardest thing about it is that she is one fo those girls that will hate you but still want to keep you around–it made breaking off the friendship so much harder, but I couldn’t take all of the backhanded compliments anymore, the passive-aggressive attacks.

    The kids thing is Very true as well—my husband and I are young (24 years old) and have only been married for 3 years, but at the seminary where we work, everyone around our age has already started a family and they think you’re selfish terrible people if you aren’t starting your family. I know a couple who struggles with infertility and they still get asked all the time “when are you having kids?” “there’s never a Perfect time to have kids” etc.

    Personally I think when (or if) you want to start having kids is a private matter—people don’t regularly ask me about my Sex life, so why should they regularly ask me about a product of my sex life?
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Friend Friday =-.

    1. Renee~

      Thanks for your comment. The haves (kids) vs. the have nots (no kids) is a big factor in friendships, unfortunately. I’m pushing 40, have one marriage behind me, am on my second marriage, and people are still commenting on my lack of kids. I’m serious about not having kids! Unless there’s an accident, there are no plans for babies in my life. It’s hard for people to grasp this concept.

      Like you, I am baffled to this day when people STILL have the audacity to TELL me that I need to have a child. It is a blindingly stupid assumption on their parts that I am choosing not to have them. Even if that is the case, they don’t know that there could be a medical issue. Like you said people don’t ask about my sex life, so why should they feel they have the right to voice their opinions on the result of it? Well-put.

      While I haven’t figured out how to slay the green-eyed monster that consumes so many women, I have learned to deal with the baby question. When someone tells me I need to have a baby, I just tell them we are trying our hardest to make a baby, we’re giving it our all! That usually shuts them up.

  10. Right so it’s nearly 3am and I’m googling “Why women alienate other women,” as if to find some magical solution to the predictable and, even more so, hurtful pattern with women throughout my life. Thanks so very much for this post:) Your words help me feel not-so-alone even though I’m feeling pretty left out;)

    1. Aw, so sorry you were feeling so badly when you wrote your comment, but I’m glad you found some peace knowing that sometimes people just suck and it has nothing to do with you! I’ve felt left and was literally left out of a lot in my life, but you know what? It just made me more determined to live my life authentically and on my terms. Consequently, I’ve amazing opportunities and the kind of freedom and experiences many of those people who chose to alienate me only wish they could have.

      Be true to you, let the haters hate. 9 times out of 10, it’s pure jealousy.

  11. Yet again another truly stellar post! I totally get this, and especially so as an expat. Boy you really find out who your good buds are! Especially with #6. I’ve got some wonderful friends with young families and we mutually support and rejoice in eachother’s choices. And others whom either disappeared without trace or call (some within months of the wedding, shower, and baby gifts having been received) which is just outlandish in both etiquette and just a litany of other reasons. Reminds me of that epic SATC episode “A woman’s right to shoes ” …..

    1. Hey Diana!

      My husband has also (unfortunately) experienced the “out of sight, out of mind” aspect of being an expat. Kind of hurts at first. But then, as you noted, your REAL friends stay close. I had one really kick me while I was down, depressed, and touchy in my first two month of expat life. I’ll never forget how nasty she was. Needless to say, we aren’t friends anymore.

      The one thing men don’t have to deal with as much is the rivalry between women with children and ones without. Actually, that’s not 100% accurate. There are some women who can follow their dreams of motherhood without hating you for following your non-kid life.But as you have experienced, once you get into your 30s and beyond, and friends start having kids and you don’t, your lives take different trajectories. My best friend has three, and we’re still good friends, although we’re in different states. But this is a natural segregation, I suppose. You no longer have that much in common, and yeah, I’m GLAD I can do whatever the hell I want, when I want, and no, I don’t want to hear a kid screaming in the background all the time. Although abrupt cessation of communication within months of a life event (that you spent your time and money to honor) is gauche, in the end, when they’ve gone full mommy and you’re planning your next exotic vacay, they are kind of doing you a favor.

      It’s sad, but generally, I find women to be exceedingly jealous of anything that’s not average or a normal progression in life. I have one real, true girlfriend. One. But that’s OK, because my bestie is my Hubby, and outside of him, there’s not much time for girlfriends. And definitely no time for girls who masquerade as a friend, but stick you with nasty little barbs through your whole friendship until you finally tell them to kiss off.

      Obviously, I’m STILL pretty passionate about this topic! All I can say that in my old age, I really no longer care what people think, and I will not condone dishonesty or disloyalty. Life is too short. Go rain on someone else’s parade, right?! 😉

  12. Sounds like your more hurt than they are you should defensive when you wrote this. Like your still holding on to the pain :S
    I’m a person out of the box too yet we shouldn’t hold their human nature against them anymore than they do it onto us. Cause then we r doing the same thing they are. judging right and wrong. Calling one a victim.

  13. Wow this explains a lot. Not too sure about being childless. I have a friend who is and is by choice. I have no problem with that. And she has no problem with me having them. Maybe it is a problem for some people though. Thanks for putting this out there. And by the way…that illustration says a thousand words.

  14. I feel I’ve lost a lot of friends in recent years or encounter strange behavior from women pretty often, and this made me feel a lot better, thanks. I often wonder if I’m doing something wrong to bring this on. Mostly I think I’m just attempting to be nice and polite, but am often met with rude behavior. Maybe the above is what I’m encountering.

    Let’s not forget the single gals who would love to meet a great guy and have kids, but never meet the guy. All of this is quite painful for them, when other single women are often quite mean and competitive, and the married women separate themselves and act almost like they are better than you. I don’t encounter people who ask when you will have kids. What I see are a lot of smart, talented women who never seem to meet decent guys and are heartbroken.

  15. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “comment_content” *]
    Well I’ll like to offer a different viewpoint on this, one that I rarely see much. I have been part of a small group of very close friends for a long time. So close, I’d almost say of sister status. We’ve always been strong and independent and almost proud to not be defined by marriage or children. Then somewhere in our late 30s, my partner and I went and had a baby (by choice) and my friendships took a nosedive. I was determined to not be one of ‘those’ mums who talk about poo and how hilarious their child is all the time but of course I was worried I might become one because don’t all women become really annoying as soon as they have children? No they don’t. Actually a lot of us have personalities that just stay the same, albeit, rather more tired. I didn’t have to try hard to not be ‘that’ mum because I’m not that kind of person. I never have been and that hasn’t changed because I’ve had a child. But as it turned out, it didn’t matter anyway because I automatically got pigeonholed. There seemed to be a sudden view that I was now part of a club that my friends could no longer relate to and that I was somehow no longer part of the sisterhood. Fair enough though, it IS hard to relate to when you don’t have kids. I understand that. But it wasn’t just that, it was the jokes about what my body was going to be once my baby was done with me, when I was in my lowest point of antenatal depression. It was suddenly realising I had no idea what was going on in their lives beyond basic chitchat because they no loner confided in me, it was being told, upon confiding in them about how much I was struggling emotionally, that well, it WAS my choice to get pregnant. It was as if, by choosing to have a child, that automatically rendered me undeserving of any kind of sympathy or support. So we still see each other. We still go out but I don’t tend to bring my baby if I can help it and I do my best not to talk about her. We go through the motions of being really close but we know we’re not. They gush about their boyfriends and their husbands and their pets and I don’t gush about my baby. I love my baby more than anything in the world but it is sad I had to pay such a high price for her.

    1. Hi Lil,

      I’m so sorry your friends are treating you this way. Losing a bond like that will never be easy. Please take comfort in knowing that the bond you’re forming with your daughter, and the love and adoration the two of you share will make up for it tenfold!

      Best wishes, and happy new year!

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