How To Tell Your Friends In Relationships You Feel Left Out & Miss Them
Since graduation, one of the most startling realizations I've faced is how difficult it is to maintain adult friendships. Even as a student, I got a taste of this when everyone in my friend group was off doing their own thing — serial-dating every girl or guy on campus, drowning in six classes a semester so they could graduate a year early, or working three part-time jobs off campus to cover tuition and living expenses. Maybe you can't work around those last two things but you can figure out how to tell your friends in relationships you feel left out.
It's unreasonable to expect your friends to prioritize your friendship for the rest of their lives. Circumstances change and people grow up. Sometimes, they even grow apart. Before you let that happen though, you should at least make an effort to salvage your friendship, even if it looks a bit differently now than it used to.
What you need now is not a plan of attack but a mediation strategy — a way to show your friends that, although you're thrilled about their newfound romantic fulfillment, you still miss their company from time to time. I spoke with Danielle Forshee, doctor of psychology and a licensed clinical social worker, about how to navigate this difficult transition without pushing your friends away.
Be honest with your friends about how you feel.
Dr. Forshee says, "In friendships, like in any relationship, it is important to be very forthcoming with your thoughts and feelings." As close as you are with your friends, they can't read your mind.
Ask them to grab lunch with you in between classes or to schedule a FaceTime call to catch up. When you speak to them, mention that you haven't seen them in a while and that you miss how things used to be. This is an easy and non-threatening way to introduce the topic. A true friend will acknowledge your subtle complaint and make simple moves toward a resolution, like inviting you to study with them later that week.
This is also a good opportunity to get a sense of what your friend thinks about your new friendship dynamic. For example, if they seem unbothered by your admission, they probably don't recognize (or care) that things have changed. Don't worry. This doesn't have to mark the end of your friendship.
Try to see things from their point of view before getting annoyed.
Dr. Forshee warns that your conversation with your friend isn't just about your feelings. It's important to hear what they have to say without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
For example, your friend might find it important to dedicate most of their time to their relationship right now because it's still in the early stages. They're just getting to know their new partner and the novelty of the romance hasn't begun to wear off yet.
Dr. Forshee advises, "Give your friend some time and don’t react impulsively to them spending less time with you." Try your best to be respectful of this period in their lives and mirror their enthusiasm for the positive changes they're experiencing right now.
As for your conversation about the status of your friendship, Dr. Forshee says, "Instead [of focusing primarily on how you feel], ask open-ended questions to find out where they are at with things, what they are thinking, and what they are feeling."
Remain open to compromises for the sake of your friendship.
As the new relationship progresses, continue to pay attention to how it affects your friendship. Dr. Forshee says, "If you feel that it is no longer the honeymoon phase of the new relationship and you have objective evidence that your friend is potentially neglecting you, you may consider discussing this with them. This could look like meeting with your friend and pointing out the offensive behaviors [like ignoring texts or blowing off plans]." She adds that now is the time to express what you need from them going forward to save your friendship.
Your friend's schedule might look different once they're in a relationship. Instead of doing two weekly dinners with you like they used to, they might only be able to commit to one. It doesn't necessarily mean your friend loves you any less. But your own feelings shouldn't get neglected as they enter this new chapter of their lives.
Regardless of what agreement you and your friend come to, this new arrangement should be agreeable to you and your friend. To date, your friendship has been through middle school bullies, high school breakups, senior proms, and freshman orientation. You can get through this, too.