• Keeping Friends

Book group friends: Are they real friends?

Published: July 29, 2015 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
A woman questions her friendships with book group members, resigns from the book club, and worries whether she did the right thing.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I felt neglected and looked down upon by my group of friends, so I just resigned from their book club. I don’t know if this was an overly impulsive thing to do or if I did the right thing.

This is a group of friends that I met through my now husband about five years ago. They all attended our wedding and one of them was even a bridesmaid. Two of them planned my Bachelorette and came to my final improv performance. I was so touched by their involvement, and I sort of came to rely on these ladies as my core friend group.

Then, over the last year, I noticed that my husband and I were not getting invited to things anymore. Last November, I wrote the girl who had been my bridesmaid and asked if I had done anything to make her upset with me. She called me right back and said that nothing was wrong and that she was sorry but she had been busy, in a different mode, blah blah blah. I honestly think she and others were not angry with me but somehow had decided I wasn’t up to snuff.

I don’t know, but they continued to develop their friendships without inviting me along, and I always felt like I was being sort of patronized and pitied during our book club meetings. Meanwhile, I became pregnant. They all found out from my husband and congratulated me at a birthday party but I never heard individually from any of them. I should potentially have been reaching out individually to them but I just felt too rejected to motivate myself. So, I didn’t.

This week, I finally sent an email graciously resigning from the last bastion of our “friendship”: book club. I said nothing aggressive, just that I had other commitments and they were all fabulous and I would miss them.

Now, I feel somewhat like a girl who breaks up with a guy to get him to propose, and he doesn’t. I guess my action was basically was equivalent to saying, “if this is it, I don’t want any.”

Part of me feels that was right. Book club was making me miserable, so it was good to let it go, but part of me feels like I’m just excluding myself to my own detriment and no one cares. Regardless, I feel friendless and terrible about myself. Do I have hypersensitive personality disorder? Had I secretly become everybody’s favorite person to hate? Did I do the right thing? How can I make this into a positive and not a negative thing? My mind keeps returning to it as a negative thing.

Signed, Lilly

ANSWER

Hi Lilly,

If participating in the book club was making you feel miserable, there probably was no reason to continue to attend and place yourself in that awkward situation. Many times, book group friendships turn into close ties among members but not always, and not always for every member.

It’s nice that you were gracious in the way you resigned. However, if you were resigning as a litmus test of your friendships, that strategy might not work because the other members probably took you for your word—that you had other commitments..

In hindsight, you could have mentioned that you might rejoin if your circumstances changed, or you could have taken a hiatus rather than resigning. But I applaud you for recognizing that you needed a “break.”

From your note, I wasn’t sure why you began to feel so excluded by this group or what behaviors or comments on their part made you feel that way. If this occurred during your pregnancy, sometimes pregnancy hormones can make us more hyper-sensitive than usual.

My suggestion would be to focus on nurturing other friendships. If you miss any individual in the group, you could reach out to one or more of them to meet for coffee or lunch. One regret you mention is that you were too passive and unable to motivate yourself to be friendlier. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right group for you.

From the way you handled this, it doesn’t seem that you made a decision that was necessarily wrong or irreversible so just move forward. Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (8)

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  1. Mary says:

    Question: Why do people post advice questions and then we never hear from them again, especially when responses are thoughtful and it might be helpful for the responders to get more information, but they don’t give it?

    I joined this blog a few years ago after a heartbreak friendship, and now just read it occasionally because I love reading psych and relationship stuff, not for any insight into my own life anymore, sort of how I read parenting articles and am not a parent. I get emails so it’s easy to click and navigate around.Once in a while I put in my two cents, but mostly just read. Even when I don’t post when reading a thread it seems like a one sided conversation when the original poster is never heard from again after their initial post. Oh well…

    • Irene says:

      Thanks for asking.

      After a question is posted, I send an email to the poster letting him/her know where to find the response. There are more than 1800 posts currently on the site and some seem to resonate with readers more than others.

      In any case, the intent of the Q & As is to reach out to more than the original poster so that other readers can read about and learn from the experience of others, including the comments and responses that follow a post.

  2. Mary says:

    Lilly,
    It sounds like your friends may have bonded over being there for you for your wedding, as people tend to do when they’re up to something together. Also, given that they participated in your bachelorette, wedding and now your pregnant, it seems that alot of attention was paid to you during major life events. As it should, but these days alot of time and money is invested in being there for friends getting married, especially if they’re high maintenance weddings. The fact that you’re pregnant now may have them thinking “here we go again”. Maybe there is something in your friendships that are off kilter in that regard? Now that the wedding is over and your pregnant is discussion dominated by what’s going on with you again? In addition, if they are single, I can see how the dynamics of their friendship with you might change if their interests are more single oriented. Also, during the stress of a wedding, sometimes the bride isnt her best self, and maybe an unlikealbe quality came out and your friends were gracious for manners sake but feel differently about you. I was thinking that after the major focus on you fades into the background you might be able to resume your friendships as they were.

  3. Deborah says:

    I noticed you did not mention whether you had been inviting these book club friends to social events. If so, I would then ask, how did they respond? If you weren’t inviting them to anything but just waiting for them to do the asking, that might well explain why you are now being left out. They might look at you as being the one to exclude.

    As to leaving the book club, I think we have friends at different levels, and casual friends, such as meeting people just at book club, can still be valuable, especially if you do not have a lot of friends. Right now I cannot socialize a great deal but I greatly look forward to meeting with my two reading groups every month, even though that is the only time I see them.

  4. Amy F says:

    Why be in a book club that makes you feel unhappy? Now that you’re pregnant you have a perfect opportunity to meet new people through birthing classes, mommy & me activities etc.

    Some people do better socializing in groups, others one-on-one. Are there any friendships from the group you want to salvage? There’s nothing to stop you from having a friend from the group, as long as you don’t talk negatively about any people in the group or use her to try to get reassurance that you didn’t do anything wrong.

    If you think you’re too sensitive, or you find yourself ruminating and feeling more depressed, ask your OB for a referral to a therapist so you can learn strategies for combating negative thoughts. New moms are flooded with thoughts of inadequacy from hormones, exhaustion, wanting to be perfect moms etc. so having a therapist is an opportunity to regroup and strategize with a professional who isn’t intimately involved in your life and your infant.

  5. Sandra says:

    In previous articles, Irene has mentioned that not all friendships are meant to last — or that sometimes their intensity changes over time. I’ve had friendships like this. There are times when you feel a great bond and things are going smoothly, and other times, the friendship feels out of sync. While I think you do sound very sensitive — and this can get in the way of things — you have to trust your gut and go with what feels right for you. I’m guessing you’ve come to rely a bit TOO much on this particular group of friends, which could come across as a neediness. Either that, or maybe you are not reaching out enough to THEM or are expecting them to initiate all the time?

    Whenever I find myself in a similar dilemma, I find it helps to take a break — as you’ve gracefully done. I also make sure I have more than one group of good friends to rely on. As a new mother, you might look for opportunities to bond with other moms in your birthing classes or in your neighborhood. By broadening your friendship base, you’ll be less sensitive to the things other people do, and you’ll have a variety of people to call on when you need them.

    • Liz says:

      Sandra, your point about relying too much on one group or friend is so true. It changes many dynamics in the friendship and definitely can come across as neediness. By not putting “all your eggs in one basket” you can keep a better perspective.

  6. Liz says:

    Lilly, I agree with Irene – you handled this graciously and it isn’t irreversible. One thing that really resonated for me from your post is the feeling that something is off – but not trusting ones own feelings about the friendships. I’ve been in situations many time where I sensed that there had been a change in the way I was being viewed. Where before I was in on the planning of parties and outings – suddenly I’m not even invited to them. And if I were to ask (which I feel is rude for me to do) I’m given some platitude about there being too many, or they forgot, or worse – I’m met with complete silence.
    I’ve learned to go ahead and listen to my feelings. If a friend or a group of friends begin to pull away, I do try to internally “review” what may have happened. But, usually it really isn’t any one thing that has occurred, more than likely it is a series of things that I have little or no control over.
    You have to protect your heart, and if going to the meetings is hard on you while having little or even no benefit for you then it is best imo to leave it.

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