• Keeping Friends

A Friend Poached One Too Many Times

Published: December 8, 2009 | Last Updated: May 20, 2024 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
A woman is friend-poached by the same woman repeatedly and doesn’t know what to say or do. Should she give up her friends?


Dear Dr. Levine,

I’m a mom of two girls, ages five and nine. I met another mom at the playground in May and we hit it off quite well, though my 5-year-old was a little slow to warm up to her 5-year-old.

Since she and her family had just moved, she had not yet made friends in the area. We had similar interests so we kept up the friendship. She began to depend on me for her social life. Because I felt badly for her, I introduced her to friends and later found out that she’d been asking some with similarly aged kids for their phone numbers so they could get together for playdates.

I had invited her to join a newly-formed book group that I started and introduced her to my other friends there. Again, she started calling these friends for playdates, friend-poached them, without including my 5-year-old or me. Tonight, she carpooled to the book group with another friend of mine without even asking me. I felt so uncomfortable in the group that I started!

I don’t know what to do or how to process this. She volunteers weekly in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom yet she makes no attempts to cultivate friendships for her daughter with her classmates. I understand that she wants to connect with others and she admits that she doesn’t have the best social skills, but at the same time I am feeling so uncomfortable with her dipping into my and my daughter’s friend pool without trying to branch out on her own.

Everywhere I turn, she’s making playdates left and right with my friends, granted some are not as close as others.

We live in a small town but it can be just as hard for me to make friends around here. I am not a hugely social person by any stretch of the imagination and my first instinct is to pull away from these friends and her. I feel so upset. Do I talk to her about it? Is it likely she’ll even understand? Do I just try to let it go?



Hi Friend-Poached,

The etiquette governing female friendships is pretty murky. The rules aren’t really spelled out anywhere leaving a lot of room for interpretation and confusion (In my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, I try to provide a roadmap to help women negotiate these complex relationships.)

In your situation, you were very gracious in welcoming this woman to the neighborhood and in introducing her to your friends and their children, and then by inviting her to your book group. In return, you were friend-poached, not once, but repeatedly.

It’s understandable that your new friend wanted to make friends, and she may have felt some special connection with one of your friends but she did this too many times. She may have justified it to herself by saying that she was doing it for her daughter.

This pattern of poaching multiple friends suggests that you are dealing with someone who is a serial friend-poacher. She seems narcissistic, insensitive, and disloyal. I can imagine how hurt and disappointed you must feel.

These are my suggestions:

* Tell this woman how hurt you felt about the carpooling incident. This situation is, perhaps, the clearest example of her transgressions and it may cause her to back off a bit. Maybe she wasn’t aware of what she was doing.

* Don’t introduce her to any other friends or acquaintances unless she apologizes and changes.

* Back off from spending time with her one-on-one too. The odds of you ever having a healthy friendship with her are slim.

* Don’t pull away from your other friends. They haven’t betrayed you in the way she did and my suspicion is that they will tire of her soon.

* Lastly, you may want to think about whether you were too welcoming too soon. Maybe you should have gotten to know her better before you involved her in various realms of your life.

I hope this helps you deal with this messy situation. Remember, she is the one who should feel awkward, not you. I’ve written about the topic of friend-poaching before but that post is focused on describing the occasional phenomenon rather than dealing with someone who is a persistent, serial poacher. Thanks for giving other readers and me the opportunity to think about this.


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Comments (8)

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  1. Lynn says:

    I have encountered the friend poaching problem many times. I have learned from my experience to avoid introducing a close to friend to my other friends if you want to avoid friend poaching. It is clear and simple and it works. It is advantageous to you because then you have a close friend and other friends to do things with.
    The last friend that I asked to a lunch group participated in serious friend poaching. She went out with many of the other girls and never asked me. What goes around comes around. They eventually realized she was not a good friend and dumped her. I was less than sympathetic.
    I truly enjoy my friendships. That being said, it is best to protect them. If that means keeping some friends separate, so be it. It never helps to confront friends about the poaching. They either deny it or make excuses about why it happened. I have been so hurt over poaching that I finally realized that I had to protect myself. You never know if a person is going to be a true friend or a player. I am naive about friends. I have learned through experience to enjoy friendships. Some friendships can last a lifetime and other ones will be short-lived. Don’t take things personally. People are people and they do not always consider your feelings. Now, I have to constantly remind myself of these things before I ask another friend to an event!

    [Last name deleted by moderator. To protect yourself against potential spammers, please do not use last names on this blog. Thanks!]

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t understand why it was wrong in anyway for the women to make friends with a lot of the other woman’s friends. I am a man. Is this a woman thing? Please somebody explain to me how it was unethical or immmmoral in anyway for the women to make freinds with another women’s friends?

    • GraceW says:

      I think it depends on the degree and style of how a woman makes friends with another woman’s friends. The two problems I’ve come across are exclusionary behavior and inappropriate contact attempts.

      Exclusionary behavior happens when a woman stops getting invited or included in activities that she normally would have shared with friends in the past. Energy that your friends would have put into maintaining their friendship with you now goes to building the friendship with “the poacher.” Most women crave a certain level of contact to feel connected to a friend, so this has a real impact on friendships. If Sally and Jane normally meet for lunch on Fridays and poacher Beth insists that she can only meet Jane for lunch on Fridays, it will have an impact on Sally and Jane’s friendship.

      Inappropriate contact attempts happen when a friend poacher contacts a woman’s other friends in a way that annoys them or makes them uncomfortable. Then there is a kind of “guilt by association” effect where friends are annoyed at you for introducing this person into their lives.

      I had an experience a couple years ago where I had started three new friendships all around the same time. Normally my friendships are very compartmentalized (I am not a group person) but after I knew them all about three months, I arranged a ladies night for the four of us. One of the three immediately started to bombard the other two with texts, invitations, etc. I didn’t mind until I saw the results. One of the women stopped putting effort into our new friendship and shifted her time and energy into building a new friendship with the poacher. I lost her as a friend. The other woman asked me “Why does she keep texting me?” She was receiving weekly invites to an event she couldn’t attend due to her work schedule. She turned down a couple, but the texts kept coming, so she stopped answering them. It was frustrating for her, and kind of embarrassing for me that I had introduced her to someone who wouldn’t leave her alone.

      Some women are fine to introduce to other friends. I have a friend I’ve introduced to three other friends and everything has been okay. My own social calendar has not been impacted by introducing these ladies to each other, and there are no attempts at contact where one person is annoying the other. Not every woman is a “friend poacher.” But when it happens, it can cause problems with a woman’s entire social network, because many women tend to socialize in groups. I introduced my “friend poacher” to two new friends and lost one. Imagine if I’d introduced her to ten friends!

  3. Irene says:


    I can understand your feeling hurt and angry but since she lives in your neighborhood, has kids in your school, and has mutual friends, I hope you’ll be able to be cordial when you feel up to it. You would be doing that for YOU, not HER.




  4. Anonymous says:

    So, after I wrote that last comment, I emailed her and put it out to there that I wanted to get together with her. She blew me off, or I should say I felt like she was blowing me off by saying she needed to spend time with her husband after houseguests and didn’t leave the door open by saying anything like “how about next week?” or “let’s try another time!” So I called her on it by saying that I felt like she was blowing me off…and that was clearly the wrong thing to say to her because she wrote back and told me she had no idea anything was wrong (???) and was so happy to have seen me at a mutual friend’s house a few days earlier. I told her I wanted to talk about things that have been on my mind for some time and well, that was wrong again.

    At first I was shocked and wanted to repair the friendship ASAP, but I let the week go, I left the ball in her court and asked her to contact me when she had the time to meet. She never did and I never tried again. After a week, I felt I was able to think more clearly and felt that I did nothing wrong, that I tried and for her to react the way she did spoke volumes about how she viewed our “friendship”. She is still friends with the same 2 mutual friends to this day and it is so very awkward when I see her in the community and at our children’s school. She has greeted me a few times, but my MO is to ignore and look away. It is so…awkward and I don’t like the way I feel or act, but I can’t bring myself to be civil or “friendly” to her just yet. 🙁

  5. Kayla says:

    Hi, glad I found your very informative blog! Here is my problem. I stood with my 4 other neighbors at the bus stop up until two 1/2 years ago – the bus stop is visible from my house but not right in front of house. One of the women I was friends with for years, another is Mom of my daughter’s best friend and we walk occasionally and are friendly and the other two I was okay with – the other two, I will say A and B were the party planners of the group of us, girls nights out, communion parties, birthday parties, couples things etc. I went to everything, bought gifts, hired one of their husbands for work etc. Now that I am not at the bus stop since my kids are now older, I have slowly stopped getting invites, in beginning of me not being there – there were a couple and then it stopped. I never really enjoyed going to all of these things since I am not miss sociability, but did it because felt I should and I did enjoy women’s company at times, especially the two I was friendlier with.
    I felt bad because the annual New Years Eve party was just held, and I could hear all the commotion – fireworks at midnight etc., and it felt bad to be excluded. I have talked to my freind across the street about it, but she doesn’t have any answers – she has been excluded from a few things herself at times.
    Anyway, I feel bad – don’t feel close enough to say anything – I also neglected to mention an important piece of this. When I left the bus stop, my neighbor next door joined because she had a kindergarten age child, she and I have never clicked and had a couple problems between us over trees etc., and I feel once she joined there and became close with A and B things really changed.
    It would not bother me as much I feel if I had more going on in my life – I don’t work or do much except meet a friend or two for lunch, shopping etc., for years I have been consumed because one of my daughters has asperger syndrome and have been depressed. I do belong to a gym, but haven’t cultivated friendships from that – nor did I really want to, I like to get in – use the weight machines and leave.
    Anyway, hope to hear from you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    btw, one of the 2 friends does know some of my feelings towards this one woman and she is still keen on developing a friendship with her as their 2 kids have really hit it off. I just feel so weirded out by it and I certainly don’t want to end my friendship with either of my two original friends, one of whom I am closer to than the other.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Dr. Irene for answering my question! I’m still dealing with the problem – my path keeps crossing with that of this friend because apparently her two closest friends in town that she gets together regularly with, are two of the friends that I introduced her to and my youngest and I have been completely cut out of the picture where she’s involved. I feel so uncomfortable about the whole thing still. I had wanted to develop stronger relationships with these women, but now I feel like I don’t want to because I don’t want to hear about their gatherings with this woman

    I admit I pulled away awkwardly from this friendship because I was ticked off by her behavior, and chances are that she doesn’t even realize this, but at the same time she’s still in my book group, building strong friendships with these two friends who are also in my book group, and we all have kids who are the same age and in the same grade. I couldn’t avoid her if I tried. I feel so used! I feel like I want to sit her down and talk to her about my own feelings about what’s happened and set much firmer boundaries with her and anyone else like this in the future. From your response, I think I need to have a talk with her, if she’ll agree to it, or if she won’t meet with me, I could email her as a last resort. And then back off.

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