• Keeping Friends

Friend Poaching Isn’t Solely A Problem Of The Young

Published: August 28, 2016 | Last Updated: October 23, 2021 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
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A woman in her 70s feels used by a “friend poaching” friend. This pesky friendship problem seems to be ageless.


Hi Irene,

I am in my seventies and have a friend of long-standing. She has just come to live in my city.

For a long time, I’ve felt that she uses me as a conduit for her to get close to my other friends. The problem seems limited only to the ones she thinks are “of note.”

I have a cousin here and it is obvious that this friend has been grasping to be part of her life. Recently, we were all at a social gathering. My friend fawned over my cousin, trying hard to impress her. She totally ignored me. My cousin said, “You must come around for a drink when xxx comes.”

I want to say openly that I won’t be taking her to my cousin, and I want to tell my cousin why. This is not the first time this has happened so I’m not being paranoid. What should I do?

Signed, Merrill


Hi Merrill,

Friend poaching” is a term used to describe someone who habitually latches on to someone else’s friends. Sometimes two people get introduced and hit if off. But if this happens time after time when the friend is introduced to your other friends, it can be pretty upsetting.

It’s understandable you would feel frustrated and hurt that this friend fawned over your cousin and ignored you, especially since you say she has acted this way in the past.

Your friend sounds like a social climber who seeks to enhance herself by befriending people she thinks are important. She may not even be conscious of this behavior, which likely stems from her own insecurity.

Whether or not she asks to see your cousin again, you could let her know how you felt hurt when she ignored you at this most recent social gathering, and hear what she has to say. Initiating this discussion might make her more sensitive to your feelings.

If you want to maintain this long-standing friendship and feel that your friend isn’t likely to change her ways, you could limit your get-togethers with her to one-on-ones rather than involving her with your other friends or family.

It’s likely your cousin was just being gracious and welcoming to your friend. Unless your cousin brings up the matter again, I wouldn’t spontaneously raise the issue with her. She sounds like an innocent bystander who was drawn into this disconcerting dynamic.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (8)

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  1. Carol Carpenter says:

    I felt betrayed by my longtime friend of 25 years (I will call her Bonnie) when she recently, behind my back, asked my best friend (who she barely knows) for her phone number. Bonnie also gave my best friend her phone number. Bonnie also, behind my back, asked my best friend about her interest in a game she likes to play called Mexican Train. She has never invited my to join herin this game — but she wants to introduce my friend to it.

    We had all been at a restaurant when this happened.I had to leave the restaurant early for a dental appt. Although Bonnie could have mentioned these things while I was still there, she didn’t. I found out later she had approached my best friend right after I left about getting her phone number and inquiring about her interest in Mexican Train.

    I had invited Bonnie to join us at this lunch with a third friend of mine since she had been pestering me for get-togethers with my best friend after meeting her at my condo last Christmas.

    Bonnie did not ever discuss with me wanting my best friend’s phone number. Nor had she ever expressed an interest in all of us getting together for games or anything else. Bonnie did try to invite herself to a birthday lunch I had planned for my best friend recently (a one-on-one lunch for just the two of us). I told Bonnie no, that my best friend and I had always enjoyed taking each other to lunch on our birthdays. I was a bit annoyed that Bonnie tried to do that.

    But this last time at the restaurant has convinced me that Bonnie is moving in on my best friend in a “poaching” way. I have asked Bonnie through email to explain why she did what she did and why she needs my best friend’s phone number. I asked if there is something she has not expressed about me and our friendship that may have led to her obsessive interest in my best friend. She has responded only to ask me why I need boundaries. No apology. I am ready to call it quits with her. What else can I do? I am very hurt by Bonnie’s sneaky behavior.

    Bonnie seems to have lost interest in going to the movies with me. And while we still have been getting together for lunch, she is always in a rush to leave.

  2. Nancy says:

    Personally, I like it when my friends get along. I don’t own my friends. They can be friends with whoever they please, including my friends. None of my friends have “poached” my friends. They have expanded my social circle. I can invite more than one of my friends out to lunch and not have to worry about weather or not they get along. Sometimes they invite one of their previously unknown friends to meet me, as they are proud to be friends with me, and want me to meet their other friends. I am 66 years old and my social circle is expanding due to “friend poaching”.

    • MP says:

      That is a commendable attitude and I share it toward all of my other friends in two states. I am unable to feel the same about a woman who has a 10 year history of cattiness, hurtful gossip and malice toward me. I am 66 as well -I thought I left stuff like this when I graduated high school in 1974!

  3. MP says:

    I had a similar incident. I live in Fla in the winter and an enemy of mine got an invitation to a large dinner with 14 of my new glamourous friends. I did not invite her. She has a history of trying to turn my friends in another state against me. When she arrived she gave everyone a syrupy hug even though she had never met them. She yelled down the large table to my best friend trying to get next to her. She is hoping to move there and I am sure she would love to worm her way into this wonderful group. Over my dead body! I have already taken steps to ensure she is never invited again! (her boyfriend was invited not her)

  4. lola says:

    I had a friend for 35 years that started doing this very thing to me. She always tried to compete. When I had a child, she had to have one. I had my second, she had twins and quit trying to compete there. I’d get a newer car, she had to have a brand NEW car. Then, she started to ignore me when we’d go places together while sucking up to mothers of “popular” girls that went to school with our kids. Once, I was sitting by my cousin who was 20 years our junior. This friend asked me to move so she could sit by her!! She told me to go sit by my aunt! Unbelievable, yet I continued the friendship. I guess I was desperate for a friend. I finally gave up. She currently has no friends that I’m aware of.

  5. Amy F says:

    I reject the idea. People aren’t property. They can’t steal or poach each other because they don’t belong to anyone but themselves. Your friend has a different socialization style that you do. She probably likes talking to new and different people. I’m more quiet and take a while to know people, but have extroverted friends who love meeting new people and are perfectly comfortable as social butterflies. It takes all kinds. If you’re jealous and insecure, other people will pick up on that and it’ll make you look negative.

  6. Mary says:

    Irene’s advice is spot on in my op.

    I can’t help but wonder what was the true motivation for this person to move so close to the letter writer. Not that it changes anything.

  7. Terry says:

    I like Irene’s advice here, and I’d follow it. In particular, I think it’s a good idea to limit your time with this “poacher” to one-on-one time. Definitely avoid bringing her around your other friends for a while. It sounds like you feel “used” and unappreciated by the poacher, and that’s not a good foundation for a friendship.

    Maybe she will start making her own friends after she’s lived in your city for a while, and this problem will fade. She’s probably feeling new and insecure, and is hitching herself to your wagon in order to expand her social circle. Maybe you could encourage her to join clubs or activities that interest her, where she could meet her own friends. If she’s in her late 60s or 70s, there are lots of activities and chances for new friendship at most local senior centers. (Take it from me, senior centers are places for active people — and have many interesting activities and trips at reasonable cost.)

    I hope you find a balance in this friendship. I happen to like it when several of my friends get along and we can all do things together in a group. But that’s different from friend poaching.

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