• Keeping Friends

An inconvenient truth: She’s made you a second-tier friend

Published: July 26, 2011 | Last Updated: October 31, 2012 By | 22 Replies Continue Reading
If you feel like a second-tier friend, it’s not a friendship of equals


Dear Irene,

I’ve been friends with a woman for about four years now. As time progressed, we became closer, or so I thought. We both moved here from other areas and I introduced her to our neighborhood book club, my hairstylist, etc. The problem now is that she only acts like my BFF when she has no one else.

Last fall, after we had talked about going to a nearby tourist town together, she invited her next-door neighbor and excluded me. This summer, since her teenage granddaughter has been staying with her, I’ve hardly seen her at all. I’m temporarily without a car and even knowing this, she excluded me when she set up her monthly appointment to get her hair cut. We’ve been doing this together for a year  and she didn’t even call to give me the “heads up” there would be a change in plans this month because she wanted to go and do it with her granddaughter, alone.

I understand not doing everything with me; I don’t want to do everything with her either. But isn’t it a little rude to talk to someone about a day trip and then take it with someone else (she used the excuse that she wanted to get to know her next-door neighbor, who is a weekender here) as well as doing something without the other person all of a sudden, when it is to me, “normal” routine?

I had a friend who did this to me and other friends when we were kids and my mother always said it was a control issue, of this other friend wanting to have some sort of power over her friends to be able to exclude them when she felt like it. Or, is it that some people really cannot handle being friends with more than one person at a time? Or, am I being overly sensitive?



Dear Amanda,

Truth is this woman has relegated you to the position of a second-tier friend. She is only your BFF at her own convenience – when you can do something for her. You are not being overly sensitive; she is being overly insensitive. Rest assured that your expectations of friendship are totally reasonable but you are dealing with a self-centered individual.

The reasons for her being this way aren’t really important. You need to find other friends with whom you can have more reciprocal  relationships and on whom you can depend. If I were you, I would relegate her to a more peripheral role in your life and begin seeking out new BFFs.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Have a friendship problem or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Downgrading a friendship

Comments (22)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Heidi says:

    Keep it cool and light. Mirror their responses and inside, bear with it. Much as I, like all of you, need girl friends – I think women are a little light in the loafers and play all kinds of egotistical and hurtful games. Result of their not being punched in the nose when they do. Blow these dollies off and keep ’em for when you feel like it. It will bring them around a little. Obviously, they love attitude!

  2. Bethade says:

    It’s pretty obvious to me when you’ve been down-graded. At least usually in hindsight it was a good thing!

  3. Marisa says:

    Letter writer is overly sensitive and comes off as controlling and needy. It is also not anyone’s responsibility to drive her around because she is without a car. She’s a grown up.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree, having relationships like this does teach you to be more cautious of who you let into your life. The instant friendship is a red flag and means someone just wants to use you for your time and energy.

  5. lacole says:

    Another good point as well…!! I too was so available to my exx-bff…bent over backward for her. Ran to get her phone calls and dropped everything for her. Im ashamed to say I even put my family on the backburner for her at times…Many times would I would try and call her, I would either get no answer or she would say she would call me back and then not do so or just avoidence in generall…Im sure sometimes it was legitimate…yes, we all get busy..but in an odd way, it seemed manipulative to me. Like it was being done on purpose to “jab” me…see how hard I would work to reach her…not sure of you know what I mean??

  6. lacole says:

    ginger…you make a good point. I too, am a communicator, get it out in the open, big or small. Resolve and move on. My exx-bff was the total opposite, although she liked to think she was a good communicator, she was not. Was always so offended and upset whenever something was brought up…didnt matter how nice, kind or respectful you were, she would get annoyed. It was to the point that I just stopped because it wasnt worth it anymore. But what happens is resentment, hurt and misunderstandings build up, go unresolved until the damn breaks and there is no going back…I would get the silent treatment and then when she finally would call, she would act like everything was great…it was strange…the breaking point for me, was when she made it clear back in Feb that she WANTED open and honest communication..wanted to make sure we never had issues again and really talk to eachother..well a few weeks went by, I needed to discuss something with her and she flipped the tables on me again! Told me I was looking for problems, starting trouble..etc. I was kind and respectful and even told her a few times to forget it, as it wasnt worth an argument. So much for open and honest communication…

  7. EagleWings says:

    I don’t remember any of my friends pulling the “Can I call you back” routine on me, but I’ve had the general scenario happen many times over my life:
    family and friends who expect me to listen to them cry or rant for hours on the phone or in e-mails about their heartaches or difficulties (and I do, and I’m sympathetic with them, never judgmental), but….

    When I’m the one in crisis and need a shoulder to cry on or someone to vent to, these very same people either ignore me, or they quickly change the topic from my problems to theirs, or they judge me.

    And that is such a huge, huge pet peeve of mine, I’d welcome anyone starting a forum topic on it, if there is not already one.

    I can’t get over people coming to me complaining for hours about their problems, but when I need to turn to them for that purpose, (or for sympathy), they refuse to return the favor.

  8. ginger says:

    That rings true for me, too. I was always available, with a listening ear, for my ex-friend. I would put things on hold to talk to her or make time, when I had none. When I called her, she would often say “Can I call you back?” I also hear what you’re saying about the wasted time. I feel like I wasted so much precious time (time that I thought was wisely invested) only to be dumped, unceremoniously. Ugh!

  9. ginger says:

    How true for me, too. I had a friend for many years, who recently dumped me. The bottom line for me, after much determination, is that my friend and I had different ways of communicating. She, like your friend, put her head in the sand, and didn’t like to talk things out. I, by contrast, was all about discussion and resolving conflict. It didn’t matter that we were, ultimately, both good people. What it came down to was that we had very different communication styles.

  10. ginger says:

    thank you

  11. ginger says:

    It’s interesting what Irene says about your friend being self-centred and that the reasons for it don’t matter. That’s what I struggled with and still struggle with in my (ex)friend. I tried to analyze why our friendship didn’t work out and how its demise could have been prevented. I’ve thought about whether or not I was too needy or too sensitive. I felt that my (ex)friend wasn’t as sensitive to my needs as I was to hers. I like to think that I don’t expect an absolute equal level of give-and-take but there should be some sort of workable balance. I felt that my friend was there for me only at her convenience. My other friends have said that my (ex)friend was self-centred. I have said that she wasn’t malicious and tried to defend her (despite being very hurt by her) but one doesn’t have to be malicious to be self-centred, I’ve realized. One can even be a bit blind to one’s self-centredness. The bottom line is WHY my friend was self-centred doesn’t matter so much as the fact that she WAS. I have to remember that and not make excuses for her all the time. I have to realize that I didn’t expect too much from our friendship and that I wasn’t too sensitive. I have to realize that it’s probably best that our friendship is over.

  12. ginger says:

    I recently came out of a seven-year friendship (was dumped). It was not quite an instant friendship but we did get very close over a year. We were almost too close for comfort but it endured over the years. For my part, I thought it was a forever friendship; hence, why I invested so much time and energy into it. Now, I see that our friendship was disposable. Boy, did it hurt when I first realized that! The emotional pain was palpable. Now, a couple of months later, I’m not thinking of her as often, and the desire to call her isn’t as great. It’s still there, but to a lesser degree. I wonder what will happen as the days continue. Will I completely forget about her? Will she want to try to be my friend again? Will we be friends on a lesser level? Your guess is as good as mine since I’ve never been down this path before.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Agreed! …recently out of a 7 year friendship as well. It was as you say an “instant friendship” and totally too good to be true…I didnt see it then, didnt want to…I wanted to believe that it was a forever friendship..that I had met my soulmate best friend…etc. Now that I have stepped back…boy, I should have walked away years ago..the “stuff” I put up with…the list goes on and on. I feel foolish, wasted so much time, energy and effort.

  14. Jennifer says:

    My self-absorbed “friend” would leave whenever a better offer came. (She would only come back when she was bored/had nothing else to do.) She would laugh at me and make fun of me in front of others, especially boys. She would come back to our group from time to time, expecting us to jump at the chance to hang out with her. (Stupidly I did.) She would then blow us off or give us the silent treatment if there were other people around. (She once invited me out, but spent the whole time talking to her neighbor.)

    Years later she tried to get me to hang out with her and I blew her off! No more! (Yes, immature, I know… but it felt good!)

    Well, she came to my step-dad’s funeral and had the nerve to brag about her life and how she would have asked to get together, but she was going out of town.


    Some people never change.

  15. margarets says:

    I took it hard for a long time. I was angry about all the second chances I had given and all the time I had wasted – all for someone who only cares about herself.

    The friendship ended abruptly. I had not planned to end it when I did, but the last straw finally came. I had a major health scare and called her talk about it. The first thing she said was “Can I call you back?” She was never one to be inconvenienced by someone else’s problems.

    It was especially galling since I had spent literally hundreds if not thousands of hours over the years listening to her moan about *her* problems (really just one problem: no husband/boyfriend).

    There was no reciprocity in that friendship.

    A couple years later she saw me in an office lobby talking to someone and actually tried to interrupt the conversation so she could talk to me. (Really? I supposed to drop my life when YOU want to talk?) I brushed her off very frostily, which seemed to genuinely surprise her.

    I still get angry about that friendship sometimes.

  16. AnonyMouse says:

    I ended a 7 year friendship with my ex-friend because she was incredibly self-absorbed. It’s funny how one doesn’t notice things at first or dismisses red flags of troubling behavior.
    I feel stupid and like I wasted my time, when I should have just moved on and let her go… Though in the long run it has taught me to be a lot more careful with friendships and to be wary of those “instant friendships” or situations where things seem too good to be true.

  17. Kathy says:

    Margarets…I met my friend when I was 14 and the friendship ended at 35….I took the friendship ending pretty hard but with time it’s gotten a lot easier. My friends also had trouble getting along with people but I never thought it was her. I guess by the time your in your 30’s you start to see things for what they really are…..Did you take your friendship ending hard or did you gradually let the friendship fade….We had an argument but I now wish I would of just let the friendship fade…..My friendship was one sided and after awhile it got real old….Thanks Margarets for posting, it’s nice to know other people have had a friendship end after knowing them for over 20 years…I felt we could of worked things out with some communication but her way of dealing with things was the silent treatment and putting her head in the sand…..

  18. margarets says:

    I was friends with a woman for over 20 years – from age 16 to age 38. During that time she got dumped by quite a few friends (not people I knew) and I STILL didn’t get it, didn’t see that she wasn’t a good friend, for YEARS. Eventually it all started to make sense….

  19. Liz says:

    I am mostly only a second tier friend. Just yesterday I was informed by an old friend that our plans for lunch this Sunday would need to be changed to Saturday night dinner as her (apparently) first tier friend is free and wants to join us. Oh – and they decided this at my friends party – that I wasn’t invited to. Hmmm….. gee, I think that I’m busy on Saturday. How can people be so rude? Thoughtless? I used to go with the two of them, but her friend was always very very nasty to me (eye rolling, ignoring me, bringing up plans I wasn’t part of, etc.) that I’ve refused to go to anything that involved her. No wonder I wasn’t invited to the party – but why slap me with the change in plans?

  20. Kathy says:

    It is funny how we don’t see things that others do until years later. My ex friend and I were friends for over 20 plus years and in school people would say not so nice things about her and I would shug it off as they don’t really know her, like I do. Oh how blind I was 20 years later I see what they are talking about…..It saddens me to think that way of her now but the truth finally did come out……I think she is proud of her nasty side and really could care less how she affects people….It’s all about her and more her….She was PTA president and the other parents asked her to step down…..so she hasn’t changed….and after all these years she isn’t going to unless she has and Oprah ah ha moment, which I doubt!!

    I think that is why I don’t go out of my way to meet new friends….You feel like you have to be a detective and get a back ground check first…I’ve never had a problem meeting friends or having friends….I just think as you get older your not around as many people so the opportunities aren’t there.

    I am blessed with the friendships I do have now but I’m kind of afraid they will change to and down the road they will goooo…..I laugh about that but I do wonder…..

  21. EagleWings says:

    I mentioned in posts on the forum on the site before that I have a lot of experience being the STF (Second Tier Friend) of the FWF (Fair Weather Friend) or UF (User Friend).

    One other thing I wanted to mention is at times being the STF who turns down the FWF’s/ UF’s request for an outing (movie, dinner, whatever) can be very humorous for the STF.

    Even though I’d like to have friends and do enjoy some socializing, I also have an introverted, loner personality.

    There are times I prefer being alone, which FWFs/ UFs don’t seem to understand.

    I had occasions over the years when the FWF/ UF would phone me to set up a day of fun, I would turn them down, and I found their confused or shocked reactions amusing.
    (This kind of thing has happened in childhood, teen, and adult friendships I’ve had.)

    Some FWFs or UFs seem to think that people like me are so pathetic, desperate, or lonely that we will always jump at any and all social invitations.

    My impression is that some of them appear to think they are doing a STF such as me a favor by tossing me their left over friendship crumbs or 15 minutes of their time and attention.

    When I politely thank them for the invite but tell them no, I’d rather stay in by myself for the day and read a good book or work on a painting, some of them have sputtered and acted surprised or a tad offended I’m turning them down.

    (Or, even if I politely turn them down and do not give them a reason, they still act upset or surprised.)

    So there is a little bit of an upside to being a STF.
    You get to giggle with your hand over the phone receiver when your FWFs / UFs act shocked or indignant you’ve just turned down an invitation to spend some time with them in their glorious presence that they have condescendingly offered you out of pity (but only after they were not able to reach their First Choice Friend, which they probably even told you – I’ve had that happen). :oD

    If you’re a “Fair Weather” or a “User,” never, ever tell your Second Banana pals that they’re Second Banana.

    Second Tier Friends already know they have low status on your friendship totem pole, and to tell them so, or make it way too obvious, is the really insulting part.

    Your STFs might be shy, socially awkward, or have some other issues, but they are not stupid or oblivious, and most of them are probably not naive.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Funny how you reference the term “Fair-weather”…after only knowing my ex-bff for less then a year or so, we were out shopping, and she mentioned to me how an ex friend of hers had used that name to describe her…Of course at the time I was completely surprised, as my friend at the time was nothing like a fair weather friend to me…I just couldnt believe how someone could say such a thing about her…now fast forward 6 years and it all makes sense….had I only given that conversation more thought over the past few years…;)

Leave a Reply