Dear Wendy: “My Coupled Friends Have Discarded Me”
In basically the last month, all of my once single, once really close friends have paired off and cloistered themselves away for couple-activities. A part of me rolls my eyes at this nonsense, considering how young each relationship is and how serious it’s gotten in the last few days or so. Now, instead of going out on Fridays, the six of them stay in for movies or game night (which, obviously, needs even numbered teams). I’m not asking for a fix-up because I’m happy being single, considering we’re all still in college. But, my question is, do all relationships follow this same trend? Another of my friends has been in a relationship like this for over a year and she’s still in that giddy-never-wanna-leave-his-side mood and I’m afraid that the other three are going a similar way. Is it normal for the 7th wheel to be discarded at times like these? How can I bring it up to them while both getting my point across and without seeming like I’m judging anyone for the choices they’re making? — Odd Girl Out
If you don’t want it to seem like you’re judging your friends for the choices they’re making, maybe you need to stop judging them. It’s not “nonsense” to want to spend time with a new significant other. Regardless of your age or how new a relationship is, it isn’t silly to choose staying in for movies or game night over going out and doing whatever you think college kids should be doing instead. Frankly, despite your defense that you’re happy being single, you sound a little bitter that you’re the only one in your group not in a relationship. You say your friends are doing “couple-activities,” but watching movies and playing games isn’t exclusive to couples only. Singles can watch movies and play games, too (contrary to your argument, not all games require even-numbered teams). You ask if it’s normal for non-coupled friends to be “discarded” when everyone else pairs off, but nothing in your letter indicates that you’ve been discarded. It seems to me you just aren’t interested in the same activities your now coupled friends are doing (and, I assume, inviting you to do with them), and that’s a different issue entirely.
So, what can you do if your friends have coupled up and you’re feeling a bit left out? Well, make some new friends, for starters. If you’re in college, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find plenty of single people your age who are interested in spending time doing the things you enjoy doing. You can find them in your classes, dorm, cafeteria, apartment complex, and extracurricular activities. Start a study group with some singles in one of your classes. That’s what I did in college and it was a wonderful way to break the ice and start friendships with people outside my immediate social circle. Or, you could join an intramural sports team. Or try out for a play. There are so many ways to make new friends in college! Take advantage of those opportunities while they’re still at your fingertips.
As for your existing friends who are busy with their new boyfriends now, try to cut them some slack. It’s not unusual for people to get lost in “couple bubbles” early in a relationship. If they’re inviting you to be part of their movie and game nights, that’s a pretty good sign. They aren’t too far lost if they aren’t sequestering themselves in their bedrooms for entire weekends at a time. But if you miss having your friends to yourself — without their significant others in tow — why not talk to your pals and tell them you’d love to plan a night out some time soon with just the girls? Leave the judgment and criticism at the door, and tell them in all sincerity you miss spending time with just them. But you also need to accept that things change. Your friends are in relationships now and that’s naturally going to affect not only how they spend their time, but also how much of it they have to devote to you. If you’re feeling like you need more personal attention than your friends are able to give you, go out and find people who will.
I figured if anybody could relate to my problem, it would be you. I have a wonderful gift which has also become a curse for me: I’m a great listener and enjoy giving advice. My friends and family always come up to me, whether I’m in the middle of doing something or not, to talk about their day, a problem with their relationship, a nostalgic moment in their childhood that they just remembered, etc. I’ll sometimes even have complete strangers approach me on the subway to talk to me about something that is on their mind. I really don’t mind at all and feel flattered that people always seem to trust me with the right thing to say. However, this is starting to take a toll on my relationships. I can’t seem to be in a relationship without the guy talking for hours on end about himself, constantly asking me for advice, or becoming dependent upon me in making decisions. It’d just be nice for once to have the guy stop talking about himself, take a breath and reciprocate the “how was your day?” question. I know I should feel lucky that guys are able to quickly open up and feel comfortable around me, but I don’t have the slightest idea how to make a guy zip it for two minutes and let me have a word in edge-wise without sounding narcissistic and indifferent to what he has to say. I have been seeing a new guy for three months now and he’s starting to show the signs of my past relationships. I really care about him and I don’t want to see this one end like the past ones have. Any advice with getting the guy to see me as a girlfriend and not a therapist? — Dear Abby
It’s true that being a great listener and giving good advice is a gift, but you know what else is a gift you can give to the people you love and care about? Opening up to them, sharing some of your vulnerabilities, and showing that you trust them and their judgment. You know how good it feels when people turn to you for advice? You know how you feel flattered that people trust you? Well, why deny others that same feeling? It’s not narcissistic to turn to people for comfort or advice; it’s narcissistic to assume you’re the only person who can dole it out.
So far, it seems you’ve been denying your boyfriends (past and present) the chance to help you, listen to you, and really get to know you. Sure, it’s possible you’ve been dating self-obsessed guys who have been happy to not listen to their girlfriends’ problems, but it’s just as possible you’ve been with guys who would love nothing more than for you to trust them enough to open up. Either way, YOU are the common denominator in these relationships. YOU are what continues to reappear in this repeated pattern. YOU are the one who has set up an expectation of always talking about the other person. So if you want to change the pattern, you have to change both your behavior and your attitude. Instead of thinking of yourself as being narcissistic when you try to get a “word in edge-wise,” think of yourself as furthering your relationship. As your experience has shown you, you’re only going to go so far in a relationship if you allow it to be this sort of one-sided affair where the guy does all the opening up and you do all the listening. So, speak up, Dear Abby. Instead of waiting for your boyfriend to ask how your day was, just tell him. Tell him before you ask how his was. You might be surprised with how great a listener he is, too, if you’d only just give him a chance.
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