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‘Friend-of-a-Friend’ships

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Humans are social creatures. We form connections by meeting people. Sometimes we make friends organically on our own, and other times, we meet people through existing friendships. With this in mind, I’ve noticed that I struggle with mutual friends. Personally, I have a hard time introducing my close friends to my other close friends, since my track record for these introductions always leads to me losing friends, or being “iced out.” This history has led to a lot of distrust and insecurity. I’ve spent the last academic year (2021-2022) being aggressively confronted by this, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned, as well as the patterns I’ve noticed over the years. All names in the stories have been changed.

Negative: Negative (Cara she/her; and Mandi she/her)

To my initial point, I’ll start with my worst example. This story took place when I was 10-13, and its pattern has reared its ugly head repeatedly since then. At the time, my best friend, Cara, and I were placed in separate 5th grade classrooms, after always having been besties since 2nd grade. I didn’t know anyone else in my class and I had few other friends besides her in the whole school. Thankfully, I quickly made a new friend, Mandi, and we grew closer throughout 5th grade. The following year, my two friends met at a school dance, and we (a group of five girls) decided to all become friends. As time passed, I learned they met up without me pretty often, and by the time we were 12, Cara got her first boyfriend.

Cara started making me feel inferior for not having a boyfriend or any boys that liked me, and while this hurt me, my mom noticed this as an addition to years of her putting me down. My mom told me to stop hanging out with her and not to invite her to my 13th birthday party. When I started to pull away from our friendship, Mandi didn’t respect this, and she took Cara’s side. She reported back to Cara anything I shared with her in confidence, and the two of them grew closer from it. They joined together with our other friends, and they began isolating me, leaving me out of activities, and gossiping about me to anyone that would listen. Now, I’ve been excluded plenty of times by other girls, most notably when I was younger of course, but this way of exclusion was the first of its type, at the time. Looking back, it was typical 13 year old, mean girl, bullying behavior, but all I really regretted intorducing them to each other in the first place. Cara and Mandi’s friendship laid a foundation for distrust of friends-of-friends in the years to come.

Negative: Neutral (Emily she/her; and Andy he/him)

Prepare to hear a bit about Emily in future articles—for other reasons unrelated to this—but here, she did something deeper. Emily and I used to be close throughout college, and at a certain point she wished for guy friends, just like the guy friends I had. She knew of Andy, and had added his social media handles off one of my tagged pictures. She quickly put him on a few private stories. That’s different. She told me they chatted a few times over Snapchat, but she wanted to meet him one day while he visited me from out of town. Emily always came off as very sweet and innocent, so I thought nothing of this initial meet-up.

After we all got coffee, she shared with me that she had such a crush on him, and after a few months she told me she still liked him, but wanted to ignore her feelings so they could have the chance for a friendship. It came to my attention that the two of them messaged a lot, and eventually they each were telling me about each other. It was like I was the middleman for their relationship. I rejected this, and asked them to stop reporting to me about each other. This isn’t something I felt comfortable with.

When the fall 2021 semester began, she and Andy met up frequently. My schedule became hectic, I started prioritizing my resume, classes, and new friends! I was busy. Emily and I just so happened to have conflict during this time as well, and she just so happened to be mulling over our friendship with everyone else but me. Just wait, it gets worse. She went to Jenny (see later point), she went to our mutual friends, and people whom didn’t know me. Worst of all, though, she frequently went to Andy. He and I were so close that I didn’t think he would stay friends with her if she was ranting about me or had anything negative to say. I was wrong. Instead of defending me, or even better, just asking her to refrain from speaking about me at all, he listened and gave advice. Andy listened to Emily complain about me and vent her stress about our friendship. It wasn’t until months later that the truth finally came out. When he admitted this to me, it really sounded like she used our strained friendship as a tactic to get closer to Andy while also seeking his advice. It honestly felt offensive and disrespectful to our friendship, as well as to mine and Andy’s.

Because of her, Andy and I had a lot of repairs to make in our friendship and our trust. Him and I had been friends for years, and it was so unlike him to keep something like this from me. We really told each other everything, and I saw him as someone that would’ve respected me more. This current semester, more information about Emily has been brought to my attention and I have decided that I’m no longer willing to accept her behavior. When I shared this information with Andy, and my hurt over how she’s made me feel in the last year, all he could say to me was “listen, I don’t have a dog in this fight.” This statement was translated in my head to mean “I was comfortable taking her side before, but now that I see your side, I’m deciding to be neutral to stay friends with you both.” Ouch, I guess. That one didn’t feel fair. Mine and Emily’s friendship is beyond repair, but Andy was and always will be one of my dearest friends, if I have anything to say about it. He and I are healing and communicating about working through all of this, but last year and currently, their connection to me ended up being negative: neutral.

Neutral: Neutral (Jay he/him; and Nay she/her)

On a more upbeat note, I have been lucky enough to have connections where no conflict has arisen, and only mutual appreciation has been present. Jay and I met through our freshman year friend group. We weren’t incredibly close, but I cherished his energy, and I still do. During sophomore year, I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues, and I ended up forming a connection with Jay’s hometown best friend Nay. She was such a sweet person, and offered a bit of support for me during that time. When she had a death in the family, I did my best to support her as well as I could from across the state. During a point when Jay and I were drifting, he seemed to resent my bond with Nay, and I needed to remind him that I respected their decade long friendship, and I wouldn’t ever intend to replace him or be Nay’s best friend in any way. He appreciated this more than I expected, but life happens, and Jay and I ended up losing closeness throughout college. Sadly, after Nay’s family tragedy, we didn’t remain too close either. The two of them continue to remain close friends, and my respective relationship to both of them remains friendly and appreciative (or neutral with both of them). I’d consider myself neither an addition nor subtraction from their lives, so I’d say we’re all neutral.

Neutral: Positive (Anna she/her; and Jenny she/they)

Throughout my college years, I haven’t only explored Psychology, but spirituality as well! While I made friends during college orientations, my first real friend in college was a girl, Jenny, that opened my eyes to tarot cards, and strengthened my existing passion for crystals. Her and I have a friendship founded in boy drama, shared classes, and spiritual beliefs. My favorite type of friendship foundation, in my opinion. At some point, she introduced me to a high school friend of hers, Anna, that was more knowledgeable on the “occult,” for lack of a better label. My connection to her was electric. Jenny opened my eyes to a lot, but I learned even more on my own, to the point where I was beginning to teach Jenny a few things. Anna was a new friend that knew more than me, and I felt such a fascinating bond with her. Anna and I only met up one-on-one twice, but I really liked her and I still do.
As with all long term friendships, Jenny and I go through seasons. Sometimes we’re close, other times all we do is send memes, sometimes we’re distant, other times we’re neutral. I’m so grateful she introduced me to Anna, and I, in turn, introduced her to some of her greatest friends as well. Anna and I are not close enough to always be in contact, but our connection is fairly neutral when it’s paired against the mutually positive and caring friendship of me and Jenny.

Positive: Positive (Lamb she/ her; and Angel she/they)

My most favorite friend-of-a-friend connection has been Lamb and Angel. These pseudonyms were my favorite to write out, since they’re the nicknames I’ve given to both these friends! Lamb and I met during our freshman year of college (in the same friend group as Andy and Jay), and during lockdown I started calling her “my little lamb” for her sweetness and trusting nature, despite her social anxiety. She and I both share a history of shitty friends, and a lot of lessons learned from them. When I visited her after a socially distant period during summer of 2020, we had a sleepover. During this visit, she got on a call with a friend of hers from California. While on call, I was triggered by a difficult memory. Instead of letting me exit the room or changing the subject, Angel created a comfortable space for me to share. It was the first time we ever spoke to each other, but I felt like I knew her forever. She was so sweet to me and so reassuring, like an angel, so she earned her nickname that night.

In the following months, I was dealing with isolation and judgment from my former friend group as I explored spirituality. I was so lucky that Lamb and Angel weren’t on campus with me, because they were a big support system to me during this time. When I wanted to rant about our friend group, I didn’t think I should share that with Lamb, so I found that Angel was always there for me. Our friendship grew from mutual venting, to mutual education on energy grounding, meditation, crystals, and candles. She really was and still is my Angel.

Lamb and Angel had a falling out at one point, and I struggled with maintaining a friendship with both of them for awhile. As Lamb came back to school and became devoted to her sorority, we didn’t have a lot to connect on. For that, I turned to Angel, and she became my safe space for working through stress about friends and family. They were the only close person to me that would be able to support me without any outside interference. It totally warmed my heart that I was the same support for them as well. Due to our busy schedules, we may not have always been in constant contact, but when we were, it was precious to me. When I organized my flight to Australia, my internship program required me to arrive and depart within a specific time frame, and that margin of time left me with limited choices for flights. One of those choices had a 12 hour layover in California, in the exact city Angel lived in! That trip may have been wonderful, but the highlight was meeting Angel. They’re truly one of my greatest blessings! Lamb and I have not really ever been the closest of friends, but we have been very good friends for years and I care about her deeply. She not only introduced me to Psychology, but also to Angel. Lamb and I share many classes together, and now that she and Angel are back in contact, we share a great friend as well. These girls are truly awesome, and by far my best positive example of a friendship.

Conclusion

This article was lengthy, and a beautifully silly example of the way I say that I treat Her Campus like a diary (lol). In sharing all of this with you, I recognize that my stories and connections are not unique, in fact, I hope they’re not unique, and maybe you can relate to them because of that. It can hurt when your lasting friends seemingly “steal” your good friend and form a better bond than your previous one, but I want to reassure you that it will always be okay. Regardless of this, though, it should be noted that I love all the friends I’ve made through other friends, but not every connection is a great one, and neither is every friend.

Dani is a 22 year old Psychology student and the co-chair for the social media of IUP's Her Campus "diamond" chapter. She focuses on topics related to culture, lifestyle, sex, and relationships. If she isn't writing about intriguing topics, she can be found jornaling, sitting in nature, or asking you what your sun, moon, and rising sign are.