Ask Alice — Advice for All: The Best Kinds of Friends Are the Ones Who Like You Back

Dear Alice, I am embarrassed to write this because I am dealing with a situation that makes me feel like I am in high school again.

Published November 8, 2014 5:00 AM
3 min read


Dear Alice,

I am embarrassed to write this because I am dealing with a situation that makes me feel like I am in high school again.


Dear Alice,

I am embarrassed to write this because I am dealing with a situation that makes me feel like I am in high school again. Our family joined a local beach club when we moved to Rye a few years ago. My wife’s parents are longstanding members, and we had no difficulty finding other members to sponsor us. By joining, we were pleased to have the opportunity to meet other families from Rye and find a group of friends.

Although we have met many people, something very upsetting occurred this past summer. We found out that some of the people we thought were interested in us as a couple have not included us in their gatherings. My wife and I are hurt by these slights. Our children play and go to school together with their children. I am so angry and upset that I want to stop all aspects of the relationship we have with these people.

My wife is embarrassed that I wanted to write to you about this problem. She worries that someone might be able to identify us. I don’t want to leave the club, but I have my doubts about whether we want to be members of a club with strong social cliques. I welcome any suggestions as to how to deal with this.

— Pained


Dear Pained,

You mentioned that this situation reminds you of high school, which I surmise means that you experienced this when you were a teenager. Having this happen as a teenager can be especially difficult because one’s self-esteem is still in a formative stage. If you suffered from this kind of rejection before, you will feel more vulnerable to such slights again.

Unfortunately, people often form groups throughout their lives, so chances are that most people experience being left out or not accepted in one group or another in their course of their lives. As an adult, we are usually more capable of having perspective due to many experiences that help us see that we have more social options than we initially thought.

Each of us decides whom we want to have as a friend. We can’t legislate this. In the close confines of a club, we may assume that people will behave differently toward one another. People are free to do whatever they want. Your response is understandable, but will not help you or your children. Cliques form whenever there are more than two people. You might find it helpful to realize that there are many different reasons that people form groups in adulthood which include similar business interests, community activities, religion, or even a long history together such as attending the same college. While you may not know what the connection is, considering this probability can help you deal with your pain.

I do not recommend that you stop your children’s contact with the children of those parents who left you out. It will appear childish and will hurt your children’s chance of developing their own friendships or being included with their peers.

People change over time. The group that excluded you may evolve to be more inclusive in the future. You and your wife need to explore other friendships with people who are not involved in cliques. They may turn out to be more interesting to you anyway. 

Seek to be with people who make you happy.  Over time you are likely to be less bothered by those who are not interested in you. We do not have control over who includes us or not. Accepting this may help you deal with your situation more comfortably. Making friends can feel like a difficult task. Instead of being saddened or pained, see this as part of human nature that you can’t change. 

Find ways to enjoy your life. Focus on your marriage and your family.  One of the strengths of a happy marriage is to have a partner who can provide the support we need when emotional or social difficulties affect us. Strong, loving relationships help to counteract the isolation that a person feels when he is excluded. Observe how far you have come since you were a teenager and take comfort in the life that you and your wife have created. You, your wife, and your children will benefit from your letting go of your anger and disappointment and creating a lovely environment for yourselves. Like-minded, good people will surely seek you out.   

— Alice

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