Woe Is Me! “My Old Friend Keeps Trying to Horn in On All My New Friendships!”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“A friend from the town I belong to moved to the city I live in, so I introduced her to my husband and friend circle. While she’s always thankful that I introduced her to new friends and helped her get a job, she keeps trying to one-up how well I know my friends. Plus, she also copies the way I dress quite often, and all of this is making me regret introducing her to my friends. Am I right to think this way?”
— I Was Here First!
RD: Do you feel secure in your relationships with your friends? Has her behavior impacted any equations you personally have with your friends? If not, then I think this insecurity may be valid, but perhaps not worthy of dwelling upon too much. Does it really matter if she claims to know your friends better than you do? Or is doing some sort of who wore it best mental gymnastics in her head? This is not a competition and there aren’t limited seats that you need to vie for.
Maybe one of these days when you feel she’s trying to one-up you, you can say offhandedly that none of this is a competition, while internalizing that she is also probably operating from a place of insecurity, so be kind. Women are made to feel they have to challenge each other for every little resource, which sometimes explodes into these extended, exhausting ordeals. But both of you occupy your own space, and have your own personal relationships. I’d urge you not to fall into this trap of comparing every little thing, and perhaps talking to her about why she shouldn’t be doing it either.
KB: Of course you are! This is a tale as old as time. It is completely normal and natural to feel overwhelmed and suffocated by a horner-in-er. What you have to remember is that usually the person doing the horning is completely oblivious to how invasive and violative you find them — they don’t think they’ve violated any boundaries. In fact, I think much of the time, people who do this think you’ve opened the door to your life and other friendships, welcomed them in, and that any connection they express to that world is actually a way of bonding with you.
So step one, take a breath and realize there’s nothing wrong with how you’re feeling. Step two, empathize, and understand that your horn-ing friend is not doing it on purpose to irk you. Step three, begin the process of setting some boundaries. You need to stop inviting her to all group activities, start doing things with your friends separately, and slowly start to put some distance between her and your core friends. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually, you will send the message that you didn’t ask her to join a big happy friend family. This will also force her to start looking for friendships outside your immediate circle. It will all work out, but it will take some time. You will preserve your friendship, you will be less annoyed, and everyone wins.
AS: Are you right to think this way? Maybe not. Are you human to think this way? Absolutely! You tried to do the right thing in the spirit of friendship, and now you’re at the receiving end of some sneaky competitive behavior. Your irritation is natural and understandable. My first suggestion would be – don’t let it get to you. I don’t believe that friends can be (for the lack of a better word) ‘stolen’ or replaced with other similarly-dressed people. No matter how insecure your friend’s behavior may make you, remember that even if she is competing with you, you do not need to compete with her. You are a confident person, a good friend and you are valued by your friends for being just as you are. New people entering the equation does not change that.
My second suggestion would be – try to remind yourself of the friendship you share with this person. Make plans just for the two of you, grab a drink, get nostalgic about old times — just be in a space where the two of you focus on your friendship. Reminding yourself of that might help you look at this friend in a different light. Maybe she’s just trying to establish herself in a new peer group — god knows that’s not easy — and needs someone to talk to? In any case, I think you seem like a nice person for helping someone out. You might regret the help for now, but not helping an old friend could have been a bigger regret.
RP: Imitation is flattery! Really, it sounds like your friend has come to your city and seen a life she wants to recreate for herself. Dressing like you and trying to befriend the same people is her way of trying to do that. It’s an easy way out: inserting yourself directly into a generous friend’s life is just an aspirational shortcut to the life that the friend built themselves.
The one-up-manship is her attempt at validation and acceptance. Her telling you how well she knows your friends is just an effort to tell herself she knows them well and belongs. This effort to fast track ‘being’ you takes you for granted and will end up doing more damage than good to your friendship.
What can you do? First, don’t buy into what she’s telling herself. If she tries to show you that she’s more a part of your life than you are, don’t believe it. Try and recognize that she’s doing what she can to feel she’s part of something and nothing more. Second, set the boundaries that make you comfortable. If you don’t want to include her in what you do with friends, don’t. If you no longer feel as motivated to help her, don’t. You’ve already been generous and have every right to limit how much more you give. Communicating the boundaries will make clear that not everything in your life is hers to claim and will also help your friends understand what this new person means to you.
LG: There no right or wrong here – you feel how you feel. However, imitation is the highest form of flattery. It seems like your old friend might be a wee bit insecure and could use some understanding from you. Think about it from her (possible) perspective: she moves to a big city, only knowing you. You introduce her to this great friend circle. These people clearly like you, so maybe if she is more like you, they’ll like her on her own merit instead of just out of pity for her or affection for you. It’s difficult to break into an established friend circle, evening a welcoming one. So she begins (probably unconsciously) to copy you. She tries to one-up how well you know them to reassure herself she’s really friends with them in her own right. Is it annoying? For sure. But maybe instead of regret, it would be kinder to offer reassurance. Casually mention how much one friend loves spending time with her. How much another friend is inspired by her. Or whatever — don’t lie, but look to build her up a little so she feels more comfortable in her own skin, clothes and circle.
This is, of course, assuming the best possible solution. If you get a vibe that what she’s really gunning for is a skin suit made of you as she slips seamlessly into your life, then run.