I just started college, and I’m super afraid that my high school friends are phasing me out.
To give some context, throughout school I had this small, tight-knit group of friends. And of course I knew that we would eventually all split up when college started, and that’s just part of life, but it doesn’t mean that friendships have to end. But what I didn’t expect was for two of my friends to attend the same college. They weren’t planning on it either, but for a bunch of different reasons the two of them ended up choosing the same school.
And now, all I see on social media is pictures of the two of them hanging out together, doing all the stuff that the three of us used to do. It feels super sucky.
It’s making me turn into this paranoid mess. I try to call or text them often so that I stay in the loop, but as classes are getting harder we end up talking less and less. And now they have all these inside jokes on facebook that I’m not a part of and I’m freaking out that I’ll be left behind.
I want to make sure that I’m still part of the group, but I don’t know how to do it without being super clingy (which I know is annoying but I’m running out of options). What do I do?
To begin with, you sit right there [points to comfy spot on sofa], and you eat this [points to cheese-based food item], and you also might want to grab something soft to scream into [points to pillow and/or cat]. Because unfortunately, sweet pea, it’s not good news.
The sad truth is, you can’t make sure you’re still part of this group, because there is no group anymore. The end of high school was basically a big bang moment in your social universe, one that blew apart your close-knit cohort of friends and sent you all spinning off in the direction of your individual futures. And while it happened that two of that scattered group spun off on the same trajectory and ended up at the same college, the bond your two friends have created since then isn’t High School Dynamic 2.0. It’s a new thing. It’s its own relationship.
And most importantly, it’s between them. Their friendship isn’t a club you’re being excluded from, or a loop you can stay in. The relationship they’ve developed at college is one that never included you to begin with.
I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. (Go ahead and scream a little, if you need to.)
But as lousy as it is to realize that the two people you were closest to are now much closer to each other, it’s a lousy you have to accept. Otherwise, you’ll end up where you are now: trying to cram a third human being into a friendship that’s specifically built for two. Which not only feels awful, as you’ve discovered, but is also awkward and impossible. You can’t make yourself an equal partner in someone else’s relationship. The best you can do is make your friends feel weird and guilty for enjoying each other’s company—which not only wouldn’t be fair, but won’t make you feel any better, and will ultimately sabotage whatever relationship you might have otherwise had with them.
With that said, you also don’t have to feel bad about being phased out or left behind. Because that’s not what’s happening, Sparkler. Your friends’ relationship with each other has nothing to do with you. You haven’t been rejected. And you’re not sitting around like a lonely lump, pining and withering away while those two have the time of their lives. Right? You are on your own path. You have your own life, at your own school, where you’re surrounded by people you can form your very own friendships with. And you have your own relationship with your high school besties—a relationship that is not the same as the relationship they have with each other, but which could still be great and rewarding on its own merits, if you can accept and appreciate it for what it is.
And with that in mind, here’s what you’ll do: Let yourself be sad for about five more minutes about the way that friendships change with time, distance, and circumstance… and then let go of the sadness, because it’s only getting in your way. Specifically, it’s getting in your way of enjoying what you actually have, which is a healthy long-distance friendship with two individual people you love very much. That might not be exactly what you wanted, but it’s not nothing. You can work with that! And you can especially work with that if you get busy doing what your friends did: embracing and cultivating a connection with someone in your same zip code.
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