Being excluded by friends

Feeling Left Out By Your Friends? 9 Tips to Overcome It

Everyone has felt socially excluded at some point in their life. It can be lonely and painful. There is a reason for this: Being left out can trigger a primal neurological fear of rejection. 

When you’re feeling left out by friends, it’s easy to get in your head about why they haven’t included you. You may even cascade into an emotional drama of distress, insecurity, and self-doubt. 

Luckily, there are a few ways to stay grounded and soothe the pain of being excluded from the group. Here’s how to deal with being left out by friends.

Why Wanting to Be Included is Normal

Humans have an evolutionary need for belonging. Since the earliest Homo sapiens, people have lived as herd animals, reliant on their tribes to protect them from danger.

Contrary to the rugged individualistic assertion that “other people’s opinions don’t matter” or “it’s me against the world,” it is completely normal to want to be in a group.  

Of course, it’s not healthy to morph yourself or pretend to be someone you’re not just for fitting in. But trying to convince yourself that you can get by without social acceptance can sometimes do more harm than good. 

The “Need to Belong” theory asserts that humans absolutely need a social connection to survive. Although many avoidantly attached people may claim to be fine without intimate relationships, friendships are scientifically proven to benefit your life in profound ways:

  • Quality friends improve your health.
  • Friendships are the number one indicator of joy and happiness.
  • Social connections link to longevity. 
  • Sociability reduces your risk of sickness. 
  • Friendship strengthens your self-esteem. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be included.

Action Tip: Take the Attachment Style Quiz to uncover how childhood experiences might have shaped your approach to interpersonal relationships as an adult.

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Are you being excluded from your friend groups? Not everyone is straightforward about whether or not they want you around. 

If you notice these subtle signals from your friends, they may be leaving you out: 

  1. They leave quickly without telling you where they are going
  2. They cancel plans with you last minute 
  3. They don’t invite you to their parties or events
  4. They ignore your text messages or don’t return your calls 
  5. They say they’re busy, then post photos on social media or hang out with other people
  6. They avoid discussing a certain event or topic with you
  7. They tell white lies about what they were up to the past weekend 
  8. They provide vague answers like “I’m busy” or “oh, nothing much.”
  9. They have the same excuse every time you want to hang out 

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What to Do When You Feel Left Out

When you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, sometimes your mind can go to dark places. Social exclusion hurts, but there are a few things you can do to manage your emotions and soften the sting.

#1 Avoid catastrophizing

The psychological phenomenon of catastrophizing explains why people often fabricate situations in their heads that exaggerate the negative parts of a painful experience like rejection. 

Though you may be trying to make sense of your emotions, anxiety and worrisome thoughts can actually lead to more emotional distress.

When you feel left out, it’s important not to think yourself into a black hole of “what ifs” and “whys.” The truth is that you never know what is actually happening in people’s lives.


First, consider that your friends may not be purposefully rejecting you. For example, if your colleagues ended up grabbing a drink after work without you, maybe the decision was spontaneous as they were walking out of the office. They may not have intentionally made plans ahead of time that excluded you. 

In other instances, a certain group of people may have forgone inviting you simply because they knew you wouldn’t be interested in the discussion topics or the location they were meeting up:

  • If you’re a vegan and your friends are going to a steakhouse, they likely didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable by bringing you along.  
  • If a couple of friends are meeting up to have a playdate with their kids or dogs, maybe they didn’t invite you because you don’t have any kids or dogs.
  • If you know that your friends went out for coffee and yoga on Saturday without inviting you, they may have planned it ahead of time, thinking you were busy or uninterested in yoga. 

It’s easy to spiral into thinking “they don’t like me,” “I’m not good enough,” or “they think I’m a weirdo,” but these catastrophic thoughts can be very unproductive for your emotional state. 

Reading too far into a situation doesn’t do anyone any good. Avoid making assumptions about your friends’ motives. 

They didn’t necessarily leave you out because they don’t like you; maybe the situation just arose spontaneously, or they thought you wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. 

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Studies show that heavy social media use is associated with loneliness. In a world bombarded by the “highlight reel” of other people’s lives, social media can often make you feel like you’re being left out from all the fun others are having.  

Looking at photos of your friends enjoying themselves can elicit feelings of jealousy, rejection, and FOMO. 

If you can discipline yourself to delete a few apps or turn off your phone for a while, you may find that being present in your current reality can bring you more fulfillment than scrolling through other people’s lives. 

Action Tip: When you’re feeling left out of social gatherings, avoid looking at social media for a few days to a week. Delete Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and any other apps you regularly use (don’t worry, your account will still be there when you want to log back in). Instead of checking social media, try to meet people in your city or learn to be more creative. 

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#3 Distract yourself with new interests

Distracting yourself can be one of the simplest ways to deal with feeling left out. 

Instead of ruminating about what you did wrong or if your friends still like you, you can reframe the experience into something positive. What if being excluded was a blessing in disguise? If you repeatedly hang out with the same people and do the same things, you may not be getting out of your comfort zone as often as you’d like. 

An open night or weekend gives you time to de-stress, relax, and try out new interests that you wouldn’t otherwise explore:

  • Revisit a childhood passion
  • Get lost in someone else’s life for a little while with a fascinating novel or movie
  • Attend a class to learn something new
  • Treat yourself to a self-care day
  • Take a road trip to a nearby city
  • Try out one of these 40 Unique Things to Do When You’re Bored

The world is a big place full of new people to meet and rich experiences. Get out there and try something new to remedy the FOMO (fear of missing out) blues. You’ll have something new to talk about and maybe even make new friends. 

Action Tip: Research shows that social rejection can actually fuel creativity. Try channeling your negative emotions into a creative project such as journaling, drawing, writing, carpentry, or music.  

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#4 Feel your emotions, don’t suppress them

Studies show that suppressing emotions can lead to more negative mental health outcomes than facing them head-on. 

It’s no surprise that being excluded from social situations can lead to feelings of rejection as psychologically difficult as physical pain. Frankly, it sucks.

If your cousin doesn’t include you in her wedding party or your friends host a get-together without you, it’s OK to be upset about it. 

Instead of suppressing your emotions, try taking time to process and unpack what you’re feeling:

  • Journal about your thoughts: What hurts most about this situation? Does it remind you of an experience of rejection?
  • Practice deep breathing or a guided meditation: Grounding yourself in your breath can help bring the focus away from the external world back into your inner self. Try this 10-minute meditation for dealing with rejection.
  • Take a walk: Notice the small details like shapes of clouds, bird songs, or flowers that are currently blooming. 
  • Listen to music: Music is scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve your mood. 
  • Try exercise or yoga: Getting your sweat on can help you channel your emotion into a physical challenge. 
  • Talk to another trusted friend or family member: Ask someone close to you for a few minutes of their time to allow you to vent and talk through why you feel left out. Be sure to clearly express if you want advice, a pep talk, or just a metaphorical “shoulder to cry on.”  
  • Create an emotion map: An emotion map helps you build a vocabulary to describe your emotions and responses. 

Emotion Map Exercise: The Dalai Lama and Dr. Paul Ekman worked together to create an online tool called the Atlas of Emotions to illuminate your emotional experience and help you navigate through different feelings.  

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#5 Take yourself out on a date

Spending time alone is correlated with greater confidence, more creativity, higher emotional intelligence, and greater emotional stability in challenging situations.

If you feel left out, it might help to turn inward and focus on your self-love, reflection, and fun experiences you can have on your own. A really fun way to do this is by taking yourself on a date:

  • Get dressed up in your favorite outfit
  • Choose one of your favorite restaurants or try a new cuisine 
  • Bring along a good book, podcast, journal, or sketchbook if you want to do something creative while you eat
  • Celebrate a few things you love about yourself while you enjoy the delicious meal 
  • People-watch or strike up conversations with the wait staff

This video explains a simple three-step solution to overcome your fear of being alone:  

Action Tip: A fear of being alone can be a common cause of clingy or attached behaviors. If you think you might be acting a little clingy with your friends, read our article on How to Not Be Clingy: 9 Ways to End Neediness in Relationships

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#6 Check that you clearly expressed your availability

Often getting left out can result from simple miscommunications: 

  • Maybe your friends thought you were too busy with your job to go shopping on a weekday.
  • Perhaps you accidentally texted them the wrong date or time for an event, and they planned something else without you.
  • Maybe you just forgot to confirm a clear “yes” or “no” to an invite.

Action Tip: To avoid being left out, make sure you are clearly communicating when you have free time to hang out. Better yet, create your plans and invite them. Send your friends a quick text on a group chat about an open window of time that you’d like to make plans for.

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#7 Openly communicate how you feel

Honest and clear communication is the key to any successful relationship. While it may feel awkward, sometimes the best way to deal with being left out is to express how you feel openly. 

Psychologist and researcher Brene Brown asserts that vulnerability is essential to deepening relationships, so don’t be afraid to open up a bit of your true emotions.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” – Brené Brown

When communicating that you’ve been feeling excluded, it’s best to avoid sounding accusatory or attacking:

  • “You should have invited me.”
  • “I thought you cared about me, but you keep leaving me out.” 
  • “You keep ignoring me.”
  • “I invite you to places all the time, but you never invite me.”

Instead, focus on “I” statements that express your experience without projecting your insecurities onto the other person:

  • “Honestly, I felt a little left out when you and the girls went out to dinner last weekend without me.”
  • “I’ve been feeling a bit more distant in our friendship lately. Just wanted to check in to see if you’re doing OK.” 
  • “I miss hanging out with you. Do you want to meet up soon?” 
  • “Sometimes I feel excluded from the family when you do things without me.” 
  • “I noticed that we aren’t hanging out as much anymore. Have I done anything to upset or annoy you?” 

Action Tip: Sometimes, people may exclude you from situations because they feel annoyed by you or awkward in your presence. It may help to do some self-reflection and work on your social skills so that you don’t come across as annoying. This article might help: This is Why People Find You Annoying (& How to Fix It!)   

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#8 Invite people to do things with you

If no one invited you to the party, have your own! Instead of waiting on others to invite you to social events, create your own sense of belonging by making plans and inviting them. 

The most popular people are known for acting as the “social glue” of their friend circles. They bring people together by…

  • Hosting events
  • Initiating plans
  • Introducing their friends to each other
  • Inviting people to hang out

Next thing you know, people might be asking you if they can tag along with your plans.

Pro Tip: Magnetizing a circle of friends comes down to improving your people skills and becoming more likable. If you want to be more popular, try these 16 Science-Backed Tips to Attract Friends.

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#9 Meet new friends

Friends who regularly leave you out of their plans may not be the best friends to have. If you start to  notice signs that your friends are toxic or you have a lot of fake friendships, try redirecting your energy into more fulfilling new relationships.

Making new friends may seem intimidating at first, but there are actually more ways to meet people than ever before:  

  • Regularly go out to local cafes, restaurants, bars, or concerts
  • Minimize using your phone in public so you can have more conversations
  • Try a friendship app to connect with likeminded people online
  • Learn some killer conversation starters to initiate interesting connections
  • Join a class or group to learn a new skill
  • Use one of these 50 Ways to Meet New People in ANY City

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Key Takeaways: How to Deal With Being Left Out

Being left out can trigger the most vulnerable and painful insecurities from childhood. But sometimes, your emotional reaction to social rejection can make things harder than they need to be. 

To deal with being left out of a social situation, try practicing healthy ways of coping and moving forward: 

  • Avoid catastrophizing and excessively worrying or wondering why your friends left you out. Instead, give your friends the benefit of the doubt and 
  • Take a break from social media to avoid feeling FOMO when looking at photos of your friends. Temporarily delete your primary social apps and use these tips for a 10-day digital detox.
  • Distract yourself by getting creative or trying out new hobbies. Get absorbed in someone else’s life for a while through a novel, movie, or asking people about themselves. 
  • Work through your emotions rather than suppressing them; try journaling, meditating, or talking with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Take yourself on a date to your favorite restaurant. 
  • Openly communicate how you feel. Sometimes being vulnerable with your friends can help deepen your friendship and correct any miscommunications. 
  • Create your plans and invite other people to come along. Instead of ruminating over friends who left you out of their plans, you can forge new social connections by asking acquaintances to join you for a movie, drink, class, or concert. 

Wanting to belong is completely natural and even essential to survival. You deserve friends who make you feel like a part of the group, but you can’t always control how other people treat you. 

You can, however, become more confident in yourself so that you don’t feel so sensitive to rejection. Learn How to Build Rock-Solid Self-Esteem in 8 Weeks (or Less!) to feel more empowered to love who you are regardless of the social situation. 

Why Fake Friends are Ruining You and How to End a Friendship

Your fake friends are ruining you. I know it sounds harsh, but if you want to be truly happy you have to:

  • Combat frenemies
  • End ambivalent relationships
  • Stop toxic “friends”
What is a frenemy?

A frenemy is someone who you are friendly with, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. Frenemies might want you to do good on the surface, but behind your back they will gossip about you and may even be jealous of your accomplishments and successes.

How to Spot a Frenemy

Frenemies may be more common than you think. And here’s why: social neuroscientist John Cacioppo explains that humans evolved to prioritize avoiding enemies rather than making friends. Why is this?

Let’s say we make a friend who actually turns out to be our enemy. That could mean death. But if we instead label a potential friend as an enemy, that’s totally okay. We won’t make friends as fast, but at least we won’t die.

So it’s perfectly normal to have frenemies in your life. It’s just our biological system making sure we don’t get backstabbed in the middle of the night. The key point here is to identify your frenemies so you can either become real friends… or get rid of them.

I think there are three types of fake friends. Which kind sounds familiar?

1. The Jealous Frenemy

This is the most common type of frenemy. In fact, jealousy is often the emotion that flips friends into enemies. And it goes both ways…

  • A colleague is jealous of a promotion.
  • You are jealous of a colleague’s promotion.
  • A wingman is jealous of your righteous ability to attract babes.
  • You are jealous of your wingman’s righteous ability to attract babes.
  • Someone is jealous of your raise / hair / smarts / personality / humor / car / ____.
  • You are jealous of someone’s raise / hair / smarts / personality / humor / car / ____.

The Problem: Jealousy is an insidious little beast. It destroys trust, respect, and admiration. I believe that it is almost impossible to have a healthy relationship where there is jealousy brewing.

Bottom Line: Either get over the jealousy, or get over the person.

2. The Undermining Frenemy

When you have an undermining frenemy, you constantly are faced with challenges such as these:

  • You landed a new client! Should you tell your friend?
  • You lost five pounds! Will your friend enable bad behavior if you go out to lunch?
  • You want to invite some new friends over. Should you invite “that” friend?

Undermining frenemies are usually great at passive-aggressive comments, sarcastic tones, and enabling your bad behavior.

The Problem: These kinds of frenemies are the worst! Why? You hope they will be supportive, but they often aren’t.

Bottom Line: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don’t keep hoping. Cut this person out.

3. The Unsure Frenemy

Humans hate having unfinished business. We also hate not knowing where we stand with someone.

  • I think he is a close friend…but is he close friends with everyone?
  • I think she likes me…
  • Are we business friends or actual friends?
  • He knows me, but I’m not sure if we are just acquaintances or actual contacts.
  • Are we LinkedIn-type contacts or Facebook-type contacts?

The Problem: You just aren’t sure. Where do you stand? Do they help or support you? You are constantly on guard and second-guessing them. This kind of ambivalence takes a lot of energy because you are in a constant state of not knowing.

Bottom Line: Have a talk. Sort it out. Put it all out on the table. More steps below…

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A fake friend is slightly different than a frenemy. 

What is a fake friend?

A fake friend is someone who makes you fake it — fake liking, fake authenticity, or faking someone you are not, in order to be friends with them. If a fake friend finds out who you truly are, they probably won’t be friends with you anymore.

The biggest difference between a frenemy and a fake friend is that you know there’s bad blood between the two of you… whereas a fake friendship can feel like a real one, but it can be more damaging than good for you.

And fake friends don’t usually appear overnight. You know your friendship is slowly going downwards when you start to see the warning signs.

How you know you have a fake friend?

Fake friends are the people you hang around with that drain your energy. You don’t feel comfortable, genuine, or emotionally secure around fake friends. You also wouldn’t trust your fake friend with the keys to your house.

  1. Your interests have become more and more different.

Board game friends? Not anymore—your friend would rather watch the paint dry than play another game of Pictionary. Gym buddies? The most exercise your friend has now is lifting the remote. 

  1. You no longer work together / play on the same sports team / attend the same organization.

What happens when you are no longer obligated to be around your “friends” anymore? “See ya!” If you try to make plans and they ignore you, or even worse… you get the “Sure, maybe next week?” text, maybe it’s a sign to move on.

  1. Over time, you grew apart.

Real friends stick around to the end. Fake friends will only be there when it’s beneficial to them, and maybe you don’t see eye-to-eye anymore. That’s okay. And that’s another reason to think about exiting.

  1. You are always walking on eggshells.

Sometimes there are people that make us overthink everything we say. Maybe we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Or maybe we don’t want to look uncool. There are even scientific studies that link uncertainty to stress and even brain damage. If you find yourself always trying to predict your friend’s reaction, you might be in a toxic relationship. 

  1. You are less alike than you originally thought.

Oh, you both work at the same place? And have a cat? And love eating sushi? Wow, you have so much in common! But sometimes the commonalities end there. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a while to realize how much you aren’t alike.

  1. You have become different people than when you were younger.

Have you ever heard that science fact that the body replaces itself with new cells every 7 to 10 years? That means we are completely different people than now. And if you think back 7 to 10 years ago, it’s likely we’ve dramatically changed. Oftentimes, being different requires a different standard of friends.

  1. You have nothing in common anymore.

As a recovering awkward person, I made many awkward friends in my highschool and college years. Some of them got better, but unfortunately, some of them are even more awkward to this day. People change, and so do friends.

  1. You only hear from them when they ask to use your lawnmower / want to borrow your car / need help with next month’s rent.

Excuses, excuses. How many times have you had a random “friend” ask you for something? Maybe you’ll only hear from them once or twice a year asking for a favor. And if you’ve ever let them borrow something? They simply “forgot” about it. Time to move on.

  1. “Jokes” are no longer funny anymore.

I’m not talking about a friend who is just a really bad comedian. Sometimes we have friends that are “just kidding,” but in the back of our minds we feel confused: was it supposed to be funny? Is he/she insulting me? Why do I feel bad?

Here’s an easy way to tell if a joke is from a friend or a frenemy: if your friend tells a joke to make you feel happy or cheer you up, that’s great! But if your “friend” tells a joke just for the sake of laughter—regardless of how it makes you feel—you know you’re on the verge of frenemy territory.  

  1. It’s just too emotional.

A relationship with your friend that has really high high’s and really low low’s usually won’t last. And it’s also a sign that it’s a toxic friendship, since those kind of emotions are not sustainable. 

Fake friend warning signs can be commonly seen with:

  • childhood friends
  • colleagues from previous jobs
  • college buddies
  • exes
  • trip or travel acquaintances
  • someone who made a really good first impression, but turned out to be less than stellar
  • former neighbors

Here’s my big idea:

We absolutely can grow out of friends, just like we grow out of clothes. Sometimes our taste changes, sometimes our size changes.

…And this is not a bad thing. 

Can a fake friend become a real friend?

Turning a fake friend into a real one often takes a lot more effort than it’s worth. The longer you spend time with a fake friend, the longer your fake friend boundaries are established, and the harder it becomes to turn a fake friend into a real friend.

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Fighting Fake Friends

Did you know that only about half of our friendships are actually mutual? In other words, we are really bad at telling who our real friends are from fake ones.

You deserve to have incredible relationships.

So how can you get rid of the fake friends in your life?

I want to walk you through a step-by-step way to assess your friendships and clear out your relationship clutter.

This is Marie Kondo’s KonMarie Method for relationships. 

Are your friendships messy? Every person in your life should #sparkjoy. Here’s how:

Step #1: Know Your True Friends

What is a true friend?

True friends are people who are there for you during life’s up and down moments. They are genuinely happy for you when you succeed, and will be there for you when you ask them for help. Real friends make you feel loved, happy, and supported, unlike fake friends.

Did you know having true friends is one of the biggest keys to happiness? Here’s one  mega-study on relationships: Michigan State University conducted a survey of nearly 280,000 people.

Participants of all ages and from nearly 100 countries were asked about their relationships and rated themselves on their health and happiness. Can you guess the result of the study?

There was a direct correlation between participants’ family/friend relationships and their overall health and happiness. And the only relationships that predicted health and happiness at older ages were friendships, not family relationships.  

That’s because we can choose to be with enjoyable, happy, and fun friends, unlike our family members who we are born with. But wait! The science doesn’t end there…

In a second study by the same university, friends were found to be influential—if friends offered support, people were happier… but if friends were draining and stressful, people reported more chronic illness. 

Here’s the takeaway: when you choose real friends, you have greater happiness and health. And if you have fake friends, it’s best to cut them loose before they put a strain on your life.

These are some signs that you have a genuine friendship, and not a fake one:

  • Real friends give us their attention and are present to our needs.
  • They support us when we are feeling down.
  • True friends are genuine and keep their promises.
  • They are there for you even if they can’t get something from you.
  • They accept your flaws.
  • They actively listen rather than focus on themselves.
  • True friends make us want to become better.

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Step #2: Identify Your Obligatory Friends

How do fake friends happen? It often starts with the slow decline of a relationship. Does the following story sound familiar to you?

I met Sophie on a writers’ retreat. We bonded immediately—standing in line to get our room keys. I loved her shoes;, she loved my scarf. We both tried to eat vegetarian, but loved bacon. We asked to switch roommates so we could be bunk buddies. She was working on a fiction novel, I was working on the early notes for Captivate. We traded notes, read drafts, and were inseparable for two weeks. When we got home, we decided to have weekly calls to discuss our manuscripts. We promised to visit, but schedules were crazy! Calls were too hard with our busy schedules, so we texted. Texting got hard, so we emailed. She got pregnant and had beautiful twins. She stopped writing. We had less and less to talk about, even in emails. We sometimes sent each other pictures—our babies, our gardens. Texts were slow. After a while, even emailing became tedious. I visited her on my last work trip to her city, and we had almost nothing to talk about. She asked to come visit this summer—I’m dreading it.

This is what happens when a real friend becomes an obligatory friend, and then a fake friend.

What is an obligatory friend?

Obligatory Friend: n Someone you don’t enjoy spending time with, but end up spending time with because you feel guilty. It’s a habit you do not know how to stop.

Over time, obligatory friends end up becoming fake friends. Let me explain how fake friendships happen. It all starts with what I call Spheres of Interest.

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Step #3: Identify Your Spheres of Interest

When you first meet someone, you are not sure how many of your interests and their interests overlap. You both have spheres of interest, and you wonder how much overlaps.

Then as you get to know each other, you find more and more commonalities. The areas you have in common are called relevance. The closer your spheres of interest, the more you like someone.

Sometimes ‘interests’ can be points of relevance such as:

  • Working at the same company
  • Living in the same building
  • Going to the same school
  • Playing on the same team
  • Being a part of the same organization
  • Having gone on the same trip

The more commonalities you have, the more relevant someone is to you. In a great relationship, the circles move closer together:

Before a relationship becomes obligatory and then fake, there is usually no movement at all—or your common interests begin to diverge. You never find more common interests. You never get closer. You never fully bond. In fact, with most obligatory friends, your spheres of interest slowly move away from each other…

I call this movement the slow creep.

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Step #4: Avoid The Slow Creep

The slow creep is when your spheres of interest slowly creep farther and farther apart.

The problem with fake friends is we often do not realize a friendship is becoming obligatory until it’s already highly unfun to hang out with them—and then it’s hard to break up. You can know someone for years and not realize how much you have changed or that you no longer are enjoying each other’s company.

When your spheres of interest move farther and farther apart, you get closer and closer to becoming ambivalent about the person and your relationship.

And ambivalent relationships are dangerous.

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Step #5: Beware of Ambivalent Friends

Our friends can become fake friends when we begin feeling ambivalent about them. 

Ambivalent relationships cause the most emotional strain, take the most energy, and are the most toxic.

But what is an ambivalent relationship? Here are some questions to self-diagnose your ambivalent relationships. Answer each question by placing someone on the ambivalence spectrum.

Does this person support you or undermine you?

  • a) They are supportive.
  • b) They are sometimes supportive.
  • c) It depends.
  • d) They undermine me.

Is spending time with this person fun or draining?

  • a) Fun!
  • b) Sometimes it’s fun
  • c) It depends
  • d) Not usually

Is this relationship healthy for you and your life?

  • a) Yes, it is healthy
  • b) Sometimes it’s healthy
  • c) It depends
  • d) It’s not usually healthy

Are you sure of your relationship with them?

  • a) I know exactly where we stand.
  • b) Sometimes I know where we stand.
  • c) It depends.
  • d) I don’t usually know where we stand.

Is this person usually excited for you or jealous of you?

  • a) They are excited for me.
  • b) Sometimes they are excited for me.
  • c) It depends.
  • d) They usually can be jealous of me.

Answer Key:

  • If you picked mostly A’s and B’s, this person is a good friend!
  • If you picked mostly B’s and C’s, you have an AMBIVALENT person in your life! Read on…
  • If you picked mostly C’s and D’s, you have a TOXIC person in your life. Read How to Deal With Toxic People.

You might not realize it, but ambivalent relationships are more toxic than toxic ones. Wait! What? I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain:

This is some serious science: Psychologist Bert Uchino found that the more ambivalent relationships you have, the more likely you are to have higher rates of depression, stress, and dissatisfaction in your life.

A researcher at the University of Minnesota named Michelle Duffy wanted to see if frenemies impacted people in the workplace. And not just any workers—police officers. Here’s what she did:

  • Surveyed police officers on their levels of stress, absences from work, and how often they were undermined and supported by their closest co-worker.
  • Unsurprisingly, she found the more an officer felt undermined, the more unauthorized breaks they took, the more absent they were from work, and the less committed they were to their jobs.

But here’s where it gets interesting…

  • What about officers who had colleagues who were sometimes supportive?
  • These officers missed even more work, took even more breaks, and felt even less committed.

You read that right: Officers were impacted more negatively when they had ambivalent relationships—even more than toxic ones.

Duffy argued that when police officers have toxic relationships, they can work to keep clear of them. They don’t worry or wonder as much and take as many steps to distance themselves as possible.

But ambivalent relationships were more confusing. It made police officers constantly have to second-guess, be on guard, and grapple with wondering and worrying.

We know we have to get rid of toxic relationships. We worry, grapple with, and second-guess ambivalent ones.

This affects all areas of our lives. In another study, adults rated their relationships with the ten most important people in their lives. They also did two anxiety-provoking tasks:

  • Deliver a speech with little time to prep.
  • Take a rapid fire math test.

The more ambivalent relationships a person had, the more their heart rate spiked on both tasks.

Bottom Line: Ambivalent relationships stress you out in all areas of your life.

And they can be the most insidious, because you don’t always know how to handle them. 

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We only have so much social energy. And ambivalence takes more energy.

With toxic relationships, we know we need to cut them out—and often do. Ambivalent relationships are much harder. Guessing, wondering, protecting—those all take a lot more energy. It takes so much physical energy to be on guard.

Fake friends give you guilt.

You know how this goes. Habit. Routine. Guilt.

  • You get together because you always get together when you visit home.
  • You call each other because you always talk once a month.
  • You invite someone because they always come to your holiday party.

But you forget to ask yourself:

Do you actually like spending time with them?

Here’s what happens if you stay on the guilt wave:

  • Your interactions become less and less fun.
  • Getting together feels more and more like an obligation.
  • You dread spending time with them.
  • You feel resentful when you do spend time together.
  • You agonize over invites, calls, and get-togethers.

Stop. The. Guilt.

I realized that these obligatory friendships were bad for everyone involved.

When you begrudge a friendship, they feel it.

When guilt is the driving force in a relationship, it is doomed to failure.

When you force yourself to spend time with someone or pretend to have a good time, you either are lying to yourself, or lying to them. This is not truthful living.

You are not serving anyone by maintaining this ruse. The hard part is that obligatory friendships do NOT get better. Once spheres of interest start moving apart, they usually don’t stop.

Either you have to pull the plug, or the relationship will keep on draining.

I know. I know. You feel guilty. You feel bad. There is history! But listen up:

Having history with someone is not enough fuel for a friendship.

  • Okay, so you were best friends in elementary school. How is maintaining a shallow relationship honoring that memory? Do you really think things will change?
  • Okay, so you helped each other get through the corporate merger at your last job. How are obligatory monthly phone calls helping either of you now?
  • Okay, so you are different now. How is someone from your old life helping you move on in your new one?

It might be time to have a friend break-up.

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How to End a Friendship

Let me explain a people puzzle that always has perplexed me:

It’s okay to date.

It’s okay to define a romantic relationship.

It’s okay to re-evaluate a partnership.

It’s okay to break up.

It’s hard in romantic relationships, but it is okay—if not essential — to be able to date around, and then break up when it doesn’t work out. Why can’t we break up with friends?

In romantic relationships, we have break-ups all the time—it is considered an important part of finding the right partner. But could you imagine saying to a new friend:

“Um, yeah. It’s been great seeing each other. But I just don’t think we are meant to be. I want to friend break-up. It’s not you, it’s me.”

No way. I can’t imagine it.

But here’s the thing: Sometimes we have to break up with friends. 

This is one of the hardest posts I EVER have written. Partially because it is personal to me…

I had a best friend break up with me, and it broke my heart.

I recently had to break up with a friend, and it felt like death.

It very rarely is talked about.

Okay. So, here I am going to try making the best of this bad situation. Here’s how you know you need to break up with a friend…

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How to Know if You Need a Break-Up

These are the warning signs that a friendship needs to end:

  • You dread seeing them.
  • You feel they undermine you more than support you.
  • There is deception in the relationship—they lie to you.
  • There is self-deception in the relationship—one of you is lying to yourself.
  • You have grown apart, and the relationship is dragging on like a slowly dying animal.

Any of these feel familiar? Keep reading. 

Option #1: The Talk

You know how in romantic relationships, you have “The Talk?” That talk is the pinnacle of nerves, awkwardness, and sometimes resolution. “The Talk” usually has a number of goals:

  • To clarify boundaries
  • To define the relationship
  • To see where each person stands
  • To talk about a future

Here’s the great thing about having “The Talk” with friends—it can initiate a break-up talk. It can prepare someone for an imminent break-up, or it can resolve having to break up at all.

You owe it to your friendship to put it all out on the table. The entire goal of “The Talk” is bringing everything to the surface:

  • Hidden resentments
  • Miscommunications
  • Old fights
  • Jealousy
  • Misunderstandings
  • Boundaries


  • I recommend doing this in person. — Do not initiate it over text or chat! Everything is better, clearer, and easier in person.
  • Go with a goal in mind. — Do you want to clear up something? Do you want to address something? What would your ideal outcome be? 

Option #2: The Break

I think friendships sometimes need breaks. Especially if you just had a very difficult talk, you might need some time away. Breaks can serve to:

  • Give you a fresh perspective
  • Calm down
  • Miss each other
  • Re-evaluate

Here’s the nice thing about breaks – you can take them for whatever reason you are most comfortable with:

It’s Me: You can say you are really busy and need time.

It’s You: If you feel hurt by your friend’s actions, if you feel there has been jealousy or undermining (see our articles on frenemies and ambivalent relationships), you can say you need time to recover.

It’s Us: Especially after a hard talk, you can tell a friend that you need some distance for both of you to re-evaluate.


  • I do recommend adding a time component to your break. This will help if you have someone who is not good with boundaries. It also will give you time to re-evaluate without wondering if you should text or contact. Just like in a romantic relationship, defined space can let you take a step back.
  • The terms of your break can be flexible or rigid. You can say, let’s talk again in two weeks. You can say, let’s see how we feel and check-in when we feel we are ready. 

Option #3: The Slow Back-Away

Let’s say you are in a one-sided friendship or you are friends with someone who is not good with boundaries. Then you might not be able to have “The Talk” or an official break. In this case, you can try the slow back-away.

You should use this if:

  • You worry they will not accept a break.
  • They will not be honest if you have “The Talk.”
  • They are bad with boundaries.
  • You hate confrontation.

This method is less direct — so it’s not my favorite. BUT it can help gently end a relationship or avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The slow back-away usually is done by just being ‘too busy’ and ‘ too hard to reach.’

I hate writing this, but the goal here is having a gentle easing in the relationship. You want them slowly to get the message that you want a different kind of relationship. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You want them to save face.


  • Text instead of call.
  • Engage less on social media.
  • Take longer to respond to texts.
  • Respond with shorter texts.
  • Get together in less intimate settings.
  • Get together for shorter, more casual occasions.
  • Be too busy to get together.

**Again, this is my least favorite, because it feels like the least honest. But sometimes it is the nicest way to break up with someone.

Option #4: The Burst

There comes a point in some unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships where the friendship bubble needs bursting. The lies. The faking it. The pretending everything is fine. It needs to stop. I believe friendship break-ups should be treated EXACTLY like romantic break-ups. Something like:

Hey, I know we have had trouble getting together over the last few months. I think that is mostly my fault. I have been pulling away. I think last year when X happened, it really hurt my feelings. I have not been able to get over it. I know you are a great person and have been a wonderful friend, but I think our relationship has changed. I do not think we can salvage it after all that has gone on. I am sorry.


  • State needs that are not being met.
  • Be gentle and kind.
  • Talk about how you feel.
  • Don’t assign blame.
  • Don’t make excuses.

This is incredibly hard. I know it. But I think that if you feel you have to end a relationship, you have to clear the way.

When we say no to relationships that don’t serve us, we make room for relationships that do.

I challenge you to think about the fake friends in your life. Are there people who you are close with for the wrong reasons? Are there people who you are lying to yourself about? Are there people you dread hanging out with?

Letting them go helps you both.

I know how hard it is to let go of old relationships. I am writing this article as a pep talk for myself as much as for anyone who resonates with this idea.

Guilt is not fuel.

History is not enough.

Feigned closeness is deception.

Be honest.

Have more time for real relationships.

Live in truth and with real friends.

Watch my interview with Tom Bilyeu, where we discuss fake friends, ambivalent relationships, and more:

3 exercises to improve relationships with family and friends


Man among people Relationship crisis

Relationship with the child

The controlling parent wants to know everything about the child, wants him to be transparent to him in his actions, emotions, feelings. What is his unconscious purpose? To keep the child wholly for himself and fashion him into something that meets the needs and expectations of the parent.

One of the reasons is the panic fear of separation and the existential emptiness that follows it. The second is the inability to present the child as an independent person, and not as an extension of himself.

The parent expresses this fantasy through cold dominance or emotional extraversion, intrusion or overprotection, affective blackmail, denial of intergenerational differences, turning himself into a god to his son or daughter.


A child treated in this way is unable to get in touch with his desires. To give pleasure, to support, to be a “good object” for parents is the condition of his mental survival.

Always on guard - "Am I doing the right thing?" - He puts all his energy into suppressing aggressive impulses. As a result, in communicating with his peers, he often takes a position of either excessive restraint or authoritarianism.

Exercise: revisit your past

The controlling parent is a former child who grew up in an affective relationship based on fusion and intrusion.

Looking at your childhood through this lens, re-examining your personal history—on your own or with the help of a therapist—will help reduce the inner tension that is caused by repressed aggression and find a more appropriate distance in your relationship with your child.

Specifically, this means respecting his territory - bodily, emotional and spatial - depending on his age and personality.

Relationship with a partner

Treating the other like a child - anticipating and satisfying all his desires and needs, jealous - blocking the way for any intervention of third parties, real or symbolic - or devaluing the partner, showing affective coldness, the controller unconsciously tries to reduce the physical, emotional and symbolic distance between self and others.

He hopes to relive the initial merger or, conversely, to compensate for the inadequacy of the first relationship, which lacked parental attention. At the beginning of a love relationship, it is not easy to draw a line between the expression of love passion and the desire for control.

Both passion and control are equally characterized by the desire to merge, jealousy bordering on the obsession of thoughts and feelings. It is only with time that controlling patterns of behavior emerge more clearly. Then two options are possible.


Either the couple is operating in a dominant-subordinate pattern and both are happy with it for reasons related to each's personal history—same is the case with the merger pattern—or the dynamics of the relationship is determined by one of the partners, the controller, and the other by her endures. Again and again conflicts arise, and flight is often the only salvation for the one who is being mistreated.

Exercise: Getting More Independence

The controlling partner lives without being aware of his needs and desires. His energy is in the service of the illusion: "If I weaken the connection, then I will be abandoned. " But it is by taking care of our basic emotional and affective needs that we can establish a relationship of intimacy.

Developing your own interests, taking care of your body, starting psychotherapy are all ways to restore a shattered sense of inner security and a disturbed self-image.

Relationships with friends and colleagues

There are two ways to exercise control. An active controller builds relations with his environment, saturated with affects, always based on dominance, sometimes conflicting, like "who is not with me is against me." The passive prefers not to come to the fore, go with the flow and avoid conflict in every possible way.

The active controller is more feared and respected than loved. This brings him suffering and can increase his aggressiveness. The passive, on the contrary, silently suffers from the fact that little attention is paid to him and he is not respected enough.

In a relationship, the controller may identify with the controlling, intruding parent and dominate, or remain the child who holds back his emotions and desires. He is too depressed to enter into a genuine, equality-based relationship in which communication takes place "with the visor up." To win love, he "pleases".


In both cases, it is about keeping the other person at a distance, representing a potential threat, trying to maintain affective power over him and not be excluded from the circle of relations.

Exercise: stop being the center of the world

It is difficult for the controller to imagine that the world does not revolve around him. A friend hasn't called in a long time? This does not mean that the friend has problems, but that he is opposed to the controller. The employee does not support the project proposed by the controller? He does not just defend a different point of view, but attacks the controller personally.

To deal with such feelings, you can make a list of other people's possible motivations, trying to take into account all the options. The passive controller can learn to assert himself in a secure environment with people he trusts.

About the author: Isabelle Korolitsky is a psychoanalyst, author and expert in French Psychologies.

Text: Alina Nikolskaya Photo Source: Getty Images

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Five unexpected facts about loneliness

  • Claudia Hammond
  • BBC Future

Author photo, Freddie marriage Most of the ideas about how and why we feel loneliness are far from the truth. A survey conducted by the BBC, along with scientists, revealed five non-obvious facts about loneliness.

1. Young people feel more alone than older people

Findings based on the BBC Loneliness Experiment, an online survey of 55,000 people around the world. The question was developed by academics from three British universities in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection.

When you think of a lonely person, you usually think of older people who spend all their time alone.

Indeed, in a BBC survey, 27% of people over 75 said they feel lonely often or very often.

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This figure is higher than other surveys, but because it was an online self-selected survey, it could have attracted more people who felt lonely.

However, the discrepancy between age groups is impressive. People aged 16-24 feel the most acute loneliness, 40% of whom say that they suffer from it often or very often.

But why do so many young people feel lonely? They may be more willing to acknowledge these feelings than older people who try to emphasize their independence.

Author photo, Getty Images

PIDSIS to the photo,

The most of all are the most not older people

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But when asked when in your life you felt the most loneliness, the most common answer was still - at a young age.

Obviously, the reason is not only in modern life, but also at a very young age.

Although it seems that the age of 16-24 is a time of new freedom, when a person finishes school, becomes more independent and independent in his choice, this is also a difficult transition period.

At this age, young people tend to leave home, go to college or work. They often have to say goodbye to childhood friends.

At the same time, a person is trying to understand who he is and what place he should take in this world.

In addition, the feeling of loneliness is still unfamiliar to a young person, he does not yet know that this feeling will pass with time, he does not know how to cope with it, for example, to be distracted or find company.

2. 41% of people believe that loneliness can be positive feeling

This conclusion is consistent with the ideas of some researchers. For example, neuroscientist John Cacioppo argues that the feeling of loneliness, although not very pleasant, is evolutionarily justified.

Man was able to survive thanks to the fact that he learned to unite in groups. If a person feels excluded from a group, the feeling of loneliness will force him to connect with people, find new friends or rekindle old relationships.

The problem, however, is that this feeling can be chronic and can seriously affect one's well-being and even overall health.

The constant feeling of loneliness can lead to the development of depression.

Image copyright Unspalsh

Although 41% of those surveyed said that loneliness can be a pleasant feeling, those who felt it often generally did not share this opinion.

A prolonged feeling of loneliness is so painful and disturbing that it is very difficult to see the positive in it.

3. People who h feel that they feel lonely, have social skills are no better or worse than others

, and therefore, to get rid of this feeling, you just need to improve your communication skills.

Research refutes this notion. A key element of social interaction is the ability to understand how other people feel and respond accordingly.

They may be upset about something or accidentally offended.

This skill can be assessed with the help of a test, when test subjects are shown people's faces or only eyes and asked to name what emotions the person in the photo is experiencing.

Research has shown that people who often feel lonely are able to identify emotions as well as other people.

However, they scored higher in neuroticism. Therefore, it is possible that the cause of their feelings of loneliness is anxiety caused by social situations, and not a lack of communication skills.

4. Winter is not a lonelier season than any other

On Christmas Eve we see campaigns of charitable organizations that help lonely elderly people. Most people spend Christmas with their loved ones and friends, so it can be the most difficult time for single people to get through this time.

British actress Sarah Millican launched a very successful #joinin online campaign over Christmas on Twitter. People who feel lonely can communicate with each other.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, Christmas is in the middle of winter, when the days are shortest and people spend most of their time at home. This reinforces the feeling of isolation.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

People can feel lonely all the time, not just in winter

However, the survey showed that for those who feel lonely, winter is no worse than other seasons.

We asked people to name the time of year and time of day when they feel most alone. More than two-thirds of respondents noted that winter was not lonelier than other times of the year.

Some even named summer. At Christmas, many invite their friends and acquaintances to visit if they know that they can be left alone. But in the summer, when everyone is away on vacation, you may feel left out.

So perhaps we should be concerned that our friends suffer from loneliness throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

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