My Best Friends Ditched Me For Each Other

Illustrated by Emiliy Zirimis.
I recently introduced my two best friends from two different social groups. At first, I thought it was great that they got along, but now they hang out all the time without inviting me. I can't help but feel super jealous when my Instagram feed fills up with pics of the two of them together. My best friends ditched me for each other! How can I handle this situation?
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Bea Arthur, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
No one likes feeling excluded, so your hurt and confused feelings are normal and expected. You could analyze the situation endlessly and ponder the questions floating around in your head to no end: Did I do something wrong? Are they talking shit about me? Am I boring? Lame? Not much fun?
But, if you really want answers, you need to try and get out of your increasingly paranoid head and open the lines of communication. Obviously, approaching your friends about the problem is easier said than done. After all, being a grown woman asking another grown woman if she still wants to be friends might make you feel like you’re back in middle school, but I assure you that what you’re describing is actually quite common.
Mindy Kaling even devoted the title of her first book — Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? — to this very situation! In your late 20s and early 30s, your professional and social circles become fairly fixed and so does your free time. Plus, if and when things start getting serious with work or a significant other, then our girlfriends may become less of a priority. This may be especially true if you've been friends for a long time and expect the bond to always just be there. Like any relationship, however, you have to invest time and energy to keep your connections strong and healthy.
In the situation you're describing, think for a minute if it could be a case of you taking your friends for granted? Flaking on plans, even if you have a good reason, can be perceived as a mild form of rejection. So, before you sit down with your pals, make sure you've engaged in a little self-reflection. If you're guilty of taking these friendships for granted, then you need to let them know you intend to make it right again.
One way of doing this is to start reconnecting with them separately to solidify your initial bond, and while you’re hanging out, take the initiative to make plans for all three of you. This ought to help you get a better sense of whether something’s changed.
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Like any new and exciting thing that people throw themselves into, this newfound mutual adoration may have nothing to do with you. If the two just discovered a connection or bond, they may be in the honeymoon phase of their friendship. It may sound strange, but the phases of a strong friendship closely mimic the stages of a romantic relationship. There's initial attraction, curiosity in the getting-to-know-you stage, appreciation, and a deepening of the attachment as you spend more and more time together. Then, just as with romantic partners, your friends start to feel like family.
Still, I think your jealousy is justified, and the best thing to do is talk it out. Even an “I miss you, let’s hang out” text will get the conversation started. But, resist making any assumptions or accusations, and don’t complain to third parties about it; passive-aggressive behavior almost always makes things worse, not better.
The one thing you know they have in common is you, so be proud of your mitzvah of bringing more love in the world and remember that even Miranda and Samantha sometimes hung out without Carrie. Good luck!
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