I Hate Mixing My Friend Groups, And I Refuse To Feel Guilty About It

Photographed By Beth Sacca.
I have remained silent for so long, but I have to speak my truth. Having to mix your friend groups is absolute trash, and I will not hear otherwise.
Okay, that might be a little dramatic, so let me rephrase: If you already feel like you're awkward in social settings, that anxiety is doubled when you have to mix your different friend groups and worry about them getting along (or criticizing each other to you later on). It's the reason why, instead of doing one big gathering on my birthday, I prefer to celebrate with smaller groups over the course of a few days. (That and, well, good luck trying to do anything with more than six people in New York City.)
Where some people might see introducing friends to each other as a "more the merrier" chance to make a bigger friend group, I only see the anxiety-inducing prospect of awkward silences and me struggling to find something, anything, that these people might have in common to talk about.
I'll admit that most of my animosity towards combining my friend groups comes from experiences with friends who were reluctant to socialize with each other. One time, I asked a friend if I could invite someone else to a Broadway play we were seeing, to which she said yes. The night of the play, she then invited another friend of hers without saying anything (not that she needed to!), and proceeded to freeze me out the rest of the night. Needless to say, she probably wasn't as cool with me bringing someone else as she said.
Another time, I introduced someone to another group of friends, and she spent most of the night cordoning herself off with her phone — which she was welcome to do. But that only made my other friends think that she "didn't seem that nice," which made me feel a) bad that they didn't get to meet her at her best, and b) feel generally responsible for them getting along (or not getting along, in this case).
"We tend to feel responsible when we are throwing an event, for how our guests feel, for the experience they have," says Ali Mattu, PhD, assistant professor at the Columbia University Medical Center. "And that can be anxiety-provoking in a number of ways."

We tend to feel responsible when we are throwing an event, for how our guests feel, for the experience they have.

Ali Mattu, PhD
Beyond the struggle of trying to get everyone to get along, Dr. Mattu says that we tend to code-switch with the people in our lives, meaning that we change the way we speak based on who we're talking to. In other words, the way you interact with your high school friends will probably be different from the way you talk to your co-workers. If you have a situation where you're bringing those people together, it's normal to be nervous — not only about how they'll interact, but how you're going to act around them.
It's not like I'm hiding all my friends from each other because I'm secretly leading a double life as a spy (seriously, I wish my life was that interesting), but as Dr. Mattu says, we have friends for so many different reasons, and they're bound to be different from each other. Just because you're their common link and they like you, the logic doesn't necessarily follow that they'll like each other, too. And maybe that's okay.
"Whenever we’re meeting someone new for the first time, it’s weird and awkward," Dr. Mattu says. Maybe your friends will find a shared interest, or you can pepper into the conversation that they both like The Walking Dead, and hope that a conversation will follow. But if it doesn't, that's okay too. You might just have to deal with the fact that your friends might be awkward around each other, or just outright not get along.
For the record, I love that my friends are all so different from each other, and I'm lucky to know so many great people. But, except for my one friend who is so disgustingly personable that he can build a rapport with anyone from my high school classmate to a friend I met on the internet, I worry about bringing them all together and having them enjoy hanging out, because I just want everyone to have a good time and I feel guilty if they don't.
"Don’t let that fear of people not getting along get in the way of throwing that party, because these are important events, and your friends want to be there to celebrate you," Dr. Mattu says. "It's totally okay if they come, spend most of their time with you and any mutual friends, and leave. The older we get the less time we have for friends, so they might just want to see you. It's totally fine if not everyone talks to everyone."
With that in mind, maybe I will throw a bigger birthday party this year. But let's just say I'm in no hurry to combine my friend groups just for the hell of it.

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