You Need Help: I Feel Left Out By My New Friends

Q:

I have difficulty making adult friends. When I meet someone new, we will have great conversations and (what I think) is great rapport but then when it ends I never hear back from them and am always initiating the contact. I know they see other people I also know and I guess I feel left out. After a point I begin to wonder if they actually want to see me so I stop contacting them.

Am I coming on too strong? Not strong enough? Is it because they’re straight (I have lost what I thought was a close friend when her husband decided he didn’t want me in the picture)? Is everyone just busy? Do they already have enough friends? Do I really have to only have friends from the queer community?

I feel very alone and would like to meet people and be able to hangout and go for lunch or coffee.

A:

I’m so sorry you’re feeling alone. I know your letter doesn’t specifically mention the pandemic, but I think it’s worth saying this up top: It’s a very fucking hard time for friendships. People are spread so thin, and it’s difficult to deepen connections. And yet, it’s also a time when we all desperately NEED those connections. It sucks! I think a lot of folks can probably relate to you right now. I’m so sorry you’re lonely, but I hope you also know you’re not alone. (In fact, we just did an entire round of Advice Box questions about making adult friends, so if you’re an A+ member, you can look through those to see if any of the questions and answers speak to you! But if you don’t have access to that, don’t worry, I’m also going to answer your particular questions specifically right here!)

Let’s step away from the context of the pandemic and just focus on the broader picture. I don’t think you’re the problem here, which might be worth telling yourself. I think making friends as an adult is hard in general. I also think you’ve probably been affected by some of what you talk about in your letter. I think it’s shitty that your close friend’s husband decided he didn’t want you in the picture. Sometimes when things like that happen, it can have lingering effects. That’s such a major loss that it could be impacting the way you view other social situations. I hope you can find ways to heal from that and mourn the loss of your friend.

For what it’s worth, I do think it’s possible to be friends with straight people! I just think you had a bad experience in this one instance. At the same time, there are definitely certain straight men who are weird and homophobic about their wives/girlfriends hanging out with queer people. Sadly, there’s nothing you can really do about that. But I promise not all friendships with heteros are doomed!

You don’t have to stay within the queer community to find friends if you don’t want to. Obviously there’s sometimes a level of understanding that comes with connecting with other queer people, but let’s be real, just because someone’s queer doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to vibe with them. In fact, some of the tensions/conflicts you’ve experienced in friendships with straight people could very well happen even with queer people! I know queer women who have been in very controlling relationships with women who didn’t want them to be friends with other queer women! It makes no sense, and yet, people are just jealous, weird, and manipulative sometimes.

I do think that making new friends should be approached in a somewhat similar way to dating. For example, I think that when it comes to dating AND making new friends, it can be really helpful to establish what you’re looking for right away and to vocalize your needs as they come up. Say you meet a new potential friend, establish that good rapport, and then never hear back from them. It’s okay to reach out and say “hey, I had a really good time with you, and I was wondering if we could hang out again” or “I’m really trying to meet new people, and I’d like to get to know you better.” Be honest and direct about how you’re trying to expand your social circle. Say “I’m looking for new friends!” You can even join an app like Bumble BFF (someone I’m close with has had a lot of luck with it, and she lives in a small-ish city) and put what you’re looking for in friendship.

People are indeed busy, and making new friends does require a level of forwardness that not everyone is comfortable with. It’s okay to not really know someone that well yet but still tell them you’ve been trying to make new friends. Will it feel vulnerable? Absolutely! But it’s not going to send someone automatically running (and if it does, well, they might just not be the right friend for you anyway, which I’ll get into in a bit).

Some people are just inherently bad at making plans, responding to texts, initiating conversation, and following through on things. And all that has nothing to do with you and what you have to offer as a friend. And I know it can sometimes feel like a burden to be the person who has to initiate contact every time, but that’s just sometimes how it goes in certain friendships! It’s not inherently a sign that the other person doesn’t want to hang out; different people have different communication styles. But also, if that doesn’t work for you in a friendship, then YOU can decide you don’t really want to be friends with that person. It’s possible that some of the friends you’ve made have different expectations than you within friendships, which doesn’t make you the problem. Sometimes we have to experience incompatibility in friendships to figure out what vibe we’re more compatible with. Again, kinda like dating!

I don’t think coming on too strong is really a thing tbh! You should be yourself when meeting new people. If your personality is very strong and forward, trying to hide or change that doesn’t really do anyone any good. And if you’re a little more reserved, that’s okay, too! But when you ask if you’re not coming on strong enough, if you’re asking if you should be more direct and upfront about the fact you’re looking for lasting friends, then I do think coming right out and saying it is a good thing! But at the end of the day, you have to be your most authentic self when trying to make friends. You might have to step a little outside your comfort zone when connecting with someone, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re being someone you’re not.

And if your personality isn’t compatible with someone else’s, that’s no one’s fault! Everyone doesn’t get along with everyone. Different people have different needs and expectations in friendships. If it doesn’t work out with someone, it doesn’t mean you failed. It just means they’re not the right friend for you and vice versa. That’s okay! There will always be people who DO vibe with your values, personality, interests, etc. Don’t get too caught up on the friendships that don’t work out and instead focus on finding new ones that might be a better fit.

As you get to know people better, continue to be honest and open about what you’re looking for in friendships. If someone you’ve hung out with a few times pulls away or leaves you out of something, it’s okay to check in with them about it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of miscommunication or an arbitrary decision and not an intentional exclusion. Friendships last when we can be honest with one another.

Above all else, I really think you should stop seeing yourself as the problem. Don’t be afraid to say what you want — meaningful, ongoing friendship. There are people out there who are looking for the same thing.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 305 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. A perfect topic for the pandemic. I’ve been struggling with this as well. I’ve literally had my two best long term friends drop me (one because her boyfriend was homophobic and she was too scared to tell him she was bi and so dropping me was easier and the other one….is not in a good place with her own mental health)- (not to mention the other three having babies), so as one friend said recently at their wedding, “what happened to all our friends? do we have friends?”

    I think it speaks to our collective exhaustion with the world. Keeping up some friendships just became harder when we were locked in our homes(distance, emotional distractions etc), but the now we are emerging from our cocoons the opposite is true, meeting meaningful people is hard. It’s emotionally taxing. We just want someone who “gets us” now, but we have to go out and find that person (or people) and the rejection when it doesn’t work out the first few times is painful.

    I appreciate the hope in this article. I hope it helps the OG questioner!

  2. I would add a shout out for inter generational friendships! One of my absolutely best friends on the planet just turned 99 last month and she has been so helpful through so many turning points in my life over the past decade of knowing her.

    Queer-friendly religious spaces are good places to find these elders (many are queer themselves or the straight ones have grown up queer children), as are library book clubs, thrift shops you can volunteer at, and senior centers (which are often super fun community hubs that could use an extra pair of hands to help!).

    Some of my 70 year old + friends have shared stories about remembering when the polio vaccine came out, having polio themselves, or the strength and loss of their own elders who lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic. All of these stories gave me so much first-hand perspective for what we are living through today.

    Friendship as an adult isn’t easy, and some people have been doing it for WAYYYYY longer than I have!

  3. I find this good advice. Especially the parts about directly communicating your needs!

    But i feel a bit differently about trying to befriend straight people :) To me it seems as if “straight culture” puts less importance on the value of friendship. So my idea of close friendships as family sets me up for disappointment once romantic relationships enter the picture. That happens less with queer people. In my experience. I’m interested in yours.

  4. I really appreciate that you mentioned that just because someone isn’t reaching out as much as you that it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in friendship or don’t value you as a friend. I struggle a lot with making the first move and initiating convos with people, and I’ve definitely lost friends as a result. Please reach out to friends who haven’t been initiating convos and hangouts and let them know what you’re feeling! I promise, they probably aren’t meaning to ignore you and they still care about your friendship 💕💕💕

  5. Speaking for myself, I was always a slow replier (anxiety, plus I hide my silenced phone for most of the day) but I am so incredibly much worse at replying at all, let alone promptly, over the past three or four months. It’s a big mix of things that are mostly pandemic fall out, that now that the pandemic is ‘over’ (ahem, well) I need to try to resolve so that I can ‘go back to normal’. Ultimately it boils down to having low bandwidth for anything that isn’t literally in front of me/on fire.

    It has absolutely nothing at all to do with whether or not I want to see or more generally be in touch with people who contact me – I usually do! I miss people! I miss my more customary self! I want to do all the things! but I’m also going to bed at 9pm with a tension headache most days and spending the rest of them in flailing attempts to do the bare minimum and I don’t know when that’s going to change (soon, I hope, because this is pretty uncool as a state of being). Plus, I haven’t been alone for more than a few hours here and there for 18 months now and I daydream about walking out into the woods and refusing to come back until I’m good and ready; if one more thing interrupts me and touches me, I shall scream, etc, etc.

    While this won’t be a universal state, I know I’m not the only one feeling some version of this right now. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking I had dropped them or being offended by how laconic I’m being – I can see what it must look like from the other side and I worry about it and try to make myself do otherwise but I just cannot keep up. Woo, life failure! So big plus one for you are not the problem, OP.

  6. Great advice , for me its diff Im moreinterested in making friends with queer people.
    It sucks to be alone at weekends….

    but in a big city like berlin, the options are or better were pre pandemic seemingly endless so it seems a lot of people cant commit to anything really.
    I have one queer friend ,since 2016 or 2017,my first queer friend ever , who i rarely see, she lives in the very east of berlin, Im in the very west.the pandemic felt like the wall was up again.😉 We both are very cautious of covid so i rarely saw her since covid. Before that i didnt saw her as much i would lik,she is occupied with gf , uni, other friends.

    My ex,been together 10 years, even though its often hard to communicate with her, is my closest contact , we phone every day , seeach other every 2 months. I dread the day she is gone, ilove her so . She is 18 years older, I am 40.

    I have a male gay friend in leipzig , since 2008,who is dear to me but i only see him once a year or 2 years. but we talk every other month. These long phone calls mean a lot to me. And make up for not seeing him.

    My long time (of 20 years) straight friend who I thought would be a forever friend met her husband 2015 and after that ghosted me. What a sociopath. What time i spend supporting her. I regret not making more friends when I was younger , focused on her.
    at least i was never attracted to her.

  7. I love this compassionate response! I also wonder if it would help the question-asker to think about all of their great qualities and what they bring to a friendship. Sending them good friend-making luck!

  8. Thanks so much for all your great advice and all the comments too. I took it & reached out and we had a lovely lunch (very very lucky covid hasnt been as bad here,but my work gave up the office to save $$ which meant I was WFH for 15mth so lonely def a thing)…I also asked her about her book club so am going to that soon :)
    Not going with too many expectations…
    I liked the bit about it being like dating! Thanks for the friend-making vibes from everyone!
    Og poster
    Ps:marry me,Kayla 😁😁

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