DEAR KELLY: What do you call a friend who is only nice to you when you are at home and not at school? My “friend” lives three houses down and hangs with the popular kids, which apparently I am not to her.
At lunch she just smiles at me but would never ask me to sit with them or anything. When she’s at school with her friends, she just says, “Hi,” but nothing else when I walk by her. If I want to ask her something, I just text it at school because I know she doesn’t want to talk to me.
When we are at home, she comes over, borrows stuff from me, hangs out at my house if she’s bored, has me help her with math if she doesn’t understand it and acts like we are really close. Our families are good friends, so we do things together sometimes. That’s when she acts like we are really good friends.
I’m not sure how I feel about this and I’m starting to question her as friend. Am I wrong to think this is all wrong? She posts pictures on Instagram all the time of her and her friends, and would never post a picture of me and her if we are hanging out. On her birthday I posted a picture collage of us together and said, “Thanks for being one of my best friends,” and brought her her favorite ice cream and a cute new wallet I knew she would like because it had ladybugs on it.
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On my birthday, she did nothing but send me a text saying, “Happy Birthday. Hope it’s a great one.” I have a lot of friends, so it’s not like I’m a total weirdo at school. I’m just not as cool as she thinks she is.
I’m a good friend and I don’t think I deserve this, right? Any advice for me?
DEAR EJ: What do you call her? I might call her an acquaintance or at best a family friend, but I definitely would not call her best friend. The words best friend should be limited to someone who always has your back, not just when you are home and in private. A best friend is happy to see you or spend time together, not just when no one else is around.
A best friend makes you a priority, not an afterthought. A best friend is proud to know you, not embarrassed to know you around other people. A best friend is your friend all the time, not just when it’s convenient for them.
One-sided relationships are hard. A one-sided friendship means both people don’t have the same feelings about the relationship. When only one person gives to the relationship, it can be really difficult and cause justified resentments or hurt feelings. You’re correct to feel something is wrong with the friendship. It’s healthy that you are questioning her authenticity as a friend. Your relationship is out of balance and something needs to change before it becomes toxic to your sense of self.
Have you tried talking with her? Did you let her know how you feel? Have you shared that she hurts your feelings or you feel she’s ashamed to know you at school? If you have not spoken with her, you owe it to both of you to let her know exactly what you are feeling.
If she shows compassion or concern for what you feel, then she might be a friend, and you need to work on how she needs to treat you at school so you feel better about the relationship. If she defends her actions and thinks there is nothing wrong with how she treats you, then I strongly suggest you move on.
The problem lies with her, not with you. Your attitude seems spot-on and wise. You have friends and you are a good friend. Your friends like you and like being with you, all the time.
She sounds self-absorbed and clueless as to how to treat others. If she wants to be cool, then let her be cool only without your stuff and without your help in math. She seems to use you for what she needs.
Because of that, she is not worthy of the word “friend,” and you should chose to spend your time with those who make you feel good and appreciated.
Set clear boundaries with her. If she can’t acknowledge you at school, then there is no need to spend time together at home. You don’t need to be rude, just firm. Let your mom know how you feel and why you are pulling back from the friendship. Hopefully your parents support the line you are drawing and encourage you to do what feels right.
Respecting yourself and your feelings is a great lesson to learn and one that will help you surround yourself with positive people in the future.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.