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Dear Mary: I feel ignored when I’m out with the girls, but I don’t think they are even aware of it

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"If one of my best friends felt the way you do, I would be really upset that she hadn’t said anything to me."

"If one of my best friends felt the way you do, I would be really upset that she hadn’t said anything to me."

"If one of my best friends felt the way you do, I would be really upset that she hadn’t said anything to me."

I am 50 years of age and, up until now, I thought that I was mature and did not let things hurt me.

I have a few friends who I meet every few weeks. One of them is a life-long friend who I love very much and I have shared everything with her. Of late, I have noticed that she and another friend have become very friendly because they share a similar interest. I have no problem with this as we do not own people and we have to grow and make new friends during our lifetime.

What I find upsetting is that they continually compliment each other in my presence. I make an effort when we all go out. I get my hair done, apply my make-up carefully and sometimes I might buy a new top or a new dress. The two girls compliment each other and I don’t get a look-in. I feel like putting up my hand and saying, ‘I’m here too!’

They also talk to each other or talk over me, interrupt me and I often feel left out of the conversation. I try to find a point where I can join the conversation. I let it all go, because if I say anything, the friendships will not be the same. I don’t think that it is intentional or that they are even aware of how they make me feel. I am trying not to be too sensitive, I feel the tears pricking behind my eyes and sometimes I just want to get up and go home.

I have a large family who still need me and I am not as free to come and go as I would wish. My husband is a wonderful man and he is very supportive and he would always encourage me to follow my interests.

Am I being ridiculous? How do I toughen up?

Mary replies: You are not being at all ridiculous. This issue is playing on your mind and causing you upset to the extent that you have written to me.

I am constantly struck by the fact that we have different friends through different phases of our lives. School, college, work, marriage and parenthood in some cases, all bring a different group of people into our lives.

But, throughout all this, we have a few very close friends who have been with us through all our ups and downs and to whom we turn when things go wrong. Or, indeed, to celebrate when good things happen.

One of the friends that you meet falls into the category of life-long friend; the other doesn’t seem to be as close to you. However, they share an interest, which you don’t. As a result, they have a lot in common when they talk and you, understandably, feel left out to the point of feeling ignored.

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You feel that if you say anything that the friendship will be destroyed. I disagree. If one of my best friends felt the way you do, I would be really upset that she hadn’t said anything to me. The only way forward is for you to have a word with her, on your own, and explain how you are feeling. Tell her that you realise the two of them have a lot to talk about because of their shared interest, but that you feel left out of most conversations when you meet up.

You should also say that you value her friendship so much, because of all you have been through together, and that you don’t want it spoiled by this. Explain that this may be because you are too sensitive and in that way you are not blaming her. So starting a sentence with, ‘I feel isolated’ or whatever word most describes your feelings would be a much better idea than ‘You girls are always...’

As regards compliments —when you are all together, ask what they think of your new outfit/hairstyle and you will probably be happy with their responses. I realise that you would prefer if you didn’t have to ask but perhaps they need a little reminder that you are there.

For some people the very mention of golf, or football or Formula One racing is enough to kill any chance of conversation. That is why like-minded people enjoy talking to each other. You could ask the ladies not to discuss whatever sport or hobby they share because you have no interest in it and it makes for a very one-sided discussion on your nights out. But you would have to be fairly assertive to say this, and I don’t know whether you would feel comfortable doing it.

I’m so glad that you have a supportive husband when you get home from your nights out. It must help enormously to be able to unburden yourself to him.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

 


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