Friend Poaching, as described by the urban dictionary, is “when one friend befriends another through your introduction, soon putting more effort into that person than you do, simultaneously making you seem less desirable and devaluing both your original friendships. This can happen consciously or unconsciously.”
This is a topic I am all too familiar with. I have had friends poached and indeed I have poached friends. However for the first time in my life I find myself in the situation of potentially being poached myself.
Side A of the story is that there were 2 of you and you were close and things were great. Then one of you introduced the other to another friend. They hit it off and then there were 3. It's all so fabulous!.... Until you find out that old friend and new friend have hit it off and started hanging out without you. You suspect they are closer to each other than either one of them is to you. This hurts! You have gone from having 2 close friends to feeling like you have none; while they have each other. You scold yourself for having juvenile feelings of jealousy and do your best to remind yourself that you do not “own” either of your friends and they are welcome to have relationships with people outside of you. Yet you cannot shake the feelings of hurt and exclusion, and wondering what is wrong with you that they didn’t want you along, and paranoid thoughts that they are discussing you and laughing behind your back. It is pretty hard to feel close to either of them as your insecurity eats away at your friendships and your self-esteem.
I have been person on side A often enough to know how crippling this type of pain can be. It is probably the worst position to be in, and if you find yourself here, I suggest you take steps to ensure you feel the same quality bond you felt with both people before, separate from the other, if you can. Hanging out in a group is important in the triad friendship, but more important is quality time with the people in question individually, so you feel secure that they each still like and value you. If one or both of them have suddenly stopped having as much time for you, this will hurt. However instead of taking it personally you must be objective and realise they are now dividing their time between more people than they were before and that is going to mean a bit less for you. Enjoy the time that they do still offer and keep in mind that all friendships go through a honeymoon phase, then wax and wane after that as people’s lives change and grow. Their new friendship has nothing to do with you. And it too will wax and wane!
Side B of the story is told by the “outsider”. If you are on side B, you were not one of the original pair. You had a friend, but you understood they had another friend of equal or greater closeness to you. At some point your friend said “Hey, you know what? I think you and my other friend would really get along; we should all hang out sometime?” And so you do. And your friend was right, you really do get along with their friend. And that is where it starts getting complicated. Are you allowed to see your friends friend without your friend being present? At what point are you allowed to call this new person a friend of your own rather than a friend of a friend? Will your friend be upset if you like their friend more than you like them? Should you hold off on discussing your mutual friend with your new friend? Is it disrespectful to actively pursue a hard and fast friendship with this person? Is there a respectable amount of time that should pass before you proclaim closeness with each other?
I have also been on side B of this story at least once in my life that I can clearly identify. I can tell you this was the easiest side to be on. On this side you are pretty excited to have made a new friend, and even if you aren’t spending as much time with your other friend now as you were before, (due to spending it with this new friend,) you wont really notice because there is no hole in your life. It feels (for you) like a gain and not like a loss. My suggestion for you is to be very sensitive towards the feelings of both parties, and how your new friendship/s with them might take away from their friendship with each other. I know you are eager to know if you can call this person a friend of your own, and you can, but keep in mind when there are 3 people involved and only 2 hang out… that 3rd person is probably quietly feeling excluded. Make sure you are still engaging with your original friend; she did you a favour in introducing you to her other friends, and she doesn’t want a thank you in the form of you guys wandering off and forgetting her! She liked you both and she still does. The friendships were valuable to her and you may be taking something away from her. Make time for both people, separately and together. Everyone needs to feel valuable and liked. Remember at some point it will be you on the sidelines… nobody misses a turn on that merry go round in a triangular friendship.
Then there is side C. I may have been on this side before and just never noticed perhaps, but this is the first time I have acutely felt like I am in this position. I am the friend in the middle. I am the friend Side A was close to and then introduced me to side B. Side B and I get along well and I have been excited to get to know her and spend time with her. And it is possible my friendship with Side B has upset Side A. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I love side A. I still try and make sure I keep up to date with Side A’s life and engage her and spend time with her without side B. I try hard not to discuss side B with side A or discuss side A with side B. Still, I have become aware that my budding closeness with side B is hurting side A. To be honest I really don’t know what to do about this. It was never my intention that side A would feel excluded, and I wonder if I have crossed a line by nurturing a private friendship with side B. I hate that my friendship with side B hurts side A. Yet I do not regret this circumstance because I have gained so much from having Side B in my life. Does this make me a terrible person... or just a terrible friend? I don't know. I do know I have to move carefully from here to protect and nurture both friendships, neither at the expense of the other. Side A may feel that side B is poaching me from her, and I am allowing it. Worse still that I may be encouraging it... Of course this notion that I belong to her is uncomfortable for me – but I cannot forget the times I have been in her position and how much it hurts. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I am willing to give up my exclusive friendship with either of them so the issue I know will continue to crop up.
Right now this is the spot that I am in, allowing myself to be poached somewhat while still trying to remain loyal. It is a precarious position to be in. Alas, if you have ever had a triad friendship you will know that the tables will indeed turn and I will be back to a different position before I have figured out how to maintain the balance and keep the peace. Do triad friendships exist, or is it always in some way a poaching exercise in progress?
Your Best Friend ForNever