Dear Prudence

Help! My Boyfriend’s Friends Edit Me Out of Their Group Photos.

Read what Prudie had to say in Part 1 of this week’s live chat.

A group of people taking a selfie, with one person blocked out.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Happy Valentine’s Day, or day after the Super Bowl, or regular old Monday, depending on what you’re into. Let’s get started:

Q. I’ll be at the bar: I’m a woman in my early 30s dealing with a mean girls situation. My lovely boyfriend of several years primarily socializes with a large group of friends from childhood. The group goes on camps, holidays, etc., together semi-regularly and we attend these when possible. The group tends to split into men’s and women’s conversations and activities at these events. I can’t contribute much to the men’s conversations because they reminisce about people I don’t know or talk 4WDing.

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But I’m also actively excluded from the women’s activities, e.g. they will leave a room I enter, go off elsewhere, not tell me or invite me, and avoid conversations with me. If I’m in a picture, they will edit me out. They have a girls-only messenger group that I was accidentally added to and then immediately removed from.

Prudie, I don’t know why these girls dislike me apart from maybe the fact we don’t really share many interests and we’ve had very different life experiences. If I’m being honest, it’s starting to get to me, I find it quite hurtful and I feel like I’m back in high school! I have to socialize with these people for the sake of my boyfriend (possibly for the rest of my life). Also one of the couples is about to get married and my boyfriend is at the wedding party. I’m likely going to be sitting with all of these girls for most of the night, away from my boyfriend and not knowing anyone else at the wedding. What should I do to overcome this?

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A: They edit you out of pictures?! This goes beyond being slow to warm up to a new group member—they seriously don’t like you or are intentionally being rude. It’s worth asking your boyfriend to do a little digging to see whether there’s been some sort of misunderstanding of something you might have said or done something to offend them. I’m just saying that because I don’t know you, and for all I know, you went on a huge bigoted rant in front of them or something. I doubt it! But just check that box.

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Assuming they’re excluding you for no reason, you have to decide whether dating your boyfriend is worth putting up with this dynamic (as you said, possibly for the rest of your life). It might be worth seeing whether he is willing to make any adjustments (like less time with the big group) to make you more comfortable. To me, that will say a lot about how much he prioritizes you. As far as the wedding: Keep yourself busy talking to strangers, getting cake for old people, and dancing with toddlers. And for the time that you have to be seated next to the mean girls, feel free to bury yourself in your phone, texting with the many people in your life who actually like you.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie:

• Send questions for publication here. (Questions may be edited.)

• Join the live chat Mondays at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the discussion.

Q. Not that generous anymore: My friend is currently working through the same college program that I recently completed. This program requires the completion of a portfolio for graduation, and she has asked me if I still have my portfolio. She said she would like to have it to help her complete the assignment (which I have done for her on several past college assignments that were much smaller than this).

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I love her dearly, but I worked so hard on this portfolio and didn’t have any resources like this when I completed it. The directions are straightforward for completing it, so with some thought, she could get it done. I just honestly don’t want her copying off my work. Am I a bad friend? Is it normal to suddenly be so protective of career and professional work (I used to gladly help her with anything)? Can I just tell her that I no longer have the portfolio because I have a new computer, which is a lie?

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A: “I don’t feel comfortable sharing it but I’m happy to answer any questions you have or take a look at yours and give feedback” would be ideal. But I understand that it’s hard to tell a friend no so directly so, yes, go ahead and lie about losing yours.

Q. I’m so confused: My sister and I seem to remember things quite differently. For example, she remembers our father being very attentive to our dog while growing up, while I remember him basically ignoring her until he was angry at her for any reason. She says I once threw my gerbil, which goes against every fiber of my being, and I have no memory of it happening. She also said I just stood there whenever our older brother bullied her, and did nothing at all. I distinctly remember doing whatever I could to intervene, even at times when it put me in peril. What gives?!

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A: When it comes to things you and your sister remember differently, you can divide them into three main categories: 1) things that would reflect poorly on you if her memory is correct (like throwing the gerbil—I hope you didn’t do that!) but don’t require an apology, 2) things that would reflect poorly on someone else if her memory is correct (like your dad ignoring the dog), and 3) things that would reflect poorly on you and require an apology if her memory is correct. When it comes to categories No. 1 and 2, you can probably agree to disagree—no action required. With category No. 3, I would reaffirm that you don’t remember this behavior (and in fact remember it very differently) but know there’s always room for different perspectives (or different memories from different days) and apologize for whatever you may have done that left her with this recollection. It costs you nothing to do that and to ask if there’s anything you can do to make her feel better.

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Q. Sad for my friend: I am a woman in my late 20s. I am very lucky to have a very tight-knit group of girlfriends. We share everything with each other and have supported each other through tough times. One of the women in the group, “Sasha,” has shared a great deal about her struggle with infertility and how pained she is that she has not yet been able to conceive despite years of trying and fertility treatments.

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I, on the other hand, have been very vocal about not being certain whether or not I wanted kids. After a pregnancy scare that turned out to be a false alarm, I realized I very much did want children. My fiancé and I got lucky and I got pregnant in our first month of trying.

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I don’t know how to tell my friend, Sasha. I don’t want to cause her more pain. I don’t want to be crass, insensitive, or patronizing. How do I speak to her about this? Do I announce it in the group chat we are in with our other friends so she feels no pressure to react?

A: This is really hard because everyone’s different and there’s no one way a woman dealing with infertility would want to receive this news. You say she’s been sharing her struggles for years. Can you think of anything she’s said about how she feels about hearing pregnancy announcements or encountering them on social media? If she’s mentioned that it’s tough for her, you can use this as a way in (“I remember you saying how hard it was to hear about friends’ pregnancies, so …”).

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Either way, I think you should do three things: 1) Use a text to communicate your news, so she can take the time she needs to process it and doesn’t have to absorb it while also trying to respond in the “right” way, 2) Don’t just deliver the announcement of your pregnancy, but ask for input on how much or little she’d like to hear going forward (for example, should you keep ultrasound pics off the group chat?), and 3) Let her know that nothing she may be feeling is out of bounds and that you’re open to changing the plan if her feelings evolve along the way—and to supporting her in whatever way she needs.

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Q. I hate this: ​​Someone I considered a close friend, who when I first met them, was a social drinker. Well, their drinking has gotten more and more intense over the past few years. Even before COVID, when I went to their birthday party three years ago, I noticed that by 8 p.m., they had had so much to drink they were slurring their words and falling out of their chair—and this was the “pre-party,” they drank more afterwards.

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Over the past pandemic years, I noticed that except for some time they took a sobriety break—during which we spent some really great times together—my friend’s drinking got more intense, and started affecting their behavior. They have no attention span, and are often very belligerent, cutting people off and snapping at them, as well as pushing people to drink and getting mad when they don’t want to. One time after a weekend getaway, the friend started drinking from two-day-old alcoholic punch and pushing me and a friend to do the same; when we both declined, because it was 10 a.m., we both had to drive home several hours and also just didn’t want to drink, they yelled, “Well, it tastes good to me!” They also stopped reaching out to me or returning my texts, and canceled on me to go to parties where there was a lot of drinking. Their partner told me they’d show up drunk, hours late, throw up on them, throw things at his face, and call him names (they are now no longer together). I reached out to them saying that their drinking and related behavior really worried me, that I’d seen them acting in ways that weren’t like them, that I cared, and was down to talk if they wanted to. They responded saying they were “confused and surprised” by what I’d said, but that they were “thinking about it” and would get back to me soon. That was three months ago.

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I’m getting ready to move away in a few months and I’m wondering if I should try to reach out to them again. They were close friends for most of my time in the area where we both live, and I don’t want to just let them go. I am also still really concerned for them. At the same time, I get that they’re showing me what they’re available for through their actions. Part of me also wants to say, “I’m hurt and mad you’re choosing booze over our friendship.” What’s the right thing to do here?

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A: You’ve expressed yourself and left the ball in your friend’s court. I don’t think hearing that you’re hurt and mad will do a lot for someone who’s struggling with alcohol, and I don’t think the response someone who is struggling with alcohol is capable of giving will do a lot for you. If you think there’s some kind of support you might be able to offer, do that. But if you won’t be satisfied with this relationship until your friend is sober and their behavior has changed, you might just want to wait it out.

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Q. Re: I’ll be at the bar: Could one of them be in love with your boyfriend?

A: Wow! This is a fascinating theory and you may be on to something.

Q. Re: Not that generous anymore: It’s one thing to help a friend with small assignments. It’s another to give them your entire portfolio to do, well, whatever, with it. If your friend copies your portfolio, which you completed recently and is presumably a very important piece of work in this program, then it will probably be noticed how much your friend’s portfolio resembles yours. You could create professional problems for yourself inadvertently, and not be able to get glowing recommendations or references or even mentoring, if it becomes known that you gave your friend your portfolio to copy, or “refer to” in doing their own. Don’t do it. You don’t need to be part of a plagiarism investigation.

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A: So true. Also, aren’t portfolios sometimes used to apply for jobs? You won’t be doing your friend any favors if she gets hired based on imitating your work and then can’t perform.

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Classic Prudie

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful man. We had a bit of a rocky start with his lying to me about a past escapade he had before we met. He was embarrassed about it and lied, but I found out anyway. Since then, he’s been wonderfully open and honest and we even exchanged email and Facebook passwords as a way to set a general policy of openness in our relationship. Well, curiosity was killing this cat and, though nothing particular prompted it, I looked at his emails and saw some old ones from before we met between him and his ex-girlfriend. I discovered that he called her the exact same, very specific pet name he calls me and signed the emails with the same loving closings he uses to end emails to me. Seeing that felt like it was taking away some of what he has done to make me feel so special. Am I just a replacement for an old flame he can’t forget?

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