Is Friend Poaching Ethical?
What is Friend Poaching?
Friend poaching is a relatively new term. It describes what happens when one person introduces a friend to a third party. Then, the two of them instantly click, to the exclusion of the person who brought them together in the first place.
When you're playing platonic matchmaker, several things can happen next. Quite often, the relationship goes nowhere and the two people who just met never see each other again.
Or, the three of you may form a group, and begin to socialize together.
Another possibility is that the people you introduced really hit it off, and it morphs into a twosome that either doesn't include you, or frequently leaves you on the sidelines. Sometimes, this is perfectly understandable, and acceptable, if these new friends have a lot in common, live near each other or have children around the same ages. They may spend a lot of time together, but they also make it a point to occasionally include you.
However, things may take a toxic turn and the situation becomes uncomfortable. The person who arranged the introductions may be left out of the loop, although usually this is accidental and just sort of happens. Or, some unhealthy competition may arise and the exclusion is intentional.
This is when "friend poaching" becomes unacceptable. Generally, it's a good thing to expand our social circle. Most adults can successfully navigate the changing dynamics when a new personality enters the scene. But common courtesy should always be the driving force.
There is a right way to strike up a friendship with the friend of someone else. There's also a wrong way, which shows lack of consideration for the person who brought you together in the first place.
We Don't Own Our Friends
It's almost a misnomer to use the term "friend poaching." That's because other people are not our property. We don't own them and they are free to pick and choose whom they choose to associate with.
We should expect our friends to meet new people, and develop independent relationships, none of which should affect the bond we share. Even if circumstances dictate that our friend spends more time with a new acquaintance, than she does with us, this still shouldn't come between us. Some examples of this include two people who live in close proximity, or whom work together. Mothers of young children are often drawn to each other, because they share so much common ground.
Also, friendship is not static. People grow and sometimes move in a direction that we're not headed. This can happen with or without the presence of a third party.
Sometimes People Grow Apart
The Right Way to Start a Friendship
It's possible to get to know your friend's friend if you don't abandon good manners, and you make an effort to be inclusive, especially in the beginning. That's because the person who was nice enough to introduce you both probably knew you'd hit it off. However, she probably also anticipated socializing with the two of you.
Immediately striking out on your own, with your new acquaintance, typically shows a lack of respect for the one being left out. One psychologist who's written on this topic recommends operating as a threesome for the first few times you see your new friend. However, I wonder if this time frame should not be extended for several months, or even longer.
After a decent interval, it seems alright to spend some alone with the person you just met. But if you never invite your old friend along, she'll probably feel mistreated. Unless she honestly insists she doesn't mind being left out, she needs to be a part of your itinerary, at least some of the time.
The Wrong Way to Start a Friendship
It would be very poor form to quickly connect with someone you just met, while pushing the introducing party into the background. At the very least, this creates an uncomfortable situation. Depending upon everyone's intent, it can also turn into a toxic triangle.
Friendships are very special. Nothing should come between them. If a third party moves to quickly, or inappropriately, to win the affects of someone else's friend, without taking care to make it an inclusive group, this creates disorder.
There is also the element of betrayal involved if one person is trying to exclude someone, and the original "friend" goes along with the plan. True friends will go to great lengths to spare your feelings.
If someone is willing to abandon an old friend so quickly, the quality of that relationship also comes into question. Do you want to invest a lot of time and energy in a person who has no problem discarding a long-time friend?
When Relationships Turn Competitive
When a highly competitive personality enters the mix, all bets are off. Some people (women usually) engage in what's known as relational aggression, in which they use social ties to harm other people.
It's possible, after introducing two parties, that you now have to work much harder to see your old friend, whose time is now monopolized by her new acquaintance. This can be a painful experience, as it means the friendship dynamics are going to change. But the new person isn't entirely to blame. Such a situation can only develop with the mutual consent of both players.
So, if you find yourself now feeling like a very uncomfortable third wheel, it's time to re-evaluate the situation. One practical solution would be to put some distance between you and this toxic (or soon to be toxic) triangle. You should never have to feel as if you need to compete for anyone's time or attention.
Some Relationship Buzz Words
Friendships formed after an introduction by a third party, in which the person who did the introductions is then excluded.
This is actually a form of bullying behavior preferred by females. Targets are socially marginalized.
A term that is synonymous with relational aggression.
This is a divisive behavior in which one person shows highly preferential treatment to one person, while neglecting or mistreating another.
We Can Only Control Our Behavior
You have no control over how any two people choose to spend their time, or whom they choose to spend it with. You also can't control whether or not your "friends" choose to let you into their inner sanctum.
However, there is one thing you can control. You have complete mastery of how to choose to react to this situation. You have the complete freedom to continue investing time and energy into this threesome, which more often than not becomes a twosome that may notj factor your needs and feelings into account. Or you can create some emotional space. and move away from a situation that no longer brings you happiness.
A Blessing in Disguise
Creating a gulf between yourself and a situation that's uncomfortable often turns out to be a blessing in disguise. This is because it frees you up, and allows you time and energy to devote to other people and other causes.
Surrounded by better friends, and with some new perspective, you may eventually realize that you deserve much better treatment than what you were getting. Now that you've created a new life for yourself, you no longer miss your two "friends" who bonded together so quickly, without making room for you.
Even though, for a time, you might feel very lonely, that's okay. You are strong enough to stand on your own. You are better off without these "friends."
Soon, you'll even find yourself not even thinking about them very much, because your so busy doing other things that bring you peace, hope and joy.
When Friendship Ends
Personality Disorders 101
Oftentimes, highly competitive people suffer from a psychological disorder called narcissism, in which they have no regard for the feelings of anyone else. These types revel in their ability to conquer and divide. It is very unfortunate when a malignant personality comes between two people.
Morally disordered people have a propensity to sow discord. They have extremely high social intelligence, in that they are able to gain insight into our deepest desires. If they are pursuing a relationship, they do so ruthlessly and relentlessly. If their intent is to break up a friendship, they often succeed. That's because true friends are hard to find, and it takes a very astute person to see through the smoke and mirrors.
Women with disordered personalities often resort to relational aggression to marginalize their rivals. When it kicks into high gear, the situation becomes toxic. Take a quick bow and make a graceful exit.
The author of this article is not a licensed mental health professional, but writes from personal experience.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.