BreakupsCompatibilityDatingFriendshipGender and SexualityLovePhysical IntimacyRelationship AdviceRelationship ProblemsRelationshipsSingle LifeSocial Skills & Etiquette

Is Friend Poaching Ethical?

Updated on November 7, 2016

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

Friend Poaching
Relational Aggression
Social Aggression
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


Submit a Comment
New comments are not being accepted on this article at this time.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    I just love it when two friends hit it off. Seems I have been an active parent for over 30 years and so single type friends of mine have a lot more in common. It is all good. I laugh to hard when my adult children "steal" a friend of mine as their own. hihihihi

    I just operate on the: more love the better notion!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Eric, this is usually how things work, more is better. I'm only referring to when things don't work out that way.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    No, it is not ethical but we can't do much about it either, except maybe to go our separate ways, which was the best solution for me and my husband.

    Only one time in my life have I had to sever ties with another married couple (John and Kelly) because my husband Joe and I introduced them to a third couple (Melissa and Jerry) and the 4 of them hit it off immediately. We knew John and Kelly for two years, had vacationed with them. We had known Melissa and Jerry about a year and socialized with dinner outings. We had up to this point kept all our friendships separate.

    Then we had a big party at our house and invited about 50 others including both the new couples. Kelly and Melissa hit it off immediately. Within a month, they became exclusive to just the four of them, and left my husband and I out of any social venues. Joe didn't care, but I did. They would go out to dinner and have home parties and not invite us. After 3 months they were going off vacationing together, and I had enough. I called John and Kelly and said that the idea of introducing everyone was for all of us to socialize as couples.

    We got one more invitation after that phone call. We all went to dinner at a very nice Beverly Hills restaurant. During dinner, the 4 of them cut Joe and I out of every conversation, talking about new people they had met the week before that we didn’t know and it was very uncomfortable. Which is what they wanted.

    Of course Joe said something about it and the crap hit the fan. Kelly said we were proprietary about sharing our friends, and that we didn’t know how to share. She had to say it over and over again, like five times, that we were being petty about them going out as a foursome. I don't know what it is with some people but they can't just say something to get it out of their system and then leave it alone. She had to draw the other couple at the table into the conversation to validate what Kelly and John were accusing us of, so that the one person you were having an argument with now has become four.

    We ended up cutting ties with all four of them. It was the best lesson I ever learned.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

    This is a great topic, and you covered it well. People can be very possessive and exclusionary as if people are property to be fought over. But when one has trouble maintaining relationships, they have an interest in hanging on to any friends they can get.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Good hub ologsinquito. My wife and I can relate to this. her sister and her partner came to stay with us for awhile and we introduced them to a couple who were friends of ours....well they hit it off and became best buddies and we were excluded, that was until they had a falling out and the sister-in-law and partner moved away again. It took a little while but now we are friends again with the others.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

    I am known for sharing my friends (who are mostly single); and I've never had a problem. I remember introducing two friends who were from the same country and they became really close; I was happy for them. You said it correctly; we don't own our friends and they have the freedom to manage their own friendships. Thanks for a very revealing article.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    MizBejabbers 2 years ago

    When I saw the term “friend poaching” I thought to myself what a childish thing. Do adults do that? I remember this happening to me when I was in elementary school. I guess times have changed.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is a great hub, ologsinquito. Friend poaching was a problem for me in elementary school, but luckily I haven't experienced it as an adult. I can see that it could lead to a lot of hurt and unpleasantness.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

    This was quite an educational post. I am more informed on the dynamics of social relationships.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    This happens in the corporate world, as well. Sometimes, as you've pointed out, it is unintentional, other times, not at all. I once worked for a female manager who wedged her way into a friendship after she hired the friend I had recommended. Soon it was just the two of them and I was on the outside. The term friend poaching is truly appropriate.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Rachael, thanks so much for reading. It sounds as if you are much better off without Joe and Kelly, and that going your separate ways was the best thing to do. Hi Flourish, that explains why competitive people are so possessive with their new acquaintances. Hi Jodah, people can be so strange. Thanks for reading.

    Ms. Dora, thanks for reading. MizBejabbers, unfortunately, some adults can behave much worse than children. Alicia, I'm happy to hear you haven't experienced this for awhile.

    Teaches12345, thanks so much for reading.

    Peg, thanks for reading too. The workplace is where we seem to see a lot of childish behavior unfolding. It's like it has moved from the playground into the office.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

    I have never heard of it being called that, but it seems appropriate. For me, the more friends the better and not excluding anyone for whatever reasons, but I am sure it happens all of the time. I have seen it happen a lot in the workplace, who may not be friends but rather co-workers. Sometimes the lines become blurred.

    Interesting hub!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi FaithReaper, thanks so much for reading. Workplace dynamics are very interesting.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    I never really gave this any thought and it is quite interesting. My two best friends in school were not best friends together and I had never really gave this any thought! We all may spend a lunch hour together but outside school I was with one or the other and never both! Great hub idea. Up and shared.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

    Ive never heard of that term, great hub.. interesting .. but hey if they want my friends they could have them all...LOL

  • moonlake profile image

    moonlake 2 years ago from America

    It's really not ethical and it goes on in the grown-up world all the time. I may care if this was to happen, but I would never in a million years bring it up to either party. I would go my own way. Like you said people are not our property. If a friend wanted to exclude me, I guess that person was not really a friend.

    I had a friend bring another person into our friendship, which was fine with me, the more the merrier. The problem, it wasn't fine with the new person. She wanted me out of the picture her jealousy broke up the friendship with her. I thought it was crazy and just childish and sad.

    Very good hub voted up.

  • Michael Kismet profile image

    Michael Kismet 2 years ago from Northern California

    Oh, wow! What a creative and ingenious idea for a hub! I am so guilty of this throughout my social life. This may be a biased opinion, but I think it's perfectly fine, if you do it with a sufficient amount of tact, and sensitivity towards the "catalyst friend" in which introduced you to your new friend.

    Amazing job on this hub! You will not just be 'followed', you will be 'stalked' by me! In a non-homicidal way, of course. =)

  • VioletteRose profile image

    VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

    I believe its always better not to be possessive over friends. Some friendships works and some doesn't, we can just let it develop on its own. Great hub.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Jackie, Frank, moonlake, Michael and VioletteRose, thanks so much for reading. I agree with all of what you said. People are not are property, but tact should be used.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

    Really good topic and subject for a hub. This has happened to everyone, I think, from childhood through adulthood. I try to be friends with everyone and hope for the best. That's about all you can do in this world as we cannot control others, only ourselves and how we react to it.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi suzette, thanks so much for reading. It's true, we can only control ourselves.

  • shara63 profile image

    Farhat 2 years ago from Delhi

    Great Hub, taking unique topics for a post is quite daring.. as you never know, what will be the reactions of the readers ... 'friend poaching' as you call it is knowingly or unknoingly an active business since long , It is never is supposed to be wrong or right in it...But i think intentionally involving in the act and hurting others is inethical whereas friendship that flowrish on its own , without any personal interests & intention to cheat or harm others is all way acceptable & ethical.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi shara, I totally agree with your assessment here. Intentionally trying to bust up a friendship between people is a wicked thing to do.

  • profile image

    Lurlinebay 8 months ago

    I struggled with this for years particularly with one friend of mine. It's very hard for me to distance myself from this person because she is too connected with a couple of my friendship circles . Hard to manage. I'm a very open friendly person and yes I do have a lot of friends but because I'm not arrogant or a bitch I'm an easy target for "friend poachers". It's also happening right now with another lady who I don't know particularly well but she is trying to meet my best friend as she heard about her through some of her friends. I think it's scummy but you don't have a right to own your friends but you should respect people and this kind of aggressive approach is quite scummy in my opinion .

Click to Rate This Article