Ask Dr. Levine | Relationship Advice

Zosia’s advice columnist, Irene S. Levine, PhD - a psychologist, professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and award-winning journalist. She is widely considered the go-to expert on female friendship, and has been called the Dear Abby of Friendship.

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Should I Confront a Friend Who “Poached” One of My Book Club Friends?

Should I Confront a Friend Who “Poached” One of My Book Club Friends? Zosia advice column Irene Levine


Dear Dr. Irene, 

I’m very upset. I’ve been part of the same book club for almost eight years, a wonderful group of women. We’re all in our 40's and initially met through the parent-teacher association in the elementary school. Nine of us have been part of this book club since it started, and we’ve seen each other through health scares and family problems. We also get together as a group from time to time for theater excursions and holiday parties. I know if I ever needed these women, they would be there for me.

Two members left the group this year: One moved to another state and the other is a caregiver for a disabled husband with no time for herself. I thought that a colleague whom I met at work would make a great addition to our group. She’s been coming to book club meetings just over a month now and seems to be well liked.

Recently, I found out she made plans to visit a day spa next month with another book club member whom I consider my friend. I’m really not a “spa person” but she made this arrangement behind my back and I only found out about their plans from someone else.

I don’t know if I’m more hurt or angry but it feels like she’s “poached” my friend. Should I confront her? Am I wrong for feeling this way?

Signed, Anna

Dr. Irene Says: 

Dear Anna,

It is understandable you would feel hurt and left out because you were the one who introduced these women to each other.

But in any group, it’s common for members to have relationships apart from the whole group. Sometimes two people just seem to “click” (by virtue of personality) or because they share common interests or life circumstances.

In this instance, it sounds like your two friends were happy to find a kindred spa-lover. You mention you aren’t a “spa person” so they may have assumed you wouldn’t have been interested in joining them.

The etiquette of navigating friendships is pretty murky. Yes, it would have been nice if they invited you along and gave you the chance to say no, but they weren’t obliged to do so. We don’t own our friendships: Our friends are free to have exclusive relationships that don’t include us. And when you introduce two friends to each other, there’s a good chance that they’ll genuinely like each other.

Based on this incident alone, I’d give them a pass and not risk creating drama or tension in a group that is so cohesive. It’s unlikely their relationship with each other will compromise your relationship with either one of them.

Of course, if this colleague consistently “poaches” your friends and excludes you, you need to be honest and let her know your feelings.

Books clubs aren’t just about books; they also foster social connections. You are fortunate to have such a long history with this group of women whose friendships you value. Don’t let this little glitch ruin your own relationships.

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