Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

A Friend Who Turns Friends Against You

DEAR NATALIE: I have a group of three friends who I meet up with every few months. There's a fourth friend who often joins us. "Jane" often brags about stuff. I tried once to talk about stuff that was bothering me and she was not receptive at all. She just turned the conversation around and made it about her. 

Recently, it was my birthday and I invited the other three girls to join me at my favorite tea house. Well, Jane decided she didn't want to go to a tea house -- on my birthday. So, we ended up at a restaurant and they mostly ignored me. It really hurt my feelings. When Jane is around, they turn into mean girls. Any advice? -- BIRTHDAY SADNESS

DEAR BIRTHDAY SADNESS: Confront issues head on. For a lot of people, that can be a challenge, so start with the "nicest" one of the group. Let her know that you were really hurt by the way your friends acted at your birthday dinner and that you have no interest in being around them with Jane. Yes, be that direct. Who knows? Your friend may also feel uncomfortable around Jane and relieved that you feel the same way. 

Then, repeat this with your other two friends. Explain that you were hurt that they didn't acknowledge your birthday and focused their attention on Jane. Be prepared for them to be defensive and even to tell Jane what you said. Who cares? An uncomfortable conversation is better than having to deal with these feelings every time you see her. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)