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The question

Recently, one of my children let me know that my close friend is involved in planning a holiday party together with her brother and his good friend, my ex-husband. Invited to this party are my children and grandchildren, the other two families and my ex's girlfriend. I am not included.

I feel hurt and betrayed not only by my friend's participation in planning this party, but also because she hasn't raised the subject with me.

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As well, lately she hasn't returned my calls. I don't think that it would be helpful to try to discuss this with her. I would appreciate your perspective on this situation and advice on how to proceed.

The answer

I can certainly understand why you feel hurt and excluded. It's funny, I seem to be getting quite a few questions along this line lately. Maybe it's the time of year. Basically: "A person I thought was a dear friend is having a get-together and not only am I not invited but he/she is being all coy/silent about it." Believe me, I feel your pain and have no plans to make light of it.

Of course there are many other terrible things in life: illness, poverty, war. But we as human beings are intensely social creatures. A book I may have referenced before, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, suggests it's our social nature (and ability to organize and gossip), not our giant brains, that has enabled us – a slow-running, (mostly) hairless, fangless creature – to rise to the top of the food chain on this planet.

So, naturally, we feel it keenly when we're not invited to things, especially if the Homo sapiens who fails to invite us is also acting all weird about it.

Our literature is full of descriptions of the pain humans feel when there's a glorious party in a lit-up mansion at the top of the hill; horse-drawn carriages are pulling up; opened by liveried servants; and we're not invited and have to stay home with our horrible aunts and clean out the fireplace.

On a personal note, most of my life, I felt terrible pangs to find out a dear friend is having some sort of shindig and I am not invited. And I hear you that it's even worse when the person is all coy/goes all silent about it.

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But you know what? Over time, I've made peace with a simple thought and you should too. And that thought is: You can't be invited to everything.

I think that thought is part of the maturing process, if I may say so. Along with: In life, not everyone is going to like you.

I find these thoughts liberating. It frees me to concentrate on what's important: work, family, being my best self at things I do get invited to and being my best self in general.

Okay, so your friend is having a party and you're not invited. First of all, I think maybe embedded in your question is a clue as to why you might not have been invited. Two words, or maybe it's just one (hyphenated): ex-husband. Maybe your friend had to choose between the two of you and is now being coy and weird because she doesn't want to admit it.

That's just speculation, but I agree it's a mistake and even rude for her to throw a party involving your children and grandchildren and not invite you and somehow think you wouldn't find out.

I see no reason you couldn't bring that up with her. Gently and non-confrontationally, but maybe just encourage her to explain.

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My only other thought in this arena: If you want to get invited to other people's houses, invite them to your house. Invite your friend over.

And maybe that'd be an ideal time to ask her, gently: "What were you thinking? That I wouldn't find out about a party involving my own children and grandchildren?"

Face to face is always best for these sorts of things. And then maybe you can sort it out and go back to being pals and hanging out and going to each other's parties.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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