I'm one of a close group of friends, we'll call them A, B, C, D, E and F. All of us are middle-aged. Of those, A (which is not me) is quite successful; he has his own home and family, a property portfolio, and has retired in late middle age.

The others have not done so well. Some have lost jobs. None have wives or descendent families. Some are living in inherited homes, some are trying to pay off mortgages alone and have little disposable income or space as a result.

Recently A has shown a number of signs of upset and frustration at the group. We've been trying to work out the issue but we're afraid that the problem might be that B's, C's, D's, E's and F's "failures" is impinging upon him. He can't have our kids over for playdates or leave his with us. We can't invite him to dinner parties or BBQs. Even if we just have a game night, he effectively has to host it; we don't insist that he does, but if he doesn't, he has to play on B's cramped table or sit on C's floor all while knowing that everyone's discomfort is because of his choice not to host.

Obviously, A is far too polite to directly say any of these, but A's other friends and wife are able to do all of those things with their groups of close friends. He's generally supportive, but equally showing growing frustration with the group when his filter drops. Some of the others are also depressed to various degrees as a result of the situation, and A is especially frustrated when they're affected by the consequent lack of energy in the group.

We can't easily directly talk to A because social protocol will require him to deny any upset. We can talk about it tactfully but we just can’t directly have A imply that this is what’s frustrating him, or imply it ourselves because that would make him sound entitled or accuse him of being such.

Obviously, we can't just choose to be better off, and as we can't talk directly, how can we approach letting him know that we want him to feel better and stick around, that we do feel grateful to him, and don't really want to lose a close friend over this because it would make everyone miserable, him included?

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    Hi Mark! Can you clarify a bit more what you (and possibly even the rest of the group) would consider 'rectified'? There's a whole range of possible outcomes, from gently letting the friendship run its course and whither, to trying to hold on to it in different ways. You say you can't directly talk about this easily, but does that mean you don't want to talk at all, or find a way have such talks more indirectly? If the latter, what would be the kind of message you'd like to send, that A doesn't need to bother if he doesn't want to? That you're all sorry, but really do want him to stick around?
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 22, 2019 at 17:38
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    More or less that's true. We want him to feel better and stick around, because we do feel grateful to him, and don't really want to lose a close friend over this (which would make everyone miserable, him included)
    – Mark Green
    May 22, 2019 at 19:08
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    "all while knowing that everyone's discomfort is because of his choice not to host" implies that everyone else are unhappy with the arrangements and effectively blaming A for them. Is that the reality? Because if it is, then you can't blame A for feeling uncomfortable about it, as that is BCDEF's problem, not A's. May 23, 2019 at 0:51
  • Nobody is speaking out loud to blame A for it or actively complaining, and nobody is resentful. But if A sees that it's cramped and awkward compared to his house, he's going to make the obvious inference that the others would be happier at his.
    – Mark Green
    May 23, 2019 at 1:35
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    Your question sounds quite vague, no real indications but only assumptions. You say "we can't" a couple of times (BBQ, having kids over). Why can't you do all that? You need to identify the reasons in order to find a solution. Would A like to do all those things you mentioned? If A denies any upset you or someone else still can ask him "would you like to come for BBQ at my place?" if this can be made possible, then see what he answers. Is A upset of all the effort to host a party? Would it help to share work and costs among all of you?
    – puck
    May 24, 2019 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


I think you have two questions:

How can we talk to him about this?

What can we do to save the friendship/ release some of the frustrations?

How can we talk to him about this?

Simply do, it is that simple. You talk about social protocol, social protocol exists so that we all have a nice way of treating each other and communicating to each other when we don't or barely know each other. When you are good, long time friends, you can afford it to leave social protocol behind. Especially for situations like this. Just sit down with all of you, not at his place. Go on a picnic or hike or to a bar or whatever.

And then open up, don't make accusations or anything, you can't be sure of what goes on in his head. Instead ask along the lines of "We have noticed you are on edge" or "We think you have some frustrations lately" and then talk about those. Like adults, without letting opinions muddle it too much. Simply lay bare the problem, only after that is done you can all start working on it.

What can we do to save the friendship/ release some of the frustrations?

Just because you are good, long time friends does not mean you have to do the same stuff as other friend groups do. BBQs and kid friend dates are fun, but they are not the only fun in the world. There is plenty of other stuff to do and since he does this stuff already with other friends, as you said, perhaps he even would enjoy more other kinds of activities.

You can go hiking, camping, have a guy's weekend in the woods or something. Go for a bike ride, there is plenty of stuff you can do outside of your own homes that isn't expensive or can be made as cheap or expensive as you want to make it.

Personal experience

I was in a similar situation once. I am younger than you are though, and most people involved in my situation were around 22.

My friend group was undergoing some tension and frustrations and it was pushing people away from each other. Some people earned a nice pay, others a bit less. Some had little overhead, others bigger overhead in their daily lives. This caused some people to want to meet at expensive venues where drinks and foods were always more expensive. Other friends were more keen on meeting at people's homes or cheaper venues.

In the end what solved this was talking about it with everybody expressing the things they felt annoyed, irritated or oncomfortabel about. This way we settled the issue, our solution is not usable for you though.


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