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Ask Annie: How do I get my friend to stop stealing guys I like?

Facing a problem? Annie has answers. Ask away!

Dear Annie,

I have a friend who steals the guys I want to go for whenever we go out together — even if I tell her I like them. How do I get her to stop?

Help please,
Wing-less woman

Dear Wing-less woman,

All’s fair in love and hookup culture. When your bestie is acting more enemy than friend, it’s up to you to take ownership and sharpen your weapons. 

To paraphrase the Bard in his messy summertime play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the course of a romancing alongside your friends never did run smoothly. Someone usually ends up fighting with their partner, another might leave the group with the first moderately attractive person in sight and another may act out if no one pays them enough attention. You can only hope you wake up the next day for a hungover bagel debrief without any hurt feelings.

Consider if your friend actively “steals” the guys you want or if it’s just a coincidence. Most friends have had their eye on the same guy at least once, and assuming you aren’t seeking a kinky adventure, only one of you can go home with him. It’s not about attractiveness or who saw who first — it’s usually about who appears more interested in the potential Romeo. Unless she only shows interest after you tell her who you like, it’s probably a coincidence. 

Ask yourself why her behavior bothers you. Does it make you feel like she wants to compete with you, or doesn’t want to see you succeed? Is it a personal insecurity of yours? Do you feel like a green-eyed monster wishing for her skills in the arts of romance? If it’s an issue of your self-esteem, focus on changing your own behavior to make your intentions clearer. She can’t make you feel better about your unsuccessful romantic pursuits, but learning to be your own wingwoman can. 

To find a successful one-night rendezvous, bypass pickup lines and batting eyelashes and instead focus on projecting confidence. Don’t be afraid to make the first move, whether it’s approaching a person of interest or asking to take the conversation somewhere more intimate. The more self-assured you act, the more likely the interaction will go in your favor.  

When your friend asks who you have your eye on, mum’s the word. If she’s intentionally going after your guy, she could find satisfaction in the competition. If telling her who you have your eye on won’t solve this issue, remember that secrecy gives you an edge. You could develop a rapport with your chosen target, perhaps riffing about how difficult it is to find a good wingman, before she can derail the interaction internationally or unintentionally. 

Have a brief, vulnerable conversation when you both have a clear head if you’ve taken the proactive approach and feel like your friendship suffers because of her competitive flirting when you go out. Point out her pattern in an approachable way, avoiding terms like “always” and sticking to concrete examples. Share how her behavior — though perhaps unintentional or under the influence — makes you feel about the future of your friendship. Listen with an open mind to her response, remembering to consider whether her choice in men is intentional or accidental

Succeeding in hookup culture is not for the faint-hearted. If your friend takes your target in one fell swoop, whether coincidental or not, focus on stepping up your game instead of considering her as a traitor. 

More friend than enemy,


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