Q I'm struggling and upset as my friend and I aren't on good terms. He's going out with this girl who was a friend, I thought, but she was never nice to me and is still a bully to this day.
She sent me a nasty message. There are times when I won't be part of our social group as I only go when she's not there. It's really sad for me. But I've got other friends. Should I keep avoiding her?
Answer: For all the amazing benefits of friendships, they can also be complicated and hurt deeply when circumstances change. If we stand back, there are a lot of people and a lot of dynamics at play here.
The girl who you thought was a friend sounds more like a frenemy. It can be helpful to see that you didn't lose a friendship with her as it was never there in the first place.
How have you dealt with the nasty message she sent you? Is she jealous of the friendship you had with her boyfriend? People can become hostile and defensive when they feel threatened. I don't have much context here so I can only surmise and fill in the gaps.
How do you feel about your friend? How did you feel about him going out with someone? Do you have any feelings for him?
It can be useful to explore what is going on for you at the moment as the emotion you feel currently is sadness.
The purpose and function of sadness occurs when you feel you have lost something. You may feel like you have lost a friend and that is really hard.
When your friend went into a new relationship, you may have felt disconnected to him and at a loss when you are spending less time together. This can be compounded when it's a girl/boy friendship as the girlfriend may not be comfortable sharing him, even if that's just his time or attention.
Have you spoken with your friend? It seems like an obvious one but it's easy to have tension in a group, but speaking directly with them about how you feel is a hard but necessary thing to do, to get the lay of the land with your friendship.
Playing devil's advocate I wonder if he feels stuck and if he may feel like he's pleasing no-one, or he may have been given an ultimatum.
Sometimes this can come down to maturity and as I don't know what ages you are, it can feel like there is no choice when in reality there are always other routes to get to a better solution. It can be really difficult to see that when you are stuck in a friend versus girlfriend triangle.
What have you got to lose by having an honest and direct chat with him? A cautionary note I'd flag is to not vilify his girlfriend as it will only push them closer together - and the possibility is quite high that she is giving out about you, leaving him feeling really stuck. These are only possible realities and you know what has been going on.
Even though it may be uncomfortable I'm going to encourage you to keep socialising with the main group even when she is there. I would gently dissuade you from having chats with her, especially if there's a bit of Dutch courage on board - if you wouldn't say it in the cold light of day, best not to do so in pub or while out with the group.
It is sad to not just lose your friend, but the whole group. You still belong to the group, so stay connected and be proud of yourself for going even though the atmosphere might be prickly.
Steer away from any drama and mind how you are feeling. Take note of your feelings on the night out or the next day and bring self-compassion to being mature in a tricky situation.
If she confronts you or sends another text message, ask her how she would feel if her boyfriend saw the message she has sent to you? This is not a threat, but if there is a lack of empathy on her part to see it from your perspective it may help her to know that you won't take her being unkind to you.
This is important, as you need to set clear boundaries where she knows where the line is with you and that there are consequences if she crosses it.
It is cowardly to send a nasty message in a text; again, if you wouldn't say it to someone's face then you need to question before you press 'send'. It's a whole new world in terms of learning how to socialise through technology. But manners and right and wrong are still pretty clear.
When it comes to tech manners and how to interact with someone, words needs to stand the test of 'would I say this to a person's face?' - if you wouldn't, then it's not okay and you are letting her know that.
A text message is still reality; there's nothing virtual or virtuous about being mean online.
If you have a query for this page, email Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org