Ask Brian: My friend bullied me into giving her a role at my wedding - how do I avoid being her bridesmaid?
Our no-nonsense agony uncle gets straight to the point of your most pressing issues
I need some practical advice in achieving the impossible, turning down a request to be a bridesmaid without destroying a friendship.
My friend and I have known each other since primary school. Through secondary school we were close but moved to different parts of the country for college and work. We're now living in the same part of the country and see each other periodically for coffees and so on.
We have little in common apart from a shared, and don't get me wrong, fond history. But if we met now, we wouldn't hit it off.
Part of this has involved some personal growth on my part. I've always had low self esteem and have a difficult time being assertive. When we were teenagers, my friend also I suspect had low self esteem, but in the dynamic of our relationship, she had all of the control.
She often stopped speaking to me entirely over perceived slights, never explaining why, and only talking to me again when she had gotten over whatever it was.
We'd never discuss the fact that we'd fallen out, so i'd never be entirely sure what I had done. It caused me so much anxiety trying to figure it out, being so upset we'd fallen out, and then being so relieved when we were friends again. It was quite an abusive relationship! This behaviour stopped when we finished school. At the time I thought we'd matured, but now I can see it's because we weren't spending enough time together for it to happen.
I got engaged a few years ago and asked some close friends to be in the bridal party. The friend I'm writing about wasn't one of them, and she suddenly started cancelling plans and being very distant. During this time, I only spoke to her over texts or facebook messages, and she would explain her abrupt cancellations by saying she was going through a rough time, and wanted to be alone. I was worried about her mental health and sent her frequent messages offering to visit her and just spend time with her, and ensuring she knew I was there for her. She never took me up on those offers, or really responded to them.
Months passed, before her boyfriend sent me an aggressive message about my upcoming hen party, sparking a conversation through which I discovered her mental health wasn't the issue, instead she was freezing me out over not including her in my bridal party. It was the exact same behaviour as when we were in school. He assumed I knew that, and was telling me what I had to do to get back in her good books without letting her know he had contacted me. As if it was entirely obvious I understood her baffling behaviour all along and was choosing now to suddenly acknowledge it. As if handling her disappointment in such a way was an entirely reasonable way to behave.
I sent her a long email apologising and explaining my choice. It went unacknowledged.
At her partner's insistence, I turned up at an event she was at, which met with a frosty reception.
I tried to make amends by including her in parts of the ceremony, which she went along with, but grudgingly. I felt so uncomfortable in her company, particularly during the hen party when she isolated herself from a very friendly and inclusive bunch of girls and sulked.
So, over time my perspective shifted to annoyance for causing unnecessary stress, and not having the respect for me, or maturity to talk it out like adults. I moved on and stopped contacting her, and honestly, all I felt was relief.
We ended up meeting in the meantime, and she went back to being friendly. She awkwardly mumbled an apology about how she had behaved, while justifying it. We couldn't talk about it properly there and then because one of us was rushing off to something, and we ended up never talking about it. But we started meeting up again periodically, with things more or less going back to normal.
My husband was annoyed at me for being so spineless, he thought cutting ties was a terrific outcome from what he considered a toxic friendship. But there is nuance there, and for me, it's not that simple.
Which brings me to now. She's gotten engaged. And, I am terrified I will be asked to be in her bridal party. I can't accept such an invitation. Honestly, I am so resentful about how difficult she made parts of my wedding. I also know she will be a bridezilla and I'm not into drama. I'm also not a fan of her fiance. Is there any way I can turn her down without it ruining her engagement, and starting another battle? I don't have the self confidence to pull off causing a similar type of wedding stress to what she caused me!
It's an impossible request, I know!
Newsflash: This woman is not your friend.
She is manipulative, passive aggressive and downright inconsiderate of your feelings.
Look, there are always politics at work when planning a wedding and trying to keep as many people happy as possible - but it's your day, not anyone else's.
Yes, she may have felt upset you didn't ask her - but you put your big girl pants on, plaster a fake smile on your face and then fall asleep at the dinner table plastered from too much wine. That's how a normal person responds.
Planning a wedding can be a stressful enough experience, without having to put up with her bulls**t. If a teenager threw a strop like that you'd tell them to cop on (or delete them on the snapchat or something, whatever punishment is for the kids these days).
I'm guessing from your timeline neither of you or teenagers, and more likely aged in your late 20s or early 30s. So her behaviour is even more unreasonable.
The fact she allowed her feelings to be the dominate issue in your relationship over a period of months is beyond selfish. Freezing you out over it are the actions of a truly pathetic woman. A true friend would never do that to you, no matter how much their feelings were hurt.
It's important to remind yourself again that you had only been in semi-regular contact, so why she had any expectation she would be one of your bridesmaids is beyond me.
Honestly I think you showed such restraint in how you dealt with her. If she pulled that with me, it would be aggressive drunken phone calls in the night and threatening notes made of cut-out magazine letters in the post (but maybe that says more about me...).
Never mind just tolerating it, you went out of your way to mend fences with her, when she was so totally in the wrong anyway.
You then even included her in the ceremony. Unless there was a point when the celebrant stepped aside so your family and real friends could pelt this woman with rotten eggs, she should never have been offered any role.
To be honest, I don't expect she'll offer you any role in her wedding. It will be just another one of her passive aggressive stunts to put you in your place. So I don't think turning it down will be a situation you'll have to deal with.
I agree with your husband, you have been a total pushover to this woman.
I know a lot of people who have confidence issues when their young can learn to overcome them - but when someone from their past shows up they can fall back into their old predicament. This is the case here.
She is not your friend. You were bound together in school through circumstance. As you said yourself, if you met her today you would not click.
I think your best option is to cut this woman out of your life entirely. Never mind her wedding, you should want out of everything. She brings you back to a place you have worked very hard to get out of.
You say it's not simple for you to cut her off, and I do understand that. But it's what you need to do. And when you re-read your email, I think it's very apparent you already know that.
The only way I would accept an offer of any role in this woman's wedding would to be go deep-cover and destroy it from the inside. But I get the impression you're a better person than me.
You already know this woman doesn't deserve a place in your life after how she treated you while you were planning your wedding. If she does ask you to be bridesmaid and you turning her down ends the friendship, well you're more the better for it.
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