‘It dawned on me it was not good to be so mistreated by a friend’

Tell Me About It: ‘Friendships go through challenges which determine whether they are the real thing, or just more basic relationships’


A group of us met at social event when we worked together. It was the first time most of us had moved to the city, and we all gelled. I am the kind of person who likes the group to get on and I am known as a type of connector or as someone who gets people to be social.

For the last six years, a group of five of us friends from this group have been living together, but I recently moved out to live with my boyfriend. One of the girls turned out to be very mean and negative all the time, and this caused another girl to leave – the house and the group. I honestly thought that she just needed help, so I continued to be friends and to include her in everything we were doing. I thought she was just going through a bad time and that things would improve over time.

Recently we all went to a concert, and a childhood friend of mine met this girl for the first time. She said how badly this friend treated me, and it dawned on me it was not good for me to be so mistreated. I then stopped that friendship, and this was made easier by the fact I had moved out of the house. However, one girl in the group is still good friends with the negative person and she keeps asking me why I’m not friends with this girl – and I don’t quite know how to explain it.

It has been torturous enough to get to this stage and I’m not sure if I can take more tension and conflict.



Friendship is clearly important to you, and this is a good thing, but most friendships go through some challenges, and usually this process determines whether a friendship is a lifelong arrangement or one that moves to a more acquaintance type of connection. You are at this point of determination with your friend from the house who is asking you for clarity on your withdrawal, and the question is whether you think she is worth the huge effort it will require of you to engage honestly with her.

It took you almost five years to come to the conclusion that one of the closest people in your life was not kind or considerate of you, and only with an outside opinion were you driven to action. This is something worth looking at now, even if only to lessen your suffering in future when confrontation or standing up for yourself is required. When you are a natural people person, and one who gets such positive reinforcement for your social skills, it can be difficult to go against your natural grain and declare disappointment or distrust of someone in your circle.

Yet, there are consequences for never expressing upset. At the very least it affects your confidence and can even lead to people taking advantage of your positive nature.

People are responsible for their own actions, and this means that if someone is mean, the consequences are that others will distance themselves from them. But also, if you are unwilling or unable to address criticism or negativity towards yourself, the outcome will be detrimental to you, as you absorb these blows and may even come to believe them. It takes courage to demand respect for yourself, but the very act of requiring it increases your sense of worth – and this then leads others to treat you well.

The reason you do not speak to your friend is fear of something – fear that you will lose her friendship or fear that she will think less of you, or simply fear of conflict. If you practise this fear, it will grow, and your idea that you cannot cope with negativity will gain traction. Instead, you might ask your friend to meet you for coffee and ask her what she thinks might be behind your decision to withdraw from the other girl. You will have to make a judgment about your friend’s capacity to hear the truth, but if she is open and willing, then speak honestly with her.

You are only responsible for your part of delivering this message with compassion and authenticity, and if your friend chooses to dismiss you, then acceptance of their choice is needed. Your friend has the right to remain friends with you and the other girl, but she would need to respect your need to a separation of connection, and this could take some working out.

Honest conversation would need to happen about how boundaries are maintained and to ensure no behind-the-scenes gossip occurs. If you and your friend can agree to this, your friendship will probably become more robust and durable, and that it will move to a more mature and sturdier platform. This could be a model for other relationships in your life and work, and the effect on you could be an increase in confidence and self-worth.

Remember, most things worth achieving require effort, but with practice they do become easier.