Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer up a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.
A reader writes: I was very good friends with a woman for many years. I introduced her to a man and they fell in love, but it turned out he didn't like me very much. For the past three years, I have made overtures to my friend. I do it because she and I are part of a larger group of friends, and it would break my heart if I were to be excluded from future group events. She has told me that any overtures on her part would be considered disloyal to her partner.
Is there a way for me to change my perspective so that I can accept the new reality between us and keep a group of friends I value, or should I just stop seeing her, and by extension, limit my access to people I care about? I feel strongly that there is no point in speaking with this person about my feelings, as such overtures have been ignored in the past.
The guy's a bloodsucker
Wow. That guy you introduced her to sounds like a real winner. By any chance is he pale and named Edward? Does he go away "hiking" with black eyes and come back with amber ones? Because he sounds a lot like the controlling, abusive, "devoted" vampire boyfriend in the latest Twilight movie. So have some sympathy for your friend: She's deluded into thinking she has to sacrifice her friendships for a romance. Be gentle and keep trying to connect. When she realizes how she's being treated, she's going to need friends to support her through the aftermath.
- Tori Klassen, Victoria
Don't give up your power
It is my humble opinion that in any social group it is a fallacy to expect that everyone loves everyone. To hide from the rest of your friends because you and she might share the same space is to give all your power to her. There is empowerment that comes from looking past what clearly was not that strong a relationship and continuing as though nothing has changed. If she was the portal through which you shared that circle of friends, trust that you have built your own bonds. If your participation is not welcome then I suggest you look at your choice of friends.
- Dave Regehr, Courtenay, B.C.
Cultivate real friendships
Sounds like you already know that the dynamic of your group of friends has changed and that this friend, or her partner, holds the key position of power. Accept that things have changed. If there are others in the group with whom you do not wish to lose touch, cultivate sincere friendships there.
- Darby Brown, Kitchener, Ont.
The final word
Oh god, there is something about your conundrum that sends me right back to Brownies, when I was the "second" and my best friend, Lise, was the "sixer" in the Elf troop. (It strikes me you should never dub a child "second," no matter how you try to mitigate it by giving the person above that child a title meant to obscure their screamingly obvious status of head elf.)
Where was I in this story? Already I'm feeling too undermined and emotionally insecure to concentrate. Oh yes. So Lise and I are supposed to walk home together after Brownies as we always do. But Lise is mysteriously MIA, so I yank up my ever-drooping tights and head off on my own. But who's that up ahead? It's Lise … and Tammy! Our sworn mutual enemy! Who we sometimes also hang out with. But only as a team - never one at a time, because we are besties and it is unacceptable for one half of a pair of besties to hang out with a lesser friend (a "second" friend, if you will) without the other bestie present to police the situation. Surely there has been some mistake?
And that's when I sounded the most plaintive call of childhood: "Hey you guys! Wait up!"
That's when they started to run.
You're living the adult version of this situation, minus the quasi-militaristic trappings and kicky berets. There is you, the social unit you yearn to be part of, and the person who wants you out. Darby homes in on the key dynamic at play here - one of power. Suddenly you're feeling like a second, where your group of friends is concerned, because one of them (in alliance with her evil, Tammy-like partner) considers you an undesirable.
Don't accept this status. Enough with the "overtures." If your former friend has rejected you, at Mr. Tammy's urging or otherwise, it's her loss. Tori's suggestion that you have sympathy for this person is unfortunate. Your ex-friend clearly has no need of your compassion - she just wants you to go away. Listen to Dave. Your social circle is not a Brownie troop, and this lady is not its sixer. Surely your other friends will be happy to receive your overtures, so concentrate on them.
Next week's question
I am dating a man who is wonderful in many respects. We have a close and healthy relationship. We have both been married before, so we are moving slowly in our first serious relationship since our divorces. Although we seldom disagree when we are alone, when we are out the same issue always crops up. He is always looking at women - and more than just an appreciative once over. If we go out to dinner, for example, he invariably spends a great deal of time staring at women at other tables, or if the server is an attractive woman, he starts a long conversation with her. When I mention that this bothers me, he says it is just the way he is and implies that it never bothered his former wife.
Two questions: Am I being oversensitive? Is his behaviour something he can modify or is it too late for that?
Let's hear from you
Do you have an answer to this question or a dilemma of your own? Weigh in at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to include your hometown and a daytime contact number. (We will not publish your name if you submit a personal dilemma.)