My friends betray me

When I confide in a friend that I'm interested in a guy, then she takes him!

By Cary Tennis

Published May 30, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am struggling with an issue in my life that was revisited recently. I kindly request guidance.

When I was in middle school, I confided in my best friend at the time; I told her who I liked, so she could help me set up with the someone I was interested in. She agreed and told me she would find out who he liked. Imagine my 13-year-old horror when she came back to tell me that he liked her and she wanted to know if she could date him. Dumbfounded, I agreed, which resulted in me being miserable for a few months, because that's how long such relationships last.

She continued to be my best friend through high school; but she continued the same pattern. Whenever I liked someone, she would ask who and date them instead. If she had a boyfriend at the time, she would end that relationship to date the person I liked. It was as if I enjoyed this; I did not at all. After the third time (when I deemed it was not a coincidence), I ended my friendship with her. Years later, she apologized for her actions.

Why do I remember this detail so vividly?

Fast-forward a decade or so later, and I was in my final years of graduate school. I was doing clinical work where I met a classmate with whom I instantly hit it off. Let's name him "John." Turns out, John and I had a lot in common, and our classmates thought we would be good together. I had gushed to another classmate, "Jane," about my intentions with John. Jane promised to be my wing woman.

Well, you could see where this goes. I thought it was harmless as Jane shared the same room as John, and she had a boyfriend. Jane started to hang out with John and me, but when it seemed that John and I could have used alone time, Jane would not leave. Eventually, she hung out with John alone and stopping inviting me. In our last group outing, I remember Jane making false statements of herself to impress John (John was a transfer student; Jane and I were in the same class year). Jane also had ended her relationship with her boyfriend. My classmates were witnessing how Jane was "awfully close" to John, as they knew my interest in John first. I was just watching everything unravel in front of my eyes. I could not believe it was really happening. In graduate school.

I did not know how to react appropriately, so I started to recluse myself as they were my classmates in my clinical program. I remember Jane calling me out in front of everyone for not being social with them anymore. I could not explain that my way of excluding myself from social events was an act of preservation. I was simply hurt by what Jane was doing.

I have always been prideful of my résumé; I have worked in prominent offices and firms and have been proud of my accomplishments. I will always put work ahead of my own needs. My concern is that what if I face this exact same issue in the real world? I care about being professional, and I have struggled with how to address this situation. I have asked help from friends, whose answers ranged from "don't shit where you eat" to "never trust everyone with your intentions."

Needless to say, I graduated without speaking with them ever again.

Thank you.


Once Bitten, Thrice Shy

Dear Once Bitten,

You have confided in people and it has led to loss. This is a pattern.

You can change this.

I suggest you think of it not so much in terms of these other people and their behavior. You can't change them. Think instead of how you can change your behavior so that this does not happen. It is easier to change such a pattern if you have some idea why you are doing it. Did you have an older sister in whom you confided? It may be that in your friendships with other women you play the younger sister, and you expect your friend to play the older sister. Or it may be that you are looking for some kind of friendship or support or intimacy in ways that are not being understood properly by others.

Whatever is happening, it is you who must change your behavior. Think of it as self-protection.

If there is information that could hurt you, do not divulge it to anyone. Do not concern yourself with whether a person is trustworthy or not. Assume that everyone is a risk. Do not divulge information that could be used to hurt you. If you have a plan, then carry out that plan quietly on your own.

If there is someone you like, then approach that person directly. If you are in a social situation and someone interests you, introduce yourself, or ask to be introduced, but do not announce that it is because you are romantically interested.

Our interest and enthusiasm can be contagious. When we are interested in someone, it makes others interested. So if you say you are interested in someone, it makes that person interesting to others. So feign a lack of interest.

Do not worry what other people do. It's not about these other people. It's about how you honor and elevate your own wishes and intentions.

Think of your life plans and your goals as precious gold. Beware of asking intermediaries to carry the gold. They are likely to carry the gold off for themselves.

Cary Tennis

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