Black Women's Improvement Project (BWIP)

How to Deal When a Friend Betrays You

This is my latest Madame Noire post. Worth reposting here, I’d say.

I’ve met a lot of people who have touched my life in my line of work as a blogger. When you’re online as much as I am, you can get attached to people whom you’ve never met. You get close. You share things. You begin to feel for them. However, the new media we use doesn’t protect us against an old fashioned backstabbing.
So nothing hurts more than when a person whom you’ve trusted–and even helped and done favors for, turns out to be a complete Judas. So here I am, broken and a little bit bloody, trying my best to figure out how to move forward. I’ve always had a motto: Everyone is a friend until proven otherwise. The problem with that is sometimes “friends” ingratiate themselves for a period of time until an attachment is formed, and it hurts more when you discover they weren’t friends, they were…well, “otherwise.”

But I’m no special snowflake. Friendship betrayal happens every minute of everyday. The key to winning is to know how to deal with the Judas once you see that snake in your freshly-mown grass.

Got something great going on in your life? Then get ready. Most turncoats react when the Green-Eyed Monster comes. “There are people in everyone’s life who get jealous of a friend’s success or happiness and retaliate,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. “Sometimes friends who feel unsuccessful will drift away or cut you off when you have the success they’re longing for. Most jealousy arises when someone feels insecure or threatened — that someone will get the attention she wants. The most important thing you can do is to remember that when you handle jealousy properly, it does not have to be a disaster.”
Dr. Tessina gave me some specific advice, but I’ll have to admit that some of it will be a hard pill to swallow for some:

Sensitively and diplomatically handle jealous friends

People who react this way are usually in a lot of emotional pain about their own lives. Be as understanding as you can, be willing to listen to your friend’s feelings to a reasonable degree, but don’t let their struggle ruin your good feelings about yourself. If you can, offer the friend time alone with you, to help her feel special and important. Often, publicly thanking her for nice things she’s done can help keep her pacified.

Understand underlying causes of bad behavior:

People who have always felt competitive toward you are likely to misbehave so they can get attention in that way. If someone’s behavior becomes a problem, set some limits. Tell the friend directly what actions are unacceptable (like making nasty remarks when you’re around other friends), and let her know you can’t be her friend if her behavior doesn’t improve.
Figure out what you both think a good friend actually is
Don’t be afraid to talk to friends about what friendship means to you–is it okay to cancel a date with a girlfriend (or her with you) because you get a better offer from a man? Because of family illness or problems? What does “being there” mean to each of you? How much loyalty do you expect in the friendship, and what does that mean?

Honesty minimizes jealousy.

Lying to your friend about whether you have broken an agreement does more damage than breaking the agreement. If you do something with another friend, tell the truth–don’t protect the jealous friend. It gives her a false impression.
If your so-called “friend” isn’t returning your calls, says no to any invitations, and doesn’t make any moves in your direction, you’ve probably been dumped. The best way to find out is to stop making any contact, and see if the friend contacts you. Don’t turn into a stalker. Your friend might be newly in love, have an illness, or just have some really deep issues going on that you sadly won’t know about unless you hear through gossip. If she’s angry at you, she should have told you, but some folks just prefer to act childish and disappear.

How to break-up

If you have a real, identifiable reason to break up your friendship, get your thoughts about it in order, and tell your soon to be ex-friend what the problem is. If it’s some kind of bad behavior that could possibly be fixed, let her know what she could do: “___, I am very uncomfortable with your drinking and the behavior you exhibit when you’re drunk. I just don’t want to be around it. If you ever decide to quit drinking, let me know.” If you’ve just grown apart, or your life has become too busy (new baby; traveling for work; caring for invalid) for this friendship, don’t be afraid to tell your friend about your time constraints: “___, I’m sorry, but my life has changed, and I just can’t manage our usual get-togethers.” If she’s insulted you, tell her your feelings are hurt, and you don’t want to take the risk of being hurt again. Let her know what kind of contact, if any, you’d be willing to have. If none, then block her off your phone, Facebook, etc.

How to deal post-friendship

If and when you meet accidentally, just be polite and cool. You don’t want to cause any scenes in public. If you have friends in common, it’s more difficult. You can ask your friends to let you know if the ex-friend will be at a gathering, but don’t ask them not to invite her. Instead, make your own decision on whether you want to be there or not. If you do go, once again, be polite and cool. But just remember to keep your distance.

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