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Take the Knife out of Your Back

No new frenemies—a worthy life principle

Dear Your Sorry Ass,

A few years ago, my best friend started dating my ex—secretly at first, of course. She had been the person to see, up close and personal, my devastation after he dumped me, so it was quite a shock when two months later she came clean (and with the timeline it was obvious they were seeing each other towards the end of my relationship with him). He was a scarily manipulative guy, so at the time I directed most of my anger over this situation at him, and basically papered things over with my friend because she was more important to me. Their relationship (of course) imploded shortly after he got tired of her.

Anyway, I’m realizing that now, while I rarely think about my ex, I have unresolved resentment and distrust toward my friend that we never talked about when shit hit the fan a few years ago. At the time she never really apologized or owned up to any responsibility, it was just kind of, “the heart wants what it wants,” and “I didn’t want to hurt you but it’s not like you own him” (as if that was the problem). All of her relationships in the past few years have started with her as “the other woman.” I don’t envy her—she has a really unhealthy approach to dating that’s virtually guaranteed to land her assholes—but I just feel like I can’t trust her around men.

I’m afraid to bring guys that I’m interested in around her. If we’re at a social gathering together, I’m way less confident and flirty than I usually am, especially since she’s got those spotlight-grabbing looks (and personality). I guess instead of spending a night getting passed over, I’d rather just not try. I really don’t feel like “me” when I’m wallowing in all this insecurity, and I’d like to confront it, but I don’t know how. I want to talk to her directly about how I’m feeling, but I feel like the expiration date on rehashing the BS with my ex has long passed, and it would seem dramatic to bring it up. And I know that her behavior with men is basically her problem, and that it only brings her manipulative jerks, so I’d like to be able to just create some emotional distance. How do I get over this resentment and distrust? How can I quit getting pulled into mentally rehashing her behavior from years ago? How can I feel more like my own, confident person around her? Basically, how can I get the fuck over this once and for all?


Tired of Obsessing over This Shit


Dear Tired of Obsessing,

In the grand scheme of heterosexual “romance,” betrayal by a man is a prosaic tragedy. Betrayal by another woman, however, rattles one’s faith in humanity. Your initial instinct to jettison the toxic man was a good one, but in your rush to preserve your friendship, you clearly did a disservice to your own feelings. Of course you want to prioritize friendship over romance, but that’s a double-edged sword. If we’re really observing the sanctity of “bros over hos”/“chicks over dicks”/whatever juvenile moral code mnemonic you might use, then your friend’s perfidy is clearly the more painful treachery. Even worse, it indicates that she is not operating under the same code, and that your bond is unequal. The fact that this man clearly wasn’t worth much to her makes the disloyalty all the more thoughtless and cruel.

You have two options here, neither of which are going to be easy. You can confront your friend and confess to her how much she hurt you. This means telling her how it still affects your sense of self and your friendship with her, despite your best efforts to move on. You should prepare yourself though, because if she didn’t acknowledge her wrongdoings the first time around, she’s unlikely to do it now. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to her—you could still get closure from the conversation even if her response is petty and evasive—it just means you should keep your expectations realistic. If you ever want to feel like you can trust her again, you have to clear the air.

It goes against the Hallmark/Riot Grrrl/Twitter sisterhood utopian vision, but the truth is most friendships don’t last.

Your other option is to sever the friendship. Or at least allow it to die from neglect, which is something you might want to do even if you do confront her, especially if she shows limited or no remorse.

I know it goes against the Hallmark/Riot Grrrl/Twitter sisterhood utopian vision, but the truth is most friendships don’t last. And that’s fine. Never make room for people who treat you poorly; everyone has weak moments, but if someone truly hurts you and doesn’t actually give a shit, cut ’em out. And I say this as an outsider, but as a feminist and an astute observer of human behavior: your “friend” sounds like a nasty bitch. (This is my professional opinion as an advice columnist, and I’m employing the technical jargon we use in the field.)

Most troublingly, your frenemy has sewn insecurities onto your very self-image! You’ve built her up as an apex predator, but if she’s picking through your stash, she’s really just a scavenger who can’t hunt on her own. An interest in the same man should basically never happen (and if it happens frequently, something weird is going on). On the rare occasion a genuine conflict of interest might arise, the dude’s preference might be the deciding factor, but if there ever is a genuine issue of disputed territory, it must be negotiated openly between kingdoms, with love and respect. Your friends—regardless of gender—are supposed to make you feel cool and charming and thank-God-she’s-on-our-side levels of dangerously sexy! So get some friends who are on your side. Loyalty is mutual, or it’s nothing.