DEAR KELLY: I’ve had a best friend since we were in second grade. She goes to another school, but we spend most of our weekends together and do almost everything together and have a lot of mutual friends. She’s the only girl I know who is no drama, and we never fight.
She got a new friend last year in school and they started hanging out, which was cool until I met the girl. From the moment we met, we didn’t get along. I thought she was rude and obnoxious, and she told my friend that I was quiet and boring. I have no idea what my best friend saw in her, but she liked her. I told my friend that I didn’t want anything to do with her and that if they were hanging out, I wouldn’t hang with them.
Recently, my best friend came to me and asked me to take some of the pictures of us off my Instagram because that girl told her that people were starting to say that we were gay and that I had a crush on her. That is so not true. I don’t think anyone even said that but that the girl made it up. Kelly, I’m not gay and I don’t know why she would even say that. I told my friend that she was being ridiculous and we ended up getting in our first fight. So I took a whole bunch of pics down, but I’m really mad about the whole thing and I can’t believe she would let that other girl come between us after all these years. If she is going to be friends with her, I don’t think I can be her friend anymore because that other girl is mean.
My best friend suddenly started posting pics of herself with guys – guys she doesn’t even like – just so people know that she’s straight. Any advice on this situation? I can’t talk to my mom because our moms are really good friends. I’m afraid that if I told my mom she would tell my friend’s mom and then everything might get worse. HELP!
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DEAR PEYTON: Change is hard. And change can create conflict because people struggle with adjusting to new people or new ideas or new problems. Most of the time, while we can’t control the changes, we can control our reaction to them. While you can’t stop your friend from having a new friend, you can stop the new girl from coming between you.
You shouldn’t have to defend whether you are gay or not. Even if you were (which you aren’t), it is no one’s business. For the other girl to suggest this is inappropriate. Having pictures of your friend does not define your sexuality. That’s plain silly. This is how rumors get started and people get hurt. Unfortunately, your friend bought into it and had you remove the pictures. Her response should have been to tell the other girl that you have long been friends and there is nothing but friendship between you. Period.
Obviously your friend is vulnerable to what other people think and easily influenced by those around her. She let the other girl persuade her to tell you to remove the pictures instead of defending your friendship and holding firm that you are just dear friends. Her reaction and request of you, in my opinion, made things worse and let the other girl have too much power.
So what can you control? You can talk to your best friend and share that your feelings were hurt because by asking you to take down pictures, it seemed like she was allowing the other friend to create a wedge between the two of you. Tell her that while you respect the fact that she has a new friend, you also hope that she values your friendship and can find a balance between her two friends. Don’t ask her to pick between you and the other friend, but maintain your boundary of not wanting to hang out with the other girl if she makes you feel uncomfortable. Work on developing new friends as well. And post pictures with them – don’t let the others stop you from doing what you want because of fear of what people might think.
Please reconsider talking to your mom about this, even if you have to ask her to not tell your friend’s mom. You should be able to confide in her and she knows to keep it between the two of you. If the other girl continues to say things about you, your mom might need to step in to stop how you are being treated. In a non-direct way, your friend is bullying you and it cannot continue. Your mom might need to share with your friend’s mom how emotionally toxic the other girl is.
It is sad that one person can change a friendship that has lasted so long and been so drama-free. But the reality is that your friend is allowing it and letting the other girl control her choices. She might need to learn – the hard way – that the other girl is not the friend she thinks she is. Don’t let go of your friendship all together because I’m guessing she will need you at some point and realize how valuable and important you are to her. Change is hard but sometimes it makes us appreciate the good things in our life and those things we take for granted.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.