The Relationship Judge – What To Do About a Bad Childhood Friend

I  nearly fell out of my desk chair when I read the email that came in to me from Tracy earlier this week.    She wrote such an eloquent, detailed account of the trouble she’s been going through with an old childhood friend.  It broke my heart to hear some of the painful things that transpired between the two of them, but the worst part is that Tracy’s been hurt so badly by this friend that she is now questioning whether her anger and hurt is even rational (IT IS, Tracy!).  So let’s sit back on this lovely crisp Friday, take in Tracy’s story and give her some honest, objective feedback.  Then let’s show her some love and friendship because more than anything, that’s what this girl needs right now.  Grab your pumpkin lattes and dig in…

The Facts:

“Tracy” is having a problem with a female friend she grew up with (let’s call her “Courtney” mostly because I’m still annoyed that Courtney Robertson is dating Arie the Racecar driver so soon after breaking up with Ben Flajnik).  By way of background, Tracy is happily engaged and Courtney was just married.  They have shared many milestones together over the years and have overcome a good many fights.  Tracy has always known that Courtney has selfish tendencies, but tries to always look past them and focus on her other qualities as a friend.  Recently,  she finds herself unable to find any positive qualities in Courtney.  Tracy is losing patience with her and believes that she has grown up a lot while Courtney’s stayed the same girl she was in high school – which is why Tracy is having a hard time “brushing off” the things she does that bother her lately.

An example of Courtney’s unbecoming behavior (FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS, PEOPLE):

2-3 months before Courtney’s wedding, she sat Tracy down and said, “I have to tell you something, but you have to promise not to get mad. When we were living together and ___ broke up with you, I drove to see him and we slept together.”

At first, Tracy thought she was okay with this because she is engaged and happier than ever.  Tracy responded that this was “okay.”   But then she got to thinking (if I had a penny for every time I got to thinking about something after the fact…) and the more Tracy thought of how Courtney had betrayed her by sleeping with someone  who broke her heart, she began to lose her cool on the inside.  Still, Tracy tried to be okay with it and decided to forgive Courtney.

In additon to this incident, Courtney engages in other negative behaviors – talking behind Tracy’s back, making fun of the way Tracy organizes her life, telling people that Tracy says mean things about them that are false, always trying to one-up her on even the most trivial things.  Oh and my (Stacey B’s) favorite: Courtney asked Tracy to “completely stop talking about her engagement until Courtney was married.”  No this is not a joke.  Courtney said that Tracy was taking the spotlight from her and it wasn’t fair of Tracy to “beg” for attention.   Tracy understood that Courtney was just feeling insecure, so she tried to stop talking about her engagement, but once again, she eventually grew resentful / angry and even hurt.  Separately, Tracy had an argument with a mutual friend who complained to Courtney about the argument.  Courtney’s response was to contact Tracy and say that she “doesn’t think she can forgive (Tracy) for causing drama before her wedding.”  Tracy did not intentionally cause drama or want to steal attention, but she points out that even if she had, why wouldn’t Courtney forgive her?  Afterall, Tracy had forgiven Courtney for sleeping with someone that she loved.

Now What?

After this fight, Tracy was hopeful that their friendship would fizzle out and she’d get a much needed break.  But after Courtney’s wedding, Courtney asked if they could move past this.  Tracy has tried to turn the other cheek for the sake of their mutual friendships, but feels she always seems to be angry no matter what.  It doesn’t help that she’s still hearing from people that Courtney continues to talk about Tracy behind her back, spreading rumors and belitting her.  Tracy says, “I feel like because we have such a nostalgic relationship, I should be able to to overlook the things that aren’t perfect, but my patience runs thin.”

The Question:

Tracy wants to know if she is being irrational.  Does she have a fair reason for feeling like she wants out of this friendship?  In order for them to go their separate ways, she would need to remove Courtney from her wedding party and she’s afraid it would cause rifts in other friendships.  At the same time, does she want someone like this in her wedding anyway?  She can’t tell whether her anger has made her unreasonable or if other people may see where she is coming from.   Tracy says, “Any feedback would be wonderful.  I feels like most of the time I want to break up (with Courtney) but am afraid to do so.”

The Relationship Judge Says:

Holy cow, Tracy, what an incredibly annoying and mentally stressful situation you have found yourself in.  It’s such a shame too, because this engagement period should be filled with happiness about your future, filled with excitement and mutual well wishes from family and friends around you.  How awful to have to spend so much time and brain power worried about someone who sounds like such a negative force in your life.   You probably know this already, but “Courtney” does not sound like the type of person you can call a “friend.”  History aside, if you met her today, would you really be friends with her?  I’m guessing the answer is a resounding, “no.”  Too much drama. Too much pain.  Her actions are inexcusable.  If Courtney was a boyfriend and pulled some of the same stuff, you’d dump this person in a heartbeat right?  Why tolerate this type of behavior just because she’s a friend?  For me personally, finding out that she slept with someone you loved right after a breakup is unforgivable.  Forget her pulling the, “don’t me mad, ok?” she’s only saying that because she knows you have every right to be mad.  Friends don’t do that sort of thing.  What horrible judgment she has shown.  If it was a mistake, that’s one thing, but based on her history she must have gotten some sort of cheap “thrill” to go after someone who rejected you and “conquer” him.  She can’t even blame a weak moment.  She had to get in her car, turn it on, drive towards his place and get it on.  She had plenty of time to think about what she was doing.  She did think – and decided to hurt you anyway. Deliberately.

You’ll also find that the older you get, the less time you’ll have to deal with nonsense like the kind Courtney is pulling.  Right now everyone around you may be in wedding mode, engagement mode, etc. But soon enough it’ll be babies and jobs and moving to a bigger home, etc.  Your free time should be spent with supportive, healthy and stable people – Courtney is not that person.  And just because you were friends in the past doesn’t mean she is suited to be a lifelong friend.  Yes, people can change, but she’s done some pretty awful stuff to you whether you choose to forgive her or not.

Courtney sounds like an extremely jealous, selfish and insecure person.  She’s extremely immature and will always be unhappy.  I picture her as one of those actresses in “Mean Girls,” but that’s probably being a bit too cliche.  She’s a one-upper which is typical behavior of an insecure person.  But worse than all of these qualities, her insecurities have made her destructive to those she sees as a threat and for whatever reason, that is how she sees you.  It may not make sense – she found someone she loves and has gotten married.  This still hasn’t solved her deep rooted problems and I fear that she will continue to drag you down.

I was happy to hear that you thought about taking a break from her and phasing her out.  I certainly would have recommended doing so immediately.  But I also understand that when a long time friend comes to you, asking to start fresh and seeming all innocent, etc.,  it’s hard to just shut the door on such a long standing friendship, especially for someone who so obviously needs a good friend like you in their life.  And then there’s the issue of wedding parties and wedding stress and do you really need one more thing to worry about?

Here’s what I think about the wedding stuff – if the wedding is far enough out that you haven’t ordered dresses or had your bridesmaid start planning anything yet (flights booked for showers, bachelorette parties, etc.), I think you have every right to cut her out of the wedding – no doubt about it.  Here’s why:

(1) This is NOT someone you need in your life.  She is a negative force that has consistently made you feel bad.  A friend is supposed to make tough times better and be a source of fun, support and companionship.  Courtney is NOT and will not be this person – ever.  She will continue to hurt and disappoint you.  I would not trust her.  She does not have your best interests at heart.

(2) Your true friends will understand your need to cut ties with Courtney.  Even if they don’t agree, you can ask them to respect your decision – and keep them out of it.  As hard as it may be, don’t bad talk Courtney to mutual friends.  If you hear she is saying stuff, just smile and complain to someone else who doesn’t know her.  Make it clear that you are cutting ties and wish not to hear any negative gossip that Courtney may have said about you.

(3) Start looking to spend time with non-Courtney related friends and make some new couple friends with your fiance.  That should be where your focus is right now anyhow.

(4) Think about whether you can signifcantly reduce the size of your wedding party (family only) or that you decided to have a wedding party be only the  “best man” and “maid of honor.”   This will be a good way to keep her out of things without completely slighting her / mutual friends.

(5) Elope?

To answer your specific questions – no, you are not irrational.  You’re dealing with a pretty damaged person for whatever reason.  She’s sneaky – cheating and lying and hurting those who she is close with.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she is having issues with her husband and may seek to jeopardize your relationship somehow.  As for you being “allowed to speak about your engagement” – give me a break.  A wedding lasts one day.  That’s her time.  Every other second of every other day is fair game.  She needs to get over herself, Bridezilla!  Perhaps it’s that she can’t stand to hear how happy you are when she very clearly is not happy with herself.

As for post wedding – absolutely, without a doubt – DITCH THIS FRIEND.  No other way around it.  Don’t become her punching bag.  She’ll apologize.  You’ll feel guilty and BAM – it’ll happen over and over.  If the wedding is in the next couple of months – it may be more trouble than it’s worth to strike up an Operation DITCH at this particular time.  Try to keep her role in any wedding activities to a minimum.  If you have a relative or a close friend that can take charge, make sure this person is aware of Courtney’s behavior, so they can run interference on any potential attempts to sabotage your happiness.

Please keep us posted, Tracy.  We are all thinking of you.

YOUR TURN

What should Tracy do?  Get rid of Courtney from her wedding party?  Try to talk to her about things before the wedding? After? Have you ever been in a situation like this and how did you handle it? Nostalgia only goes so far…

On that note, have a GREAT weekend.  We are off to Maryland tomorrow morning to hang with The Husband’s parents for Thanksgiving week.  Until next time, please “Like” my Office Stace page at www.facebook.com/OfficeStace and”Follow” me on Twitter: @OfficeStace  Go to the “Contact” page and shoot me an email if you have an issue for The Relationship Judge.

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Comments

  1. I’ve had friends who acted in similar ways and I let them go. That’s really all you have to do. You’ll feel better. There’s no reason to keep talking to her. I just don’t know why you’d still be friends with her. It’s not that hard. Just cut her out. Any friends who are mad at you for it are also not good friends so cut them out too. Problem solved. And don’t let people treat you this way anymore. You aren’t anyone’s doormat and the sooner you take back your own life, the better. You are strong enough to let her go and be okay without her in your life.

  2. Courtney sounds like she is jealous of your happiness.
    As Stacey said, she probably is having doubts about the person she is married to, and to see yourself happy, is making her very envious.

    Some people have a difficult time with life, and although Courtney may appear perfectly normal, mentally she may be having issues.
    It may be something that she can not control, and she tries to make herself feel better by stepping on other people. As she feels close to you, and knows your kind nature, you become the target.

    There is no question what I would do.
    DO NOT invite her to your wedding, and cut off all ties with her.
    This person wishes you all bad things, especially your wedding.
    I would like to know what you decide to do.
    It is much easier for an outsider to assess the situation, than for someone who is in the middle of the turmoil.
    GET RID OF THIS PERSON ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I am in total agreement with everyone so far……….you need to cut off this “friendship” with Courtney. She is very insecure, and it doesn’t matter why because her insecurity causes her to focus on you, Tracy, to be bullied. You don’t need this in your life. You don’t owe her anything so forget the nostalgia…..grieve the loss of the positive experiences you’ve had with her but do CUT HER OFF and move on. If she stalks you afterwards change your phone numbers and hire a security guard to watch out for her at your wedding/reception so you have a happy experience. If you lose some friends over this so what….you can make new ones. Your inner voice has been telling you to drop this relationship….listen to it as it knows what is best for you. You are in charge of yourself and you know what you have to do to protect yourself.
    I had a friend once who had moments of mean-ness to two of our other mutual girlfriends. I’d tell her off for it. She got mad at me over a trivial matter and wouldn’t talk to me which was great………that gave me an “out” as I decided I didn’t need her in my life as I had other friends. It was the right thing to do. Even when I wasn’t the target of mean girl’s bully-ness it was unacceptable for me to be associated with such a person and I haven’t lost out one bit.
    Good luck with this, Tracy….you deserve better. Stacey is so right in her advice to you! Have a happy wedding!

  4. I am in total agreement with Stacey and the previous writers. This girl will keep ambushing you well into the future if you don’t cut her out now. I think an important point was that she told you that she slept with your ex long after the fact. There was no reason to reveal that info other than to hurt you. The apologies don’t count if the behaviour doesn’t change. The comments about the possible state of Courtney’s marriage remind me of an old school mate Bev who used to do the same type of thing to a friend of mine. When my friend got engaged to a hunky athlete Bev advised her that she too could have found a hunk if she had waited as long as my friend. Needless to say Bev’s marriage did not last…..and she seems to never have found anyone else. Karma, I say!

  5. Thank you Stacey & everyone for commenting! It’s nice to see that it isn’t just me seeing that there’s a problem in this relationship I have. Since reading Stacey’s feedback I’ve put a little more distance between myself and Courtney and I’ve put a hold on her purchasing anything for my wedding. I am no good with being the ‘bad guy’ so it may take me a while to figure out the best way to go about the wedding portion of my problem… However, that may become easier because my fiancee is about as fed up as I am and if he agrees that I need to take serious action that puts extra fire under my heels to make a permanent move. For now, the distance seems to be helping quite a bit!

  6. I had a similar experience with a friend about 10 years ago. I had a friend since I was 4 years old. We had some great times, we had some not-so-great times. I increasingly found the drama she brought to my life was getting to be too much for me to handle. So after 26 years of friendship (talk about nostalgia!), I ended the friendship. I told her I just didn’t have it in me anymore to deal with all of the drama. And while I loved her very much and cherished all of our good times together as friends, she was bringing me down at this stage of my life.

    I then cut her off completely. And let me tell you, that was one of the most difficult things I had to do, but it was necessary. We had quite a few mutual friends, and I told them all that we had a falling-out and that we weren’t remaining friends, but I wasn’t going to talk about it to them because it was between the 2 of us, not between all of them and us. My friends were super and respected the situation – I didn’t lose a single friend over it.

    After 10 years, this friend is back in my life. She contacted me out of the blue, asked to get together for a coffee to talk about things, and she apologized for everything she had done to me. It took her that long, but she realized the error in her ways. I won’t allow myself to become too close to her, but I am happy to have her back in my life.

    Spending so many years with a friend and having so many memories with them is a blessing. However, when the bad outweighs the good, it’s time to let go, as hard as it may be.

    Good luck, Tracy – this certainly isn’t an easy predicament you’re in.

  7. I’m happy that your friend found the error in how she treated you Julie! I don’t know if that will happen for me, she’s never been good at admitting fault to much. She always finds a way to twist the situation around to make others look like the bad guys. It’s exhausting really. I hope that everything works out one way or another but you all are right that the drama is too much and I’m sick of dealing with it when I don’t have to.

  8. Tracy-
    Don’t even invite her to the wedding. This woman is a loose cannon and you certainly don’t want her doing or saying anything on your wedding day that may take away from the day’s magic. It sounds harsh, but by not inviting her you are sending a clear message that the friendship is over. If you find each other down the road and reconnect so be it, but now is the time to cut the chord. I am sure that when you do you’ll feel the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders.
    Best of luck with your wedding.
    Ellen

  9. Just thought I’d pop by for an update in case anyone was wondering! I talked to Courtney, she denied or made excuses for everything I said I had a problem with. She is out of my wedding but more importantly- she’s out of my life. :) I haven’t felt so relieved in years. I tried to end it amicably but she insisted on making it mean and declared ‘have a nice life’ as a last jest. All done and I feel great!!!

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