Question #63: I feel like my best friend is cheating on me with a new friend.

Which friend would have your back if you pooped your pants in a fancy bridal salon?

Dear Captain,

So, I have a best friend, who is very awesome and very important to me. But as of about a month ago, I can’t help feeling like my best friend is cheating on me.

Someone new joined our friendship group. She is nice and fun to do things with on occasion, but I also find her trying because she’s very young for her age, she talks a /lot/, and she’s quite dependent. She has also really hit it off with my best friend, with the result that when we’re hanging out as a group she’s talking heaps to her, so I can’t get a word in, and instead of going somewhere alone (to get drinks, to go dance on the dance floor, to go to the shop for something or even be left alone in the house while others go to the shop) will generally get my friend to go with her. Whenever the group splits, the new girl joins us when it used to be just us two. In response to her chattiness and dependency, I find that I get quieter and quieter, and more likely to go into self-sufficient mode where I just go off and do my own thing. Which is fine for a short time, but it’s not exactly quality socialising and I’m getting lonely – especially as I feel like no one’s noticing me slipping away.

I’d love to have some time with my friend where I don’t feel eclipsed by the new girl. Our friendship group is very tightly interwoven, to the point where it’s unusual to invite just one person to do something without an open invitation being extended to all, and I’m worried about how to tell my best friend I don’t want her new friend invited if we’re doing something together. I feel rather silly and mean-spirited to be so possessive of my friend, especially since when I’m in the right mood I have really good times with the new girl along, but I just can’t seem to help it.

I don’t know what to say to my friend, to get her to see I want some just-us time without being offended, and I don’t know if there’s any way to make the new girl tone down the talking (or myself more tolerant) so I find myself less pushed out. Can you help?

By fortunate coincidence, Commander Logic and I saw Bridesmaids yesterday, which is a movie about your letter – the fierce bonds of female friendship – and how not to behave when they are threatened. (Capsule review:  I really liked it, and as a bridesmaid in CL’s wedding, did not experience any of the competition, pants-pooping, or having to buy $800 dresses that look like dinner napkins depicted therein).  I recommend it!

This is another Geek Social Fallacies problem.  The way you describe your friend group (everyone must be invited to everything) says that collectively you probably carry GSF4 (Friendship is Transitive) and GSF5 (Friends Do Everything Together), and if you admitted to your friend that you do not care so much for Shiny New Friend, you would run smack into GSF1 (Ostracizers are Evil).

I don’t have a perfect solution.  One immediate thing you can do is invite your best friend to hang out one-on-one more.  Bonus:  You get some alone-time with your friend.  And if she immediately email-blasts the entire group you get an opportunity to say “Of course I love seeing everyone, but I really wanted to get some quiet time with you- can we schedule something just for us?”

Anne Shirley and Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables
"Let's be kindred spirits!"

I think that getting some quality alone-time with your friend + some time passing is going to solve a lot of the rest of the problems. You’ll feel more secure in your friendship, which will allow you to be more tolerant of the new girl’s quirks and to let yourself enjoy time with the big group.  The new girl will probably start feeling more secure with some time and settle down a bit.  If it doesn’t change, like, your best friend refuses do do anything without the big group, and you have to get down to brass tacks and say “New girl is fine, but she’s not my FRIEND like you are, and I like to do things with just you sometimes” and your friend gets upset with you you’ll have to make some decisions and/or do some smoothing over.

That said, this is primal stuff, so don’t beat yourself up about your feelings.  I was reading Cary Tennis recently, and he was having one of his great, brilliant days, and he had this to say:

We are primitive in our friendships. And to understand this it is necessary to understand that we are this way to an extravagant degree. It is not just that we are sort of childish in our friendships. We are very childish. We are not in control of how childish we are. Our childishness is not a component of friendship. It is the essence of it. We are more like children than children are.

Not only are we like children, not only are we primitive but we are possessed by archetypes outside of our awareness that want what they want regardless of what we, the thinking, reasonable, adult people want.

We attempt to apply reason but reason is no match for the ferocity of the child who has been scorned by a friend. Reason is no match for the fierce attachments of friendship or the rage of a child who has found in a friend the utopian reflection of her own fondest dreams for herself. What can console a child who has lost a friend? Nothing.

Your feelings – of being jilted, excluded, overshadowed – are real and primal.  I feel confident in telling you that it will pass.  You will all settle into a new routine that works somehow, and you will also not be immune to finding shiny new friends who delight you in the same way your best friend does.  But you’re not imagining it and you’re not being overly sensitive.  Get some one-on-one time with your friend and reconnect with her in the full Anne-Shirley-Kindred-Spirit way.

6 thoughts on “Question #63: I feel like my best friend is cheating on me with a new friend.

  1. This is a timely post for me. Long story short- my long time roommate, L. was best friends with C., who I was also friends with. L. moved away for a year for a graduate program out-of-country, and in the time she’s been gone, C. and I have gotten really close. I’m a little afraid that when L. comes back, she and C. are going to go off skipping into the sunset, and I’ll be left alone. I know I just need to have a conversation with C. and tell her that I hope our friendship won’t change, but that’s so awkward. So, thanks for the pre-emptive advice.

    1. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if L was worried about the same thing — you and C have gotten close, what if you don’t need L any more?

      Which isn’t to say your worry over dynamics isn’t wrong, it’s just that it kinda goes for everyone involved so you’re all in the same boat.

  2. this seems to be my day of “i had that same problem!”

    i have a best friend, who for years i was her ONLY friend [not my fault, i tried to take her along to meet new people – but both she and her husband, who had been friend until i found this out, were hiding the fact that he was abusing her. i was the ONLY person she was “allowed” to be friends with, and that only because i was friends with him. he now hates me because i eventually convinced her to leave him. what else could i do?] we’ve been best friends for over 8 years.
    but now that she’s divorced, she can see her old friends again. including her old best friend.
    who isn’t happy that she has “new” best friend – for a while, my friend had to LITERALLY spend equal time. as in, if she spent 2 hours with me, she HAD to go and spend 2 hours with the OBF [other best friend] or OBF would throw a fit.

    eventually, OBF realized that i wasn’t trying to “steal” away best friend, just trying to maintain a friendship that had been very important to me for 8 years – she, for lack of a better phrase, “got over it” – helped along by me always asking “are you busy with OBF on friday? cuz if you aren’t, we should do X”

    i won’t say it didn’t bother me or hurt – it DID. i was constantly biting my tongue on horrible things [“where the hell was SHE when…” is NOT helpful]. as CA says, it’s a sort of primal-ness.

    i can’t think of anything other than what CA said [i think she rifles my brain while i’m sleeping, lol] but i just wanted to let you know, you aren’t alone, and your feeling are valid. sometimes, just having someone tell you it’s OK to feel how you feel helps. i hope it helps here.

  3. Captain,

    Thanks so much for your reply! Not only did I have a great time reading through the Geek Social Fallacies – which totally applies to our group, who are indeed massive geeks – but I so, so much appreciate the Cary Tennis quote you posted. It’s a big relief to have my jealous and possessive feelings honoured and not be thought unreasonable, and it makes me feel much more relaxed about wanting and asking for alone time with my friend. So thank you very much for the advice, which I plan on following soon, and even more for the very comforting acceptance!

  4. That is a very good Cary Tennis column. I had a situation with a friend recently who I called in a pinch asking her to give me and my kids a ride to practice. She said she would pick us up but she wound up forgetting some stuff, which made her behind. She eventually wound up not picking us up because she didn’t want to be late for practice, so we missed practice entirely.

    This is a very close friend and in the week after it happened I wanted, at various times, to scream at her, never speak to her again, tell her her kids are beasts (they aren’t), and pour out my heart to her about how important she is to me.

    After about a week I started stepping back and asking “WTF? Why is this such a big deal to me? We missed practice. The end.”

    But what CT says is true, there’s some primal abandonment/”I’m not really important to you” thing happening that’s independent of the seriousness of the actual transgression. The heart wants what the heart wants, even when all it wants is for someone to show up when they said they were going to and give it a ride to practice.

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