Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Friend's role in love triangle makes her question friendship
Houston: My roommate and good friend is the other woman to a man who's in a long-distance relationship. From what I know, the girlfriend thinks it's a serious, committed relationship, and I've heard the guy say things like "This is just what men do" and other thinking along those lines.
I have no respect for this guy, and am wondering how to handle the fact that I'm losing respect for my roommate through all of this, too.
For what it's worth, he treats her very well and I've seen him take care of her when she needed it, but I can't get the icky feeling out whenever I see him, and more often lately her, too. How can I prevent my judgment of their situation from affecting how I look at my friend? It's also gotten tougher lately as she's been spending more and more time with him, so I hardly see her as just the fun, cool girl I used to live with.
Carolyn: Question back at you: Why do you want to prevent your judgment of their situation from affecting how you look at your friend?
It's important not to be judgment-AL; you don't want to draw conclusions you don't have standing to draw.
You also can't apply tougher standards to her than you do to yourself. Maybe you haven't ever been one point in a love triangle yourself, and even can rightly predict that you'll never let yourself be one. Fair enough. But those are narrow parameters. Broaden them to include instances where you told yourself what you wanted to hear, in order to justify something you knew you shouldn't be doing, and then ask yourself — can I really feel superior to my roommate now?
When you do know enough to judge, and you can honestly say she has crossed an un-crossable line, then there's a third trap to avoid: You don't want to deny people their humanity. We are all shaped by the errors of others, and we all make errors ourselves. Friends look at the whole person, and not just at one choice or action.
That said, it's certainly within the bounds of good friendship to use your judgment. And if your judgment tells you your friend perhaps is not the person you thought she was, and if her actions are giving you cause to question whether you can trust her, or you see no signs of remorse or even internal conflict over her actions, or if that one choice or action is bad enough to outweigh what you see as the good in her, then those are legitimate challenges to the friendship.
This is one reason friends aren't always friends forever. You're entitled to recognize, acknowledge and act on serious differences — in interests, priorities, and, yes, even values. In a way, it's about admitting your own mistake in thinking you and she had enough in common to be friends.
Other Woman, Redux: What if the other woman is your older sister? I'm resisting the urge to send your column to her. I'm trying to not be judgment-AL, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to talk to her.
Carolyn: Tell her that. Exact words. It may sound mean, but it's a favor to her.