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Breakups are messy—especially when friends are involved. (Alissa Zilber / The McGill Tribune)

Ask Ainsley: How do I cope with my best friend and my ex dating?

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Dear Ainsley,

A friend of mine from back home recently told me she’s been dating my ex for four months and lying about it. I’m not so much mad that they’re dating, more so that they lied for four months. Also, when she told me, she was incredibly insensitive and condescending and invalidated my feelings about it. Is it worth trying to save the friendship if she’s going to treat me like this? If not, how do I deal with losing two of my closest friends?

Sincerely, 

Lost in a Love Triangle (LILT)


Dear LILT,

I can imagine what a difficult situation this must be for you. Maneuvering around a relationship with an ex can be incredibly difficult, and it becomes even harder when friends are involved. First off, kudos to you for being accepting of their relationship. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t be able to fathom a friend dating an ex. Second, you should know that your feelings are completely valid. Don’t let someone tell you that you’re overreacting when they’ve seriously hurt your feelings.

I think a variety of factors are at play in this situation, one of which is the quality of your relationship with your friend. If this incident is part of a pattern in your friendship, you may consider letting her go. Just because you get along with someone some of the time doesn’t mean they’re a great friend to you. In a conflict, some people will try to turn the blame on the other person when they know they’ve done something wrong. It can be hard to let go of a friend, especially one you’ve known for a long time, but someone who tears you down more than they build you up is not worth your time in the long run. 

If you do end up deciding that you don’t want to be friends with this person anymore, you don’t have to cut them off all at once. You can gradually phase them out, while putting more energy and focus into your other friends and schoolwork at McGill. If it makes it easier for you, unfollow your friend on social media. It can be hard to get someone off your mind when you’re constantly seeing them on your newsfeeds. 

As upsetting as it can be, sometimes losing friends is a natural part of life. However, if this is a friend that you want to keep, you need to have a discussion with them about the situation. Explain to them why your feelings are hurt. As hard as it can be to not get aggressive when someone has wronged you, aim for a higher ground. Calmly tell her what your feelings are about the situation. Your emotional reactions are inherently valid and not up for debate. Once you express exactly how her words and actions made you feel, if she really cares, she won’t tell you that you’re being too sensitive. After your chat, allow her to reach out to you, so you know that she is truly apologetic and wants to maintain your friendship. 

In a perfect world, people would be able to stay friends with their exes after a break up. Not that it’s impossible, but in your situation it gets even harder. I understand that you probably feel betrayed—not only by your friend, but also by your ex, someone who you may have loved at one point. Even though it might be painful, you need to have a conversation with your ex and get his side of the story. If he treats you the same way your friend did, it may be better for you to try to move on without him. If you do want to keep both of them in your life, as your friends they should be able to acknowledge how difficult the situation must be for you,  and make an effort to earn back your trust.

While your first instinct may be to seek out social contact, having been hurt by two people close to you, it’s important to take some time for yourself. Focus on your personal health—exercise, eat well, get enough sleep—and your mental health—meditate, journal your thoughts and feelings, give yourself daily affirmations, or talk to a counsellor—whatever it is that will make you feel the best. In an emotional time like this, it’s not selfish to put your own personal needs above someone else’s. You seem to be focusing deeply on the social repercussions of this situation, but it is equally, if not more, important to look inward and focus on healing. No matter how your relationships with your friend and ex turn out, remember that your worth is not measured by those who do not treat you well. In caring for yourself, you will be reminded of your inherent worth, regularly. 

All the best,

Ainsley

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