Dear Thelma: Someone is tearing my friendships apart


"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

Dear Thelma,

I am studying in a local college. I befriended Z (a guy) and S (a girl), and the three of us became the best of friends. We did everything together and I can't imagine what college life would be like without them.

Sadly, our friendship only lasted six months, all because of N. She joined our group and everything was fine at first.

After some time, N would take Z away to talk to him privately. Initially, S and I did not think too much about it as N has a boyfriend who is studying in another college.

But Z somehow got attracted to N and spent increasingly less time with us. Eventually, S and I stopped talking to N, though we still communicate with Z.

Every morning, I used to go to class early and booked seats for Z, S and myself. Z would come in later, and take the seat I booked for him. But after he became enamoured of N, he would go and sit next to her, and ignore me completely.

I felt like a fool. After that, S and I talked less to Z. He sensed the strain in ties, and assured us that he would try to balance his time between N and us. We told him we forgave him, and moved on from there.

But what I don't understand is, how can Z sideline us after befriending N for just a few months? We were his best friends before N came into the picture.

Soon it became obvious to everyone on campus, that Z and N had become a couple. After that, S and I stopped talking to Z. He told us that if this was what we wanted, it was fine with him.

Then N started to badmouth S and me. We ignored N and Z, and got on with our lives. But the pain is still there, deep in our hearts.

Recently, we went to a camp for charity. While I was talking to a friend, I noticed that Z, who was present at the camp, was looking at me, but I ignored him. I do not know if he wanted to mend ties with me. - Upset

Dear Upset,

Friendships, like any relationship, are important to everyone. Yet they can be tumultuous and fraught with ups and downs.

Friendships are dependent on the characteristics of each person. It is what attracted you to each other in the first place. It is also about the meaningfulness of the relationship to each of you. And this "meaningfulness" can change from time to time.

This is what you have to reflect on in deciding what you want to do. Your friendship with Z means different things to both of you. You seem to have attached sentimentality to it - the fact that you met when you first started college and you cannot imagine what college life would be like without these two friends.

Also, there is some social status attached to this friendship. The whole campus is aware of your friendship, and this is obviously important to you.

There is nothing wrong with any of this. What matters here is that you seem to think that because of these meanings you attached to your friendship, you somehow own Z. You want to control him - who he talks to, where he sits, who he sits with. And this is your folly. The more you try to tighten your grip when you realise you cannot own someone, the more you will lose that person.

With N in the picture, you think that Z thinks she is more important than you. That is not the case at all. Just think about it - if he thought she was more important, would he have tried to approach you and see how he could make things better? He wanted to try and balance the amount of time he spent with N and you. But you won't have it because you wanted him all for yourself.

You wanted to own him. You must realise that you cannot own people. People have the right to decide who they want to be with, and how much time they want to spend with that person. People also have the right to make new friends.

People's needs change. When you started college, it was a new environment and you did not know many people. So the three of you stuck with each other. He has moved on and made new friends but you haven't. Now you feel left behind and abandoned.

This is nobody's fault. It is not the fault of N. These things just happen. Relationships and friendships mean different things to people at different times of their lives. This is something you have to accept. It is how people are. It is the nature of all relationships.

This does not mean that you have to accept the end of your friendship. You now have to find out what this friendship means to you and to him. He obviously wants a friendship with you. He has extended the "olive branch" so to speak. It is now up to you to reach out and take it.

Your relationship will not be the same as before. You have to see what it is and where it will go. Let go of your expectations.

What do you want to do? Do you feel like talking to him? Would you like to continue a friendship with him although it won't be the same as before? If yes, then you should do just that. Stop expecting him to initiate conversations with you. Step forward and make the first move. If that is what he wants, his actions will follow suit.

And why does he have to choose between you and N? Can't all of you be friends? If N is speaking ill of you, what is the reason? She cannot be lying, for sure. Her actions are probably guided by yours. To correct the situation, you have to check yourself. Change the way you behave and react to her. Like you, she is also looking for companionship and friendship. She is not a bad person and you should not treat her as such.

Stop holding yourself back. See this as a time for you to grow and develop new opportunities. Make new friends. Get to know other people. It is time for you to move on. - Thelma