Dear Lauren,

I have a former best friend, and I say “former” best friend because I severed our relationship quite abruptly. I cut it off last year because I felt that the relationship was bad for me. She was manipulative and dramatic and she talked about topics that I thought were wrong and mean and lowly. She would try to get her way by acting insulted or by crying or by getting mad at me. Instead of being friends with her, I became friends with another two girls, and now our triad is really nice and we’re all really happy. It took me a long time to find good friends – until this year, actually (and I’m in 11th grade), and I finally found these two girls that I really like. Before this year, I couldn’t seem to find people in my class that I could really relate to. Most of my classmates felt a little too immature and silly for me – so I was lonely before I finally found these two friends.

But just this past week, my former best friend started campaigning to become part of my new group. She’s trying to convince one of my friends in our triad to be her new best friend, and this new friend of mine is very sweet and a little naïve and probably will be swayed by my former friend’s manipulations. I really don’t want to lose my new friends, and I also don’t want my former friend to re-enter my life, and I really don’t want her to become part of my new group. I finally found friends I really like and I’m so scared I’m going to lose what we’ve created…. HELP!

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

Whoa. Slow down, calm down, take a deep breath, and just relax. That’s step one. Be calm, be confident, be yourself. I understand that you’re worried, but don’t let the nervousness unnerve you totally. You can handle this, you will handle this, and it will all be good in the end – and it will definitely be a learning experience.

I first want to congratulate you on severing a relationship because you thought it was not a healthy one. So many people stay in relationships that are bad for them just because they’re already there. You, on the other hand, assessed, decided, then acted on that decision. Wow! Congratulations: you are a thinking person! Not everyone qualifies as a thinking person, but you do. I guarantee your life will be richer because of it. (Your life will also be more complex because of your thinking, but we are not here on Earth to have a simple life, like cows; we’re here to think, assess, decide, and act based on those cognitions. So, congratulations!)

We had a Shabbaton at our house a couple of months ago for 25 girls from a certain high school. One of the girls really impressed me. I found her to be kind, mature, intelligent, articulate, and a real thinking person. It sounds like you and she are similar. I told her teacher (who accompanied them) how impressed I was with this girl, and her teacher said, “She has such a hard time. All the girls ostracize her and make fun of her. It’s terrible.”

Right away, having met the girl, I realized why the other girls are mean to her: she’s more kind, more mature, more articulate, and more intelligent than they are. People who are nice, thinking, mature, and intelligent often have a pretty hard time finding good friends in high school. Usually they find good friends after they’ve graduated.

So, first of all, you are not alone. Many people have had your experience of loneliness, waiting for good people to befriend. Readers, if you are or were one of them, please post your comments below so this young woman can feel understood!)

I will reassure you that your loneliness before you found these two friends, and your former best friend coming now to “intrude” on your life – all of that was designed for you and for your life and for your growth by God. He decided that loneliness would teach you things; maybe it taught you how to be kind and inclusive to other lonely people you’ll meet in your life. And He decided that you needed to learn how to deal with a manipulative person wanting to come back into your life.

I would have a conversation with your two good friends. Tell them how much you love the relationship the three of you have, tell them how much you like them and respect them, and tell them you’re concerned that your former best friend is not a good addition to your group. Like this: “Hey, guys, I wanted to talk to you about something. I love being friends, the three of us, and you guys are so fabulous. I’m really grateful for you and for our friendship, and I know you love it, too. This former friend of mine – I don’t think it would be good for us to bring her in to our circle. I had some pretty rough times with her, and I don’t like the way she operates. I feel like we should be nice to her when she’s around us, but I’d prefer not to pull her in to our circle totally. What do you guys think?”

And you can warn your sweet friend about being manipulated by your former friend: “Hey, sweet friend, my former friend can be kind of manipulative. I just don’t want you to get hurt. Be careful, okay?”

Manipulative people don’t always have to get their way, even though they try to. Your former friend might try being sweet to you guys to gain entry into your group, or she might try to being insulted to gain entry into your group, or she might try being angry to gain entry into your group. You don’t have to give in to her manipulations. When she behaves in a way you don’t like, you can tell her, with confidence and calmness, “I don’t like the way you’re behaving right now.” If she gets angry, just say it again, calmly and confidently, “I don’t like it when you get angry.” And then you can calmly walk away.

This is not a simple, straightforward, or easy situation. I know you’ll learn a lot from dealing with it, and I know you’ll develop as a person through figuring out how to deal with it. Also take comfort in the idea that anything you can’t control, God controls. That means you do what you can, kindly, confidently, and with forethought, and leave the rest up to God.

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