Dealing With a Friend’s New, Uncomfortable Friendship

Photo by Jerick Parrone - - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

Is there a diagnosed condition or a simple psychological term for a person’s absolute inability to deal with their friend having a friendship with someone they do not like?

Psychologist’s Reply

Nothing about friendships or other interpersonal relationships is usually simple, and neither is finding a way to identify or label reasons why we sometimes feel animosity toward another person. Having strong feelings about someone is part of our normal human experience, and those strong feelings can be both positive and negative (sometimes even simultaneously)!

When we feel strongly about someone, it helps to first find a way to identify what the feelings might be. In your situation, it sounds as if another person has entered the life of one of your friends, which may have disrupted the way in which you and your friend relate to one another, or perhaps the amount of time your friend now spends with you.

One possible emotion you may be experiencing is jealousy -– which is a natural response to another person who suddenly begins to take the attention of someone we care about. If jealousy seems like it fits, it might be helpful for you to explore your worst fears about this new friendship. For example, is there a worry that you’ll never see your friend again? Is there a worry that your friend will change how she feels about you after spending more time with this other person? Once you think about the worst case scenarios, you can then look for evidence that supports or refutes them. Alternately, if you have had a close relationship with your friend, you might share your feelings with her and your concerns about losing her friendship.

If jealousy doesn’t fit, perhaps you just have some strong negative reactions toward this other person and her personality. In life there are certain people we just don’t like and we don’t want to spend much time around them. This is also a perfectly natural experience that everyone has in their lives as they encounter different situations (school, work, family, friendships). If you feel a strong dislike for this person, it may be worth exploring what attributes you react to most. Once you have identified these attributes, you might then explore what these attributes mean to you and how they relate to being friends with someone who possesses these attributes. For example, if someone is opinionated, does it mean that friends might be swayed to do what they want all the time? Sometimes we dislike people strongly because their negative attributes are things we don’t like in ourselves. That can also be worth exploring if the strong reaction toward this person is difficult to release.

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Whether or not you choose to delve more deeply into these feelings toward this person, ultimately it is up to you to choose if and how this other person’s presence affects your relationship with your friend. To maintain your friendship, you may choose to ignore this other person and focus on the positive interactions and time spent with your friend. It is possible that your friend may at some point also see some of the negative attributes in this other person and spend less time with her as a result. Alternately, your friend may spend more time with this person which may end up changing how you feel about spending time with your friend. You will know if and when it is worth addressing the issue with your friend in order for your friendship to grow and evolve in a way that works for both of you.

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