Am I wrong to feel wronged?
April 27, 2012 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Am I wrong to feel wronged? Soap operaishness inside:

I usually avoid drama really well, however some years back a romantic triangle situation blew up in a spectactularily nasty fashion and resulted in the permanant separation of myself from the other two parties (who are now married and who I will call 1 and 2).

I don't miss them, it was toxic for all involved and I now run in a completed unrelated circle and am myself married and happier than I have ever been.

The issue here is with the one remaining person that I know who also knows 1 and 2 (I will call her 3) she has been a close friend (she is also my cousin) pretty much since birth. 3 was also very close with 2 and 1.

When the nasty stuff happened 3 was supportive and loyal and responded to a long letter from 2 with a simple 'please don't contact me again'. I was grateful for the backup.

Fast forward 7 years. I hear through a long and winding grapevine that 3 is back in contact with 2 (and 1) and has never told me, she hasn't lied she just left it out, for years.

My questions:

1.) Am I justified in feeling a bit betrayed, especially since she is family?

2.) 3 lives far away, I still live in the same city as 1 and 2. 3 emailed me that she is coming to town in a month for a week to hang out and can she stay with me and my wife. She doesn't know that I know about her still knowing 1 and 2 and I suspect she is also planning on visiting them while she is in town and staying with me. Am I justified being uncomfortable with this?

There is a pretty good chance that I am being silly with all this and that the bad taste still in my mouth is clouding my judgement, little help?
posted by Cosine to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What happened to you didn't happen to your cousin. She had your back, but expecting someone to take on all the slights that happened to you as their own is a little bit unfair.

However, the fact that she didn't tell you she was back in touch, if it's been for a significant amount of time, is something you should address. I wouldn't come after her with both barrels for it, but I would take some time to express your hurt at the fact that she didn't trust you to accept this information.
posted by xingcat at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

'Being in contact with' after 7 years is not much of a betrayal. It's probably just 3 trying to NOT cause drama by being cordial. Now if it more like 3 is 'hanging out with 1 and 2 all the time, talking shit about you' then yeah, I'd feel a little betrayed. But it's all water under the bridge. If you're happy, then you really have nothing to worry about.
posted by greta simone at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2012 [15 favorites]

I think at this point, it's not really any of your business if 3 wants to be in touch with 1 and 2. They're happy, you're happy, everybody's happy. Breath through it and let it go.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:04 AM on April 27, 2012 [10 favorites]

It's been seven years. Your cousin & friend took your side when shit went down. Your cousin is not blowing you off in favour of them, or outwatdly lying about her contact with them. She thinks it may bother you, so she just doesn't talk about it. Some people don't hold grudges forever, and that is a fine thing. It's likely that in the past seven years, persons 1 & 2 have changed, which made person 3 re-evaluate her estrangement from them. You are being silly.
posted by kellyblah at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

If 1 and 2 have been leaving you alone and not talking shit about you ever since The Incident - that is, if they've gone their way and you've gone yours - then yes, I think you're overreacting a little. This all happened years ago. That you're not as over it as you thought you were isn't surprising (we all often think we're over something when we're really not - we just manage to successfully avoid situations that would let us know that we're not over it), and this is maybe where your discomfort with 3 still being in contact with 2 and 1 is coming from. Before you talk to her - if you decide to - about this, really do some thinking about where these feelings of "betrayal" are coming from, because they may not have anything to do with her.
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2012

Now if it more like 3 is 'hanging out with 1 and 2 all the time, talking shit about you' then yeah, I'd feel a little betrayed. But it's all water under the bridge.

It is definately hanging out, visiting each other, attending their wedding, etc. There is likely some light talking of shit but not much, it wouldn't really fit them or me.
posted by Cosine at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2012

It really depends what spectacularly nasty means. There are things that -- for me -- would cross the line such that, yeah, I would feel wronged if my friends and family tried not to take sides. But I don't know if this is the case in your situation. (Abuse, theft of significant amounts of money, so on.)
posted by jeather at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

It really depends what spectacularly nasty means

Spectacularily nasty means living together in a toxic, stress filled sitation (of which I caused more than my share) until things come to a drunken head and I get punched in the head by both of them once. I do nothing in return. Had the one and only black eye of my life though.
posted by Cosine at 9:10 AM on April 27, 2012

Unless this is somehow going to bring 1 and 2 back into your life, why do you care? Just let it go. You don't even need to talk about it with 3.
posted by empath at 9:10 AM on April 27, 2012 [10 favorites]

This is none of your business. Unless 1 & 2 were abusive or otherwise criminally bad to you, you don't get to tell your friends whether they can be friends with them. It's great that your cousin has reconnected with people who make her happy, and gotten over past issues. You can feel however you want, but I think it would be incredibly vindictive to, say, not allow her to stay at your house because she might possibly meet up with some friends you don't like.
posted by brainmouse at 9:11 AM on April 27, 2012

I think the real issue is the not telling you part--but that is totally understandable given the situation. If you want to feel better about this, I suggest telling 3 that you know and it's ok and while you don't really want to hear the details, she doesn't have to sneak around.
posted by Kimberly at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

1.) Am I justified in feeling a bit betrayed, especially since she is family?

Not really. She probably assumed (as one should) that as years went by everyone would move on enough to let life go on. She displayed support for you at the time of crisis and for the most important healing time afterwards, what more could you want?

I wouldn't assume that just because they hang out, they are talking shit about you. It's obviously a delicate situation, and if I were 1 or 2, I'd stay miles away from the subject of you at all times (she already proved once that you're the one whose side she's ultimately on).

It's unfortunate that she wasn't forthcoming about her contact with them, but it's also pretty clear why she wasn't.

Part of letting all this go is acting like everything happened wayyyy in the past (which it did) and stop pretending like it has anything to do with you in the present tense (it doesn't).
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

There is likely some light talking of shit but not much, it wouldn't really fit them or me.

Is there any reason to really think this? It sounds like everyone is happy now. You also say that 3 has been a good friend, so do you think that she has been talking shit behind your back?

You are entitled to feel however you feel. If 3's actions are a betrayal to you, then you should talk to her. But it sounds like she still wants to be friends with people that she is close with. She was ready to drop these friends just to have your back. I think it would be fair of you to let her have hem as friends again.
posted by Nightman at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2012

You don't have to feel bad for how you feel. You can't really control that.

But you also don't get to pick who people are friends with. They had a relationship outside of you and you need to keep in mind that by merely being friends with them, 3 is not necessarily condoning their choices.

3 is your friend. Don't forget that. Don't make them feel like a bad person.
posted by inturnaround at 9:17 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spectacularily nasty means living together in a toxic, stress filled sitation (of which I caused more than my share)...

3 is just trying to stay friends with a group of people who made a bunch of mistakes, some worse than others. If you feel so strongly about it that you can't help but bring it up, don't hang out with 3, because you'll be dragging her back into drama she has clearly gone to length to avoid.
posted by griphus at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been put in a similar situation recently. A very close friend of mine, turns out, is friends with my ex-girlfriend, whom I loathe. I trust him, and talk to him about her, but he hasn't disclosed his relationship with her, which I found out (through Facebook) is pretty intimate. Naturally, I feel betrayed.

Here's the deal. I need to get over it. Building a life around a resentment is not the same thing as getting rid of the resentment. Asking people to do you a favor and then monitoring them because you are still pissed is no way to live. Anything that hits you like a hammer that happened seven years ago, you need to breathe and tell yourself you are okay.

If 3 is good to you, try your best to work it out in your own head without saying a thing. People don't need to know how you feel all the time.

Or if you must bring it up, tell them it hurts your feelings that they stay in contact, but you understand that the world does not revolve around you, that you're just being really selfish and immature. And frankly this happens when our feelings are hurt by other people. You just wanted to get that off your chest and you still love them.
posted by phaedon at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'd totally feel that way! In my book, you're completely justified to feel weird about it. Cousin 3 should have gently mentioned to you that she was back in contact with them way before now, is my opinion.

However, don't stew. You said yourself how close you are to Cousin. Call her and say "I would so love to see you! But just to make sure the air is clear, can I ask a blunt question, that is, are you planning to see 1 and 2 while you're here? Cause I feel a bit weird about that, and I just thought I'd let you know so I don't get weird AT you about it, while you're here!"

Be cool, open and ok about it. Don't hide that you know, but don't make it a big "I KNOW ALL ABOUT IT" thing. Once you've talked about it I bet she'll make sure you don't feel as weird about it.
posted by greenish at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2012

Wow, you just described a portion of my life.

1. YES YES YES! I wouldn't listen to people who haven't lived this. She should have been straight with you. You HAVE been betrayed, if only in a small way. It's natural that it should hurt.

2. YES. You SHOULD be uncomfortable about it.

If this were any other person, I'd say cut off all contact for your own good. But, she's family, so I think that you should figure out how to reconcile all this, if it's possible. You only get one family. But, she needs to know how much this bothers you. Not just the continued contact, but the lying-by-omission part, and how hurtful that is. It's insulting to your intelligence, and very self-centered of her, that she thought she could keep everything drama-free *and* to her benefit if only you didn't find out. For that, I think you deserve an apology.

Anyway, good luck figuring this all out. It sucks, and you have my sympathy.
posted by Citrus at 9:37 AM on April 27, 2012

I think it'd harm your relationship with your cousin and it would give power to a situation that has been dead for a long time if you take this approach -- that her friendship with other people that you didn't even know about victimizes you or is a betrayal.

Nobody is saying that you have to like it, though. But if you were going to address this with your cousin I highly suggest you re-frame it in a way that doesn't make it sound like you are either trying to control her social life or have some lingering emotional investment.
posted by sm1tten at 9:49 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, just talk to 3. Ask her what's up and why she's still friends with people who did... whatever it was that happened. Don't assign values like "betrayed" to this situation right now. Just ask her what's up, and why. Let her talk to you about it. Chances are talking about it will just allow you both to move on and live with whatever the situation's going to be.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

She probably won't reference them. She may think that you already know she is in contact with them. It weighs on her, somehow.

That long and winding grapevine is a hotbed of gossip, and you are one of the grapes yourself. Right?

It's just a part of human nature. Luckily a mostly harmless part.

I would let it all be and just enjoy your relationship with your cousin, don't bring anything up. She has her life, you have yours, and what doesn't directly apply to your direct relationship with your cousin should be left that way.
posted by caclwmr4 at 10:01 AM on April 27, 2012

Like Citrus, I can too-keenly relate. Despite logically agreeing with the other commenters, one situation in my life was so damaging in financial terms and so personally hurtful that I found it very hard to stay friends with someone in the middle. I didn't feel judgmental ("you betrayed me"), but talking to them felt like having second-hand contact with people who were still trying to do harm to me. I had trouble understanding how someone could view them in a positive light. I don't have a good way of handling this or getting over it yet, so I hope those who reply to say "this isn't a betrayal" have practical suggestions for not feeling deceived and exposed to harm.

The only recommendation I can offer is that you see this as being mostly about your own feelings and in smaller part about 3's actions. See if compassionately exploring exactly what you're feeling about the situation, and what deeper feelings from the old situation are behind that (anger, fear, shame(?)) helps it ease up a bit. By "exploring," I mean, journaling, talking to others, thinking about it while out on a nice hike. Once you feel able to talk with her in a non-blaming way about what this brings up for you, and with some compassion for where she might be coming from, have a conversation with your cousin.

She did show great loyalty by taking your side at the time, so you know that even though she'd like to remain on cordial terms with them when it's not Code Red, when it is Code Red, she has your back.
posted by salvia at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Who told you this? That is the drama-stirring trouble-starter that you should do your best to avoid. Seriously.

I would be like "The head-punchers? Really?" in a slightly joking way but I would not make a thing of it because, well, you're married and happy now and that's the best you can do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2012

Who told you this? That is the drama-stirring trouble-starter that you should do your best to avoid. Seriously.

Lol, that would be my goofball uncle.
posted by Cosine at 10:49 AM on April 27, 2012

Ha! Well, he is definitely being a goofball! This kind of thing is really better if no one knows about it. Sorry that you were involved in such a shitty love triangle-type thing, and I'm glad that you have a close relationship with your cousin.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2012

This is a tough one as I've been (still am) in the same position as three. A friend of mine and his wife went through a very nasty divorce. Through the proceedings I cut off all contact with her and was there for my buddy. Fast forward a few years and I start running into her and being politely social. I spent a lot of time agonizing about whether or not I was "betraying" my buddy by even acknowledging his ex's existence. But, the fact that his ex and I were friendly before the unpleasantness has sort of steered me into the idea that I don't "Owe" my friend any hostility to anyone. I don't allow the conversation with either of them to venture into the territory of the other party.

Granted, I'm not related to either of them... I think I'd maybe expect a cousin to be a little more "pro-me at any cost". But regardless, if either of them told me that in order to maintain my friendship I had to cut all ties with the other I would view that as none of their business and a very poor attempt at dictating my own life to me and would probably cut ties with the one who made the demand.

I think you're justified in feeling slightly ticked about this, but it would be extraordinarily unreasonable and petty to confront your cousin about this issue. This was years and years ago, let it rest and move on with your new and better life.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 10:59 AM on April 27, 2012

I generally always respond to these "am I right to feel mad" questions the same way, which is that if you're able to ask this question, you should try not to feel mad if you can help it. People will do enough shitty things to you - you don't need to go looking for things to put in the "shitty" category. What's to be gained by being mad here?
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:16 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I received advice, once upon a time, and that advice remains the most rock-solid aphorism I've ever encountered. When trying to decide if you should say something, ask yourself, "Is it nice? Is it necessary? Is it true?" Only say that thing if at least two of these is true.

Your friend telling you that she had reconciled and was socializing again with 1 and 2 would not have passed this test. It was true. But was it nice? Telling you would upset you and bring back hurts that you've since moved past, and would not be of any benefit to you that I can see (other than protecting you from finding out in a less pleasant way, as you did, unfortunately). But no, overall, not particularly nice. And is it necessary? I don't think it's that, either. 1 and 2 are removed from your life, and 3's interaction with them doesn't need to have any impact on you (unless, of course, you choose to create drama here).

Given my very limited understanding here, I would have advised 3 to do exactly what she did. There is no betrayal here. She was trying to be considerate.
posted by kprincehouse at 2:51 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

(It's ok, of course, for you to feel betrayed, and upset at things being concealed from you. Your feelings are valid. But realize they're coming from inside you, from these unpleasant experiences and memories and toxicity from years ago. It's not completely healed yet, and that's fine. But don't be upset with your cousin; there was no malicious intent. She didn't really have any great options, did she? Cut off contact with 1 and 2 forever, with whom she was close for years? Reestablish contact and then tell you about it, potentially upsetting you and causing unnecessary pain? Try to stay in touch with 1 and 2 as well as you, all people she cares about, but not share this with you and run the risk of you feeling betrayed should you find out? That's not an easy call, from her perspective, you know?)
posted by kprincehouse at 3:01 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I disagree with kprincehouse. Your cousin should've been forthcoming about being in touch with 1 and 2. In my mind "Don't contact me" is a big bat to bring out.

Maybe 3 broke the silence first, maybe she didn't stand behind it when 1&2 didn't comply, but 3 should stand by her word and tell you when she can't anymore.

Perhaps more likely is that 3 ran into one or both of them by chance and slipped back into friendship that way, without premeditation. Maybe she meant to tell you, but the right chance didn't come up and years passed.

Either way, it's fine to be hurt by 3 not standing by her word, or saying something she wasn't prepared to stand behind, and you should bring it up. Don't call yourself immature in the conversation, though. Just say what hurt and ask 3 about her choices.

Going forward, think about how you would feel seeing 1&2 on the street. Not just the first emotion, but examine the complexities in that scenario.
Same scenario, but how do you want to feel? Are these toxic people you still wish you could deny happiness to? Or were you all in a bad situation, and you'd like to exist without thinking about, though could be vaguely polite with?

Arm yourself with an understanding of your mental relationship to 1&2, or the memory of them, when you talk to your cousin, and maybe she can help you find compassion for ex-friends.
posted by itesser at 4:09 PM on April 27, 2012

I think a lot of this depends on how embroiled in the situation 3 was. I was once a semi-close friend to a woman who had her boyfriend "stolen" by another woman that we worked with. My friend could not tolerate me talking to the other woman in a friendly way at work. I never hung out with her, just spoke to her at work. I thought it was pretty lame because I didn't care about any of that, really, and I thought it was actually pretty rude being asked to take sides in a romantic issue that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I mean, grow up.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:48 PM on April 27, 2012

In your position, I would feel not-so-great...not betrayed, but disappointed and confused. Sure it's 7 years and people change. And sure, your friend/cousin should be able to be friendly with whoever she wants. And I'd even say that it's understandable that she wouldn't choose to bring it up with you...but still, it's natural to have an unpleasant feeling about it..

Be charitable to your cousin. Tell her you know she's in contact with that couple, your first reaction was negative, but you're fine with it, though you're not interested in hearing about them.

You're not wrong to feel bad, but really your cousin isn't in the wrong, by any stretch of the imagination. It's bad for your psyche to carry grudges, so see if you can talk yourself out of this one. Maybe you can be satisfied knowing that drama-lovers invite plenty of problems to come their way and if they're not good people, they're probably not happy.
posted by wryly at 6:01 PM on April 27, 2012

Feeling how you feel is never wrong, it's just how you feel. But your cousin is not you. They supported you but did not share your experience. I don't think you should hold it against them.

The only exception I would have here is if there was abuse, molestation, embezzlement, theft, etc. Then I would hope that they thought differently. But if none of these factored in (sounds to me like it was more of a fight than straight assault, forgive me of I am wrone), and it was just a bad relationship, you might want to start looking into why you haven't been able to move past this than you have. Seven years is quite a bit of time. Might be some other stiff going on.
posted by Vaike at 6:08 PM on April 27, 2012

Sorry. iPhone.
posted by Vaike at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2012

Cousin 3, I feel bad that you didn't tell me you've stayed friends with 1 and 2. See what Cousin3 says. Maybe she felt you were too angry, or bossy, or just plain wrong about the breakup. Maybe it was no big deal. Maybe she didn't want to upset you. Ask. Then get over it.
posted by theora55 at 7:21 PM on April 27, 2012

You have nothing to be ashamed about. I'd definitely feel wronged if a family member betrayed me by continuing to communicate with someone who deeply hurt my feelings. That said, you should give 3 a call and ask why she felt lying to you by omission was all right.
posted by lotusmish at 9:06 PM on April 27, 2012

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