How To Respond to Friend's Betrayal
November 14, 2012 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I had a close friend/coworker recently betray me on a very deep level. I've known him for over 3 years and he did everything he said he wouldn't, just for a girl. I really have no desire to continue the friendship any longer and we have not talked since the betrayal occurred. I want to confront him, mostly to get the anger/pain off my chest, but won't be able to do so in person for another few weeks. Is it best to just wait to do the confrontation in person? Or would it be ok to let out the anger earlier, through a text or email? Or would the best thing be to just turn and walk away, leaving
posted by blueberrybubbles to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like waiting wouldn't be the worst idea. :)
posted by ian1977 at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is the reason you'd prefer talking in person that you want to hear what he has to say as you're speaking in order to modulate what you say? If so: phone call? Skype?
posted by ecsh at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2012

Before you do anything else, sit down and write a letter to him, so that you can bring some clarity to your thoughts and start to express these emotions (act like you're addressing him, but you're doing this for yourself). Explain everything in full. You can decide later if you want to forward some or all of it to him - there's a good chance you won't.
posted by victory_laser at 6:10 PM on November 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

I never think it's a good idea to put emotions into writing. Our emotions tend to be worse in writing because you don't have to actually "say" anything out loud or see the person's reactions. For that reason, I tend to avoid writing emails or texts when I'm very upset. In fact, if someone else sends me an email or text that is angry or hurtful, I don't even read the entire note if I can avoid it and I never respond (unless by phone call). My opinion is to approach the person face to face. They can't avoid you then and your words become more meaningful. I am not afraid of confrontation and I look at it more as communication. Just make sure it is constructive feedback. Offer specific examples and the less emotion the better, in my opinion.
posted by Shaitan at 6:11 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I was going to suggest the write-a-letter-don't-send-it plan as well.
posted by Glinn at 6:20 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Speaking from experience, I can assure you that if you want to irrevocably destroy a friendship, then writing and sending a detailed letter in which you air your grievances at some length is absolutely the way to do it.

In retrospect, there are respects in which I would rather have preserved the option of resuscitating the friendships I had, even though they were with quite flawed people. Friendships get rarer and more valuable than they first seemed as one gets older.
posted by Mr. Justice at 6:27 PM on November 14, 2012 [24 favorites]

"A girl" is pretty much the opposite of, "just for," when the person likes her.
posted by rhizome at 6:34 PM on November 14, 2012 [20 favorites]

If you want to write a letter, or something, go ahead - just DONT send it to him.

Emotions in writing rarely convey the intended message, although it can be a great way of figuring out what you're thinking.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2012

If he's a coworker and you have no desire to continue the friendship anymore, just walk away. If there's going to be friction between you and a coworker, you really don't want to be the one who started it in any visible way.

The thing is, if you tell him off, it's not like he's going to go, "Oh man, you're so right! I'm such a jerk! That's me told." You would only have the power to wound him in that way if he gave a huge shit what you think of him, and I think he's already demonstrated exactly how much he cares about any of that.

You can't make it better, but you can avoid being the one to make it worse. Walk away.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:44 PM on November 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Write it, put it in an envelope, send it to yourself. When it arrives open it and read it and see if you still want to send it to him.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:49 PM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

he did everything he said he wouldn't, just for a girl

Unless you can see the future, you don't know whether "just for a girl" should actually be spelled "for a one-night fling with some chick he never saw again" or "for the woman he's going to wind up spending his life with", or something in between.

(I'm thinking back to having dinner with my folks the night before I flew to Seattle to visit a guy I'd very recently met. "Have a nice fling!" my dad said. That was more than 17 years ago, and said guy is currently snoring on the sofa next to me wearing a wedding ring that matches mine.)

You don't know at the start whether a relationship will be a lasting thing. If this guy really is a friend (as contrasted to "a co-worker I've been friendly with"), and depending on how bad the betrayal was, you might cut him a bit of slack. If this "girl" is someone he recently met, he may be feeling completely pole-axed right now. When I met my now-husband, it felt like a golden hammer came out of the sky and hit me on the head while a giant voice intoned Something important is happening. Pay attention. I flew home, broke up with the guy I was living with, and lost five pounds over the next week from stress. Looking back, I think it was worth it.
posted by Lexica at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Dumping your anger out on another person is rarely as satisfying as we envision. Neither a spoken or written blast undoes the person's behavior.

Walk away.
posted by 26.2 at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I want to confront him, mostly to get the anger/pain off my chest

I'm not sure how literally you mean this, but see Myth #2: It’s Better to Express Anger Than to Hold it in.

The truth is that, instead of expressing negative emotions in order to find peace, it's usually better to go directly to finding peace.

Of course, if it's somehow an ongoing issue, that's not possible, and you have to let them know what the facts are and how you're handling the situation.

But if it's really over, do your best to let it go.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:29 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sometimes confrontations are necessary when someone violates your expectations and/or breaks agreements. In my experience, they are always better held in person than in email or over the phone.

If you have something concrete that you're trying to accomplish, like improving the relationship with the person who betrayed you, or getting them to commit to something to fix a problem they caused, or simply letting them know that their behavior is not acceptable, a confrontation can be productive.

On the other hand, if your goal from the confrontation is simply to get rid of your anger, I can guarantee that it's not going to work. There's a good chance you'll wind up a lot angrier than you are right now.

You're only strengthening your emotional bond to this person by making your emotional state depend on whether/when/how you release your anger with them. You are better off detaching, giving up control, and walking away.

I've struggled with how to handle things like this, but have made some pretty solid progress with it in the past few months. My issue was how to overcome the sense of powerlessness that comes from betrayal. What made me more accepting was the realization that, while it IS possible to completely insulate yourself from betrayal, it's pretty much impossible to do without being so much on guard that you wind up being abrasive to the people close to you, because you're second-guessing their motivations when you don't need to to protect yourself, and it sucks for them being on the receiving end of this. Either that or you wind up isolating yourself completely. It sucks, but occasional betrayals are inevitable.

This betrayal had to have really hurt you for you to have posted a question about it to Ask Me. For some perspective, think about the positive relationships in your life that could benefit from the time and effort you're instead putting into figuring out the best way to handle this situation with this toxic person. Like if you called some cousin you haven't spoken to in awhile, just to catch up, without making any mention of this situation.
posted by alphanerd at 8:02 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

When you look back on stuff, most things end up looking like unnecessary drama. Dont sweat it. Most things have a way of turning out right. If it really bugs you, then just drop the friendship.
posted by gt2 at 9:00 PM on November 14, 2012

Man, I wish I had asked this about 10 years ago...I have foolishly 'gotten my feelings off my chest' several times, and it never, NEVER leaves you as satisfied as you think it will. I have told people off by email, text, snail mail, telephone, and in person. Take it from one who has lost many people's friendship and love by baring my soul, WALK AWAY. Just walk away. They will know why. If they try to contact you about it, just play it cool, Daddy-o, and be above those who were supposed to be better.
posted by msleann at 9:49 PM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Because it was done in pursuance of a romantic relationship doesn't make it less of a betrayal. You have a right to be angry, you have a right to your feelings.

It's probably very had to see what is going to be good for YOU, rather than what HE "deserves" given that you are angry right now. For me, writing things down using *I* statements can help me get past anger to the sadness underneath. Then maybe you won't feel like confronting. But you have a right to do so if you wish.
posted by turbojav at 10:46 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is it best to just wait to do the confrontation in person?

Yes. Any conversation with strong emotional content is best done face to face.

Or would it be ok to let out the anger earlier, through a text or email?

Text and email are for reminders to pick up the milk and papers. Using them for any kind of emotionally important communication is always a mistake. Always. Don't do that.
posted by flabdablet at 12:16 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I want to confront him, mostly to get the anger/pain off my chest

This is not a good enough reason to do what you want to do. The anger and pain you can get off your chest by going to the gym.

If you want to maybe continue this friendship at some point in the future - and it could be long, long into the future - I see benefits that come from being open and honest about your feelings with the other person. Sometimes you're not in a position to do that face to face. Sometimes email and text can be the better mediums. However, this is only if you can do it calmly and not to give them a serve.

But you have said you have no desire to continue the friendship so there is no point in having any further communication. As others have suggested, write it out and don't send it. Get the rest of the anger out through exercise. And leave this person behind you.
posted by heyjude at 1:53 AM on November 15, 2012

You'll never get the pain and anger off your chest, and he's not going to react the way you want him to react.

It's never enough. No matter how much you vent, just as you think you've said it all, as you turn and walk away the words, "and another thing" will burble from your lips.

I recommend saying to him, "I'm deeply disappointed and hurt by your behavior. We need to be civil to each other so that we can work together, but our friendship is over."

Then take the high road.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Closure comes from within.

Closure comes from within.

Closure comes from within.

Repeat this to yourself or to your mirror as long as necessary. You do not need to understand someone's thought process or motivation to get over the pain they caused you. In fact, hearing their justification for their behavior will probably only make things worse and I'll tell you why. He probably doesn't think he did anything wrong and would probably think you're overreacting. Does this make it so? No. But just as you are entitled to your feelings, he is entitled to his. Work on the only thing you can control -- your response -- and let it go.
posted by mibo at 5:57 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Venting your anger out on him servers no positive end. As counterintuitive as this may sound, you may want to consider working toward forgiving him. The sooner you forgive him, the sooner you will be free of the anger.

You have probably heard this story about forgiveness.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:06 AM on November 15, 2012

Wait until you are ready to speak in person. I think you're better off not having a confrontation, but if you insist, email is absolutely the wrong medium. Hopefully, by the time you're ready, you won't care.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:13 AM on November 15, 2012

Honestly, I can't give you any advice without better understanding what happened...
He did something for a girl, but you were betrayed? Can you maybe give us some background to better help you.
My answer would be completely different if you say he perused a girl that you had somehow 'claimed' than it would be if he abandoned you somehow to be with this girl.

But, I agree with everyone who writes that satisfaction will come from within when you let go and it will not be assisted by confrontation.
posted by jazh at 6:44 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anger is like chicken grease.

You'll never get it off your hands by rubbing it on anything else.

I don't know what this betrayal could be. Not in the sense that I can imagine it being a variety of things, I can't Imagine what it could be. Given your lack of details and my lack of Sherlock Holmes powers:

I don't see how this confrontation benefits you? You've already decided to not be friends with this person, that you don't want them in your life.

Don't try and get things from people you hate.
posted by French Fry at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just for a girl??? Your profile says you are a girl.

No judgment or anything but without any details that immediately sounds to me like maybe you like him/thought something was going to happen/something kinda was happening and now some other girl has usurped you.

That might be completely wrong but please consider this:
if you even slightly think that he might think you have feelings for him then if you have any kind of anger/hurt expressing siutation with him and it is related to some new girl then he/the new girl/anyone else the story gets told to, will more than likely jump to the same conclusion i did.

whether that is true or not, do you want anyone to think youre jealous/hung up on this guy? this guy who (whatever happened) has caused you upset or anger?

its hard when you really want to get your point across to someone or basically tear them a new one, but sometimes just letting it go and walking away is best.

if you dont want him in your life theres no point anyway.
posted by moreteaplease at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2012

At this point in my life, turning and walking away would be my choice. When I was in my early 20s, confronting the person would have been my choice. From my experience, showing a friend your anger does no good. Your friend isn't going to change. Even if he begs for forgiveness at some point, I wouldn't trust him again. He'll just do it again.

I've had several single male friends betray me when they found girlfriends. These were men I had no romantic interest in, but thought we had nice friendships. The worst incident was with one guy who, after meeting his girlfriend, told me that he never cared at me and was just friends with me out of boredom and because my "stupidity" amused him. That hurt...a lot. When he broke up with her, he suddenly wanted to be friends again and begged for my forgiveness. Stupidly, I forgave him and when they got back together treated me terribly again.

The "friendship" I describe above sealed the deal for me in that I will never go back to being friends with someone who treats me poorly, even once. I also make it a habit not to get too close to straight single men whom I am not romantically interested. I assume my friendships with these single men will peter out when they meet someone.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:19 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have had a male friend "dump" me over his girlfriend before and it does hurt. I don't think yelling at him would really improve the situation and might complicate your work environment afterwards.

I would suggest saying nothing and just disengaging from any non-work relationship you have with him.
posted by Julnyes at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2012

When I've tried to talk to friends about this kind of thing, I've ended up getting the tables turned on me and gotten yelled at, character assassinated, painted black, constantly interrupted, and finally browbeaten into weakly apologising for my cruelty in accusing them of [putting my puppy through the liquidiser] when [they did it, but saying they did it is by far the more heinous crime | I drove them to it by being a thoroughly annoying person, granular and itemised list to follow | they didn't do it and I only thought I saw them do it firsthand because I must have been hallucinating because I show all the other signs of psychosis, and always have, and now is somehow the best time to bring it up].

So to make sure that we really understand each other, and to avoid having someone mentally corner me or run circles around me as they would in person, I might want to put this in writing, so that each person has time to reflect and answer thoughtfully, as their best self.

Surprisingly enough this worked, on one occasion. It was gruelling but it worked. They were open to hearing from me about it. I can't say we have a good relationship nowadays, because it's a lot to do with personality rather than individual actions, but it's better than it might have been.

The other times, it went exactly like it had in speech, but with extra layers of "you are a cruel person who libellously accuses me of liquidizing puppies AND PUTS IT IN WRITING YOU WILL HEAR FROM MY LAWYER AND THAT YOUTUBE VIDEO IS SO NOT OF ME even though you filmed it yourself but HORRIBLE LETTERS BOO HOO HOO I DEMAND THAT YOU TALK THIS THROUGH WITH ME FACE TO FACE IT'S WHAT A CIVILIZED AND MATURE PERSON WOULD DO and I can manipulate you better and not be held responsible for anything I say if there's no written record of it."

So yeah, doing this kind of thing in writing has a reputation for not going well, because most of the time it doesn't.

It's tempting to conclude that confrontation is just not worth it, but I can't help thinking that that's the coward's way out, at times.

If this is something he's DONE, you might want to confront him about it in some way.

If this is something he IS, there's not much point.

The other important aspect is, do you have a future with this person? It seems not, but it also seems that that's because you've decided over this issue that you don't want one. If this issue were resolved, though, you would have a future. Is that it? Because if, say, he were a puppy liquidiser then I wouldn't consider staying friends with him regardless of how well he apologised for it, and regardless of whether I agreed to forgive him. The fact that he liquidizes puppies means I have to reevaluate what kind of relationship I have with him, as a matter of personal safety.

The trouble is you're also coworkers. This is why I say not to make friends with coworkers, though in this case it's obviously too late for that. Since you're thinking of confronting him I guess you're not actually afraid of him, which is good. But you also have your actual professional relationship as well as your professional reputation to consider. For this reason I don't think you should put anything in writing. Such writings can look like harassment to the recipient - who is not always wrong to see it that way, regardless of what was intended.

You have to ask yourself what you want to have happen as a result of confronting him. Do you want to fall out with him personally, remain productive professionally, but just say "I have lost respect for you because I think what you did was a dirty trick, and I am really mourning the end of our friendship," and have that be the end of it? Best not do it on company premises or company time, but I don't think that in principle you would be wrong to say it. Think about what you don't want to have happen (like your words get twisted into 'psycho coworker is stalking me and won't let go' and spread around the office, that sort of thing) and evaluate whether you want to have that happen and whether it's likely.

You should really pay attention to what FAMOUS MONSTER said.

I get why people are generally against confrontation, because it usually goes badly and does nothing to relieve your feelings, often making them worse. But I can't fully accept that friendships should always end with one person dumping the other with no explanation. I definitely don't agree that you must avoid confronting him in order to forgive him - unless you're actually afraid of him I think that's crazy talk. It is all part of the modern thinking about forgiveness as something the injured party does by themselves in their closet. You might have to forgive on your own if the offender won't apologize, but we can't kid ourselves that forgiveness is not about relating to other people and doesn't have to include them at all! Even if this doesn't end in forgiveness, I hope you can see what I'm getting at here.

The book I always recommend in these situations is "There's something I have to tell you" by Charles Foster. It focuses on all the ways in which confrontations fail and how to maximize the chances of succeeding. You may end up deciding not to confront - especially since this is a coworker - but it's worth thinking through from every angle.

Good luck.
posted by tel3path at 5:56 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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