Decade-old friendship sabotage discovery-to confront or not to confront?
November 15, 2022 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I recently learned about decade-old friendship sabotage -- should I confront the saboteur or let it go?

My best friend and I were introduced twenty years ago by a woman with whom we are no longer in contact. Let’s call my best friend Natalie and this other woman Carrie. Natalie and I both lost touch with Carrie in our late twenties. Shortly after Natalie and I met, she and Carrie fell out. A couple of years later, I fell out with Carrie, too, when she inexplicably ghosted me before my wedding, in which she’d agreed to be a bridesmaid.

Over the next couple of years, Natalie and I became very close friends. Not long after that, Natalie and Carrie patched things up, though Carrie and I did not. Carrie’s return didn’t seem to affect my relationship with Natalie, so I didn’t worry about it. I enjoyed my best friend while keeping my distance from Carrie with no apparent issues. This went on for four years.

Then, about ten years ago, the closeness of my friendship with Natalie cooled for reasons that I thought were situational—she moved, I moved, my dad went through cancer treatment, I went through fertility treatment. There was nothing dramatic about this cool down. We spoke less often and she seemed to confide in me less, but I just assumed that she was giving me space because I was going through so much with my family. After a couple of years, Natalie and I became close again, even closer than we were before, and Natalie and Carrie’s friendship fizzled out for reasons that were unrelated to me.

Last month, Natalie and I were discussing the cooling off period for the first time since it happened, and she confided that it was precipitated by something I hadn’t known about. Apparently, Carrie told her that when they fell out in our twenties, I had counseled Carrie on how to “break up” with Natalie, even providing her with a script for a letter she wrote to her. I never did anything of the sort and was shocked to hear this strange, outrageous lie. Natalie had felt understandably hurt that I neglected to tell her about my “participation” in her breakup with Carrie, but given the strength of our friendship, Natalie said she assumed that I was trying to spare her feelings somehow by keeping it a secret. Nonetheless, it cast a shadow over our friendship, causing her to trust me less and distance herself for a couple of years.

Natalie and I have cleared everything up, and neither of us is friends with Carrie anymore, but I’m now consumed with the fact that Carrie did this to me and to Natalie, presumably with the intention of harming our friendship. I can’t stop thinking about it, and fantasizing about confronting her, even though her actions have no bearing on my present life in any way.

So should I reach out to Carrie to confront her ten years after her “crime” or should I let sleeping dogs lie?
posted by somebodytellme to Human Relations (21 answers total)
Oh, please leave this alone. You’ve got your good friend back, and Carrie didn’t commit any horrible wrongdoing. Don’t dredge.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:59 AM on November 15, 2022 [33 favorites]

Write a letter and burn it if you need to, but I don't think it's a good idea to invite Carrie back into your life by contacting her.
posted by muddgirl at 7:02 AM on November 15, 2022 [10 favorites]

No, you shouldn't. This would nag at me too - what was going on in Carrie's head? Was this malice or delusion or something else? Is she in a better place now or a worse one? Would she apologize or lie if confronted?

But if you confront Carrie you'll just make it weird and create more drama. Either Carrie maliciously lied, Carrie was having some mental health struggles which made this seem like it had some truth value, or Carrie had some anxiety problems which led her to tell a weird lie and get in over her head. If Carrie wasn't malicious, she's either doing better now or she's not. If she's not doing better, you're just going to get a mess of drama, and if she is doing better, she's probably pretty ashamed and stressed about her past lies and there's nothing significant to be gained about seeking her out again.

If this is haunting you - and this may sound excessive! - could you book a session, online or in person, with a counselor? Telling this story another few times and getting some validation may help you let it go because you will feel that it's been witnessed/"it counts".
posted by Frowner at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is fresh for you and there is a lot of new information to process. However, this is not fresh for Natalie and she's had plenty of time to deal with her thoughts about this. This is also very much in the past for Carrie. Both her and Natalie are very different people today. You want to confront today-Carrie about a thing that past-Carrie did to past-You, which you of today are only just now learning about and dealing with.

What do you want from this?

After you figure that out, what is the best way for you to achieve that, given these circumstances?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:08 AM on November 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

Leave it alone. If you were to confront her, what would be the ideal sequence of events that would make you feel better? Concentrate on whatever you have to do to mourn the fact that this ideal situation will almost certainly never be a possibility, and whatever work you need to do to move on. It's in the past, you have your friend back, and this person is no longer affecting your life. It really can't get much better than that.
posted by cgg at 7:10 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

It sounds like Natalie recently realized something you've known for a while - that Carrie is not a trustworthy person or a good friend. Messy friendship situations are rarely resolved so completely and tidily. What a gift! Congratulate yourself privately for being correct about Carrie, enjoy your friendship with Natalie, and carry on with your life.
posted by superfluousm at 7:30 AM on November 15, 2022 [14 favorites]

Let it go. Don't pour more time into this.
posted by Meagan at 7:39 AM on November 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

I suggest warning anyone you know who is still in touch with Carrie, in case she does this to someone else.

Apart from that, leave it alone.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you confront Carrie, she'll probably claim that Natalie is lying. Since Carrie's the more likely liar, any info from her is worthless anyway, so why even ask her? I agree with everyone that it's best to let it go.

But honestly, I would find that hard too. I would probably talk it through with a confidante, brainstorm some possible explanations for that bizarre behavior (deliberate plot against me?, mental health episode?, hallucination? gas leak? just confused me with someone else?) and than settle on the one I find most boring as the likeliest one and that's how would tell the story to myself going forward.
posted by sohalt at 8:09 AM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Put your energy into catching up with good friends and making new ones.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2022

Nothing good will come of this.
posted by mumkin at 8:43 AM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

The important thing is that you and Natalie know the truth. You can leave Carrie to karma.
posted by tomboko at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

No, there's been more than enough Carrie-related drama already, and this doesn't sound like she's someone who is going to see the error of her ways and make an apology to you at this late date if she hasn't done so unprompted. There are no amends she can make and nothing she can fix at this point, with your friendship with Natalie already repaired.

There's no good outcome here from contacting her. Do whatever you need to do to process this on your own and with Natalie, and move forward.
posted by Stacey at 9:01 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Carrie betrayed you. I fully understand why you're upset. Betrayal hurts. But a fitting revenge is unlikely after so long, and would take effort and energy I suspect you have much better uses for.

So I'm with the consensus here: leave it alone.
posted by humbug at 9:27 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hats off to all the mature people saying leave it alone, but were I in your shoes, my path would be to tell this story to anyone with ears. The gossip mill is useful!! If you have other mutual friends, I would 100 percent dish about this both to alert them in case Carrie has meddled in their bonds, too, and to see if there is any other additional info or context, because as-is it's so shitty and bizarre. And then if it gets back to Carrie....well, that's life in the NFL.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

To answer the question on whether confronting her is likely to make you feel better, in a similar situation in my younger days, I did attempt to confront the person. She simply ignored it and ruminating on it didn't make me feel any better. And in all honesty, even when people have apologized to me for something years after it happened, it was too far in the past to really make me feel any better.

To go back to the classic Ask trope, I would suggest setting up a few therapist sessions to talk this though the issue with a professional and then let it go.
posted by Candleman at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2022

I can’t stop thinking about it, and fantasizing about confronting her, even though her actions have no bearing on my present life in any way.

No, but you are outraged on behalf of your past self. Anger is a response to perceived unfairness and you wish you could protect your past self -- and Natalie's! -- from the massively unfair thing Carrie did. But your past self can't benefit from you, in the present, actually confronting Carrie. As iamkimiam said, "You want to confront today-Carrie about a thing that past-Carrie did to past-You, which you of today are only just now learning about and dealing with."

So if you can't let it go, and can't stop fantasizing, then write down the fantasy, and make it absurdly satisfying! Carrie breaks down crying, apologizes profusely, explains that her actions came from overwhelming jealousy of [insert your most desired qualities here, e.g., poise, wisdom, ambition, hair, etc.], and dedicates the rest of her life to foot care for the poor. You doing this is the final step Natalie needs to finish healing from the incident, and her work, relationships, and artistic practice begin flourishing as never before. You emerge from the experience solidly reassured of your own judgment, equanimity, and relationship prowess.

Of course that's not how it would actually go. But if you need to scratch the itch of imagining that, to give vent to the outrage, try writing down how you wish it would go, and take it to laughably absurd extremes, and see if that helps you attain a new perspective?
posted by brainwane at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you confront Carrie, she'll probably claim that Natalie is lying.

Yeah, THIS. Liars gonna lie even if you shove proof in their faces.

I had this kind of thing happen to me once, except my ex-friend married the liar. Definitely not worth it to try to confront anyone, but I think it's fair to warn anyone who ever met Carrie. I found out that the liar in my case was telling all kinds of shit to everybody.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:37 PM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I question the leap to "Carrie is a horrible person and habitual liar" here. The OP was friends with this person for many years, and the fact that they are surprised about this particular incident makes it sound more like an anomaly.

OP: Carrie appears to have betrayed you at least twice and that's obviously a problem. However, I think iamkimiam has it right above when they ask "What do you want from this?"

I often find that I don't really care about an apology, what I want is for the person to have never done it in the first place. Failing that I want them to fix the situation, to undo the damage they caused.

But there's no going back on the damage they did, and in any case you've already fixed and undone as much of it as possible. What further is there to do here? What do you want from this?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:19 PM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

So if I understand the timing right, you're talking about something Natalie remembers happening 10 years ago when Carrie told her something that she remembered happening 10 years before that?

I wouldn't even assume malice, memories are fallible. Let it go.
posted by mmoncur at 3:29 AM on November 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Your anger is totally reasonable, your hurt is very real. People who lie and manipulate do not respond to reason and honesty; you will get no benefit from confrontation. Someone like C will get emotionally re-invested and try to find other ways to cause trouble. I think the way forward to to recognize the anger and hurt, and work on letting them go. You have a renewed and healthy friendship with Natalie, an excellent outcome for you both.
posted by theora55 at 8:35 AM on November 16, 2022

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