How do you cope if you’re falling out with female friends?
There are stacks of advice books on how to deal with toddler fights and disputes. It gets more complicated when you’re falling out with female friends.
I moved to my small town about 18 months ago, and soon met two local mums. They’ve been friends for years, and I’m the more recent third wheel friend. It can be tricky maintaining a friendship in a group of three. I think someone always feels left out, or perhaps worries they’re being talked about by the other two.
Certainly that’s what seems to have happened to me. And I’ve learned that I hate falling out with female friends.
I became friends with H and P soon after arriving in town. I occasionally felt awkward as a third wheel, but really enjoyed the company of both ladies. They’re a similar age to me, hilarious, and smart. Over a few months, it became apparent that P didn’t like me spending time on my own with H. To make matters more awkward, H had some unresolved issues with P. Rather than talking to her friend directly, after a couple of drinks, she’d start telling me about all the slights her friend inflicted on her. These ranged from from criminal selfishness down to demanding the Tesco clubcard points when they went shopping.
Eventually I reached a point where I didn’t want to be in the middle any more, and I said so. I wanted to be friends with both women, and I felt disloyal hearing things said about P. Of course H and P were both shocked by my feelings. H was embarrassed and guilty, and denied ever having talked about anyone behind their back. And P said I was being ridiculous if I thought she was jealous of me spending time with H. Clearly, I’d made the whole thing up.
Now, neither woman is speaking to me, and I’m left feeling cross and embarrassed and sad. Because I really, truly like both of those women.
It’s a stupid situation and I’m just sorry I got mixed up with it, in the first place. It feels so silly to be falling out with female friends, when I’ve spent the last couple of years drilling into Flea the importance of playing nicely and never using unkind words?
This weekend, Flea wanted to go to H’s house to collect a brand new soft toy she’d left there. When I said we couldn’t, she was awake until 1am fretting. Tonight, she asked why she couldn’t go over and play with H’s daughters after school. I was a bit flummoxed, really.
“Well, H and P have been a bit unkind, and I don’t really want to talk to them right now.” (Seriously, is that the worst parenting answer I’ve ever given? There should be a sticker, or something)
“What did they do that was wrong?” she asked.
Hmm. “They were unkind to Mummy and to each other.”
“What did they do that was unkind?” (said in hushed tones, and with those wide eyes that make me feel I just trampled another little part of her innocence underfoot)
“Well…” Must not use swear words, must not use swear words. “They didn’t tell the truth, and I think that’s unkind if it upsets someone.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Will we see them tomorrow?”
She went off to bed distracted by the promise of bacon for breakfast, but I really don’t know what she makes of it all. It’s complicated enough to process that sort of thing when you’re 34, let alone when you’re not quite four.