Escaping from a toxic triangle

Published: January 21, 2009 | Last Updated: January 22, 2009 By | 73 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

I’m a 40-year-old woman who feels like she’s back in junior high. I have three kids who are very involved in sports and activities. Over the last four years, my husband and I developed a group of friends with kids the same ages. My closest friend in the group was a woman named Susan.

Recently we went away with Susan and her DH (dear husband), and another close friend Jenny and her husband. It was a terrible trip. Jenny was pretty much a bore and ruined much of the weekend. She ganged up against me and afterwards, my best friend Susan ignored me for an entire month or more—not answering phone calls, walking away from me at school events, etc. I finally confronted her at a baseball game. She called me names, and said she was tired of defending me to "everyone." I asked her what she meant and she said I was mean and biting.

Susan and I have been on three family vacations together: One was great, but the other two were terrible when Jenny and her family were involved. I can’t forgive Susan for the cruel things she said to me and for walking away without giving me a chance to speak. She spent weeks talking about me behind me back—poisoning other friendships with Jenny and even my neighbor. Next thing I knew, she was calling me for rides for her daughter, dropping off Christmas cookies, and baking us bread. She recently asked if my DH and me wanted to drop by for drinks.

I have no desire to befriend her again. Jenny and I started to patch things up after our trip but this weekend, she told me that she wanted me to know that her family and Susan’s were going on vacation together this summer. She wanted to know if my family would think about a "separate " house at the beach.

Some days I feel like I’m in some sort of depression. I wish these people didn’t bother me, but I feel terribly betrayed. Our kids are all in the same activities and I can’t get away from them, I’ve even considered moving our family to another state. Being made a fool of embarrasses me but I don’t intend to suck up to anyone to get them to like me.

I’m having a hard time coping…Thanks for your help.



Dear Patsy,

The reason why you are having a hard time coping is because these women have either been nasty or have been giving you mixed messages. Sometimes women are blinded to the foibles in their friends for the sake of the kids—until they get clobbered over the head. Because you and your children once enjoyed spending time with these two other families, you may consider these women “friends,” but don’t make that mistake. True friends aren’t petty, cruel, and divisive. You need to find a way to extricate yourself from this adolescent triangle and find friends with whom you are more compatible.

Susan and Jenny have drawn a line in the sand; they plan to keep you at a distance—in a “separate house.’ Is this acceptable to you? If you agree to remain a friend on their terms, you will continue to feel hurt. Opt out of the triangle now. You don’t need to make abrupt changes but begin to treat these women as parents of your children’s friends, not your friends. Let your kids take the lead in determining whether they want to get together with the other kids. I’m not sure how old your kids are but children reach an age when they want to make their own friends anyway.

Begin mingling with other moms and try to put these toxic women in the periphery of your life—downgrade them from friends to acquaintances. I promise you will feel better about yourself. Just because these women are acting like girls in junior high doesn’t mean that you have to play in the their playground.


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  1. Shannon says:

    I went through a situation where my best friend and I went to high school together. She came from a well to do family, who acquired their wealth through winning a huge lawsuit. I was poor, and never had nice things growing up, so my best-friend at the time would let me borrow her nice clothes, use her make-up, and she even gave me lunch money when my mom could not give me any. She paid my way to homecoming, prom, and other school events. After graduation, I joined the military for a better life. She got a boyfriend, and moved in with him. When I came back to my hometown after four years of service things were diffent. Her family lost their mansion, mustangs, and other nice things through irresponsible spending of the settlement money, and they were in a little apartment with an old cadillac to my surprise. My best friends live in boyfriend dumped her, so she had to move back home. She had not been to college or did anything big since high school. The boyfriend supported her while she stayed home and hung out for four years.

    Despite this, she was so supportive of me when I was down and out as a child I took the reins in supporting her as an as an adult. I had good income, so I would buy her things, take her out for drinks, and give her rides. Eventually, I met my husband and married. Shortly after we had a son. Her attitude started to change after my husband and I moved in to our house. She started ignoring my calls, and hanging out with other people, who did not work, have kids, and lived at their parents homes as well. I didn’t care that she made other friends, but she got cold to me over night, and she would may comments about how unhappy she was that I had children. She said I did not give myself time to be young. She said I became too serious, and not fun anymore. However, when she entered in new relationships she would be eager to do double dates with my husband and I, but when her relationships ended it was back to blowing me off. I eventually stopped spending money on her too. I felt that at 27 years old we should not be buying for the each other anymore. She snapped on me and called me conceded, and should understand that she could not work because of her bipolar. I tried to work our friendship out until one day she made fun of my house. She said it was near the ghetto, and I might get shot. I told her that it was better than the two bedroom that she was stuffed in with her parents and brothers in a nice part of town. Then I told her she should grow up and become independent before she makes fun of my house. We never spoke again, and it has been two years. We had good times together, and I am saddened that my growing up threatened her. I would have loved to have gotten married and have children along side her doing the same thing, but we took two different paths. We grew apart.

  2. Kylie says:

    I also have had numerous friendship betrayals. Starting with my best friend and my brother’s wife. I introduced them and wanted to include my sister-in-law with my friends because she was a stay at home mom. Little did I know that I would create a triangle of back-stabbing gossip and betrayal that has ruined my relationship with my only sibling. They are no longer friends yet the trust has never been recovered. These kind of experiences can last a lifetime unfortunately and be a lasting wound. Never an acknowledgement, apology even after I begged for reconciliation. I also work in a large organization with various generations of women and it is frightening the bullying and mean-girl tactics I observe. I am also single so unfortunately do not have a husband’s emotional support. It can be a sad and only existence. Great that we have these blogs to share anonymously and a lot cheaper than therapy ! Thanks for ‘listening’.

    • Friendship Doc says:

      Hi Kylie,

      Thanks for sharing! Hopefully, you will find a trusting relationship that will make these betrayals more distant memories. Warm regards, Irene

  3. Irene says:

    I am so sorry about your miscarriage and the loss of this friendship.

    Do not engage with this woman any more. Eventually she will burn herself out. It sounds like she may have been more comfortable with you when she saw you as one-down but her behavior sounds unconscionable. 

    My warm wishes go out to you~

    Best, Irene



  4. Anonymous says:

    I am new to this site. It is so sad to read all of these stories. I have recently been in a similar situation to several of the posts above. I was born on the same day as my best friend. Our mothers were best friends. We grew up best friends. Growing up, my family never had money or nice things. There was a lot of abuse. My friend was encouraging through our mid-twenties. I worked two jobs to put myself through college. She always pushed me along giving me confidence. Once I graduated and married well, I was no longer in the same financial setting that I was as I was as a child. I could see changes in her when we bought our house. I often downplayed things, so that she wouldn’t think I was flaunting any successes, as she and her husband her financially struggling. When I was going through infertility and multiple miscarriages, she started making several hurtful remarks. She would make things up to mutual friends to make me sound dramatic, or that I thought I was better. When I was going through my last miscarriage, she posted very passive aggressive posts on Facebook, that I took very personally. Going through such a traumatic experience for the seventh time, even after treatments and corrective surgeries to enhance my chances to carry a child, I just couldn’t deal with what she had to say in the social media. I blocked her from my friends list so that I wouldn’t have to see what she was saying on my friends timelines. That was nine months ago. She has continued to be hateful through other people and emails. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I have only responded to the first few messages with sincere love, but I don’t know what she is wanting from me. I am fine moving on, but she keeps trying to drag me back into the fire.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I went through your same situation. It is very painful.
    I am a teacher also. As far as how do you proceed with your friendship with your friend who stands in the middle. My input would be for you to reevaluate your definition of a friend. In my experience, I had to learn that this middle “friend” is no friend at all. I wanted so badly to be friends with both of them that I compromised my own inner integrity to “accept” the abuse. In my opinion, it is passive abuse when your middle friend knows what happened to you but remains friends with the “bully” ….the abuser.
    Also, I’ve had to work on MYSELF and find out WHY I attracted that to my life as it is a very powerful lesson I am learning in self love. I wish you well.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I live in a small town on a little street. I was in heaven in my new home with our two pre school boys untill a high school friend of mine moved in across the street. She has two beautiful boys the same age as my boys. The compotition and criticism of my children started quickly. Small childhood fights between the boys were followed by horrible phone calls telling me how poorly behaved and agressive my boys were. I was told by her that her boys told the truth, and my boys were lying. She befriended other moms in the neighborhood excluding my family and children from activities, parties etc. happening across the street. Fast forward. My children are well adjusted and happy, so are hers. I have some very nice friends in my life. I see the woman, my former friend and we are friendly to each other. I do not think she has the good friends I have. She is a competive, unhappy woman who was never happy for me or my children. Why? She has great kids. She is such a sad case. Her loss.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I golf on a ladies league. One of the ladies and I were the best of friends(inseperable). She is friends with the other women their, but I think they arte afraid of her aggresive personality. She made friends with another lady but still was my friend.For no reason last August she stop calling me, talking to me and intentionally leaving me out of avtivities,she exclude me right in front of me. Iwas there for her through the bad times. She went on a cruise with the other lady and her mother and she really didn’t bother with me. I found out thtat the mean lady and her mother made me the topic of their conversation on the cruise(her mother knows absolutely nothing about me.) she only tells her mother one side of the story,she always plays the victim even though she is at fault. Now she gossips non stop about me to others on the golf league, because of this I now have 0 friends, I am not asked to golf and I have noone to golf with in tounaments, the thing is that the other ladies listen to her bull and believe her they do what ever she says. She always had to be one up on me .I have a Masters degree so she says she has two! when I find out she is lying about a lot of things. Her past occupation and alot of different things. What can I do to rebuild my friendship with the other ladies on the league? and how do I get her and her mother to stop talking (lying about me)
    Becky New Jersey

    • Maria says:

      Why? We always want to know why? What did I do? Probably nothing – sometimes things happen because of simply bad timing. Friendships are much more complicated than we sometimes realize. I have been the third wheel, I’ve been the one gossiped about, I’ve been known to gossip (and I don’t mean make stuff up, but share semi-private info) –mostly only when I’ve been drinking though, but I try REALLY hard never to do this, and sadly, I have been the one who stopped calling a friend and I never really told her why. So, I’m sharing this with you, so you can see another prospective and perhaps help you to heal. I’ll call this ex-friend of mine, Mary. Her and I became close over a year’s time – we shared the same weightloss and workout goals, and had kids the same age. The friendship for me started to turn south when I was going through some major stress. My finance troubles began to snowball, and I also had health issues, which caused forgetfulness, severe tiredness and horrible foot pain. Since I was new to town, I was anxious to make new friends and so therefore, I didn’t share “too much” about my physical pain or financial woes. Who wants to make friends with a complainer? So, I bottled much of this inside and put on a happy face, while I continued to make friends with other women, but Mary began to get jealous and even possessive, as if I wasn’t allowed to have or make new friends without always including her. She would have other friends over and not always ask me, and I was fine with it. I don’t think she ever saw it this way, and was either blinded by her jealousy, or was only looking at things from her own eyes. She was always very thoughtful and kind to me, but this jealousy thing was causing me to put too much thought and energy that I didn’t have into our friendship. So, I began to pull away and then she began to try harder and act angry towards me. During this time, another gal I’ll call Amy, who lived in the same neighborhood and I started to become friends, and Mary was really upset then! I later found out these two for what ever reason STRONGLY didn’t like one another. So, I’m sure Mary took this as the ultimate betrayal when she saw me on a few different occasions with Amy and I had stopped returning her text and messages as frequently as I use to. I later began to realize Amy, was purposely using me to get at Mary. Inviting me over, to taunt Mary. So, I eventually backed off both friendships, and chose not to engage either one. Looking back I probably should have handled things differently with Mary. I don’t hate Mary, and I don’t think she’s a bad person – the friendship ended because of bad timing, circumstances, and her jealousy issues that “at the time” I was not emotional able to confront her about and that part was my fault. I don’t wish her bad, and I still see her from time to time, and I do say “hi”, but the friendship has become awkward and damaged. A good friendship is built on trust and I don’t think either of us trust one another. And so, it is what it is! I often wonder if she thinks I gossip about her, and I wonder if she gossips about me. After writing this, I think I do need to some how contact her and share my feelings with her. What are your thoughts?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have several long-term girlfriends who sort of overlap in social circles that are truly friendly and great. A number I have introduced to each other and others were introduced to me. Not all of us are included in every gathering every time for any number of reasons but I take pleasure in seeing my girlfriends enjoy each other and they do with me as well. I never experienced the type of jealousy and unpleasant behavior I am reading about in this blog until I moved near to a friend I never really saw all that often before I moved closer. In my new area, she introduced me to a new friends but then quickly had serious resentment issues when I actually developed ongoing relationships with others. She has since then disparaged the other friends whenever she speaks to me, stopped including me in social gatherings and I discovered was talking behind my back in unflattering and apparently misrepresentative ways. I am floored. This has never happened to me as an adult and I was completely flumoxed. I don’t do this type of behavior to others and am largely surrounded by female friends who are gentle and kind, but I suspect my friend believes others behave as she does. There is no fixing her issues nor talking this out with her but the solution has been a no-brainer for me. I gave it a year of seeing if it would settle down and when it did not, cut the friendship off. I simply don’t tolerate friends who gossip, disrespect boundaries, are malevolent, controlling, judgmental or not reflective and regretful of their own behavior (last point of which is that reflectiveness in friends makes them always forgiveable, just as we hope to be tolerated for our unwitting tongues or mistakes when we admit them). Keep in mind, my friend is not all bad. But, when any of us lack respect for our friends what good we have in us is too overshadowed to be appreciated. It is important not to make our friends work too hard to feel loved and respected.

    I am quietly polite when I see her but now I never call. For what it’s worth, I have ongoing, pleasant contact with my new friends, as I am accustomed, and say nothing about her one way or the other. So, I highly recommend an unhesitating editing of friends whose characters neither demonstrate respect nor help you to maintain your integrity and dignity.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We also had some new mothers at school who moved quickly to inflitrate and ingratiate themselves with everyone. Of course, it ended badly from my point of view. These women were out for themselves in every way and didn’t hesitate to throw anyone under the bus, if they even thought, they might gain some advantage in doing so. I still can’t forgive some of them for their behavior but I can get along when I need to.

    It seems to me that I have never trusted women completely. I kind of hold back a bit until I get to know them. The only advantage in doing so is not investing a lot in others until I really get to know . I still get hurt though.

    I will never understand what makes people so mean to others.

  10. Anonymous says:

    With some exceptions, most women I know can be really petty and mean

  11. Anonymous says:

    I was the “new kid” on the block so to speak and definitely knew where I stood. I believed then as I do now that whenever you are new to a job you should sit back and observe how things go whether it be on the professional level or the in the lounge at break time. This gives you a better idea for how things run and who is in charge. Well, I did this for two years in an elementary school where one particular teacher was the
    “go to person”, the one who was “large and in charge.” From the beginning red flags were going up all around this person for me but everyone else seemed to really like and respect her, could I be wrong? I didn’t realize it until after two years of dealing with her “mood swings” and someone else asking me, “why do you let her treat you so badly?” that I was being bullied. I thought I just needed to try harder because for whatever reason I was annoying her. I even went to such extremes as to not talk whenever we were with other teachers because if I did I would get a nasty look or a sigh. After all, she was the only one who counted and it seemed everyone was always willing and anxious to hear what she had to say. Then it got to the point if I laughed at someone’s comment or joke I would get a dirty glance from her; oops, I’d better not laugh either! I had never been bullied before I did not know I was quickly becoming her prime target and also I did not know I was
    making it very easy for her to target me every time I tried to
    appease her. This went on for eight years. I had no one to go to. I couldn’t go to my boss, he didn’t like confrontation and especially with someone who seemed as strong willed as she. I couldn’t go to my co-workers because they were all in awe of her. I suffered in silence, I would cry at home, on my way to work. I would try to avoid her at all cost but when you teach the same grade level that is very difficult to do. Another thing I had going against me was her level of skill. She is a master at her craft. It hasn’t been until last year I was able to talk to a select few of my co-workers about this and that is only because they came to me and asked me what was going on with this person, why was she giving me the silent treatment and excluding me from activities? I decided to “test the waters” with one person, my story was well received by her. The next person who asked happened to have student taught under “my bully” so I did not open up to her. We became very close even though she had a close relationship with “my bully”. It certainly complicated things to say the least. After a couple of years my friend finally said something’s up and she wanted to know. I told her absolutely not, that I did not want to put her in the middle of things. I asked her to drop it. She would not give up until I finally said I would tell her but I also said she asked for it and once I tell her things will be different between us. She still insisted so I spilled 8 years of ugly, abusive treatment. My friend was shocked! My response was SERIOUSLY!! Anyway, she proceeded to tell me how “my bully” talked trash about me to her all the time. She said, “I’m so amazed, you never once said anything bad about her to me.” I was hurt, I thought I had found a good friend in this person but that statement spoke volumes. Did she not know my character? Anyway, this friend continues to be “best friends” with “my bully” . I told her I would not ask her to take sides however, do not expect me to act as if I am best friends with my bully too, just for her sake. I have tried over the years to confront my bully but she either runs away or twists things to make me to be the problem. I have come to the realization this person is evil and I have to do what is best for me. What is best for me is to have as little contact with this person as possible. How do I handle the friend who I feel does not stand up for me when it comes to my bully? Whenever she is in the same company as my bully she acts and treats this person as if she is a good person. Just this past school year I can’t tell you how many people both in my place of work and in the community have made comments about ‘my bully” and her character (not positive comments). If asked, I speak freely about how this person has bullied me, I am not the town crier only if I’m asked. Any ideas for me in regards to the friend who stands in the middle? How do I proceed with my friendship with her or should I ease slowly away from her too?

    • Sarah says:

      Dear Anonymous (June 27, 2012 at 12:20 am),

      It’s hard to undo a stigma and it sounds like your bully has succeeded in keeping you out of the lime light so she can have it all to herself. She’s done this by buttering up everyone around her to think she’s THE GREATEST, while making sure everyone thinks you’re so NOT! Sounds like vile and evil woman and I’ve known a few in my lifetime. I have one in my neighborhood now, but luckily I only see her at the bus stop and I don’t have to work with her. I also had one at my last job, that I was at for five long years. It sucked, because I loved my job and the people I worked with – all except her! She tried very hard to ostracize me, and I did my best to ignore her and be my sweet, likable self, glowing with happiness every chance I got! The last year and half before I stopped working, she finally started to get to influence those who I was friends/friendly with. It was horrible when I could see the guilt on their faces after they’d return from lunch. Women who had been very friendly would suddenly stop being as friendly to me the more they hung out with her and when I’d make small talk to them, their guilt was written all over their faces, as they’d look down at the floor and anywhere but in my eyes. She was really able to do most of her damage when I was no longer able to keep up my strong ties with my lady work-friends on the weekends. So, she was able to slowly poison most of the gals I worked with. She was always very clever and convert with her tactics – she was able to exclude me in very clever ways, like invite a group to go to lunch with her in front of me and not say or ask me, until the last second she’d say hesitantly “oh… (w/a long pause), you can come tooo… (pause) I guess. Underhanded code for, I don’t really want you to go, but I guess I should be polite to ask, while making it clear to everyone “that I don’t care for you”, and anyone who ACTS like they like you, will be excluded from my group too”. And, if you’re lucky, there might be a strong soul-ed woman in the group who will make up her own damn mind who she likes and doesn’t, but most women are blind fools, who follow the leader. If at all possible it’s time to jump to a new ship and learn to reassert yourself to seem more confident, so the newest bully on the block doesn’t think she can get away with targeting you to satisfy her own self-worth!

      • Kitty says:

        I am in the middle of the EXACT same work situation. Have been for 11 years now and it has definitely worn on my self-esteem. One by one each person that at one time was friendly to me was poisened by this one woman (the leader of the pack). I can’t go to management, because the all-male management adores this woman and is oblivious to the ways of a catty female. For some reason this woman singled me out as a threat to her, and God knows I tried for years to be friendly to her. But she has it out for me and is a very charismatic type of people person (when she likes someone!). It has been years of being ostracized by her and anyone else she eventually influences, inbetween the times she pretends to be friendly to me with the intent to gleen information and then uses it against me with her ‘tribe’. I ended up seeking counseling over this and my counselor said that basically I am the tarket of bullying, and advised me to get another position. Well, unfortunately that is not possible at this time or any foreseeable future. So I just do the best I can but every year a little more of my self-esteem is sanded off of me in these daily contacts.

        • Friendship Doc says:

          This sounds pretty horrible. I’m so sorry that you are in this situation. Is there someone in a Human Resource Department to which you can speak? Best, Irene

          • Kitty says:

            Thanks Irene. No, not really. Gossip and these kind of ostracizing behaviors are extremely difficult to prove as they are made up of so many covert instances. It is much easier to prove an instance of racial or age discrimination than all the behind-the-scenes whispers, and ostracizing tactics of a bully (you know, the rolling contemptuous eyes, the impatient replies, the body language where she positions her back to you and then talks to the rest of the group, etc.) Then when the bully establishes her ‘tribe’ as I have come to see it, there is too much support in favor of the bullier to stand a chance. I am Christian and just pray that God will sustain me and bring me through this. I have a wonderful loving church family, a loving and devoted husband, and great adult children. So I try to focus on all the blessings in my life and keep this in perspective. The difficult thing is that I spend 40 hours of every week in this crazy environment!!

        • Kate says:


          The same thing at work has been happening to me for over a decade. It goes in waves. Sometimes ok, sometimes tolerable, and other times all consuming and I’m miserable. I don’t know what the answer is as I’m living it. People can say ignore it, but, that doesn’t work.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have several friends in other parts of the country that I have had a good relationship with for 15 years or more. I also have about five really good friends here that I have respectful and supportive relationships with as well as great relationships with my husband, son, and siblings.

  13. Anonymous says:


    I’m new to this board but have been following it for some time now.

    I am 50 and live in a lovely town with more than its share of mean, cliquish, gossiping women. Getting mean-girled has happened to me several times here and frankly, the ones who have done never dazzled me to begin with, so in a way they did me a favor.

    It seems to me that no matter how nice I was and how much I made the effort, I was always the most convenient target. I am wondering if any of you feel that being nice and accommodating does make it easier for mean-women to behave this way? The mean-girl’s posse always follows along and if that’s the case, then I don’t want to know them either.

    Funny thing is that many of the people who I’ve blown off for this reason have later come back to try to resume the “friendship”. Why?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Your mum better off without should try and get her involved in other groups and activities and branch out a bit. I find women off all ages are mean. My friends who I have started to distance myself from started lying or omitting things which is probably better word than lying. Out of a group of 5 two of them have spent more time together and I found out recently that they have been out for dinners etc. it’s hurtful to find out after the event . I thought these were my friends for life but don’t feel as close to them anymore. There’s load of little things that don’t add up iykwim. I agonise over it and lose sleep over it and I really don’t want to because I am independent and have other friends and family. We are all in our 40s. The worse part is not knowing why they are acting like this. I honestly feel if I dropped off the face of the earth they would not care less. I still do stuff with them but don’t know whether to keep up a friendship at all or let it die .

  15. Anonymous says:

    It is difficult for most women to truly be a friend to other women because many women are so insecure within themselves that the competitive nature kicks in .

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hello all ! My mom was just recently in a situation where she had to end her “friendship” with a bunch of women who live in her building. My mom and these women are all in their sixites. Yes, even women in their “golden years” can be just as mean and vicious as high school girls. For a while things were great. My mom would go shopping with them out for dinners, and they even helped her out when she had surgery.they treated her well and my mom treated them well too. however, little by little, they started to push her out of the group. It all started when they were hanging out in the community room and one of them says “I can’t wait to go to costco tommorow.” to make a long story short, they were all going to costco and not inviting her. My mom understood that they might not have had room in the car, but they did not even ask her if she needed anything. My mom called them out on it. Then one of them had the nerve to ask my mom, if she had any other girlfriends and when my mom told her about a compliment her other friend had given her, she asked my mom if my mom’s friend was drunk when she said it. My mom was shocked and hurt. She no longer speaks to these women. My mom is not perfect, but she is a very down to earth, loving,independent, and out going woman who did not deserve to be treated this way. I told my mom this is the very reason I do not have many girlfriends and was never in to “girls night out” because there is always back handed compliments and judgements. I prefer the company of men or going out with men and women together rather than just women. I have experienced the sisterhood with only a very small few. however, overall women are very mean to each other and there really is no support or sisterhood among each other.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I agree that this is very well written and so true – follow your instincts. I used to give the benefit of the doubt and not read the signs – being late all the time, the nicely offered put downs, the endless one way phone calls.

    After my mother died I really saw who was a true friend because these friends who I spent so many hours listening to their issues would not listen to me – it was like they didn’t hear what I said and were almost angry like how dare I talk about this subject and overtalked me so I had enough of giving my time and emotional energy to them. Being away from these women I feel much happier and have improved self esteem and use my time more productively by doing creative things and having two way conversations with friends who genuinely listen and hear what is being said.

  18. Anonymous says:

    very well put!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Maybe your friend is clocked in for 70 hrs per wk but not really “working” all those hours. I know people who talk about the long hours they put in but when you look at it, they are chatting away during some of it. One person I know stays late every night but come to find out she is just using the computer for internet fun, not really working. Another person I know plays on the internet all day then suddenly starts working at his job late in the day. Then stays late and it appears he’s a workaholic working so late. People exaggerate in their minds how hard they work. Is it possible your friend really is just trying to be nice when she says she will always pay? Is it possible your friend is relieved to be able to pay for once? Only you know for sure, of course.

  20. Anonymous says:

    My best friend and I had dinner last week just to catch up and have a girl talk. She is a close friend of mine who I had encourage to go into the medical field at the time when she didn’t know what to do with her life. In 2011, she graduated and is now working in the hospital. I was very happy for her.

    This friend of mine, always tells me how she is working 70 hours a week and she makes about $100,000 a year. I’m a little surprise because she is not even a doctor and also you would be dead working that many hours.

    So after our dinner, she offered to pay. I hesistated and said “no, i’ll pay for my portion.” She insisted in paying and said I’ll pay for us, anyways I make more money than you in front of the waiter. I was shocked she said that! I was embarrased that she had said that because first of all, I am very independent and I work 40 hours a week doing administrative work in a professional setting with doctors and many professional staff.

    Funny thing is she posted on her facebook that she applied to a university online to do her bachelors but she does not think she can afford the tuition taking online classes out of state.

    If you’re reading this post, please reply back and let me know what is wrong in this picture!

  21. so distraught says:

    I am so tired of people and their BS. Lets get real people. Some of us are introverted tend to keep to ourselves & most ppl are extroverts. We always fight over the most stupid things like who is the first, and so on. It is so stupid and makes us look like idiots. For me I lost my friends when they got married. Years I was (still am) friendly when see them. Thought they wanted space so….. what found out is that they don’t want me anymore as a friend because. In your 30’s and 40’s if your white, female, single, no kids then something must be wrong with you. Lets get rid of the ratio’s and stereotypes in our own groups and work together.
    Maybe one of those girls you like to emotionally abuse actually might need a friend. & we can blame the media on those crappy tv shows that promote self indulgent ehh hemmm (real housewives) Come on!

  22. Cosmopolitan girl says:

    I agree with all the comments above. I had brought together a lovely group of girlfriends together from all wlaks of life and arranged for regular outings. One of my friends was quite vain, a little snobby and didn’t have alot of girlfriends – but I could see some good in her over the years, so I decided to invite her into the group I had created. She quickly decided she liked one of my girlfriends due to her appearance, taste in expensive clothes and acquaintainces and aligned herself to her. Bit by bit, I would find them chatting at the get togethers and excluding others, then slowly seeing each other without telling anyone else (even lying to me about when they had last seen each other) and then slowly little nasty bits of behaviour towards other girls in the group started occuring, from making fun of peoples weight to appearance etc. Then she got married and I was invited to my suprise my friend was there with a guy I knew nothing about and she had been dating behind my back for a year!!! So as you can see, bit by bit they both turned on me and somehow I ended up being the evil person? The person that introduced them was the person they disliked? It was bizarre? When I confronted both of them separately -teh queen bee was really aggressive and swore at me? I have not spoken to her since and losing her friendship was the best thing that even happened to me. The other more quiet one went under her shell and I have only bumped into her by accident a few times. She says we will get together and that nothing was meant to hurt me – but never follows through. I spent ages agonising over what I did wrong? Did I say something? Why was I not worthy of their friendship? How did all my good intentions turn into something so sour and bitter? I soon realised that it wasn’t me – it was them and their insecurities that brought tehm together and that tore a rift between us. I am now happily married and am lucky to have a husband who is very social and introduced me to some balanced women who are relatively happy and in good relationships. All I can say is beware of some women and their evil selfish intentions to get what they can out of you, including your friendships. You should be able to see the signs early on – go with your instincts and shed your friendship with these types of women early on and avoid the pain and cancerous impact they can have on your other friendships.
    I’ve come to realise now at 37 that women by their sheer nature are just competitive and until they feel secure in themselves, like themselves, in a relationship or a good support network and are happy with their lives – will probably not make good friends for confident and open women.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This is very interesting. Food for thought. So true how quick “they” (the media?) are to tell us you live longer if you have a big group of support as in friends. But old people’s friends die and they are alone. However, some old people still have a big support system; maybe belonging to a church helps in that they have outreach people who visit the elderly and the sick? I’ve spent most of my adult life living under the philosophy that being alone and having few friends is better than a gaggle of people around who aren’t good friends. But it has been lonely many times and I wonder if too much alone time over the course of a lifetime leaves scars, too.

    • Lauren says:

      A survey conducted by NCB’s Today and SELF Magazine, revealed that 83% of women admit to remaining in contact with “frenemy” because it’s too difficult to end the relationship.

      A study of 300,000 people conducted by BRIGHAM UNIVERSITY, UTAH , revealed that negative and toxic relationships with friends could be as harmful as severe obesity or smoking.

      This is interesting as I AWAYS believed that while good friends are healthy, BAD/TOXI”C friends can actually shorten your life!!!.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I make acquatances with others very easily. My motto is Do unto others as they would do unto you. Others feel the need to exclude, because it gives them a sence of power. Or they think they are smarter, richer, etc then you. I find it harder to make friends as i have gotten older.
    I prefer to be alone then in bad company. Another thing I have learned is don’t tell others to much to quick, it will bite you in the butt.
    People like to be around others they percieve as more sucessful, because it validates for them that they must be so smart and sucessful too
    Female friendships become more complicated because we invest so much of ourselves into them. We need to learn the importance of enjoying our own company. I love being by myself. Whe I hang with others it becomes so much more enjoyable knowing my dependence is less on how they treat me, but how I treat myself.
    They say friendship helps people get over sickness and live longer. i know plenty of 80’s and 90 year olds who have lost many friends, but still are able to function. This makes me angry becauseplenty of nice wonderful people get cancer and die even thought they have have a large support sytem. In my opinion friendship is overrated. Remeber the saying you can count on one hand your true friends.

  25. Lilly says:

    Oh oh, I meant to say popping instead of pooping. And also when I mentioned my friend moving to the bigger room, it was not a bigger roon, if anything it was smaller.

  26. Liily says:

    Hey all this appears to be a common problem. I feel like I am goning through the same. There is a group of us who hang about together, go to cinema, bbqs , weekends away etc. i first noticed 2 years ago when we went away that 3 of us always shared a room and anyway one of the women said she would move her pull out bed to the other room as it was bigger with the other 2 women. I swear she could not move fast enough. It was really weird. I then noticed at dinner parties that she would direct all conversation to these other 2 girls and leave me and the other girl out a bit. As I am friendly with them all I have said nothing as I do not want to appear childish and or cause a rift. I was delighted years ago to have formed this friendship (through school and kids activiteis) but I am sorry now to have been sucked in. I now try and talk to other people when out at football and school stuff etc. I do often wonder is is because I am independent and work and am strong and is there jealousy involved.

    I do think it is this one girl though who appears to be the popular one and she knows it and plays it. Also 2 of them are obessed with their weight and hair and i remember being out one night with them and I complimented them on how they looked and 3 of them stroked each other egos all night and not one nice thing said about me. I know this sounds petty but it is hurtful.

    For along time this used to eat me up at night or during the day. If I heard that they all had been in one house and I was not there it would have literally ruined my weekend. I think though I am beginning to not care as much anymore as these things dont bother me as much anymore. In the last year my mum died and only one of them calls in regularly as I do her. I have stopped pooping in as much to the others because it is not recipricated. Anyway thats my saga. Thanks for listening

  27. Irene says:

    Hi Shannon,

    I wanted to let you know that I posted a response to you on my blog today. You can see it here: Friendship Calculus: The Problem of Three

    I hope it’s helpful. Best, Irene 


  28. Irene says:

    Thanks so much for posting the video!




  29. Irene says:

    Before you know it you, will be on to a new school, new mothers, and hopefully in a better situation. Remember you’re there for your daughter and if you have to, bury your head in a book. Might I suggest mine?

    Warm wishes, Irene

  30. M says:

    So I am going through the EXACT same thing right now. It hurts, I feel like I have done something wrong, like it is my fault the friendship(s) have gone sour….
    But then I think, really????? I am a grown woman, with two wonderful kids, a fantastic husband, lots of family, other friends etc… I can’t say I am as nice as some of you are though, as I have to admit I keep thinking of things that could happen to them… the whole Karma thing….Any how it totally stinks and I really hope it stops soon. How do I go to my daughters activities when everyone is there? I have to be there for 4 hours some days…uggg. Thanks for listening!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I came across this short video on the Today’s Show website, it explained why women still “mean girl ” others.

    Yes, it definitely hurts, I have experienced it many times. You just can’t take it personally. You can’t control others’ actions. I am still trying to move on and broaden my social circle. Hopefully I’ll learn how to spot these mean women in the future.

  32. Anonymous says:

    My best friend since 8th grade humiliated me in front of group of women. Talking about the poor choices I had made in men. The next day she excluded me from a walk, then told me how she had paid for two other women on an excursion we went on. I told her how much this all hurt me. She said nothing. Actually, she said, “Ok.” I emailed her happy birthday. She didn’t reply. Should I just let this go and move on? Has anyone gotten over being treated so creuly? Thanks, Kriss

  33. Shannon says:

    Three friends never seem to work. One person always gets excluded in one way or another. I just moved to a new town where my husband grew up in a state different from the one I grew up in and went to school. I am an only child and my parents divorced when I was 3. My mother and I have a very strained relationship. My neighbors and I initially were very friendly and as our children began kindergarten, I was very nice to one woman who didn’t know many people in the town as she chose to only associate with those in her religion (Jehovah Witness). We were very friendly and quickly became good friends. I noticed she quickly began to talk about other women in the neighborhood poorly almost to see what I would say. Thank heavens in most cases, I just listened. As school activities started, another woman that my husband knew in high school started becoming friendly with me. She also would talk about different people in town. I felt happy at the time that these women felt comfortable enough to talk to me about these other people even though I really didn’t say much of anything back. How foolish! I then introduced the two because both were becoming my good friends. Next thing I knew I was the one being excluded. Cruel things happened and now I am the one without any friends or family to talk to. My husband is not very interested in all of this and although he attempts to try, is not very supportive. I feel so alone and sad and sorry for myself. Can you offer any suggestions?

  34. Anonymous says:

    I am a Christian and I have come in contact with a lot of so-called Christians. I’m not commenting on anyone’s salvation. All I can say is this; that Christian’s led by the Holy Spirit do not cause division. It says in the Bible, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. Nothing is more confusing to Christians than to encounter a non-Christian claiming to be saved. Their actions do not back up what they say. Perhaps, we have a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps….

  35. Anonymous says:

    Well stated—I have also noticed so called “Christians” are more judgemental, narrow minded, do not like any one to act, think or look different than the are. I find these people non trusting, stifling and very uncomfortable to be around. They are so insecure that they need to hide behind religion. I also consider myself a Christian, but I will not belong to any of these religious groups that are narrow minded and can not thnk for themselves.

  36. Irene says:

    Thanks for such a helpful post! Irene

  37. Liz says:

    I went through this a few years ago and then again (!)
    last year with a different group. I’ve learned a few things – maybe they will help you to move on.
    First of all, I am proud of myself for not lowering my
    standards of behavior. I would smile and say a general hello (met with stares and silence) and then act as if I had no idea that they were there.
    Also, now I have seen how this affects the children. I have two teens and a tween. Surprisingly the kids have remained friends with one or two of the mean mom’s kids. They are probably excluded from some activities – but that is not a big deal as our circle is much more varied than when they were little.
    While I’m still muddling through this myself, it is so helpful to read about other women’s stories.
    Best wishes & good luck!

  38. Irene says:


    Maybe this article I wrote on the topic for Third Age will be of some help:

    Best, Irene


  39. Anonymous says:

    Hi Irene and Patsy,

    I am in a very similar situation of being “mean-girled” and find it hard to forgive and move on. Especially since kids are involved in the same school / activities. Still don’t understand why and how it happens. Have known these women for over 5 years. Just wondering if you have any advice or if time will help.

  40. Stevie says:

    It seems to me that the older mean girl thing may spring from disastrous choices made by some of the women. My husband and I have been married for 30 years. Many 40-50ish women today are single mothers and now raising preteens and teenagers … mostly alone. The abuse I get is usually from this group. They married or had children very young, made bad decisions, divorced multiple times with kids by different spouses, and when they look at my life the only thing they can do is snarl, hiss, and be incredibly rude. Hey, sorry ladies, whatever has happened in your lives is NOT my fault. Why do they want to blame someone else for their stuff? There are so many women in this spot, at the moment, that I’ve put single women out of my life entirely. I’m not mad, I don’t need it, and it’s a bore being around angry, self-absorbed, vicious felines who are looking to do nothing but snipe at me.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Crazy, about this dynamic of women who come along into an already established group of friends. Hey, I’m all for the more the merrier, but there are some women who infiltrate a group only to decide who stays and who goes. I have no idea how I didn’t see it coming, but little by little, this woman weasled her way into the thick of the group by extending many invites and doing nice little things for us. Next thing I know, my best friend is her best friend and they’re both running me into the ground.

    My sister said that I should feel lucky to have found out now. I recently quit my job to be home more with my kids. Of course now I am plagued with this whole thing and thank goodness i no longer have the major stresses of a job, but I have to see these people at the gym, at school, at sporting events etc. and I no longer have my work friends. (work was over an hour away)

    Maybe it is the husband envy thing. Because they’re both pretty , smart and have more or comparable resources. They also have Mothers, which I dont’. Mine has been ill for a long time and has never really been there for me emotionally.

    I have to stop thinking about what i don’t have and start being more thankful for all that i do have. My daughter pointed out that I shouldn’t say that we’re lucky… but that we have blessings.. :0)

    I’m wondering if Eva ever confronted her old group and if so what happened?
    I never confronted the weasle with why she turned on me, I figured, if she’s backing the
    Bible quoting back stabber, that’s all I need to know. Game over. Secretly laughing though, because the bible quoter has always called the weasle “a Princess” behind her back.
    Yep, now they’re best buds. Hmmmm wonder how long that foundation’s going to hold?


  42. Patsy says:

    Thanks Eva and Erin,
    I had a rough day, had to wait for my kids next to 2 of the women that have made my life a living hell the past 4 months+. One of them pretends to be a friend, and the other one only pretends when her children or husband are around. Of course today she completely turned her back, note, I wasn’t jumpring through hoops to say hello either.

    Eva’s post was so familiar to what I’ve experienced. My husband and I love concerts, and sporting events and genuinely like spending time together. The Holier than thou woman seems to have a good time with her husband, but will trash him any time they fight.
    In fact, months ago her husband spoke to my husband to try to get me to mend fences with his wife.
    My husband explained that she had spent weeks trashing me in the community to numerous people and ignored me for 4 weeks without ever telling me why. Guess what her husbands response was? “Yep, that’s one of my biggest frustrations with my wife… she tells people everything we argue about and runs me into the ground with her friends.” Amazing to me that he basically admitted she isn’t trustworthy.

    I wish this stuff didn’t bother me anymore, but these were people I thought were my friends for 4+ years. Then all of a sudden they turn out to be back stabbing divisive creatures running around grabbing more people for their clique.

    Right or wrong, I’ve backed away from friendships with anyone who’s tight with the ring leader. Even though one of the women is my neighbor and keeps saying I’m her close friend… she’s secretly planning to go on vacation with these other 2. GOOD LUCK.
    The year I made that mistake, I ended up being the dishwasher as the other 2 competed for Martha Stewart cook of the year on vacation.

    Erin-Thank Goodness for my husband is right. He’s a caring, loving, forgiving guy who’s had enough of all of this. I just wish I didn’t feel so bad. I guess I’m very embarassed too, since I know I’ve been trashed to God knows how many people.
    It’s bad, but I do hope karma comes back to these 2. I have not and will not speak badly about them to anyone, but of course that’s equivalent to not defending myself since they have no problem bad mouthing me.

    I took one of those online depression tests… um.. the results weren’t so good. :0(
    Yes I know… I know, but I’m hoping that with time, 2 evil individuals will lose their ability to
    make me feel so lousy. I think part of it has to do with forgiving them. But how do you forgive people that intentionally set out to humiliate and destroy your self esteem?
    Really, how do I forgive that?

  43. Eva says:

    The woman I mentioned who broke up my group of friends. She is the same way. Would bring her Bible to work and quote scripture, etc. I’ve noticed that some of the meanest, nastiest people pretend to be Christians (or other religious persons) because they think this gives them some kind of pass to be all “holier-than-thou”. I myself am a Christian, but I do not think I’m perfect, and would never hide behind religion like some of these people do. Frankly, they aren’t really hiding. To me they stick out worse than anything. As a Christian, a mean person trying to act all religious, while stabbing people (that are supposedly their friends) in the back, is like spiting on one’s religion.

  44. Eva says:

    Erin, I’ve been dealing with that same question, all day today. I’ve had some “dear friends” of mine turn on me for no apparent reason. There was never any disagreement between us, I’ve never been anything but nice to them, and I’m not one to instigate anything. I try to avoid conflict if I can. Anyway, out of the blue, some of my friends started acting weird towards me, and then I was warned by some other people that I might want to drop these people as friends, because they were trashing me behind my back. One woman in particular. Before she came into the picture, I had a lovely group of women friends, 6 of us. We all got along, we had many BBQs and game nights at one another’s houses. For about 2 years, things were great. Then this new gal enters the picture. At first she’s nice as pie. We all welcomed her into our little group, and everything seemed fine, and then all of a sudden I notice one day that my 2 closest friends haven’t been around as much lately. Long story short, one of my closest friends now will not call me back or e-mail me, which is not like her at all. No explaination, nothing! Then this older woman whom wasn’t really a part of the group, but was a mutual friend. Says that she recently went to lunch with 4 of the gals, and my one time closest friend in the bunch tells her that I’m apparently “Fighting” with this other new gal that has muscled in on our group. Well I’ll tell ya, that’s the first I’d heard of that, because the last time I checked, things seemed fine to me. Never a harsh word said. As far as I was concerned, up until now, things were just fine. I have had this happen in the past with other women. It’s a strange phenomenon. I read about it once in this article about female behavior towards other women, and they said that envy and jealousy sometimes just runs rampant in groups of women for no apparent reason. A “friend” of yours may be jealous or envious for any number of reasons. I think in my case, the fact that my husband and I have an awesome relationship, and make time for ourselves to go to concerts, or to take our son to Oregon football games and crabbing on the coast , etc….I think this bothers some people. they wish they could do that stuff. The thing is, they could if they REALLY wanted to. It’s not like we have any more money or resources than any of these other people. We just make the time for each other. Something that a lot of my friends have been unwilling to do with their spouses. It’s not my fault they haven’t made the effort. Why do I always pay then? By the way, these same women backstab their own husbands all the time. And we are talking VERY nice, hard working men who would give the moon to their wives if they could, but these women talk about them like they’re trash. And it’s all petty stuff. I think it ticked these women off that when they asked me what I thought about certain situations I said, ” Frankly, I think you’re being harsh. You talk about him not helping enough around the house, as if he’s cheating on you. You should feel lucky to have a good man who works hard, loves you for who you are, and isn’t an alcoholic or whatever. You complain about him, but it could be worse! He could be beating you or cheating”. Needless to say, they didn’t like this answer. Okay, I’m off of my soap box now.

  45. Erin says:

    Patsy – Thank goodness you have your husband because at least he can bear witness to the ridiculousness of these so-called friends. A lot of times I think I must be imagining meanness or exaggerating situations or being paranoid in my dealings with other people, but my fiance sees what goes on and he can’t believe how mean women are. He is always telling me how sorry he is that I have to deal with women like this – they are truly everywhere. And don’t even get me started on the holier than though Christmas card – that is laughable!! I’m proud of you for being the bigger person. That’s probably why it hurts so much though, because you ARE the bigger person. I’m really sorry you are going through this 🙁 Stay strong, and daily remind yourself how special you are, because I know the insecurities their meanness can lead to. I wish you all the best! ~Erin

  46. Anonymous says:

    Hi Erin,
    I too am struggling with why women are so mean as described in my whole ’40 Toxic Triangle” scenario.
    I’ve never said anything derogatory about these women to anyone. I vent only to my husband and even as a “typical guy”, he sees how cruel they are to me.

    I can remember in 6th – 8th grade girls being mean .
    I was able to learn from junior high, and make new friends in high school. But now, it seems like my free time is very consumed with my (3) kids’ activities. I’m screwed by having to see these catty women at every pass.

    I guess I thought that as adults, we had learned about loyalty, trust and kindness. I’m amazed that bad behaving children have morphed into self righteous, divisive women.
    I think Irene was right when she told me that maybe I had overlooked some character flaws in these women because our kids were friends.

    my ex best friend: the one who bad mouthed me to 20+ people in our town, told me that she just had no use for me, then brought me baked goods over Xmas and invited us for drinks? well… she sent the most holier than thou Xmas card with scripture quotations.. and I had to laugh… If only people knew what she’s really all about… but since I’ll never spread vicious gossip, I guess they’ll have to find out for themselves.

  47. Erin says:

    Why are women so mean to each other? Obviously this site is a place where women can write in about problems with their friends, so I do understand that a lot of times we are only seeing one side of women friendship. But even in my own life, it just seems like being “friends” with other women is an invitation to hurt. Why are women so mean to each other?

  48. starrlife says:

    I like that answer. That sounds so awful and uncomfortable, who needs it! It’s sad that some people are so insecure that they have to cut someone down to feel big!

  49. Irene says:

    Nice of you to stop by and leave comments~

  50. Leslie says:

    Bravo! Excellent advice. I particularly like the “just because these women are acting like girls in junior high do doesn’t mean you have to play in their playground.”
    Added benefit if she backs away: She’ll not only have more self-respect; she’ll get some respect from them. Not that their opinion means much…but still, it will feel better than this tortured, triangulated toxicity.

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