• Handling Breakups

Friendship: A Matter of Trust

Published: October 11, 2014 | Last Updated: March 7, 2022 By | 20 Replies Continue Reading
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Can you be friends with someone whom you aren’t sure you can trust?


Hi Irene,

I’m someone who does not let people in easily. I don’t have many of what I’d call “true-blue” friends. There are many people I like to do things with and socialize with, but there are very few I would trust with my inner secrets.

My husband is one in my trusted circle. My sister is another. And there are a few others.

A few years ago I met someone through one of my “trusted friends”. She and I just hit it off. We found that we had a lot in common and found we traveled well together. We have a lot of fun. She was new to the area so I introduced her around to my social set and even invited her to join one of my women’s hobby groups.

However, now I find myself questioning this friendship. There are many reasons: One is that she developed (maybe it was there all along?) a wild side where she was hanging out with what I consider a “fast” crowd and she was having “casual sex” with two different guys in that group. One of those guys was about ten years younger than she.

Intellectually, I know she’s an adult and those are her choices, but even so, I found her behavior to be shocking. I found out later this group is known for engaging in “partner swapping,” “three-ways” and casual drug use. My friend said she only dated the two guys but she used to hang out with them a lot, so who knows.

For me, these are the last people on earth I want to spend my precious time with! My friend found them “entertaining” and even “exciting” (living on the edge I suppose). When we would go out together – and I suspect she got me to go out with her in hopes of running into them casually – we would bump into them and I know she wanted to spend time with them, so I’d say hello and then excuse myself rapidly!

That whole scene was not for me. I guess I’m having trouble equating this smart fun-loving person (a mom, no less) with this wild-child persona. It does not compute and I have to admit that I’m having a hard time not judging her for it.

She married her first husband very young and her second husband was abusive. I think she may have gotten married too young and has trust issues with men. She said she’s stopped seeing these people but I still feel weird about it all.

The other major issue is that I strongly suspect one of our “social-circle” friends stole from me during a party I hosted last year. The evidence is very solid that she took some of my prescription pain meds out of my bathroom cabinet. After discussing it at length with my husband, we both agree. I’ve never confronted this person about this, and I’ve since distanced myself from her (we are still friendly but I don’t hang out with her too often). Nonetheless, I was extremely hurt. But, since I did not have irrefutable proof I felt I could not say anything.

I spoke to my good friend and alluded to my suspicions about this other person stealing from me, but my good friend doesn’t believe it was her. After this party, they both started hanging out a lot and even do things where they exclude me.

Part of the reason is I work full-time and go to school part-time. My time is limited so going out a lot is not an option. Now I feel like I’m being left out of a lot of girl time. I see or hear about them being together all the time (we are part of the same social circle after all).

I’ve had to come to terms that the one who I think stole probably has a drug and alcohol problem. I’ve tried forgiving her (I know addictions make people do things they would not do normally), but I will never trust her ever again. I’ve compartmentalized my feelings by separating the person from the action. But still it’s been hard.

I just don’t know how to resolve these conflicts regarding my good buddy (she’s hanging out with a person I think stole from me) and I have very strong judgments regarding her behavior (casual sex, hanging with a fast crowd).

Meantime, I’ve thrown myself into my work, started hanging out with others and just started concentrating on myself. I’m engaged in a lot of activities and volunteer work over the next few months, which take me out of circulation for a while, but in doing so I’m distancing myself from my good buddy and I miss her. I miss the fun and closeness we’ve had. I don’t know how to resolve this or if I should just let it go and move on.

Signed, Ella


Hi Ella,

It sounds like you have a strong moral compass and recognize that your friend has different values than you do.

While you may have a good time together and be good travel companions, this woman doesn’t seem to measure up to the standards you set for someone to be part of your “trusted circle” of “true-blue” friends.

There is probably nothing wrong with hanging out with her once in a while but I would be reluctant to trust her with your secrets or get too close. Moreover, you seem to be uncomfortable (for good reason) being around the type of people to whom she gravitates. (Do you have reason to suspect that she may be involved in drug use that impairs her judgment?)

While your friend has many qualities you admire, not being able to trust someone’s judgment usually turns out to be a deal-breaker for most people. It sounds like you have so many positive things going on in your life that it’s hard for me to understand why you are so drawn to someone who has placed you in tricky and uncomfortable situations in the past.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog that discuss friendship and trust:

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Category: Signs a friendship is going sour

Comments (20)

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  1. R Johnson says:

    Maintaining friendships is hard work under the best of circumstances. However, when there is an element of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, it becomes even more challenging.

  2. nicole says:

    Wow, I’ve encountered this situation myself. For the most part, I’m quite open minded and accepting of other people’s choices regarding their sexual lifestyle etc.

    My discomfort comes into play when I feel they’re trying to impose their values on me or judge me for my more traditional values. It’s very frustrating and I can’t help but feel a little upset that they don’t afford me the same respect I do them.

    The last fellow I dated hid his sexual proclivities from me. He was into swinging. Then I discovered he was bringing some of his playmates around me. I felt that I was being ambushed or conspired against. That’s done and I don’t want him or his friends near me ever again.

    Now, I’m leaning towards not wanting people with such vastly different values in my life anymore. It’s a shame because I used to pride myself on being openminded and nonjudgmental of people. I haven’t quite sorted out my feelings on the issue but I guess my trust was shaken.

    • Sally V says:

      @Nicole – I feel the same way. It is really sad that we, as humans, are at this place. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing back to an open-minded sense of acceptance for/of everyone. I have narrowed my friend circle too.

  3. Ruth says:

    Ella, I know you are heartbroken about the potential for losing or lessening this friendship as a result of finding out information about her that bothers you. I think that is what your post is about. I did not read in your words that you have judged her; I read that you thought you knew her and found out you don’t know her nearly as well as you thought and some of her behavior has bothered you, perhaps even shocked you.

    The Bible has been mentioned a lot here so I’m going to throw this out there. I have done prison ministry for many, many years. Some of the ladies I minister to have done inconceivable things to loved ones and strangers. Some of them have done the things you mention in your OP. It is easy for me to not judge them because my heart has been changed to accept and love them where they are at right this moment, “warts and all” as the saying goes.

    They don’t impose or ask anything from me. I have family members that constantly push healthy boundaries that my husband and I try to establish….. these family members never cease or ask for money or favor after favor. They try to manipulate circumstances and emotions into their favor. I never have this from my ladies.

    I think there is a reason you were made aware of your friends activities; if you are a praying person, and it sounds like you may be, my suggestion is to pray for her, and to be there for her when the chips fall and she comes crashing down (whatever that looks like for her). She will need a true friend in that hour. Stay positive in her life; lead her (and others around you) by example. If it’s time to put some distance in the friendship, this is ok. I’m not saying persist in a one way friendship; I’m saying unless you are pressured to compromise your own belief system, just accept and encourage her in positive choices.

    Also I was wondering if perhaps some of your pain is from the rejection of the 2 not including you in “fun” things. Use this as an opportunity to examine your heart. Why does inclusion mean that much to you? Has rejection in the your past made you more sensitive about this situation than what is reasonable? Were your expectations of your friend reasonable to start with? I have no idea as to the answers; these are just food for thought.

    At this point in my life when a friend rejects or betrays me, I feel like saying a hearty “thank you” to them for showing me their true heart so I will adjust expectations accordingly and not be so naive concerning their and their behavior in the future….saving me from or at least lessening pain in the future the next time they betray or hurt me.

    • Lottie says:

      Hi Ruth,
      Your reply to Ella is so full of warmth and kindness I can almost feel it.Have you written any books?
      Your last paragraph is particulary interesting to me, with having gone through a messy few months myself with rejection and betrayals. In future I shall THANK them in my mind for showing their true hearts and adjust expectations accordingly.
      Thank you. Lottie

      • Ruth says:

        Thank you for your kind words Lottie. I’ve not written a book although I have started one. I so empathize with the OP. Friendships are such a gift, and close trusting ones are so rare, that if one begins to be threatened there is something in me that rises up to try and protect it and even fight for it’s survival if needed. Not every time but sometimes.

        In a nutshell, the common theme in most of my responses will be ‘accept the person where they are at and be there for them when things go badly’ with the caveat as long as your own “safety” for lack of a better word is not compromised and as long as you are not enabling their destructive patterns.

        Because so many people are wounded and I myself don’t want to add to their wound(s) if I can prevent it…I encourage others to do the same.

  4. Lottie says:

    Hi Ella,
    Sounds like the fun is over. All that laughing might have been drug fuelled. Sleeping around not your scene and now doubting someones honesty over missing medication. Hmmm dodgy.When you have a gut feeling it usually has an ugly way of being true.
    THE friend may be unhappy in her marriage and yes I can see how you might find her fun and exciting to be around but at the same time she probably or could have been out of her head on drugs.NOT funny.You dont know what she might involve you in.Give it a thought.
    You can still be friendly with her like a chat on the phone or whatever but state that you cant talk for long.She probably move off eventually herself to likewise people without your help.
    Years ago I had a friend who unbeknown to me was seeing someone else and was telling her husband she was visiting me and my husband,until he got suspicious and late one night in a rage rang asking where his wife was.I said I didnt know,and asked where was she supposed to be.She hadnt covered her tracks but had involved us. Very nice!!Then shortly after left her husband. HER FATHER then rang me asking who was this man that she had gone off with,and again my reply was that I didnt know and had never met him. She had involved us again and when I confronted her she laughed. All very funny you think but not at the time. Thank goodness drugs and the police were not involved.
    Regarding the BIBLE STUDY it is very interesting and is so helpful even after two thousand years.Take care Ella you know what to do. Lottie

  5. Islandgirl says:

    Hi Ella,

    I know it’s heartbreaking to realize you’re losing a cherished friendship to circumstances you can’t control. I hate when that happens. I hear your pain and I feel it too for myself as well. What can ya do? A life coach told me that I cannot fix, manage or control other people. I sure do wish we could sometimes, though.

    It sounds like they’re picking up on how you feel, and don’t feel completely comfortable around you now, and the feeling is mutual. It’s nobody’s fault, none of you can help how you feel. I’ve been through this same thing myself. In fact, I lost my best friend I’d had for decades over something like this. It’s such a shame. I’m sorry you’re going through it too.

  6. Lauren says:

    I have to agree totally with etrnhrzn. Especially in that friendships should inspire and uplift and not create ongoing doubt , discomfort and suspicion. You are entitled to be discerning about the company you keep. In fact, you owe it to yourself and your own well being. I remember from high school in Religious Instruction, one of the teaching that we were taught, “Be discerning about the company you keep”. That always stuck in my mind.

  7. bronwyn says:

    There’s a lot of referring to the BIBLE as a reference point of decency going on here and I would just like to remind people that the BIBLE also says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Participation in alternative sexual lifestyles doesn’t make someone a bad person, provided that all involved are consenting adults. These lifestyles might not be for me, but for those who choose to enter into them, it’s really their business and as Amy said, it doesn’t make these people perverts. Whatever they choose to do in their sex lives is really their business and if they share information about them with you, it’s probably a sign they trust you. Are you afraid this friend is going to ask you to join in some of these activities? If that should occur, there’s always the option of saying no.

    Theft is a completely different issue and I think Amy’s suggestion on how to handle the possibility risks the least amount of potential damage to your friendships.

    I think one’s life can be made fuller and richer by having a wide variety of friends from a variety of lifestyles.

  8. Amy F says:

    From your letter, it seems like you are judging your friend’s sexual activities, and even though what she chooses is between two (or three or more) consenting adults. I have three friends, at least only two that I know about, who are into more adventurous bedroom activities than me. I’ve known both for about 20 years. One friend who is now living in Europe marvels at how sexually uptight we are in the USA vs her country in terms of sex education, child rearing, porn and openness in discussing sex between friends and partners from everything from puberty and menstrustion to STDs to group sex. She explained S&M to me and why women (and men) can find it pleasurable. Another friend casually mentioned in conversation that she had “every kind of sex you can imagine.” She then went on to list types. The point I’m making is that different, respectable people can have various definitions of how they pleasure themselves. The other one is in her 20s, living in a very open town where anything flies, including polyamory. Because I had known each of these women for a while, hearing more details than I imagined and that I’d be comfortable doing felt differen to me than what you experienced and I wonder if one of your long term friends disclosed similar activities if you’d feel less judgmental because you had a history of trusting them. I’ve learned that just because I’d never do something, and some activities quite frankly creep me out, doesn’t mean those who engage in them are perverts or abnormal. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors in all those friends’ who we haven’t talked with.

    You also have to decide if being more open minded can benefit your relationship with your close friend.

    If you think a particular woman stole from you, rather than assuming, you can ask her if she “borrowed” what was stolen, because you noticed her near your (purse, jacket, wherever it was) right before you realized it was missing. You can do this in a nonconfrontational manner. She might not be the culprit, or she might lie, but she’s on notice that you’re watching. I’d also let others know (without naming the suspect/culprit to be sure they’re careful with their belongings.

    If you’ve got friends outside your circle, they might be better choices to express your frustrations since they won’t know who you’re talking about.

  9. JAM says:

    I could not resist posting here b/c I actually had a neighbor come over with her two little boys to chat, and she would always ask to use our bathroom. She had strange red spots all over her body, and I thought it was acne or chicken pox, but they never went away. Anyway, for about 2 years (!!), she would often stop by and ask to use our bathroom, even tho she only lived 3 houses down. FINALLY I figured out she must really like something in our medicine cabinet. The strongest thing I had in there was codiene, so I guess that might of been it, but who knows??!! I never confronted her directly, b/c shortly after I figured things out, she had a nervous breakdown and left her husband and boys. I felt so sorry for them!! The husband’s mom would come every day after school to watch the boys until he got home. After about a year, they moved. They only see their mom once in awhile. She must have collapsed, having addiction troubles, etc. Anyway, we never really know what struggles another person is going thru and while it can be hurtful that someone would steal from us, I put addiction theft in an entirely different category than “regular” theft. I don’t take it personally at all, b/c this woman was very dependent on a chemical substance and that’s what it was about for her. I don’t really trust people much anymore, either. I have been thru a heck of a lot of life experiences and situations and have come to realize that few family member (like parents, husband, etc.) and friends (perhaps a best friend if we are really blessed), will stick by thru thick and thin. Most relationships are too fragile, affected by changing times, changing lifestyles, rough challenges, misunderstandings, etc. so I don’t really put a lot of stock in them. I love to meet people, socialize, talk, joke around, but I take it for what it’s worth, just that. I can’t control this stuff so I just appreciate it when I’m in the moment, but don’t expect anyone to come back to me. I continue to be a friend when I can, but don’t trust people with my heart, except for a rare few. The Bible even talks about this. Wisdom says to be friendly with many, but trust only 1 out of 1,000 with your heart and consider that one a true friend, and ONLY after testing the relationship to see if it’s true! I’m not big on testing, but I do watch closely to see if a new friend is trustworthy. Here are some of the Bible quotes:

    Proverbs 18:24 ESV
    A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

    Book of Sirach 1:5-14
    5 A kind mouth multiplies friends, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
    6 Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.
    7 When you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him
    8 For one sort of friend is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in time of distress.
    9 Another is a friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
    10 Another is a friend, a boon companion, who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
    11 When things go well, he is your other self, and lords it over your servants;
    12 But if you are brought low, he turns against you and avoids meeting you.
    13 Keep away from your enemies; be on your guard with your friends.
    14 A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.

    1 Corinthians 15:33
    Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

    Luke 6:31
    And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

    It is natural to not trust your “partying” friend too much. You can see from her behavior that she is a deceiver and defying laws of decency. Therefore the back of your mind, your heart, are telling you to be wary, tho you miss her. She has invited destruction into her own life, and it is destructive for another person like yourself to be close to her. God wants good things for you. Friendship from a distance sounds like a wise path. It’s the heartbreak that is the hardest to deal with. Why do people have to be this way? But we are all weak, aren’t we, some of us more of a mess than others, and we are all trying to find our way in a difficult world. Best wishes to you.

    • JAM says:

      She does not appear to be judging or condemning the sexual activities of her friend, but has stated that it makes her uncomfortable. The Bible also says, “though shalt not murder,” so if a person murders someone I am free to disagree with such a choice, and to be uncomfortable around the murderer. That does not me I condemn him or her, or wish to put a curse on them or damn them or whatever. It means I have values and DISAGREE with their choice. We are all free to do this without being accused of being evil judgers.

    • Nancy says:

      The ones I don’t trust are those who preach Bible verses. 97% of THEM that I encountered were hypocrites cheating on their spouses and con artists masked in a religious lifestyle. When I hear someone flaunt his/her religion out of the blue, I stay away from them.

      • JAM says:

        I am sorry you have encountered Christians that have let you down morally. I hope you are able to find better friends and trust them. My life is all about God and my faith, and I find it sad that someone would imply I am “flaunting” my “religion.” Choosing to live this way and sharing it openly is a gift, in my opinion, not a way of showing off.

    • Lottie says:

      Hi Jam,
      Thank you for writing the Bible quotes,if only wish I had read them years ago.However it is never too late. Lottie

    • Lottie says:

      Hi Jam,
      Sorry to mither, but I cant see the Book of Sirach in the Bible,only today I met up with two old friends who are JWs and I mentioned your post to them they showed me the Bible and we couldnt find it.
      I do apologise for my ignorance,please can you help? It would have been a good talking point.I am not a JW but I do talk with them about all things and we have been friends for many years. Much of what they say makes sense but some is questionable which of course we discuss.To all other readers I am not trying to turn this site into a Religious Study although what Jam has written has made me think.Sometimes I am quick to judge,not very good. Thank you Jam. Lottie

  10. etrnhrzn says:

    I agree. It’s about personal values and boundaries and what you are able to tolerate and live with when associating with people whom you used to like with company you enjoyed, but have now disappoint you.

    It’s really hard to go through that transition of failed expectations, and missing what once were. But friendship should inspire and uplift, not create ongoing doubt, discomfort, and suspicion; so if you remain unsettled by what you have observed and experienced, I think it’s time to accept downgrading the friendship and letting it go in time.

    Meanwhile, focus on other friends, personal hobbies and activities that bring out your best.

    Good luck.

    • amazing says:

      You said:
      “But friendship should inspire and uplift, not create ongoing doubt, discomfort, and suspicion; so if you remain unsettled by what you have observed and experienced, I think it’s time to accept downgrading the friendship and letting it go in time.”

      That is very good advice.

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