• Resolving Problems

Ultimatums can undermine a friendship

Published: December 5, 2012 | Last Updated: December 7, 2012 By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
It’s important for friends to communicate when they see things from different perspectives.



My name is Hayley and I recently heard about your book. I am a high-schooler and just went through a friendship breakup. Even though my former best friend and I have not been friends since January of 2012, I still feel awful whenever I see her or her friends at school, and I can’t help but think of how I ruined our friendship.

I ended our friendship by telling her that she had to choose between me and her boyfriends (she’d been dating two guys for over a year). As I had just gone through a breakup with a guy who cheated on me, I realized how horrible they would’ve felt if they knew she was dating both of them, so I told her I wouldn’t accept her actions.

My mom says it was the morally right thing to do, but I really miss our friendship because we had been inseparable since sixth grade (we were friends for five years) and to suddenly start ignoring each other makes me feel awful. I’m sorry for digressing, but my question is: Did I do the right thing, psychologically, for both of us? And whatever the answer to that, is there any way or point in trying to befriend her again? If so, how?

Signed, Hayley


Hi Hayley,

I assume that each of your friend’s boyfriends didn’t know she was dating the other. If this was the case, I can see how uncomfortable you might feel about this situation given your recent breakup with a guy who was cheating on you.

Often it’s hard to stay friends with someone who seems to have different morals or standards than you do. I hope you expressed your misgivings to your friend, and told her how you felt, before you gave her an ultimatum to choose between you and them.

It’s nice to have a mom who is supportive of you and your feelings. However, from your friend’s perspective, she may have gotten angry at you for being judgmental and getting involved in her love life. Your friend’s feelings seem to be as legitimate as yours. She may have felt as if your loyalty should be to her rather than to the guys—and that you identified with them rather than with her.

There really is no clear right or wrong. Despite your long history together, friends often come to see things from different perspectives. The awkwardness you feel now is very normal. But if this friendship is important to you, why don’t you write your friend a card or note and tell her the truth? Tell her:

1) That seeing her being dishonest with these guys was painful to you because of your own breakup, and

2) That you don’t want your friendship to end over this—and hope you can still remain friends.

She may be very busy right now balancing these two guys with the rest of her social life. But even if she doesn’t come around right away, my hunch is that she will realize your friendship is important to her, too.

In the meantime, act cordially to her at school and get involved with other friends as well.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: Friends with different ethics, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (9)

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  1. Zoey says:

    I see why Hayley gave the ultimatum, but on the other hand…… it’s high school. You’re all still kids with ‘seemingly’ adult problems. If Hayley doesn’t like her ex friend dating two guys at once (I have a hard time believing these guys don’t know about each other & as long as each ones getting what they want, then neither’s going to change)then tell the friend but don’t expect her to change because you want her to (That’s called ‘trying to control her’). Also, I have seen guys ‘share’ girls many, many times and the girl thinks she’s wanted but she’s just getting used by some horny teenage boys. Sad….

    I think Hayley should try to open up a line of communication with her old friend. They do see each other daily and teenagers can be very resilient when it comes to friendship problems. I see trouble in the future for Hayley’s old pal and the ex friend might be in need of an old friend someday soon……

    • Carmen says:

      “…it’s high school. You’re all still kids with ‘seemingly’ adult problems.” That’s an awful thing to say. Sometimes the main themes of problems are universal. I am 45 and this one resonated with me because it had to do with best friends’ changing values. Teenagers have a lot to contribute, I’m sorry you don’t see that.

  2. MyKidsEatSquid says:

    It does sound like Hayley’s friend has a lot to keep up with. I hope they can still remain friends.

  3. Suzannah says:

    Please excuse all my typos! I am on a phone

  4. Suzannah says:

    One of the most beautiful aspest of friendship, is the discovery of who another person is…reaching the level of intimacy that truly reveals what aworsetiful person your friend is…yet unfortunately this works in reverse, sometimes as you grow close you make a discovery that makes you question what your values are, and what are willing to be `ok with, hultimatumyour tongue about`
    I had a friend who adopted everycup dog, couldn’t house train it,so she decided it should live in her garage…..I watched this dog change, for the worsee…I brooched the subject of alternatives for this dog,and found she just really didn’t see it as a problem….For me this was a discovery that revealed a trait, I couldn’t be ok with, I did not issue an ultimatum….that fact that she could at that poor dog everyday, told me we are not to be friends, our definition of cruelty differed….our values did not fit together close enou

  5. Sheryl says:

    Friendships – even those we think will never dissipate – often change. But we can be proactive to try to save them~ and then, if all else fails, move on. It does hurt, but is sometimes necessary.

  6. ChristineGL says:

    It’s so important – but hard – to balance out how we might feel about something with how others do too. It is really good advice to consider how the friend probably saw this, at least as a way of understanding. It’s equally important that she see this young woman’s actions the same way, understanding from her perspective.

  7. Living Large says:

    I agree, good answer. What I had to come to accept is that yes, friends do drift apart because our priorities and values change. I think this is a lesson better learned sooner, rather than later.

  8. Alisa Bowman says:

    Great answer. Sometimes things get complicated.

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