Love triangles, guilt, and bad breakups: Vera Venue

This month, Leah and Connor ask for advice on tense friendships and long-lasting heartbreak

ABOVE: SeaReeds

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

“Recently, one of my friends told my best friend that she is in love with her, and it’s caused a big rift between the two of them because my best friend didn’t feel the same way. Even though neither of them were right or wrong in the situation, all of my other friends have ‘picked a side’ and it’s making it really hard to hang out with either of them without feeling guilty. Do you have any advice on how to stop feeling bad about spending time with them? Thank you!” LEAH, 21

I think it’s fairly safe to say that most of us have found ourselves in your situation, Leah! Being caught in a conflict between two people you love is incredibly stressful, especially when there are such raw emotions involved. I had a similar experience in college, when two of my closest friends broke up. It was really difficult seeing both of them hurt, and in my efforts to keep one happy, the other would feel put out. Eventually, once they were both over the hump of post-breakup blues, we all reconciled, but until then, it truly sucked. I feel you.

You’re completely spot on when you say that there is no right or wrong here. Both of your friends are entitled to their feelings, and in a way, it’s positive that those feelings have been put on the table. Even though this confession of love has complicated things in the immediate aftermath, I’m certain that the friend who did so will feel better in the long run. Now that they have told the truth, they finally have a definite answer, and can start to take the next steps to moving on.

In regards to your wider friendship group, it must be frustrating to see them take sides, especially when you are putting in so much effort to keep a positive relationship with both parties. Immediately siding with one friend over the other is never a great way to deal with any conflict, but it’s important to remember that your friends are probably just as stressed out and confused about the situation as you are! It might help to speak to some of them about it. There’s no harm in telling people that you’re feeling isolated and caught between two sides.

Speaking of which, the best way of avoiding any more tension is to be upfront with both your best friend and the other pal. Keep in mind that they’re probably both quite sensitive, and most likely both in a defensive mindset: one has just been rejected after putting themselves out there, and the other has been put in the awkward position of having to hurt someone. Be gentle with your phrasing, and make sure to emphasise that you are not picking sides. 

If either of them don’t like that you’re still friends with the other, then they’re simply not ready to take a mature approach to the whole thing. Even if they are upset, you have to stand your ground here! The easy thing is to give in to pressure and cast one of them out for the sake of the other, but that’s not what your gut is telling you to do. Just as your friends are both allowed to be upset about what went down, you are allowed to maintain a friendship with everyone. If your friends don’t respect your autonomy, then they’re not people who are worth your time.

“I f*cked up two of my first major relationships. I tried to fix things as much as I could, but both gave me false hope (having a future, wanting to still fix things, building things from ground up etc), and then both have gotten into relationships very shortly after. I’m not sure what to do. I’m going back to mental health help again, but what else do you recommend for getting over a really quite brutal breakup?” CONNOR, 23

It’s great to hear that you’re seeking out help for your mental health! Keep in mind that the last year and a half has been stressful and damaging for all of us, and even without the pain of a breakup, many people have been turning to therapy or counselling for support. You’re taking charge of your wellbeing, and that is always something to be celebrated.

First of all, let’s take a second to think about the language you’re using. Obviously, I don’t know the specifics of how each relationship ended, but I’m sensing a lot of guilt and self-blame. No matter what you may have done, the important thing is that you’ve clearly assessed your own behaviour and seen your mistakes, so I think there is no need to say that you ‘f*cked’ anything up. After all, you’re 23! No one has relationships figured out by this point, and anyone our age who says they do is bluffing. You’ll learn from this, and grow from it, and the lessons you take from these relationships will mean your future ones are healthier and happier. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re only human.

Breakups are tough for a ton of reasons, but one of the main ones is that they take us out of the comfort zone we’ve gotten used to. We’re creatures of routine, and when you’re in a relationship, your partner inevitably ends up being weaved into lots of facets of your life. Your friends, interests, and even your home can all become heavily associated with someone, which makes it a huge shock when that person is suddenly cut out. It can be utterly paralysing, but it doesn’t have to be. Take this shock at your routine being interrupted as an opportunity to restructure things completely, and re-prioritise. 

This next part is going to sound incredibly clichéd, but stick with me. You have to forgive yourself and your exes. So many people never truly move on from their past relationships because they can’t let go of jealousy, guilt, anger, sadness, and regret. Your exes were important to your journey at one time, and it’s okay that they’re not part of it anymore. People aren’t meant to be in our lives forever, and it’s destructive to our happiness to try and force friendships or relationships to continue past their time. Don’t check your exes’ social media, don’t call them at 3am, don’t spend hours thinking about how you could have done things differently. Focus on yourself, on your wellbeing, and on letting go of the past. You’ve gotten through every other phase of your life that, at the time, you thought you would never be able to get through. Given enough time, you’ll get through this too.

Maja Anushka is this year’s Vera, Concrete’s Features Editor, and on the MA Broadcast and Digital Journalism course. As well as being almost as nosy as she is empathetic, Maja has almost a decade’s experience of making YouTube videos which have covered topics such as mental illness, LGBTQ+ issues, grief, relationships, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem. Her goal for Vera Venue is to promote self-love, mental wellbeing, and healthy relationships, and create a space where people can see that they are not alone.

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

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