Ask Amy: Friendship for three leads to awkward triangle
I became friends with a co-worker, "Marilee," two years ago. We developed a great friendship. I recently invited another girl, "Trina," into our friend group. Trina does not work with us, but we have other common interests.
Recently, though, Marilee and Trina seem to have bonded and are gradually excluding me from things — tubing, brunches, beach trips, etc.
I am feeling left out and hurt by this. The only time they do want to hang out with me now is to take part in my photography hobby, which involves using my expensive equipment. I feel like they are taking advantage and don't actually want to hang out with me. I don't know what I did wrong.
They're not trying to hide it from me, either, as I see — almost daily — posts on social media of them together.
At the risk of alienating myself more, I have not confronted them.
Are they trying to be hurtful or are they genuinely oblivious to how their actions could be perceived?
— Left Out in Lancaster, PA
"The rule of three" refers to the symmetry inherent in a trio. This surfaces in art, music, design — and even comedy (listen to a classic "rim shot" — it's a three!). The triangle conveys a sort of pleasing and complex balance — and this balance seems to work — except for when it comes to human relationships. That's when an equilateral triangle becomes an isosceles, often with one person isolated at the farthest point.
This challenging "odd man out" human dynamic happens at every stage of life — from childhood to old age.
I very much doubt that you have done anything wrong. You should accept that these two women seem to have formed an exclusionary friendship.
It doesn't matter whether they are trying to be hurtful; they are being hurtful. Even if they aren't being deliberately malicious, at the very least — they simply don't care how you feel.
Your choices are to swallow your own honest reaction and accept your new status as the equipment provider, or to be honest regarding how this makes you feel. It is brave to admit your own vulnerability, and I think you should, understanding that you cannot change them or urge them away from their friendship with each other.
You say, "I understand that you two have developed a good friendship, but I have to be honest with you — I feel really left out, lately."
I am very concerned about your answer to "Anxious," who was worried about encountering people in stores who were not wearing masks properly.
You wrote: "No, I don't think you should call out another customer for wearing a mask incorrectly (because this involves them and their body)."
That is not true! The way other people wear their masks affects all of us!
— Upset and Concerned
Absolutely. Many readers contacted me to correct my statement. I concur: Wearing a mask protects others. Absolutely. Although a mask does seem to offer some protection to the person wearing it, I wear my mask for you, and you wear your mask for me.
My point in framing my answer the way I did was to discourage confrontations between people regarding mask-wearing. People who either don't wear masks at all or who wear masks improperly seem to take the issue very personally, because the mask is (or isn't) attached to their own face.
I'm not sure what is so frightening about wearing a thin piece of cloth across your nose and mouth in order to help protect others (and yourself) from a potentially dangerous virus, but I believe it is wisest in the moment to give these people a wide berth — yes, to avoid confrontation, and also — importantly — to avoid transmission.
However, if you patronize a business where employees aren't wearing masks properly, this is an issue that should definitely be brought to the manager's attention.
"Caught Couple" described themselves as doctors who treated COVID patients. They were on the fence about whether to attend a large family wedding in another state.
Thank you for responding the way you did! As doctors — they should know that they — and others — are at substantial risk. As you noted, if doctors are unsure about this, what are the rest of us supposed to do?!
After writing that answer, I read an account of a family birthday gathering that resulted in a tragic COVID transmission to most of the group. Devastating.
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