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Background:

I have 3 very good friends who we'll call A, B and C. We all got along very well together and decided to live together in a 4 bedroom house. In the months running up to finding somewhere to live and moving in together, person B and C started seeing each other and are now in an open relationship, which upsets person A because they have had an interest in person B for a while. This has lead to person A and C disliking and avoiding each other while living together.

Person A likes to organize occasional short vacations and events (and organized everything to do with the house) but has more recently started making a point of not inviting person C and not consulting them when making communal decisions about the house, which clearly irritates them. Sometimes on a large scale of 10-20 people, but more commonly around 2-5. They recently invited me to come on a trip with person B, but without person C, and I'm unsure if I should come or not. Although person A and B have gone on long and far vacations together before all this happened.

I have heard person B saying that they are only interested in A as a friend. I find talking about it to person B an impossible option, as they are the kind of person who tries to get along with everyone and would rather hide under a blanket than face a problem. I think it's because of this personality that A is still after B. I have also heard person C say they still really like person A as a friend after the 'breakup' and I typically find them the more reasonable of the two, although I am unsure if they still hold this view.

I have before managed to diffuse a lot of conflicts between A and C in the past before they turn into arguments, usually with comedy, but don't know how to solve the problem in the long term. We are not entirely satisfied with the location of our house and may move out at some point. I'm worried that when this happens that we will end up going our separate ways.

There are many more factors and complications which may be relevant but I hope you understand that I'm trying to summarize an exceptionally complex relationship into a 5 minute read without confusing the issue.

Question:

I'm concerned that if I go on trips without C then they will think I'm on A's side and if I don't then A will think I'm on C's side. How do I avoid this dilemma and are there any alternative solutions?

  • "C say they still really like person A as a friend after the 'breakup' " What do you call breakup here ? A and C have been a couple in the past ? – Rolexel Jan 5 '18 at 15:26
  • @AlexandreAudin The breakup of their friendship, as they were good friends before B and C got together. – user10950 Jan 5 '18 at 18:10
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I shared a house once with a couple, and sometimes felt that decisions were being made without me. C has a valid perspective on the house stuff. On the other hand, social stuff like vacations needn't automatically involve everybody; that couple did stuff without me and that was fine because, hey, they're a couple. In larger households that I've seen up close, subsets of people do stuff as friends and that's fine.

You need to separate "house stuff" and "social stuff".

Somebody needs to tell A that making plans for the house, like parties, without involving everyone isn't ok. It sounds like A won't be receptive to C, so that leaves you and B. You're asking the question here and are interested in fixing the problem, so it makes sense for you to try.

To avoid A feeling ganged-up on, I recommend starting with a conversation just between the two of you. You say something like "Hey A, I know you and C are having some difficulties, but we need to include everybody when planning parties and stuff. Can we find a way to do that?" Then listen. If A doesn't want to have to be in the same room as C, you can suggest approaches that don't involve getting together in person to decide. Maybe you don't need discussions so much as advance notice, or advance notice with a way to object. But you need to move the conversation from "A doesn't like C" to "the four of us need a way to not get in each other's way on this stuff", so the more quickly you can get to problem-solving mode, the better.

Social stuff like vacations or going out to dinner or whatever is different. If the four of you always do everything together, then A trying to cut C out is going to be disruptive. If you don't do everything together now, then you don't need to feel bad about doing stuff with C and not A -- or A and not C. Are you doing stuff with A? If not, is A feeling left out by that, and "you're doing stuff with C" is masking that? If you want to be the peacemaker, you're going to need to spend some time doing stuff with A without C, partly to validate the "we don't all have to do everything" model and mostly to make A feel better.

Finally, sometimes good friends don't make good housemates or vice-versa. Your household might break up. That doesn't have to mean the end of friendships. I'm still friends with those housemates I mentioned even though I moved out of that house.

  • +1 for the distinction between the health of the household and the one of OP's friendships. It is necessary to behave within an overall level of politeness with the housemates to prevent the formation of a nasty atmosphere in the house. Friendship businesses have to be dealt separately. – LinuxBlanket Jan 5 '18 at 10:57
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This is a tricky situation - the first thought that comes to my mind is that you might want to look into learning something called compassionate communication, also known as Non-violent communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg. It is a very helpful tool in aiding clear communication, conflict resolution, and increasing everyone’s willingness to meet each other’s needs.
The book is a quick and highly useful read.

Beyond that, I think just choosing what you’d like to do in regards to the trip (go if you want to go and stay if you’d rather not go), and then explain openly that your decision is not based on choosing a side, but just based on your own preference for going, or not going (whichever you choose).

It sounds like there are a lot of codependent, and controlling behaviors among the housemates. While you can’t control their decisions, emotions, or actions, you can control your own decisions and motivations.

I recommend making your decision about the trip be completely based on what you would enjoy most, and not try to control your roommates reactions by choosing out of fear of their responses.

For more on control issues and resolving codependent behaviors, see the inner bonding website by Margaret Paul. Her work is amazing.

Again, you can’t control your roommates, so I recommend not choosing based on fear of their responses (in other words don’t try to control their emotions via your choice to go or not go on the trip). Choose based on what you’d like to do and leave the responsibility of their emotions to them.

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