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by Sunny Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:06 pm
Caught between warring friends or a couple in the middle of a break-up? Manoeuvre 3 tricky situations without the souring of bonds

They met in junior college and hit it off immediately. Tanya Mathur, Aarti (name changed) and Radha (name changed) were a regular gang of girls — they'd hang out at the college canteen, discuss their love lives till late into the night and shop together.

However, the relationship soured in the second year of graduation when Aarti, upset over unsolicited boyfriend advice from Radha, started complaining to Tanya. "I was put in an uncomfortable situation. Both were dear friends and I didn't want to be witness to a slander session involving either," says Mathur, 23, now a mental health professional. So, she did the obvious — she asked Aarti to confront Radha. "But Aarti never did that and continued ranting about our common friend. Left with little choice, I told Radha what Aarti was saying about her," Mathur says. Radha then confronted Aarti which led to a showdown, spelling the end of the threesome.

When BFFs fight
Trios in friendships (right from Dil Chahta Hai to 3 Idiots) are a universal grouping, but require delicate dynamics, says psychotherapist and relationship counsellor Dr Minnu Bhonsle.

Bhonsle says the situation that Tanya found herself in, is common, and the mutual friend inadvertently turns counsellor. "However, being emotionally invested in both friendships, Tanya did the right thing by asking them to deal with the issue on a one-on-one basis. There needs to be self-disclosure that one is not equipped to deal with this and therefore, not even listen to the person's complaints," says Bhonsle, who runs Byculla's Heart-To-Heart Counselling Centre.

The position of the common friend, in such situations, is always precarious. You stand to lose at least one, if not both, friends. What do you? Counsellor and psychologist Pratima Havaldar's advice is effective communication. "Know how to best put your feelings across when dealing with these situations. You should channel your concern at all times for both friends," says Havaldar.

Friend, not ATM
You may have thought that the friendship you shared would be as legendary as Jai and Veeru's or Romy and Michele's. But, life throws circumstances at you that get the better of the bond that you thought would last forever. Like the situation Mathur found herself in. And sometimes, golden rules such as 'Never borrow, never lend...' aren't easy to stick by.

Twenty-eight-year-old Ashwin Hariharan (name changed), realised this when a childhood friend borrowed around Rs 5,000 over a month, and didn't return it.

Hariharan's friend, who worked at an event management firm, needed cash to be delivered to contacts abroad. He asked Hariharan, whose sister lived in Dubai, to help out. "The first couple of times, I just asked my sister to do the needful. I had expected my friend to repay me. He didn't. Yet, he would call and ask me to make transfers repeatedly," says Hariharan, who works at a bank. "Eventually, I had to stop meeting him or even taking his calls.

I knew that any encounter would only lead to the money issue being brought up again," he adds. Now, the childhood buddies interact only when they bump into each other at a common friend's do.

It might be difficult, but Havaldar says friends do have the right to say 'No'. "Learn to say no assertively from the very beginning. The only time we hold back a negative response is when we have a dire need to be liked," she adds.

Dr Jan Yager, friendship expert and author of bestsellers like When Friendship Hurts and Friendshifts, suggests a way of going around the tricky situation. "You might tell your friend that you would appreciate if he/she never asked you to loan money again. If not giving the money is not an option, see if there's a way for your friend to repay the loan through bartering goods or services that you both agree would be equal to the amount that was borrowed. For example, your friend knows how to play the guitar and you've always wanted to learn. You could figure out what the money equivalent of two months of weekly lessons would be and if that equals the amount that was loaned, consider that as a repayment of the loan," she advices.

Caught in splitsville

One of trickiest roads in friendship is when a couple you have been best pals with, call it quits. Dr Yager says, "Avoid taking sides or badmouthing either one to the other. This could backfire. They might get back and then they'll be self-conscious hanging out with you since you've shared your true feelings. If your friends ask for your opinion about their former partner, throw it back and say: What counts is how you feel, how you got along."

Kajal Sharma (name changed), a 32-year-old who worked in the administration department of a Montessori school, was diagnosed with reactive depression after she was pulled in between a married couple she was friends with. The three had been close since college and when trouble started brewing in their marriage, they turned to her for advice. Sharma gave what she thought was good advice.

Unfortunately, the couple expected her to take sides and, worse, started using Kajal's insights against each other. Things took a turn for the worse when Kajal was blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. Today, while the couple has reunited after counselling, Kajal has lost out on both her friends.

"When a couple you are friends with heads for a break-up, you will be put in the precarious position of a marriage counsellor. Your best options are to either listen to both but not comment on their complaints or refer them to a professional, keeping your friendship out of the mess," advices Dr Bhonsle.


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