Dear Carolyn:

About a year ago, there was a big rift in my group of friends that revolved around my messy breakup with my ex-boyfriend, who then started dating one of my closest friends. This friend did not tell me about it for six months, but rather confided in two of our mutual friends. This was extremely hurtful, and I don't talk to her anymore. However, the two friends in whom she confided dealt with it very differently -- one was very complicit, encouraging her to tell me in her own time; the other pushed her very hard to tell me.

Now, one year later, I have managed to smooth over things with both, although my friendship with the complicit girl (my roommate) is not well grounded because I thought she showed a real lack of character and judgment in how she dealt with the whole thing.

Additionally, she is still very close friends with the girl dating my ex. I'm not sure what to do about her since I am sure she won't admit any wrongdoing, so another conversation about it seems futile.

To top it all off, she refuses to speak to the other friend who knew because she thinks she dealt with it poorly. My roommate can be quite mean to her, which creates a huge problem since we have a lot of mutual friends. Any advice? I thought it would all just get better with time, but it's already been a year and the drama hasn't subsided.

Sorry it's so long, but it's not a simple problem.

New York

Actually, it is a simple problem: Unskilled communicators tackle a situation that requires saying difficult things.

Simple problem, and common, and sad. I am sympathetic to everyone stuck in this mess. To you, because you were the last to know something embarrassing and painful. To your ex-friend, because she fell in socially unacceptable love. To the two mutual friends, because they were told something in confidence that forced them, essentially, to lie to you. All of you were in tough spots.

And none of you took the high road out (though the friend who urged disclosure did come close). For your now ex-friend, it was to tell you right away of her involvement with your ex. For your mutual friends, it was to give her the choice: Tell you the truth, or they'd do it for her.

And yours -- once you finally learned the truth, and reeled from the blow to your heart and ego, and found your feet again -- was to recognize that no one acted with malice. Your high road was, and still is, to forgive.

That's not to say you're under any obligation to remain friends with any or all of them. There was enough cowardice, pain and bad judgment going around to justify finding new friends, and I can't see your being pals again with someone who deceived you for six months.

But you can be civil. You've chosen this group of friends, so have the courage to choose them. Stop the not-speaking, and ask your roommate to do the same. "We all did what we thought was best. No more grudges, from me or on my behalf." You can't make everybody grow up, but you can show everyone how it's done.

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