Straight Talk Advice

Jun 03, 2014

Girl caught in the crossfire between stepsister and BFF

Dear Straight Talk: I'm really stressing. I've had my BFF [best friend forever] since elementary school. My stepsister has also become a good friend. She's my age (16), goes to my school, and shares my room every other weekend. The three of us became great friends, hanging out and having sleepovers on the weekends my stepsister was here. However, they were rivals for the same guy, and my BFF won out. My stepsister falsely claims she "had him first" and that my BFF "stole him" and she now hates my BFF and spread untrue ugly rumors about her, causing my BFF to hate her back. Each expects me to take sides. My stepsister even told me to dump my BFF out of "family loyalty." I refuse, thus sharing a room is very tense. My mom won't let me see my BFF on the weekends my stepsister is here because that would be "abandoning" her. My BFF is going to remain my BFF, but I want a good relationship with my stepsister, too. Please help. —Caught in The Middle in Sacramento, Calif.

Breele 20, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

They both need to grow up! Personally, I'm a girl's girl and if a friend likes a guy, she can have him, it's not worth my friendship. I mean, this boyfriend will last how long? For a lifelong friendship?? Tell BFF and stepsister that you're not dumping either of them and that this drama has nothing to do with you and they need to keep it to themselves. Tell stepsister how much it sucks to lose something and that some chilling from BFF is understandable. But also encourage her to get over it. (Honestly, get a hobby!) Regarding Mom, tell her you have it handled. Her taking sides is how parents lose respect. She wants to solidify a place in her stepdaughter's heart, but this isn't how you go about it.

Ochatre 24, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

How very unfortunate. You do not deserve this stress. Taking sides is no solution as it will only leave you more stressed. I suggest taking the role of mediator. Talk to your sister alone and then BFF alone. Share with them your feelings and ask how things can be reconciled. Always remember, friendship is one of the greatest gifts to humanity.

Maddie 15, Cotati, Calif. Ask me a question

In every friend group you sometimes are asked to pick sides, but this is intense! I'd probably trick them into sitting down together in the same room and tell them it's stupid to make me pick sides and sacrifice their friendship for a guy. Nobody's worth that. I would have them each, separately, tell me their story, then I would ask them to get back together.

Collin 17, San Diego, Calif. Ask me a question

I've never fully understood girl problems, but most problems fade over time. While letting time to do its work, don't bring up your BFF around your stepsister and vice versa. If they bring each other up, change the subject.

Rachel 22, Corte Madera, Calif. Ask me a question

I have many friends who dislike each other. I make it clear that I will not be put in the middle. Your mom taking sides is disappointing. Hopefully everyone will “grow up” and realize cutting people out is not the answer — especially over a guy.

Dear Caught in the Middle: Your stepsister suffers from pride — also known as being a sore loser. Trying to mend their rift as Ochatre and Maddie suggest is noble. That said, you may not be up to it — or “fixing” them may prove impossible. Fortunately, your essential job is simpler and, blessedly, less stressful: remain warm and compassionate friends with both while refusing to be put in the middle. This means putting your foot down on the “cross-chatter” as Breele and Collin suggest. It also, realistically, means splitting your time. Unless it's an epic event (birthday, graduation, etc.) to stay bonded with stepsister you probably will have to forego seeing BFF on visitation weekends.

Editor's Note: I agree that "Caught in the Middle's" Mom is playing with fire to meddle like this. She is likely to lose parenting respect and make things worse. To parents who find themselves caught in the middle of something where pride is the factor pushing people apart, please take the same advice we give "Caught in the Middle." DON'T take sides or be co-dependent to the prideful parties. Instead be compassionate, sensitive, and warm toward both and keep expressing your desire to see the parties mend their rift. Pridefulness is common at every age, and especially in teens, who naturally are immature. The more you allow face-saving, the better. (To rub someone's face in their pridefulness is to be prideful yourself.). Let the person emerge with some dignity, or they may decide not to emerge. —Lauren

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  1. By S.K., age 16, from Auburn, CA on 06/03/2014

    I have a somewhat similar situation, but it’s my BFF who is being unreasonable.  We’ve been BFF’s since second grade.  I have a new stepsister whom I’ve also become close to, and my BFF is very jealous of her and wants me to herself.  My stepsister and I share my room and double bed every other weekend.  My BFF and I have sleepovers almost every weekend at my house because she has to share a room with her sister who she doesn’t get along with and wants to get away from, and she really resents someone else sharing my room and bed and now has to sleep on an air mattress on the floor.  I don’t want to make my stepsister sleep on the floor, so I offered to sleep on the floor to keep the peace, but that wasn’t good enough for my BFF because she said she’s comfortable sharing a bed with me, but not my stepsister so she sleeps on the floor and resents it.  My stepsister has made every effort to be friends with her, but my BFF is still very mean to her and has gone so far as to make insulting comments about her body when she’s nude.  I sometimes refer to my stepsister as my “sister” and my BFF has a major cow and yells “She’s your STEP sister!”  I include my stepsister in everything when she’s here which I believe is the right thing to do, but my BFF makes no secret of her resentment.  However, my BFF has me to herself the weekends my stepsister is not here, so I don’t think she’s being very reasonable. 

    This makes for a stressful situation as with Caught in the Middle, but I’m determined to keep a good relationship with both of them, but my BFF isn’t making it easy for me.


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    1. By J.R., age 23, from Northern CA on 06/03/2014

      I’m gonna be honest here, it’s time to dedicate the weekends your stepsister is over to your stepsister. You are right, your BFF is being very unreasonable. Personally I wouldn’t even want to be friends with someone acting like that, but since she is a teenager and obviously not very mature, and you clearly care about her, it’s time to make it clear that you care about your BFF but you can’t handle the tension on weekends your stepsister is there, so those weekends are going to be for you. If your BFF throws a fit (and it sounds like she probably will) well that’s her problem, because you seriously deserve better than this.

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  2. By Cindy, age 17, from Anaheim, CA on 06/03/2014

    When I have 2 friends who have a falling out (and it happens much more often than I would like) each one always expects me to take their side.  I always refuse.  I’ve even had friends tell me that I have to stop being friends with the one their mad at or they won’t be my friend any more.  I say “I’ll miss you.”  They always back down.  The same thing sometimes happens with my stepsisters who I also share a room with on visitations which seems to be a common theme probably because there are so many divorces these days.  They go back and forth from being the closest most loving sisters you could ever know to being at each others throats.  It’s very unpleasant to be there when their mad at each other and they expect me to be the referee and say whose right.  Of course they both expect me to take their side and I know I’ll be in trouble with one of them if I take sides.  Sometimes I believe that one of them truly is right and the other is wrong, but I keep my mouth shut and tell them that I’m not taking sides.


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    1. By J.R., age 23, from Northern CA on 06/03/2014

      You are wise beyond your years Cindy. Anyone with a similar problem to Cindy’s take heed, even if you think one or the other is right just refuse to get involved.

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    2. By Carla, age 16, from Roseville, CA on 06/04/2014

      You’re smarter than I was in dealing with my stepsisters.  A few months ago when we were sharing a room during a visitation they actually asked me to give my opinion on who had done a better job of waxing.  I told them that I wasn’t interested in looking at their privates and making a judgment.  However, they were really pushy about it, so I gave my honest opinion.  You can guess what happened.  The “loser” was furious and said I didn’t know what I was talking about and who am I to give an opinion when I don’t even wax myself which she knows since I’m not shy about undressing in front of them when we’re sharing a room, and they see me nude. 

      From now on I will refuse to take sides whether it’s about this or anything else, and the same with my friends when they ask me to take sides.


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      1. By Christie, age 16, from Petaluma, CA on 06/04/2014

        You’re right about not taking sides about who has the best wax job, and it probably applies to just about everything else.  At girls’ slumber parties I go to it’s been common lately for girls to show off their shave and/or wax jobs and ask everybody whose is the “best.”  The whole thing puts me off, and I don’t participate.  I’m not shy about the other girls seeing me nude when I undress, but I don’t believe in “showing off” my body this way.  My sister and I help each other wax our bikini lines because it’s embarrassing to show pubic hair when you’re wearing a bathing suit in front of guys, but otherwise we stay natural.  What anybody else does is their business, but saying that one girl looks “better” than another in this way is just asking for trouble so I keep silent.


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  3. By M.D., age 15, from Carmichael, CA on 06/05/2014

    My sister and I are also “caught in the middle” but I think our situation is even more difficult, because we are caught in the middle between our mom and dad and they both expect us to be on their side.  Our mom thinks our dad is totally to blame for their breakup because he left and took up with another woman.  However, our dad says that our mom “drove him too it” by making life hell for him and says she’s to blame.  As in most marital breakups, we don’t think that either one is totally right or totally wrong, and since they’re our mom and dad we love both of them and don’t want to take sides.  Our mom also hates our dad’s new girlfriend and expects us to hate her too.  However,  she’s actually very nice and had nothing to do with the breakup.  We also have the feeling that she’s going to end up being our stepmom, so we want to have a good relationship with her.  Our mom also gets furious when she bashes our dad and we don’t join in and agree with her.  Our dad and his girlfriend got a 2 bedroom apartment so that we can start having overnight visits, but our mom gets unglued at the idea and it looks like our dad is going to have to go to court to get visitation rights and of course our mom is going to expect us to take her side when she fights it. 

    Our mom has also started to drink a lot and overeat since our dad left and is very unpleasant to be around and we just stay in our room much of the time as it’s very hard to be around her.

    Also Caught In The Middle

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    1. By J.R., age 23, from Northern CA on 06/06/2014

      M.D., I can’t imagine how frustrating this is for you and your sister. All I can say is this; don’t engage your mother. Refuse to comment on anything she says. If she insults your father leave the room as soon as possible, with an excuse such as “I need to use the restroom,” or “Oh I forgot to do X.”

      When it comes to court, and it sounds like it will, you should discuss with your sister what you want. If your mother is becoming an alcoholic, as angry as it will make her, it might actually be better to live with your father for now. Depending on how old you are you might have the right to decide where you live regardless of what your parents say. If you and your sister feel you will be healthier emotionally by living with dad, while seeing mom for visits, then that is what you should do. You would both know the situation best, so again I say discuss it together (when mom is not there) and decide what will be best for you. If I’m remembering correctly, at fourteen your parents cannot dictate which of them you live with.

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