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Conflict and Triangulation

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My best who is a founder of a non-profit asked me to return to help out after I resigned a year ago. His dysfunctional family make up most of the board of directors. I resigned once I realized that his narcissistic control freak mother had undermined his authority as the founder and de-railed his vision. Knowing my past history with her I knew that I would constantly be in conflict with her. I've tried in the past to assert my boundaries and express my feelings in a constructive way, but this results in a nasty triangulation between my friend, herself, and myself where the friendship between my "bro" and myself is used as a bargaining too for her to get her way.

I missed the community outreach and working with my friend. Recently he assured me he made positive changes and his mother was less dominant on the Board. I tried helping out again, reached a philosophical impasse with is mother who is on the board. And once again I'm the identified patient and the three of us are in a toxic triangulation.

Every time I get into conflict with his mother, my friend will stop speaking to me. To fix the friendship, I'm coerced by his mother into taking blame and making a humiliating public apology. This has happened several times in the past but I completely fed up with being bullied by his mother. I conflicted with her recently after expressing my grievances. I know the drill: take the blame and publicly flog myself. Being autistic, I don't have many good friends and I've put up with this dysfunctional dynamic with is mother to maintain the only solid friendship I have outside my marriage.  

Whenever he gets put in the middle, he abandons me and I have to deal with the pain of my abandonment issues. The last time around I ended up severely depressed when I left the non-profit a year ago. 

If you remove the co-dependent dysfunctional family dynamics, it's an a solid, amazing friendship. When he's not under the influence of his family members, it's mostly a heathy amazing friendship where we respect each other and support each other. 

 I want to maintain this amazing bromance with my best friend but I'm completely done with letting his mother walk all over me and using our 20 year long friendship to bully me. But from where I see things, I have to maintain a friendship with his mother because my friend has severe boundaries issues with his mother and she rules over him. Which means living in fear of displeasing her. 

I'm totally done with this triangulation bulls**t. I really don't want to end the friendship because it's amazing when his mother is not in the picture. But unless there is an alternative approach, it's looking like it's the end of a 20 year long friendship. The loneliness, that's the killer. 

Is there a better way to handle this so that my boundaries are protected and I get to keep this friendship? Or is situation so broken that I need to walk away?



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It sounds like keeping the friendship means you don't have contact with his mom about anything, ever. And to let your friend know that you support the work he is doing, but it's harmful to your friendship and your mental health for you to be actively involved with the organization right now.

Edited by Wooster
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My advice, having cut out toxic people in the past while also retaining good relationships that were connected, is to discontinue any involvement with the non profit and avoid any interaction with any of the family members (not just the mother - think of the family like a web). The more people involved here, the harder things become to rectify anything. Be adamant about keeping your friendship between you and your friend alone. Be honest to your friend, too, express that you don't feel comfortable around his family and would like to keep away from them for the sake of your friendship.

A warning: Before you even bring it up, be very careful and exacting about you plans. Don't go rushing into the conversation and think about the best approach to it all. You want to make you friend understand why you want to cut ties with someone he loves, to show him clearly where coming from without offending/hurting him. It needs to be done in away that is delicate, yet assertive at the same time.

This is just my personal thoughts, though.

Good luck.

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