"I believe two’s company, three’s a crowd, and I don’t even particularly like this woman" / Getty Images

"You may realise that it wouldn’t be too bad after all"

Dear Virginia

My friend and I made a plan a month ago to go to Greece together this summer. We worked out our entire itinerary and I was really looking forward to it as she’s an old friend who I don’t see very often. Now she tells me that she was telling another friend about the holiday and the friend was so eager to come that she’s invited her to come along, too. My friend never even asked if I would mind! I believe two’s company, three’s a crowd, and I don’t even particularly like this woman, though she’s OK. I feel my holiday’s been ruined. How can I get out of it?

Yours sincerely, Janine

Virginia says

Isn’t it strange how people can behave so insensitively? And yet I’m certain your friend has no idea that she’s been so inconsiderate. I imagine that you – no doubt, like most of us, vulnerable to small slights – imagine she’s only asked this friend because she feels that you’re a bore and doesn’t know how she can stand a week in your company. That’s the interpretation that many people would put on it – and the interpretation is very rarely true. Why would she have agreed to go on holiday with you unless she enjoyed the prospect of your company, after all?

No, it’s more likely that it is she who feels like an inadequate person. She might think that asking someone else along would make the holiday more entertaining for you. I am still constantly amazed at the depth of self-hatred so many people have for themselves – I’m not the only one! – and it is perfectly conceivable that she sees herself as a dull travelling companion, and feels weighed down by the onus of playing the role of entertaining companion for you for a  week or so.

But the most likely explanation is that she has a total lack of sensitivity to the situation. Perhaps she comes from a large and jovial family in which it couldn’t matter less if one or more people arrive for dinner – everyone mucks in. You, perhaps, choose your guests in the same way as a casting director chooses his actors – one more or less hand-picked guest spoils the whole balance of an evening.

You can react in a variety of ways. You can say that you’re not coming unless she uninvites this third person. You’ll put her in a difficult position but it’s a fair enough ask. Or you can pull out altogether, and ask if you could arrange another holiday with just the two of you. You could “get ill” and drop out at the last minute. Or you could ask someone else who you like to make up a foursome. It wouldn’t be the same holiday, it’s true, but if you can then approach the whole thing as a different kind of event, it might be OK. This act would also make you feel more in control.

Whatever you do, take a bit of time. Sometimes it takes a few days to get used to new ideas like this. After a week, you may find yourself increasingly unable to tolerate the idea. Or the shock of being emotionally trampled on may wear off, and you may realise that it wouldn’t be too bad after all. Not perfect, but not completely unacceptable.

Next week's dilemma

I have been asked to appear on a reality TV show. There’s nothing salacious about this show – but my sister is a rather prudish schoolteacher, and has begged me not to appear. She thinks I’ll regret it and that because our surname is distinctive, her privacy will be affected, and the local newspaper will run a story linking her with me. I want to get the advantage of the expert advice I would get for free on this show, and perhaps more may come of it. But should I give up the chance of this small moment of fame for the sake of my sister – or go for it?

Yours sincerely, Theresa

What would you advise Theresa to do? To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk