Walking out wasn’t the ideal way to handle that situation (more on intervening in their argument later), but if you were going to say or do something that would escalate this situation, it’s best that you did walk away. If you’re in a calmer place now, then you should definitely reach out to your friend face-to-face and let her know how you felt when you discovered that she shared your secrets. Ask her how she would feel if you told others the private things she’s shared with you.
There is one final thing I need to address with you — not that you asked. In your letter, you talk about standing up for your cousin and addressing her boyfriend. That’s not your place, and furthermore, your intervention is not welcome and does not matter.
What goes on in your friend’s relationship is between her and her man. It’s always messy when couples get to bickering in public, and it may seem that they are inviting commentary by carrying on with each other in the open, but really they are not. That’s their situation, and despite the out-in-the-open conversation, that’s their business, too.
If your cousin is OK with being “punked,” as you put it, that is, again, between her and her partner. And your intervening won’t do anything to change the dynamic of the relationship. If she doesn’t stand up for herself, you — a person not in the relationship — will have no effect on how she is treated by her boyfriend.
You were really bothered by what you witnessed, enough that you wanted to jump in, but next time, walk away, and tell her to text you when they’re done fussing so you can come back and enjoy whatever outing you’re on. Whatever you do, do not jump into an argument between a couple, and definitely don’t address the person you don’t know and who doesn’t know you. Not only is it out of line, but he also doesn’t owe you anything — and your friend’s boyfriend made that clear by going for the lowest verbal blow he could think of.
If you must intervene, do so later with your friend only in a one-on-one conversation. Express your concern about how her boyfriend treats her. What she does from there is on her. You can’t make her stand up to him or leave him. And whether or not you like the situation, she’s an adult who can choose whether to speak up for herself, and whether to continue the relationship with someone you perceive to be punking her.
I hope that you and your best friend-cousin can mend your friendship. Mended or not, though, learn the lesson from this experience: Be quiet.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.