Dear Captain Awkward:
First of all, I want to thank you and your commenters SO MUCH for being such kick-ass human beings and providing so much support and insight into the situation when I was so blind to what was going on. If I could, I’d invite you all to a rad internet BBQ and not make you bring your own booze.
The advice you and your commenters gave was wonderful, but I unfortunately can’t follow it now because:
1) Marla and her boyfriend got engaged right after I sent you the first letter, and she had asked me to be her maid of honor a very long time ago.
2) I’ve been trying to have a conversation with Marla about how she’s been treating me because the slow-fade tactic just isn’t cutting it, what with the wedding taking place this summer. Part of me wants to repair our friendship, but a large part of me never wants to see these terrible people again.
3) Every time I try and talk to Marla alone, she either flakes out on plans or brings her boyfriend. I don’t want to have this conversation with him there! It’s getting really infuriating because I’ll show up the restaurant/coffee shop we’ve agreed to meet at, call her to see why she’s late, and she’ll say “Oh, yeah, I’ve just been cuddling and watching TV with boyfriend, I don’t really feel like going out. But soon, ok? Bye!”
4) She’s been sending me wedding-related things to do non-stop despite blowing me off on a regular basis. She has massive amounts of DIY projects she expects me to do the bulk of, and keeps sending me requests for what she’d like her bridal shower and bachelorette parties to be.
5) This speedy wedding makes me really uncomfortable because in the fall Marla and her boyfriend are moving overseas so that he can work a year-long unpaid internship, and before the engagement they had expressed a concern about Marla not being able to get a work visa (she needs to be the primary provider for the first few years).
Captain Awkward, I’m supposed to have coffee with her this weekend in the park, and I don’t know how this conversation will go. Part of me is all “when you’re friends with people for years sometimes you have rough patches and you have to talk it out and move on because you really care about her and not drop people at the first sign of trouble”, but the other part of me is saying “THIS WILL NOT GET BETTER, they will complain that you’re being too sensitive and continue to steamroller over you”.
How do I start this conversation? I’ve never had to ‘break up’ with a friend before and am totally lost about how this kind of ‘script’ should go. What do I say if she says “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me before my wedding/you don’t understand what a mature committed relationship is like/I say those things because I really care about you and I want you to be happy!” If she apologizes, should I try to forgive her and move past this? I want to do this without involving my opinions about her boyfriend/co-dependence/the spouse work visa situation, and want to keep it about how she makes me feel. Coffee in the park seems like a neutral environment to do this in? I really want to do the right thing here, but I don’t know how!
Thanks a million,
Not So Moping Mary
PS: That Sady Doyle link was pure gold. I cried while reading it. Thank you.
Dear Not So Moping:
Thanks for sending this in. We LOVE a follow-up!
Unfortunately it seems you’ve doubled down on your Marla problem by agreeing to be in her wedding. (People, you all realize you can say “no” to that, right? The script is “I am so honored to be asked, and I’d love to be AT your wedding, but I can’t be IN your wedding, I’m so sorry.” And you can also frankly discuss budgets and expectations and stuff if you do agree to be in the wedding. Nothing is the bridesmaid or groomsman’s “job” unless all parties agree that it’s their job. It’s not automatic that you will spend x$ and do y tasks.)
Sadly, I think the original advice still stands: Stop hanging out with crappy people! People who assign you annoying wedding tasks and then flake out on meeting up with you are inconsiderate and crappy! In your own words: “THIS WILL NOT GET BETTER, they will complain that you’re being too sensitive and continue to steamroller over you.”
Here’s one suggested script. Before you use it, I want to tell you: You can drop out of this wedding entirely. In fact, that is your leverage to ask for better treatment. And since you hate her boyfriend and think the wedding is a terrible idea anyway, it’s not exactly the wrong thing to do. At a certain point it’s impossible to set boundaries without that threat of “or this relationship is over forever” backing it up. So before you talk with her, ask yourself: If there were a magic way to get out of the whole thing entirely, would you want to get out of the whole thing entirely?
Because there is. Here are the magic words. You can email them. “I am sorry, Marla, but I can’t be a part of your wedding. I hope you can find someone else and have the wedding you want.”
And yes, she’ll be hurt and mad and the friendship will be over . But you’ll be totally free of constant engagement with her and you can use the money you would have spent on dresses and showers and stuff to take yourself out of town that weekend and be far, far away and also to maybe change your cell #.
If you decide to stay in the wedding, which, let’s face it, is probably what you’ll do (even though you definitely do not have to), here’s what I suggest:
- Take the list of assigned stuff and figure out what you are actually willing and able to do, a time-frame, and a maximum budget of $. Type that up somehow so that it’s very clear. And make the list of what you’ll do and spend on the small side, ok? Pare it back to the bare bones.
- Bring it with you to the park.
Here’s the script.
“Marla, I need to talk to you and I need you to listen and not interrupt me until I am done.
I am pretty unhappy with the way you’ve been treating me about this wedding, by assigning me all of these tasks and then blowing me off when I try to meet with you. If you want me to remain a part of this, that needs to stop. You need to return my calls and emails promptly and come on time to all scheduled meetings. Agreed?”
If she agrees and apologizes, continue. If she explains how she didn’t really blow you off and that’s all your fault, remember that you can ABORT ABORT ABORT your involvement in this piece-of-shit wedding at any time. No, seriously. You really can just leave. Even if she will be sad and cry. Even if she says all the stuff you’re worried she’ll say, like:
- “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me before my wedding.” A wedding is not a license to act like a complete asshole and be immune from any kind of criticism.
- “You don’t understand what a mature committed relationship is like” Um, really, she says stuff like this? I OFFICIALLY HATE MARLA.
- “I say those things because I really care about you and I want you to be happy!” This is not actually a good reason to say mean stuff.
Let’s assume she agreed and apologizes, though that is not my actual assumption for what she’ll do.
“Okay. Going forward, I want to make sure we’re really clear about expectations. I’ve looked over the list of tasks you’d like me to take care of, and this is what I can commit to (list tasks). I will not be able to handle (these tasks), so you’ll need to find another way to accomplish them. Also, I can spend a maximum of x$ on wedding-related stuff, which has to cover all of it – dress, shoes, party expenses, whatever. So if you want me to be involved, we need to scale down some of these plans or have $y contribution from you or your family to make them work as is.”
The correct answer from her is some version of “I’m sorry I overburdened you/Thanks for making things so clear/Okay, let me look this over and decide what to do.” Because being a bridesmaid is a FAVOR.
If she tries to suggest that you can do or afford more than you want to do and manipulate you into agreeing to more stuff, or takes massive offense at this conversation and gets worked up, you can always say “Okay, Marla, if that’s how you feel you should definitely ask someone else to take this on. I’m not the right person for this job and cannot be the bridesmaid or friend you need right now. I’m so sorry, I hope you can have the wedding you want to.“
Actually, that last sentence is a good mantra to use throughout dealing with her. “I hope you can have the wedding you want.“
If she apologizes and agrees with everything (unlikely), grit your teeth and get through it all with as much grace as you can, but be prepared to enforce boundaries around money, time, burgeoning tasks, and especially missed meetings.
They’re leaving the country right after the wedding? Hopefully? Yes?
Godspeed and good fucking riddance.