Dear Captain Awkward,
My friend N alternately acts like she feels threatened by me and like she wants to be me. It’s really creepy but I don’t know how to address it without sounding jealous and paranoid.
I met her three years ago. We became close quickly, and she had a crush on me, which I suspect was a nice distraction from the awful breakup she was going through. She invited me on a camping trip hoping to hook up with me, but was surprised that bringing a second woman along meant she was no longer the only woman in an otherwise all-male group, and she was no longer the group’s tomboy because I have more camping experience. Several guys hit on me, including her ex. She spent the whole weekend sulking and making passive aggressive comments.
I thought her resentment would subside when I started dating someone, but she became really possessive of my boyfriend. They’ve never dated, but sometimes play-fight when they drink. My boyfriend and I both practice martial arts, and our rather hilarious how-did-you-two-meet story involves a fight club. Often when N and I are meeting someone new, I mention my boyfriend’s name. The other person asks, “Oh, who’s that?” Before I can answer, much less tell our story, N interrupts me with, “That’s her boyfriend, who ***I*** introduced her to, who I fight in the street! I’m a street fighter!” and she tells the story of that time she tried to fight my boyfriend, but fell and twisted her ankle and he carried her home. Then she talks about herself at length. If this new person is male, she doesn’t let me get a single word in edgewise. If a guy hits on me, she pouts and starts up the passive-aggression. She also tries to one-up me on comics trivia, which she only got into after meeting me.
I’ve tolerated this because she’s a great friend when sober. But lately, we only see each other at parties, and her behavior is getting more obnoxious. Recently she interrupted me talking about work to tell the “street fighting” story to people who had already heard it a million times, while positioning her chair in front of me so that her back was to me and I was physically excluded from the group. Later she glared at me, sat on my boyfriend’s lap, and talked about how great he is.
I’ve asked my boyfriend to deliberately invite me back into conversations when she excludes me, and to not make physical contact with her. I don’t know what to say to her though, and our once-close friendship is becoming a sad competition where no one wins.
–Not-Single, Not-White Female
How deep do you want to go into working this out?
I ask because their are two paths you can go by.
“N, I’m really not feeling our friendship lately, and I’d prefer that we not hang out anymore. I realize that this isn’t good news, but it’s the best decision for me. I will do my best not to make it weird at (group events), as in, let’s say a quick hello and then keep the interaction to a minimum.”
If that seems too permanent, try “let’s take a break from hanging out.” This won’t land well, no matter how you say it, but if that’s how you feel it’s better and less cruel than drifting away and waiting for her to catch on.
“The specific thing (specific thing) you did the other night kind of weirded me out. What’s going on with that?”
Rules for constructive conflict when you want to repair a relationship:
- Keep it to one or two specific recent incidents, not an entire list of grievances.* Not because those grievances aren’t real, but listing all of them can be overwhelming and immediately put the person on the defensive. Over time you can work on the whole gestalt of the relationship. The first time you bring up a conflict, keep it simple and short.
- Emphasize how whatever it is affected your specific recent feelings (Don’t speak in generalities or patterns or get into the history of competitiveness – it makes no one look or feel good).
- Do not make any assumptions or suggestions as to why. Facts only. “The thing you did hurt my feelings/bothers me. Your friendship is valuable to me, so I thought you should know and have a chance to apologize or explain/so I thought we should talk about it and see if we can’t work it out.” Bonus: This makes the other person do the work of piecing it together and offering an explanation.
Her answer might lead you back to Path 1, but if you think it might be worth delving into, give it a try and see what she says. It is unlikely she will admit jealousy or vulnerability, but you can tell whether this is salvageable by her response.
Salvageable: “Whoa, sorry, now that I think of it that was really out of line. I will not do that anymore.”
Unsalvageable: “God, why are you so paranoid and jealous?”
Because these behaviors are centered around your boyfriend, it’s good to give him a heads up, and his reaction will also be telling.
“Boyfriend, I think I am going to take a break from hanging out with N. She is getting on my nerves.”
“Boyfriend, I am going to ask N. to stop telling the fight club story (for example). It’s crossed a line into making me really uncomfortable.”
You don’t have to get into his behaviors, again, stick with facts and don’t overexplain yourself or justify. His reaction will also be telling.
Supportive: “That’s sad, but you do what you need to and I will back you up.”
Unsupportive: “Why u so jealous and unfair?”
Things I would let go:
- Comics trivia. Does it matter how we get into comics trivia? If we find out that we love comics trivia, we get to be just as into it as the person who first invited us there. In fact, let go of the entire question of who was in what group first.
- The entire question of interrupting when you get hit on by someone. There’s no way to control what other people (hitters-on) do or feel, and no way to bring this up that makes you look good, i.e., talking about this will make it seem like you actually are in competition for male attention and keeping score about such things. Are you? If her behavior is as rude/interrupty/obvious/strange as you say, people can tell what’s up and make their own decisions about how they want to engage her. A dedicated hitter-on will circumvent her.
- Her past crush on you, unless she brings it up. Sometimes we have crushes on people we’d really like to be like. The graceful thing to do is to pretend it never happened and let her save face.
- Who is better at camping.
That leaves: Interrupting and one-upping you in conversation (God hates a story-topper), telling the fight club story over and over again (this might genuinely be an oversight that can be corrected with a “I don’t want to embarrass you, but did you realize you tell that story every single time? It might be time to let that one rest,” ignoring you/shutting you out whenever a dude is around or physically shunning you out of a conversation by placing her back to you (this behavior is truly annoying), and behaving territorially around your boyfriend (which I imagine is hard behavior to pin down, but you know it when you see it.)
The things on the bulleted list, in my opinion, cross over into the “Someone is getting on my nerves, now everything about them is part of the story of how they get on my nerves” territory. You’re over-justifying somewhat, and I think fairness and good sense mean doing some healthy separation between behaviors she is doing “at you” and behaviors that she is not. I think it’s also important to remember that while these behaviors have been going on for a while and in some cases date back to the beginning of your friendship, when you are trying to have constructive conflict with someone the clock restarts when you bring up the problem. Someone who is actually your friend gets some time to react and try to change the behavior.
The grievances on the bulleted list do have their uses in asking a question: If these issues date back to the beginning of the friendship, do you actually like her and want her in your life? If no, then script #1 is the way to go.
There is no awesome way to handle this where everyone gets out unscathed and with their feelings and self-image totally intact, but remember, IT’S ALREADY WEIRD. I trust you that something is off here. You are just putting a name to a weirdness you didn’t make. Friends don’t always behave perfectly, and sometimes they tread on your toes without realizing it, and a cool friend will recognize when she’s been given an opportunity to make things right. If she responds favorably things may be salvageable with a little time to heal bruised egos. If she doubles down on the behavior that’s bothering you, it only confirms that you made the right decision to put some distance in the relationship.
*I am talking about constructive conflict in interpersonal relationships, not activism. There is a difference between repairing a friendship between equals and seeking justice, where the historical record of abuses is necessary no matter how uncomfortable it makes someone. If someone is your friend, the suggested advice is a way to ask for what you need while taking care of their feelings a little bit. In a situation with extreme power imbalances and a history of injustice, the oppressed person does not have to take care of the feelings of the oppressor, and indeed “tone policing” or “I would give you justice if you just asked more nicely” is a derailing tactic. I just want to be clear about that from the get-go.
83 thoughts on “#466: Possessive friend is weirding me out/A constructive conflict review.”
Great advice from the Captain as always. If you do decide the friendship is worth saving, maybe try to see this person in contexts outside of parties. If the friendhsip was once-close, and you now see her only at parties, it suggests that you’re never getting the chance to see her in contexts which are likely to be good. Maybe the fact you don’t see each other in other contexts makes her feel unhappy and pushed out and she’s punishing you for that. Or maybe it reflects a larger discomfort with the friendship. Or, maybe it’s a product of other things entirely. But it might be worth setting up some of the kind of friend time you’ve valued with her in the past.
Single white female is a great movie, but it should stay on the screen.
I think she’s making herself look like a fool and the best thing to do is give her enough rope to hang herself. Ignoring passive aggressive behaviour is great. Just skip right through any dramatic sighs or posturing for attention. By acting like it’s not there you’re not giving her the attention she wants and you look awesome and cool while doing it. Score for you!
But don’t take any physical bullshit. I think you’re in the right to go ”Hey, did you miss me over here?” when she puts herself right in front of you. By doing it in a nice way you’re acting like you’re honestly confounded by her mistake . Then hopefully some of your friends will pipe in. I doubt they haven’t picked up on anything.
You’ve taken some good steps already. Good luck!
On the other hand, attention is an actual human need, and just because someone’s bad at expressing that need doesn’t mean they aren’t having trouble getting it met.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take that advice, but in the case of someone you actually care about it’s a good idea to also check up on them later and see what’s behind that behavior.
This is true, but it also falls under the heading of Things That Are Not The LW’s Problem. If this person were acting like a friend to LW, it might be different, but no one is obligated to let someone treat them like crap.
I see where you’re coming from – it bugs me too when people slap the label ‘attention seeking’ onto certain behaviours in order to be dismissive about what that person is going through. I have a friend who had to go to hospital with self-harm wounds one night, and another member of the group was all ‘Pshh, she’s blatantly attention seeking,’ like if we all ignored her and refused to show up then her depression would just spontaneously evaporate, you know? That concept gives me all kinds of rage.
But also, somebody who is employing attention-seeking behaviours is a massive energy drain, and everyone gets to decide whether or not it’s something that they, personally, can be around and put up with. If LW doesn’t have enough spoons of care left for this friendship, then choosing not to make the attention-seeking behaviour her problem is totally legit IMO.
You are right on with what I call “bitch eating crackers.” It comes from one of those retro graphic memes “when you already don’t like someone everything they do is annoying ‘look at that bitch eating crackers like she owns the place.'” When I realize I’ve reached ‘bitch eating crackers’ with someone I try to take a step back and figure out which behaviors are actually the problem and drop the rest.
ZOMG this. I like this name for it. Now if only I had any idea how to stop it. I have yet to salvage a relationship once it reached this stage.
Unfortunately one of the bitches currently eating crackers is my future brother in law. /sigh
It reminds me of a letter writer who was annoyed with her roommates’ boyfriends, and cited that one of the dudes “sat in my desk chair like it was his own — multiple times!!”
Yeah, I’m a seriously turfy chick myself. But when you get to the point that every little thing someone does grates on your nerves, it’s time to look at the big picture.
I love this term. Unfortunately, it describes my feelings for two of my coworkers–they have some genuinely awful work habits/major boundary issues, but I know my “GAH, JUST NEVER TALK TO ME AGAIN” feeling every time they come over is a little more than the situation warrants (Note: I’ve never actually said that to them; I try to just keep conversations as short as possible and look busy so they don’t wander over for small talk…it’s just that they’re mostly oblivious to all “Busy: Working” signals).
If they weren’t coworkers, I would just avoid them, b/c as shinobi42 says, I’ve never been able to salvage a relationship with someone who’s reached the “bitch eating crackers” point for me. Mostly because I don’t want to salvage anything by that point, and I’ve never been one for keeping people in my life that I don’t want to interact with.
I wonder if the captain has any advice for people like this who you *can’t* avoid, and even have to interact with on a daily basis?
I’ve had people like this at work. I find it a little easier because we are coworkers, not friends, and we only spend time together because someone is paying us to. If they are under some other illusion that if we weren’t getting paid we would still spend 2/3rds of our waking time together, that is really not my fault.
I’ve mostly dealt with it by being INCREDIBLY PROFESSIONAL but not friendly. And when they cross boundaries I’ve confronted them about it immediately, like “I know you’re trying to give me a compliment but when you comment on my appearance after meetings it makes me uncomfortable and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t.”
The nice thing about work is you can always say, “Hey sorry, I know you want to chat but I have to get these TPS reports done.” And just use that to avoid any non work conversation with them that goes beyond politeness. Eventually, they will get the message.
As long as they’re peers, being Professional, Polite, and otherwise blank and unavailable can work. It’s hard when they’re constantly in your space, but you can professionally and politely ask them to GTFO. I think the captain has talked about that a few times, so you can check the archives.
Other tactics include headphones, blank stares, coming in at different times if your workplace allows it, and possibly relocating your desk.
I already use headphones and coming in at different times, and it is useless 90% of the time–as in, I have had the headphones on with no music so that I actually *could* hear somewhat, just muted, and I’ve heard them say things like “oh, you can’t hear me” and then tap my desk or stand there behind me, in my cubicle, until I acknowledge them. I can’t relocate my desk, and it’s unfortunately an open cube. I have been Professional and Polite and Working the whole time, and emphasized that email is the best way to contact me for a quick answer for work-related stuff when possible. But since we handle physical items, not everything can be done through email–so sometimes they *do* need to interrupt me for legit work stuff. It’s just that they haven’t figured out NOT to interrupt me for non-work chitchat.
The boundaries they cross are less of the “unwanted compliment” nature and more of the “so, let me tell you all the intimate personal details of my life, health, and finances” or “let’s talk about politics and other things that I assume you share my views on, including The other issue is that I’m the “newest” person here. I and my cube mate are pretty much the only ones not behind a door, so we’re screwed in terms of fending people off. She is much better at fending people off than me, and I have been working very hard to imitate what she does, but so far it’s not working. And even she can’t keep them at bay sometimes.
My boss is unfortunately kind of useless as far as curbing this behavior goes–the good thing about my boss is also the bad thing, in that my boss is a very hands off, “I trust everyone to do their work, tell me if you need supplies/time off, and beyond that, I don’t care” sort of boss.
I suppose for now, I just have to keep up the Polite, Professional, Busy facade and hope that eventually one or both of them will get that I just don’t want to know everything they feel compelled to talk to me about.
I’m sorry. I’ve been in your position, and I know that the “just wear headphones and ignore them!” advice can be maddening, as can the “just be professional!” advice. It’s Not Always That Easy(tm).
One thing I wanted to mention–with full awareness that It’s Not Always That Easy(tm) and that this may not work for you–is that I’ve had some success with simply continuing to pretend that I don’t see/hear someone even if they stand behind me indefinitely or tap on my desk. It feels really, REALLY super awkward to keep working and listening to your music/podcasts/silence/whatever when you know someone is standing there and standing there and STANDING THERE. But if you can hide behind the plausible deniability of ‘oh, I was just super engaged in [work project]’, it can be possible to literally wait them out. It’s even weirder and more boring and awkward for them to stand there than it is for you to pretend to not notice them while they stand there.
This doesn’t work if you have the kind of dick who will resort to, say, waving a hand between your face and the screen–I’ve had that kind of person too, and I have no answer to dealing with that. But if it’s just the standing-lurker, it’s often possible to bore then into submission, especially if you pick your dullest work to do so they don’t even have anything vaguely interesting to watch. 😉
You could also try just redirecting the question back to work when they start with personal stuff? “Did you need something work related? I’m sorry but I have a lot I need to get done.”
It may also help to proactively start conversations with professional angles, by asking if they need something or if they have a specific work related thing they need to give you? (Instead of a general “hi, or what’s up?”) And then if they try to sidle into chit chat you can redirect to work stuff “Blah blah blah my sick cat.” “Sorry about that, but hey I’ll get you that work thing you wanted in XYZ time frame.” Headphones and go.
I realize the professionalism angle is not at all easy, especially when people are persistently annoying. But it is “just be professional” not because it’s easy, but because it is all you can really do short of quitting your job or making a lot of enemies.
I get this with some analysts. I work as an editor, on shortish articles for the web. The analysts have a different skill set to me, and some are awesome in deferring to my knowledge while keeping the text true to their knowledge. Others, not so much.
Every so often, one of them (usually someone who writes really badly) will perform a concentrated litany of Things Not To Do When Working With An Editor* and so piss me off so much I never want to work with them again, at which point I have to become Ms Super Polite and overexplain every change I make so there are no more misunderstandings.
All that explaining means the person isn’t going to get their changes taken in at speed between two other articles, or quick casual mails to update them. By The Book is what they wanted, and that’s what they are going to get, in meticulously documented emails.
I don’t usually have to go from one piece directly to another by the same person, so they tend to get a gradually easing off of the Super-Professional but not actually going out of my way attitude until we are back to normal, or they do it again, in which case, they get it in spades and the edit takes ages (or I hand over to someone else).
*Long rant follows:
Litany includes: Persistent failure of version control (including, in most recent case, failure to understand that version control exists); failure to explain reversions to original versions (esp great when you call them on it, and they actually are perfectly happy with your version, but theirs was to hand when they C&Ped to new location, because it was not the latest version); failure to update on changed publication timing; drip feeding of changes; calling to discuss changes from somewhere really noisy or insisting on using email, but being very bad at judging tone in email; chasing multiple times when I have told you that we are busy and I will get to your article at around X time; and threatening me with taking the topic to our bosses.
That’s just the current guy, who compounded all this by initially sending me an article that combined a data dump that assumed complete knowledge of obscure area, but no knowledge of massive change to it 5 months ago, with C&Ping from (his) published articles. He’s getting Ms Explains Every Change in shovelfuls at present.
I am honestly a fan of saying, with a polite and friendly tone, that you would like them to talk to you less. This is partly because I have a lot of Autistic-spectrum friends who really just need it spelled out for them. It can be sugarcoated or spun by making it about you–“Hey, I’ve noticed that I’m way less productive when I stop to talk to people in the middle of the day, so I’m trying to chat less. Is that okay?”–but sometimes it needs to be said.
I could use some advice for this, too, but … the person is unavoidably involved in my close social circle AND unavoidably involved in an organization I do volunteer work with, in the same area of work. I’m not willing to give up the volunteer work, and can’t cut them entirely out from my social circle because reasons that would reveal too much (just trust me on this).
Ha, that’s brilliant!
I’ve always thought of it as the Kittens Problem. As in, when I’m sufficiently angry/annoyed at someone, I can turn anything into a Bad Thing, such that if they say “I love kittens!” I’ll be glowering and thinking I bet you don’t, I bet you’re LYING, I bet you EAT KITTENS FOR BREAKFAST, because you’re TERRIBLE and I HATE YOUR FACE.
So when I hit that point, where I’m mentally simmering over even positive and agreeable things they do/say, that’s a good signal to me that it’s disengage time.
Ha! This is the best!
That’s a good canary for the coal mine (and probably a better term for me, since I don’t much like to swear myself). And so painfully accurate.
I messaged the “bitch eating crackers” someecard to a friend of mine to describe how a mutual [now-former] close friend was acting towards me. Literally everything I did, said, etc., was met with screaming. During an argument I said, “You realize this is why I don’t talk to you, right? I can’t even say, ‘How are you?’ without you losing your mind.”
I finally gave up on a friendship when it hit this point too. I couldn’t say anything she didn’t like, even something relatively minor, without making her angry. More confusingly, she rarely said she was angry at WHAT I said, but rather the WAY I said it – telling her something in person when she would have preferred an email, saying something in a group situation when she wishes I’d said it privately, stating a differing opinion in a way that was ‘disrespectful’… I tried to play along for a while, but it just made me miserable, because you know what? There was probably no way I could ever have gotten it right, except for never, ever disagreeing with her.
Exactly. I ended our friendship a bit after this point when she said some “unsalvagable” comments akin to above, which progressed into yet another argument, then I finally gave up and had to block her (and so did essentially everyone else in her life, but that’s another story).
This phrase, “bitch eating crackers,” has been the bright spot in my day and I plan on using it henceforth. Thank you for sharing this.
Same. I am tempted to put it on a T-shirt.
Ha! What a great term for it!
Totally had that with a coworker. Still get it sometimes. Nice to have a term for it beyond “Heel, dog.” (It was getting out of control–like trouble sleeping, seething with rage– so I started imagining my train of thought being like a dog I was taking on a walk. Any time it even started wandering in the direction of “things I dislike about coworker,” I’d mentally say “Heel, dog,” like I was pulling it back on the leash. Didn’t matter if it was just a little ways away, or if it was frolicking way down in the field of “Why That Guy Bugs Me.” Soon as I’d realize it, I’d say it, and that was that. It’s a dippy little coping strategy, but it worked for me.)
Sounds good, I think I might start using that!
Excellent advice. The only thing I would add is that when you discuss the behaviors that you are not going to let slide, spell out that “I really value your friendship, but when you do that it makes me not enjoy being around you.” I know that seems obvious, but I once had a best friend act in the same weird, competitive way, right down to physically edging me out of conversations. It destroyed our friendship.
Years down the road, I got a letter in which she said she had been falling in love with me and handled it badly (in part because we both identified as straight, so it was a head-spinner for her). Especially since you’ve said your friend had a crush on you at one point, it seems possible that her bizarre, awful behavior is actually a misguided attempt to impress YOU with her coolness, and to edge out other people who she sees as competition for YOUR attention, rather than the other way around. I’ve since heard from others who have had similar friend-falling-in-love-acting-competitive-and-awful stories. It seems to be a thing.
I don’t recommend hitting her with the theory that she has Feelings for you; whether it is true or not, she’s not going to appreciate you saying it. But perhaps letting her know that her behavior is having counterproductive effects would get her to knock it off. Also, if it is the case, letting her know you are squarely hetero. My friend, at least, had persuaded herself that the falling in love was reciprocal. I’ve wondered sometimes whether if she had understood that it was not, maybe she would have gotten less invested in her narrative, and that new dimension to her feelings need not have killed our friendship. Though of course unreciprocated feelings always suck, and she might not have wanted to be around me for a while, maybe we could have been friends after she moved on, which was not possible the way things played out for us.
Good luck. Though your friend’s behavior is truly awful enough to justify walking away, and if that’s what feels right to you you have no obligation to worry about why she is doing it, it is possible the problem is that she likes you too much for comfort, and that you can get beyond that.
YES to: “her bizarre, awful behavior is actually a misguided attempt to impress YOU with her coolness, and to edge out other people who she sees as competition for YOUR attention…”
I had a roommate like this. We had started out as friends and coworkers. Then, soon after I moved in with her, she slept with my boyfriend. When I started dating other guys, she hit on every one of them too. She would initiate tickle fights with them when they came round our flat to pick me up for dates. She slept with all of my male platonic friends and then, after dumping them, would ban them from our flat.
I had signed a lease, so I was stuck. We also worked together and hung out with the same group of friends. When the lease ended, I moved 3,000 miles away and left her with an incorrect forwarding address. And then I stewed about her behavior for years. One day it hit me – she was competing WITH me, sure, but mostly she was competing FOR me. She hated being alone, and she wanted my undivided attention. She also had an alcohol problem and acted out the most when she was drinking. I’m so, so glad that she’s out of my life, but that realization was very healing for me: it made me hate her less and pity her more.
I think the Captain’s advice is great. One other thought – should you ultimately decide to end the friendship at some point, confronting your friend about one-off incidents along the way will also give her a clear idea that something’s been wrong all along, so she can’t try to play the “I HAD NO IDEAAAAA!” guilt card later.
THIS. I have been there, and not in the LWs shoes, either.
It can be painful to realise that’s what’s going on, and that the friendship is dying on account of it.
The LW mentions she knew N had a crush on her, but it doesn’t sounds like this has been resolved? Maybe the strategies suggested above would be strengthened by a dose of “I’m just not into you that way”.
I’m guessing that N isn’t jealous of the hitting-on attention or trying to steal the boyfriend’s attention, so much as trying to keep same away from the LW in some way. This is probably what will need to be resolved.
Hopefully, she will determine that your friendship is worth preserving and will find another outlet for her feelings, which will enable her to do that.
I admit that I don’t understand monosexuality, but the “squarely hetero” bit doesn’t strike me as useful. As you said, alphakitty, both people in your situation already identified as straight, so if she was straight but falling for you then your own straightness might not seem all that immutable. The important factor is that you’re not actually interested, regardless of whether the person’s part of a set you tend to be interested in. Saying that in the LW’s situation may or may not be productive, though; I think I’d go for addressing the behaviors individually as CA suggests.
My only reason for suggesting it was as a way of communicating “not happening” without saying “I think you have Feelings for me,” since that is at best awkward, at worst likely to provoke an aggressively defensive response. However, with the additional info the LW has provided, it clearly isn’t a tool available to the LW.
“I’ve tolerated this because she’s a great friend when sober. But lately, we only see each other at parties, and her behavior is getting more obnoxious”
So, we all tend to hibernate with new loves at first, so maybe the hanging out with her one on one hasn’t been happening for a while? Did that stop because you got entwined or because of her behaviors? Just wondering if she thinks you’ve been blowing her off/that you don’t like her much anymore, and/or your BF is a friend of hers too who she now doesn’t get to hang with much. Just wondering if it’s worth hanging with her, doing some thing you used to do and seeing how things are without the parties and alcohol. Not to excuse her behavior, just that she may feel like you and your BF have pretty much dropped her as a friend.
I really like this insight, from you and someone else who raised it. Sounds like parties aren’t the right venue to connect with this lady right now, and hanging out in more chill, one-on-one spaces might be the way to go. It never hurts to friend-date your friends, by which I mean seek their company and put some time into them when you can both be at your best.
This is a good idea, to see each other outside of alcoholy parties.
I know that sometimes I feel awkward one-on-one with someone I haven’t seen in a long time, so you could also invite several other friends, but nobody’s partners, and go somewhere awesome and interactive. A group that’s known each other a long time and an activity that doesn’t involve sitting or standing in a circle talking can help people get back into that “oh right I do like you!” space. Make sure there’s no alcohol.
Having something new to talk about can make a huge difference, too, so you could also game* or go to a con, museum, or arcade or something.
*you sound nerdly, so I hope you get what I mean with that. I mean stuff like interactive tabletop board games like settlers, or something like poker, or RPGs although I wouldn’t recommend an ongoing campaign. One-shot RPGs or LARPs could be a fine idea, again assuming you and your friends are that flavor of nerdly. Play can bring people together, if it stays playful.
Outside of drinking parties and outside of all this “WHO IS MORE ATTRACTIVE TO DUDES” energy, for sure. Because the “winner” of that competition gets a dubious prize.
Oh god, I have totally won that prize at work. Yay! Not through ‘more attractive to dudes’ energy but by regularly going to their pub lunch that the other women here don’t go to. Gah.
As a LARPer myself, I would perhaps not advocate LARP as a good idea in this circumstance. You probably do not want to be mixing In-character-headspace with real-life-headspace at a time like this. Table-top or board games would be a much easier option, and just as fun.
I like this observation, too.
I have occasionally had situations where I really like someone, but I don’t like the way they behave in certain circumstances. Sometimes it’s “I like X, but only one-on-one.” Or, “I like Y, but her partying style is not mine, so not at parties.” Or, “I like Z almost all the time but when she’s hanging out with A, a side of her that annoys me comes out.”
Often the easiest answer is: only hang out with them in the situations where we’re compatible. It would be controlling and obnoxious for me to say, “At parties you turn into a flirt, and it annoys me, so stop it,” or “When you’re around A you get very brag-y and it bugs me, stop it.”
But I can easily just not hang out with the person when they’re with A, or at parties, or whatever. That is well within my control.
And, as you say, the occasional one-on-one also helps a lot if the other person feels that they’ve been blown off, which does happen.
Ooh, I have that, too! But much rather than in certain circumstances I have this when it comes to certain topics. Like I found out just last week, I like my casual acquaintance S just fine but apparently our views on weight stuff are so diametrically opposed I Do Not Ever Want To Engage in any kind of discussion involving weight loss with them again. They’re lovely and funny and we have a few interesting things to talk about, but I’ll be careful to not bring anything weight-related up ever.
Right! It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing.
It can be a thing where they go, “So, [insert super-awkward/terrible subject here]” and I go, “Huh. …So, did you see the new PSY video? What did you think??”
Increasingly I think that The Art of the Strategic Subject Change is one of the most important for social interactions!
An art I’m sadly not very apt in, I have to admit. If a topic isn’t practically jumping me I often don’t know what to talk about anyway, even less so if it needs to be a rather speedy subject change. Which leads to me standing there looking silently and kind of bewildered (not because of them, primarily, but actually because I’m frantically trying to figure out how to best change the subject) at the person who just said [thing that’s so not something I want to get into] which is kind of horribly awkward but unintentionally works just fine oftentimes. Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer having some topics at hand that I can use for Emergency Topic Change but my mind kind of blanks in situations like that (which mirrors perfectly in the abovementioned bewildered face :’D).
my go-to subject change is a wide-eyed, drawn-out, “soooooo, how ’bout that local sports team?”
It conveys “hey, I am NOT up for that topic, please help me talk about something else with you!” nicely, and usually makes the other person laugh a little, because it is SO awkward and strange. If I have another topic that comes to mind, I use that, usually with “oh, total tangent!” or “oh! weirdly, that reminds me — ” tacked on to the front, but when I don’t have another topic…the generic Local Sports Team is my friend.
Thank you for talking, so clearly, about the difference between dealing with friends and with oppressive dynamics.
Even if path #1 feels right, you might consider path #2 because it sounds like you’ll still encounter this person socially. You shouldn’t have to justify your decision but the truth is, cutting her dead will set her up to play the victim. “X just stopped being my friend and never told me why, she’s so mean and unfair.” I agree with some of the comments above — lay out what your expectations are of someone who is a “friend” and then she can adjust or not. If not, you get the same outcome as #1 and she has less amunition to be vindictive.
It may also be the case that people in LW’s mutual friend group have observed this behavior, and may come to the conclusion that what her friend is doing is Not Okay. It sounds like the boyfriend flirting is fairly over the top; as a bystander that would make me uncomfortable for sure.
I don’t think LW should have to endure this woman’s behavior in order to avoid awkwardness, necessarily. I think you are spot on with the part about laying out expectations beforehand – that way, there’s a verbal “paper trail” of discussions paving the way with reasons for the eventual friend breakup, should LW decide on Option #1.
But if LW does decide to just end the friendship without a discussion or explanation, it sounds like the friend has done enough weird stuff in front of other people that it would probably be somewhat obvious to mutual friends.
Also – some people will try to play the victim no matter what you do, no matter how much discussion and warnings have gone down first.
I really don’t know what other people think of the situation. Some of this stuff happens without witnesses, or all the witnesses are drunk, or they write it off as “N just acting like N.” The only confrontation I’ve heard about was when N’s then-roommate and her then-boyfriend told her she drinks too much and becomes selfish when she drinks. After being told this a few times, she cut back her drinking significantly, though not entirely.
On a lot of levels, the whole group has a tendency to look the other way when it comes to bad behavior, like the Emperor’s New Clothes. That’s why I worry about being labeled a drama llama; the emperor is not only naked, but surrounded by other naked people who don’t like it when you point out nakedness. I’m trying to make new friends, but it’s a long process. Some of these people are toxic, but others are pretty great, and some of them I don’t really know that well. Some of them I wouldn’t miss, but I don’t want to lose all the rest in a friend-divorce.
Eh, yes and no. The message that ‘even if you don’t want to be friends with someone, you should be anyway, because you don’t want to Make Trouble’ is one people (and particularly women) get fed a lot, and I really don’t think it’s true. There’s a middle way between cutting someone dead and continuing to be their friend, and there’s really nothing wrong with the LW choosing to do the slow fade rather than spend time with someone whose company they’re no longer enjoying.
This is all good advice. Thanks especially for ““Someone is getting on my nerves, now everything about them is part of the story of how they get on my nerves” territory.” This applies to me and some people in my life, and gives me stuff to mull over.
LW, I may be wrong about this, but I’m sensing some “cool girlfriend” issues here. You know, where the girlfriend doesn’t want to seem jealous and as a result, lets more things slide than she’s comfortable with. If you are uncomfortable with your friend getting drunk and flirting with your boyfriend, drawing that (perfectly reasonable!) boundary doesn’t make you jealous or paranoid.
You’d be surprised. I have gotten the jealous/paranoid/crazy label for being upset about one boyfriend telling me about how much hotter/smarter/cuter/better his ex/female friends were, and then again when I found a different bf sexting another girl. Maybe it’s my social circle and the single guys left, but it seems that anything more boundary-setting that “I get to do and say whatever I want” is labeled paranoid/jealous/”close-minded.”
Of course those boyfriends called you crazy: they knew perfectly well that what they were doing was wrong, so they turned the tables on you to avoid the guilt. You’re well shot of them.
Oh, it definitely often gets labeled that way when women set boundaries. I’m just saying it isn’t a true or fair label and you shouldn’t apply it to yourself, or take seriously people who apply it to you.
They’ve been doing that since before the 1960s … and not just boys, either – married men old enough to be father to teenagers can do it. I suppose sometimes it must be true that the partner is ‘being paranoid,’ but in my experience (both in my own relationships and in those I witness) the accusation ‘you’re being paranoid/jealous/crazy’ is properly translated ‘you just asked me to stop doing something and I don’t feel like changing a thing.’
I was having thoughts about this too, but more directed at the boyfriend. LW notes that she has asked him to be on her team by bringing her back into conversations and not initiating physical contact (with someone who may have a thing for him, or her, or both, or just some destructive issues). LW does not note when this asking happened. Something about the letter made me think the lap-sitting and the cutting-out happened after LW asked her boyfriend to be on her team. If so, then is he really on LW’s Team Me? Does he need to learn to assert healthy boundaries with other folks so he can be on her Team Me? What are his concerns that might be stopping him from being on he Team Me?
I think that, if her boyfriend is not backing her up, that’s not helping because it probably makes it feel like she is wrong, or unwanted, or obligated to let someone be awful to her because otherwise she’ll be left all alone. All that is probably contributing to the bile she feels toward her friend, because it seems to be a really big tangle of awfulness that involves a lot of relationships: LW’s current romance, LW’s past romances, flirtations between others and LW, friend’s romances, and LW’s friendship with this woman. It’s confusing. It’s a bad time to have someone not stand up and say, “Hey, I am on Team You, let’s activate our wonder powers and help you!” I don’t think they boyfriend is a bad guy, but he’s up to his neck in the weirdness and that is just helping keep it all weird.
Yeah, I don’t know if she’s getting pressure from her boyfriend to be the “cool girlfriend” or if it’s just an internalized thing, or whatever. It’s just that the repeated mention of not wanting to seem jealous raises a big ol’ red flag for me. The LW is big into camping and fighting and comics, which are awesome hobbies, but I would imagine mostly dude-dominated? And, having spent a lot of time in dude-dominated spaces, I know there can be a lot of “you’re cool, not like those OTHER women with their nagging and whatnot”. Just wanted to make sure the LW knows its cool to set her boundaries, and “no drunken flirting with other women (or just this particular woman)” is an ok boundary to have.
Oh, totally, dude-dominated spaces are full of very sneaky backhanded comments about how you’ve transcended the inherent shittiness of being a lady, so now you are almost as good as a real person! Thinking that those expectations are normal and okay, and that wanting adult boundaries will put you right back in lesser-than territory, gets things all mixed up. Though really, I tend to feel that if someone is going to snark you for your sex/gender, and be awful about your boundaries, not a thing of value will be lost when you don’t associate with them much anymore. I’d rather be some horrible adult bitch than a really cool doormat.
You also don’t necessarily have to bring some of these things up in one big confrontation about The Whole Pattern Of Her Sucking. You could just make a point of standing up for yourself when she does the trampling behavior in the future. Next time she interrupts you, interrupt her back with a big, assertive, “EXCUSE ME, N, YOU ACCIDENTALLY INTERRUPTED ME WHEN I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A STORY. ANYWAY, BOYFRIEND AND I…” She physically nudges you out of a circle? Cut her off with a tap on the shoulder and a big, “EXCUSE ME, N, BUT YOU JUST PUSHED ME COMPLETELY OUT OF THE CONVERSATION. I AM MOVING HERE, HOW ABOUT YOU SIT HERE.” Don’t sound angry, just be very direct and assertive. You see what she is doing, everyone else sees what she is doing, good chance she also sees what she is doing, and just thinks she is being sneaky. Or maybe she has no idea. But either way, there is nothing wrong with a strong verbal reminder every time she attempts to trample completely over you, to let her know that she is “accidentally” being completely obnoxious. 50/50 whether she will embarrass herself in a huffy rage, or quietly correct her behavior. Either way, it will probably go some way to keeping her from continuing this kind of garbage.
Forgot to add: this might especially help if she doesn’t really realize she is doing these things (or is in denial about it). I feel like really… well, frankly, really pathetic behavior like this is EXTREMELY hard to cop to. If someone suggests you’re trying to steal all of the attention from someone else, and imply that they are jealous and desperate, or if they don’t say ANY of that, but you feel that way deep down, and them pointing out your behaviors in a neutral way still sets off huge, defensive alarm bells… I dunno. Very easy to turn it around in the way you mention in your letter, like NOPE. THAT ISN’T WHAT HAPPENED. YOU MISUNDERSTOOD. I DIDN’T DO ANY OF THAT. STOP BEING SO PARANOID. So bringing it up at exactly the moment when it is obviously happening, without even hinting at any kind of potential deeper problems… it might be a good tack to take with this. Especially if you guys aren’t really close at all, and you aren’t super attached to the friendship, then the main objective isn’t to hash it all out. It is just to stop the behavior, and I think verbally putting a stop to it as it happens is a valid approach.
If this girl IS really great, and you want to retain a good friendship, I’m with others who have suggested that maybe trying to reconnect one-on-one, outside of these types of settings will probably go a pretty long way toward at least making you cool out on the “OH MY GOD PLEASE STOP EVERYTHING YOU DO IT IS ALL SO SO BAD” mindset we all get into in situations like these.
I really like this idea. I think it’s particularly good because it focuses on the actions, not the motives. It may be clear to you/observers/everyone in the world that N is jealous or having Feelings or has some kind of ulterior motivation… but if you bring up those motivations it’s very easy for her to deny and accuse you of being oversensitive, paranoid, etc. But if the focus is on the action – “Hey, you interrupted me, please don’t do that,” – then it becomes much harder to deny and hopefully still corrects the problem, at least in the moment, which hopefully then makes it easier to deal with and less of a festering situation where everything she does becomes annoying.
Absolutely agreed. One of the rules I remember learning in a work training from a previous job was that feedback/criticism/etc. should be 1) about a specific behavior, not a general vague thing like “I don’t like your attitude” 2) timely, so that there’s no confusion/misremembering about a situation that happened awhile ago and 3) it has to be ACTIONABLE and not just “wah I don’t like you/your face.” Despite it being a work thing, I’ve found it’s just pretty solid advice all the way around.
I was in almost exactly the same situation recently. Minus the boyfriend, since I was single, but any time I showed an interest in dating someone, my friend would dislike them and make direct or indirect comments about why my crush/date was really a terrible person.
I do wish I’d thought to try and separate out issues I could let go of from issues I needed to solve, the way the Captain did with those bullet points up there, but I think I reached a point where I just needed to throw in the towel. Attempts to talk about problems with the relationship always ended up being about how I was the bad guy and I should change my behavior because of her mental health. I realized the thing that was fundamentally hurting me was her need to be superior to everyone around her, including me, while also needing me to constantly reassure her of her opinion of herself. There’s a lot of other stuff I probably could have let go of, but there didn’t seem to be any way I could maintain the friendship without constantly deferring to her.
In the end, I took a step back and saw that even the things I used to like about our friendship weren’t enjoyable anymore, so I went with option one. Like a lot of situations, I think it’s worth trying to work things out, and the Captain’s reorganizing of problems – things you could let go, things you can’t – is helpful. If you solved the non-negotiables, would the ‘let it go’ list still bother you? For me, the answer eventually became a yes, because I’d realized that even though I could try to save the relationship, I just wasn’t prepared for all the work that would take. But it’s a question worth asking.
I’m not proud of it but I’ve been the LW’s ‘friend’ in this scenario. One of my friends is one of those effortlessly cool, beautiful, quirky girls that are the social fulcrums of entire cities and, to make matters worse, she’s also smarter than me. That last one really stung because whatever else I lacked I could always be sure that I was pretty damn smart and then along comes this lovely bitch with her massive brain and her beautiful face and her crackers. And she really is great! I love her to pieces. But she was so great that I was also seethingly jealous, to the point where I would force myself into conversations she was having or flirt obnoxiously with people who were paying attention to her or tell stories that were just about the two of us to reinforce our equality as well as our friendship. Whenever we went out together, I was just extra, extra ‘sparkling’. Like Lydia Bennet sparkling, which as we all know has the potential for social catastrophe.
I absolutely knew what I was doing and why I was doing it and I hated myself for behaving that way. I knew she didn’t deserve any of it; it was my own insecurities that were creating this whole fiction in my head that we were somehow in competition. I managed to rein it in before she said anything (or, please God, recognised the pattern) by suggesting going for coffee/lunch/pretentious art gallery trips rather than accompanying her to precarious social situations like parties, which were fuelling my social paranoia anyway. I managed to persuade myself that I didn’t need to be ‘as good’ as her and I didn’t need to be the same, and I broadened my own social group so that we weren’t quite as co-dependent. Our friendship’s different now but it’s still pretty strong.
Your friend may not know that she’s doing these things but from my own experience, it is possible to change that behaviour. But as with so many things, she has to recognise that you have legitimate complaints and has to want to change the way that you two interact. Good luck, LW.
LW, it sounds like you’re pretty invested in the competition now too, whether or not it started that way. In my experience, that is a huge recipe for TOXIC because if you are keeping score, then she is not “imagining” that you are in competition, you actually are. And competition, I say as a recovering competer, is often a sign of insecurity.
Which is not to say it’s totally cool that she physically cuts you out of a group or behaves uncomfortably with your boyfriend – that’s totally not cool!
I found therapy and confidence-building stuff to be far more effective at reducing my need to compete (and “win”) than anything else. YMMV. I am still friends with people who try to compete with me because I am harder to shake about my own worth and abilities than I used to be (and also much better at setting boundaries). I am still friends with many people with whom I used to try to compete because they felt comfortable telling me “hey, that’s awkward” and ALSO were not sucked into my competition because they felt secure in themselves.
Is it possible that any of this stuff is bothering you not just because she is behaving weirdly? Are there sensitive areas for you that she happens to be thumbing particularly hard? You can totally tell her to watch those sensitive areas, because if she is your friend she would not want to poke you where you’re ouchy. You can also work on making those sensitive places less ouchy. (Which is not to say you SHOULD. I don’t know you – only you know what is right for you at this time or any time.)
WOW. Fastest response time ever! Thank you Captain, and thanks to everyone who took the time to comment!
A little background that didn’t fit in the word limit, or didn’t seem totally relevant:
– N is the fulcrum of our social circle. The parties in question are usually ones that she throws; while I would certainly survive if she and I stopped talking, it would probably mean seeing less of our mutual friends. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would suck a little.
– For a while now I’ve been planning on talking to her about how I feel like I only get to see her one-on-one when she’s between boyfriends. Things are great if it’s just the two of us, or maybe a group of up to five people, talking, going to the park, playing video games, watching movies, etc. But the last couple times we were supposed to hang out she canceled at the last minute “because she was tired” and never offered to reschedule. Sure, people do get tired, and sometimes “tired” is a euphemism for “shit’s going on and I don’t want to go into details.” But it’s been a pattern, and she doesn’t make the effort to see me some other time. I feel especially hurt because several times during the past year, I was going through some rough things and she didn’t return my calls or messages. I was planning on saying something like, “When you cancel without trying to reschedule, I feel like you don’t value our friendship. I miss you and miss hanging out with you.”
– I don’t like how she interrupts me when men talk to me because it means I can’t participate in the conversation, not because I want to flirt with them. I don’t even like men other than my boyfriend. When I met him I was only interested in women, and I don’t get pants feelings for other men. I hate getting hit on but I do enjoy a friendly conversation. If we’re meeting a person who happens to be a guy and she’s single, N interrupts whenever I try to say anything at all. If she’s in a relationship, she lets me talk a little, but not about myself.
– I’m struggling to figure out how much of this problem might be me being jealous about her being an extrovert. Like, “It’s hard enough for me to hang out in a large group, hard enough for me to talk to tipsy/drunk people in a loud room, and now she makes it even harder by crowding me out? She sparkles without even trying, and when she tries it’s blinding.” If that’s the case, that’s My Problem, not Her Problem, but it’s still a problem. If I’m at the “bitch is eating crackers” stage, then maybe I need to step back from this friendship anyway. (Amazing phrase BTW! Thanks!)
– I like the idea of dealing with her behavior piecemeal as it happens, but
worry that confronting her at the moment she behaves badly could escalate, especially if she’s drunk. Any advice for how to tell drunk people they’re crossing a line? In N’s case, if she’s really drunk, she yells until people stop talking and listen to her. Verbatim quote: “I’M TALKING! PAY ATTESHUN TO ME!” I once saw her frowning at a bar and asked what was wrong. She answered, “I want attention, and no one’s giving me any.” I told her, “I’m here. You have my attention.” She answered, “You won’t sleep with me, so you don’t count,” and walked away. I don’t know if it’s possible to reason with her at a time like that. Should I call her the next day and bring it up?
– I admit I’ve been more than a little conflict avoidant because I don’t want to be labeled That Crazy Chick. I have multiple mental health problems and I work so damn hard to be calm at all times and avoid being a drama queen.
– I think it’s awesome that she likes comics, and there’s no Comics Canon Proficiency Test that she needs to pass in order to prove she’s a Real Fan. I only mentioned that because it’s an example of how it sometimes seems like she’s imitating me. The one-upping is annoying because she loves the Fake Geek Girl meme, and has a bit of the while “I’m not like other girls” thing going on. I think she wants to be The Tomboy or The Girl Who Hangs Out With Guys, and thinks I’m a threat to that title. Because only one person at a time is allowed to be a tomboy or have male friends? In any case, it makes talking about comics with her unpleasant, and that’s sad, because I used to love talking to her about comics.
– Boyfriend claims he was totally oblivious to most of this. He said her obsession with the “fight in the street” story was weird, but hadn’t noticed or wasn’t present for the rest. To be honest, I don’t think he means to encourage her. He usually isn’t there when she says stuff like, “Oh, D is her boyfriend but he’s MY friend. I’ve known him way longer than she has. I introduced them! I fight him in the street!” We haven’t seen N since I talked to him about this, so hopefully he’ll start having my back. His lack of boundaries has been an issue in the past, but right now I’m concerned about my friendship with N, not my relationship with my boyfriend.
– Her boyfriend has just started taking martial arts lessons from my boyfriend, and I help out when they need a partner/target. For her sake, I don’t want her to feel left out, but for my own sake, I’m worried that if she does feel that way, she’ll become even more competitive. I can picture her saying, “Look, my boyfriend taught me these moves! I’m a martial artist now! Look, everyone, I’m a ninja!” any time I mention my hapkido class.
I had assumed that N got over her crush on me, but you’ve definitely given me something to think about. To be honest, I was starting to get irritated with how she only seems to mention her interest in women when she’s talking to straight men. Sure, there’s no litmus test for queerness and she can explore her sexuality in any way she chooses, but it’s still annoying when someone who verbally identifies as straight, has no history with queer dating/sex/relationships/organizations/politics/movies/literature, makes no effort to meet or date queer women, and never mentions being attracted to any women she knows in RL or in fiction suddenly says “Ooh, I’d love to try having sex with a woman” when she’s talking to a guy that she’s flirting with. But, yeah, maybe that statement is intended for my ears too. I really don’t know what to do about that.
I’m considering avoiding her parties for a little bit in the hopes that this tension will fade and we can hang out sober during the daytime. In the meantime, I’m just really sad about the whole situation, and nervous about how to proceed. Best case scenario, we see more of each other one-on-one and being in groups together becomes more bearable. Worst case scenario, we stop speaking and I lose some acquaintances as collateral damage. But I won’t know the outcome until I talk to her, right?
LW, there is no way to sensibly talk to someone who uses alcohol as an excuse to behave badly. When they’re drunk, they’re not only drunk but they’re convinced they’ve imbibed a Potion of No Consequences Later. When they’re sober, they’ll claim they don’t remember doing that and/or will blame it on the alcohol.
When YOU are starting to worry that maybe it’s your fault N is gaslighting you, ignoring you when you need help and doing weird social misbehavior in groups, that’s a sign that the friendship is not merely messed up, but actually toxic to you. Definitely recommend the Captain’s advice on how to approach her (and your friends), but I am having a hard time seeing any reason NOT to extricate yourself from N and her issues.
Thanks for giving us some more information! Since N is the glue of your social circle, I’d choose the be polite but keep things short-way of interacting. Greet her, be nice to her, but don’t trust her to have your best interest in mind. Don’t tell her any secrets she might use against you to make herself look cool. She doesn’t seem to value your friendship that much, so don’t go out of your way for her. Look at different ways to socialize with the people you like without N.
I’m with neverjaunty in doubting that N would take responsibility for her drunken actions. She doesn’t sound very happy, and that’s sad but not something for you to fix. You’ve already tried to be a good friend and schedule one on one-meet ups but she’s canceled. I don’t think you should spar with her since she tends to be so competitive. I don’t know much about hapkido, but I’ve trained in other kinds of martial arts and the newbies who brag about how good they are kind of hang themselves socially. It’s important to respect your teacher and sparring partners. Fighting on the streets is a big no-no. I really think that other people are noticing how she’s acting, not just you.
It really sounds like you’re not having a lot of fun when you hang out with this woman, and your only positive reason for keeping in contact with her is that it’s less hassle going to her parties to see your mutual friends than it is to set something up yourself to see them. That sounds like the pain/reward ratio is out of wack.
Absolutely try the Captain’s suggestions, but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t change. It sounds like the behaviours that annoy you are pretty deeply ingrained. Maybe in the end it will prove more productive to African Violet her, claim back the social energy that she’s taking up, and use it to make arrangements to see your mutual friends at other times. It’s totally okay for friendships to run their course and end.
I agree with this. It sounds like this was an awesome friendship once upon a time, but now it’s just this exhausting, stressful, one-sided slog over all the eggshells, ever. If N is not interested in becoming the awesome friend she once was, well, nothing anyone can do about that. It may be best to assume that N will keep on doing what she has lately been doing, and go forward from that point. If N changes someday? Well, she’s a grown woman, she can use e-mail/the phone to get in touch with folks and apologize. It’s fine to say, “I tried, now the ball is in your court” with people.
LW, I’m guessing that she is an interesting and dynamic person, even if she is a little broken, and that is why she has collected a crowd of people to be her audience. I hope she is better friends with other people in the group than she has been with you, but really that is not your problem. Right now, for you, she is domineering, untrustworthy, and drama central, with a pretty complete lack of boundaries.
I have known and been close to people like that and they can be great acquaintances, because they are often a social nexus. As long as you are in the same area and have the same interests, you are unlikely to ever be entirely apart from her socially, but you can separate from her so that you protect yourself and stop trying to figure out how to meet her unmeetable-by-you needs.
Think about the people you might not see because you only see them at her parties, and pick a few to get in touch with. You can be friends with them without her as a mediator, and you can also be friendly acquaintances with them if you find one or two commonalities and maybe exchange email or Facebook.
At the next party, stand back against a wall and watch who manages to shut her shit down. Probably it will be a guy. You might hang out with that guy if you can stand him. There will be probably be other people there who go to see everyone but her at the parties, you can find that little group everyone is ignoring. If she does not actually follow you around, you may be able to find other ways to enjoy her parties and the other people.
Also, I totally second what someone said about reasoning with a drunk person. You can’t reason with them. Sometimes you can distract them.
I admit I’ve been more than a little conflict avoidant because I don’t want to be labeled That Crazy Chick. I have multiple mental health problems and I work so damn hard to be calm at all times and avoid being a drama queen
This rings so true with me! But I wonder if you’re maybe falling into the trap of wanting to make things OK so as to avoid Drama, and thereby making things tougher for yourself? Sometimes it’s OK to create a little drama! Particularly when said drama actually just consists of you being all ‘Oh, yeah, N and I aren’t so close now’! You get to put yourself first, even if it’s awkward and weird. You are important.
In addition to being an enormous drama llama, your friend sounds kinda sexist. Like, I understand that sex and romance are simply more important to some people than others, and that for those of those people who are heterosexual women that necessarily means that some degree of specifically male company is going to be highly prioritized, but your friend also just sounds like a terrible combination of “boy-crazy” and straight up goddamn sexist. Only hanging out with female friends when she’s between boyfriends? Monopolizing all male attention, and turning your non-sexual conversations with men into “flirting” conversations with her (the purpose of the flirting here is because if it were still a regular social conversation, three people would be able to have it)? The “I’m not like other girls” thing? Using other women’s bodies as a titillation factor in her flirting with men? The idea that non-sexual attention doesn’t “count” is only half the problem here (and it is a problem. Sorry, various creepy “sex-positive” people from HS and college that I’m not friends with anymore, dismissing all non-sexual interaction is dehumanizing and rude)–the other half is that any random scrap of male attention counts more than you do, because men are more important to her than you are. I don’t think this bodes that well for your friendship.
I am extending you all the internet Jedi hugs right now re: the hitting on dudes you’re trying to have a regular conversation with thing. I am very rarely attracted to dudes (or anyone); I completely despise being hit on; and I sometimes enjoy having conversations with people about stuff! There are few things more irritating than when you are all like “I am conversing with another human about Battlestar Galactica, la dee dah” and some asshat swoops in being all like “That is UNACCEPTABLE and I am going to PUT A STOP TO IT IMMEDIATELY because SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX NOTHING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD IS ALLOWED TO BE ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE FOR EVEN TEN SECONDS SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX.” When I was in high school one of my very oldest and dearest friends tended to do that and it drove me completely bananas and we had to stop being friends for a year. Luckily, we have gotten past this, because we continued maturing after mid-adolescence. It sounds like your friend hasn’t.
(Haha, drama llama! I love it! I’m going to use that phrase instead of ‘drama queen’ from now on!)
To be honest, she’s only introduced me to three of her female friends (versus, say, 15 or so male friends and acquaintances) and she has visible drama with two of them. Drama llama. I definitely agree that internalized sexism is part of her behavior, and she’s been super boy crazy ever since that first breakup right after I met her, but it’s not always about finding a mate or whatever. She currently has a boyfriend (and they’re monogamous) but still behaves like this, though perhaps not as badly as when she’s single. It does seem like she values her male friends more than her female ones, but she isn’t actively trying to hook up with any of them.
Thanks for the Jedi hugs. I’m also rarely attracted to anyone, and especially not to dudes, who tend to be the ones who hit on me. There’s just so much irony…sometimes I want to yell at N and say, “You want the flirts? Here, take ALL THE FLIRTS. They’re all yours. Do with them as you wish.”
LW, I had a friend that sounds like a pretty similar variant to yours, once — she was hurting in her own way, and it manifested in competitive one-upmanship that ended up meaning a “friend breakup” for a while for the two of us. I told her how I felt and gave her the African Violet and moved on. A year later, she called me up and explained where she’d been and how she’d changed, and we tentatively picked up our relationship again.
It may be that you need to just separate from her as friends for a while, and to allow her to get out of this awful zone that she is in. If you are noticing this stuff, other people are, too. Outlandish, attention-seeking behavior (and I feel comfortable saying attention-seeking because you quoted her verbatim as saying she was attention-seeking) does not go unnoticed, and she will ultimately hang herself out to dry. If you remove yourself from the situation and see your mutual friends away from her influence, it’s entirely possible that she will either wake up and realize what she’s been doing or choose a new target — but you will be out of her range.
I really like CA’s advice here. Honestly, I would go the route of the African Violet. She may be the glue of your social group but there is no rule that says it has to stay that way. You can keep your friends without her, and good friends will respect your boundaries about it.
“You won’t sleep with me, so you don’t count.”
Welp. That’s, uh… yeah.
She is not over her crush on you. If the problem were that she wanted sexual attention and she did not see you as a potential source, she would have answered, “But you’re not trying to bang me, so you don’t count.” Her problem was that she wanted sexual attention from you and you were giving her non-sexual attention, so fuck you, basically.
My best guess from out here in InternetLand is that she’s trying to convince herself that she is an awesome person whether you sleep with her or not — hell, that she’s a more awesome person than you, even if you don’t want her bod! She might be resentful that her crush is unrequited, and not having a good time dealing with that. Drinking like a fish is probably not helping.
None of this is actually your problem to fix. You can tell her that you aren’t willing to tolerate this kind of behavior, as nicely or as meanly as you want, but ultimately it’s up to her to choose whether she wants to stop it. She might be mortified and vanish into a hole for a while, or she might quietly KITFO and never speak of it again. You can’t deal with it for her, though, no matter how much you value the friendship.
Assuming your boyfriend’s telling the truth — and you don’t seem to have any reason to assume otherwise, so good on you — the fact that he hasn’t noticed is probably a good sign. It means he automatically assumes that people aren’t trying to drive a wedge between him and his girlfriend, because why would someone do a mean thing like that? It a touch oblivious, but if it never crossed his mind that she might be doing something (intentionally or unintentionally) malicious, it probably never crosses his mind to do anything like that either. In which case, he sounds very sweet. 🙂
Whoops, I almost missed your reply, what with all the commotion lately.
“She is not over her crush on you.”
TBH, I have absolutely no idea what to do about this. In general, when someone has a crush on me and I don’t feel the same way, I pretend I haven’t noticed because I don’t know what else to do. It’s possible that she feels rejected by me specifically, and that makes her feel unwanted in general, so she looks for validation from men. I dunno, I’m not a mind reader. Should I continue to act like I don’t know about her crush? Should I talk to her about it? I can’t think of any way to bring it up without making it sound like Single White Female.
I do get the impression that she feels insecure about her attractiveness (physical or otherwise) and overcompensates by trying to be single as little as possible, and when she is single, she tries to hook up as often as possible. It’s a good example of how irrational jerkbrain can be: men like her! There’s no shortage of men who want to talk to her, have sex with her, date her, tell her they love her. And yet she still doesn’t want any of them to talk to me. For both her sake and mine, I wish I could reassure her that she’s fun and smart and pretty, and her devotion to her family is pretty amazing, and she’s great at event planning, and everyone who meets her loves her.
But if the past two weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I just don’t have the spoons to deal with her anymore. I have friends and family in Boston and when everything happened there, I realized I. just. do. not. CARE. about this shit anymore. I think there’s a lot of dysfunction in this friendship and in the social circle in general, and feeling like I have to watch my back around people who I thought I could trust is triggering my PTSD. I can’t afford to be hypervigilant over something so petty; if your friends trigger PTSD more than terrorism does, something is wrong! I think I’m going to just avoid her until she reaches out to me, and then I’ll try talking to her. If she doesn’t reach out, that’s okay too. Maybe someday, after I’m done feeling all “bitch is eating crackers,” I’ll start going to her parties again, or invite her for coffee and Mortal Kombat. Someday.
As for my boyfriend…well, he’s very sweet, but has trouble understanding social nuances and setting boundaries. It’s something we’re working on, but in this situation, I don’t doubt his good intentions. He was mostly just oblivious this time.
Friendships change with time and some friendships have a lifespan. You already sound like you’re walking on eggshells around her. Is this what you wish to continue?
That was my thought as well, what is the reward of keeping this person part of your friend circle? From your description, she sounds like she’s all stick and no carrot. Embarrassing, untrustworthy, childish diva-behavior is something that is barely tolerable from strangers, and completely unacceptable from someone who you call ‘friend’. Think about your personal energy as money–is she a good value for the expense, or do you feel like you’re taking a bucket of cash and whipping it out the car window at 65pmh?
Honestly, it really sounds like your friendship has just reached its sell-by date, and that’s okay; not all friendships are forever. People grow up (or don’t, as in this case) and they change over time (for better or worse) and sometimes you realise that someone is just a different person than they were and you no longer click. That’s okay! I think if you want to maintain a friendship with her for the sake of your mutual friends, it sounds like the Price of Admission is her ridiculous and childish behaviour. Addressing it in the moment is definitely the way to go, if you leave any time at all you run the risk of her reacting with “Oh my GOD, have you actually been thinking about that little thing ALL THIS TIME? What’s wrong with you?” Which is crap, because she’s trying to make you sound irrational for calling on her behaviour. If she nudges you out, nudge her back, even just say “oops, sorry, excuse me,” as if you’re just surprised that she did that.
The other stuff, I think a simple “wow…..” covers it. Let a really awkward silence fall, make it awkward for her. I don’t think direct confrontation will work in this instance, she’ll just turn it back on you.
Agree. And LW, you sound amazingly insightful, kind, and reasonable. It is not worth wasting your time and energy on someone who isn’t willing to properly invest in a friendship with you. If she interrupts you at parties, you could give the guy you’re talking to a big smile, bow out of the conversation, and go and find another group. It will annoy her, I guarantee you. If she follows you round the party doing this, just leave, again with a big smile pasted on.
You could also try holding some of your own parties, if that’s feasible. You probably have lots of people in this group of friends and acquaintances who really like you, particularly as you sound so great. When it’s your party, it’s amazing how easy it is to feel more comfortable socially. You can flit from group to group; and if you don’t feel like talking you can sort out the food, the music, the drinks and so forth. Or you can delegate. But it could be one way to keep seeing this group of people without letting this woman’s dominance stuff things up.
The lap-sitting thing really disturbs me. I would never think to sit on a guy’s lap in front of his girlfriend, even if I was really good friends with him. That is so disrespectful. Your “friend” sounds rude, insecure and wouldn’t know a healthy boundary if it sat on HER lap. I wouldn’t surround myself with someone like that. If you cut this girl off completely I certainly wouldn’t blame you.
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