#626: Self-care tip: Stop auditioning for the approval of people who dislike you

Hello Captain!

I’m writing to you about a lady in my friend group who seems to dislike me very much, and makes social gatherings very uncomfortable. Some back story: I started dating my boyfriend Brad about 4 years ago, and hung out with his friend group consisting of his friend from childhood Jake, Jake’s wife Pam, Jake’s brother John, and John’s girlfriend, the lady who now won’t talk to me unless forced, Kayla. (names changed!)

For the first year Brad and I dated, everyone got along! Kayla was warm and friendly, and once when drunk told me that I was “the sister she never had.” Her, Pam, and I would go shopping, talk about comics or feminism, the whole group played cards and went out – things were fine! But then around the same time Kayla and I both moved in to the 3 bedroom apartment Jake, Pam, John, and Brad were sharing, each couple in a room sharing 2 bathrooms and a kitchen, and things deteriorated rapidly.

Simple roommate requests, like “Brad and I have done the dishes twice this week, do you mind taking care of them soon?” became big THINGS for John and Kayla. After any typical roommate issue, they would withdraw to their room, and Kayla would stop speaking to us. We ignored it, chalking it up to social awkwardness, but things got worse. Suddenly Kayla didn’t want us playing with John’s cat. (who, up until this point, was all over the apartment and playing with everyone freely) No reason was given, nothing was said, but suddenly Brad, and mostly me, got nasty looks from Kayla if we picked up the feather toy, and the cat would then be locked up in their room. Soon John and Kayla weren’t even acknowledging us when everyone was in the main room together, or if we bumped into them during the day.

Pam and Jake noticed this change and spoke to John and Kayla privately, and they really made an effort to be more sociable to us for the next few months. Kayla still wasn’t talking to us a lot, but she at least said hello and acknowledged our presence. Then, about a year after everyone moved in together, Brad and I had a small, typical-couple-stuff spat and Kayla was the only other person home. Brad went out to cool down and I was washing my face in the shared bathroom. Kayla walked by and I made a small mention of the spat, and we talked for a bit about long-term relationships; she even seemed warm towards me. Brad and I figured everything out, and everything went on as normal.

But after that day Kayla point blank refused to speak to me or even make eye contact. She was perfectly fine to everyone else in the apartment, including Brad, but now all the antisocial weirdness from before was directed solely at me. If I ran into her and John in the parking lot and said hi, she would look away and walk straight past me, even if John and I were still chatting. At one point we were all at a restaurant and when I sat down, she literally scooted into John’s lap to not sit next to me, and only came off when I moved seats. She blocked me on all social media when prior to this we had all been fairly interactive on Facebook and Twitter, but denied doing so when confronted by Jake and Pam. Jake and Pam eventually stopped inviting her to outings unless she acted nicely, and even then she would sit as far away from me as possible and responded to any attempts at conversation with one-word answers. At this point I had sent a text and also spoken with her face to face, saying that if I had done anything to make her uncomfortable or upset, that I was sorry and would like to reconcile. Over text she said “Sure!” and in person she just smiled and nodded, but nothing changed. I gave up trying to figure things out and let her be, and Brad and I tried to hand out with Pam and Jake alone more often.

Now, another two years later, all of the couples have moved into apartments of our own, but things are still distinctly weird when everyone gets together. I have tried to speak to Pam, who is close with Kayla, and she has said that Kayla tells her she likes me and everything is fine. She still has me blocked on all social media and when questioned by Pam, said she forgot to undo the blocking. However when we all hang out Kayla will ignore me in the conversation but exuberantly engage with the others. Even if I am included in the conversation, she will address them as if I am not there, even in conversations about things Brad and I now share like our apartment, car, cats, etc. I feel like I’m intruding on conversations about my own life, and it’s frustrating and hurtful. Ultimately Kayla has the right to dislike me whatever the reason, and I don’t want her do anything she doesn’t want to do. However I’d like to be able to engage with my friends about mine and Brad’s life without someone essentially denying my involvement in it.

I feel like I’ve done everything I can to address this, and to do more would just be unnecessary drama. Do you and the awkward army have any advice on how I should proceed?

It sounds like the time of “We are three close-knit couples who socialize all together” is at an end. It’s long past being at an end. In fact, it only works if everyone pretends that Kayla doesn’t hate you, and if you pretend that Kayla doesn’t hate you while she is actively hating you to your face. At a bigger event, it would be less noticeable and more bearable – it’s very possible to go to parties where you don’t like every single person and say a perfunctory heyhowyadoin to some people and focus your attention on others. But when there are only 6 people in the room, it’s impossibly awkward. Decide today: No more nightmare brunches! No more silent-treatment to your face!

What I suggest is that you and your boyfriend keep inviting Pam & Jake to do stuff, just the two of them, and maybe mix it up with some other friends you have, too. And if Pam & Jake invite you to do stuff with Kayla and John, you say “No thanks!” until they get the hint or Pam straight up asks you why and you can say “I’ve decided to stop subjecting myself to Kayla’s bullshit, thanks. I know you’re friends with her, keep enjoying that! But she is never invited to anything I plan, and I’ve decided to stop pretending for all our sakes. I don’t like how she treats me, and I don’t want to subject myself to it.”

I also suggest that you block the living shit out of Kayla on all modes of social media. It will be good for you. Unfriend her boyfriend, too while you’re at it. There’s nothing there for you. I cannot describe the peace of mind that comes when you stop subjecting yourself to a constant ambient awareness and interaction with someone who annoys the shit out of you. Be free!

You have done everything you could to make it better. You tried. You are a nice person. You don’t have anything to apologize for. She doesn’t like you. Stop engaging, and stop putting yourself in situations where you have to hang out with her. Put your energy into making other friends and seeing other friends. This isn’t fixable.

Friend Groups can be nice things to have, but they stop functioning if they stop functioning for you. You can maintain friendships with Pam and Jake and preserve the connection to that part of your life, but preserving “the group” at the expense of yourself is no fun. Disengage, disengage, disengage. And ask your boyfriend to back you up here.

Unfriend someone you dislike today!


130 thoughts on “#626: Self-care tip: Stop auditioning for the approval of people who dislike you

  1. This sounds like my life when I was in school. You have a choice here, LW! You don’t have to be around this mean lady who is mean, so don’t be. Done worry about making it weird, Kayla made it weird long ago by being a total bitch to you.

    1. Same here. It is horribly frustrating though, especially when things started out well and then turned to crap without any explanation. My inner nosy person really wants to know what’s up, even though my inner rational person says I can’t force people to like me, and there may not be a reason.

      1. Yeah, for me, wanting to find out about why someone has decided to not bother with me anymore doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to change what annoys them so they will like me again, it’s purely to satisfy my curiosity. Even a “I just don’t feel it anymore” would be enough. I know that I just have to accept not knowing some times but some part of me just can’t stop the BUT I WANT TO KNOW WHY!

        1. I just assume that the reason is, “They don’t have very good taste in people, seems like.” It can be hard to resist the urge to desire reasons from people for wanting to change the parameters of a relationship (or end it entirely, or in LW’s case, persist in passive-aggressive behavior until people ‘get the hint’). I personally resist the urge by reminding myself that the answer is always going to boil down to the same thing: this person does not want a relationship with me. That’s all the reason I need to vamoose.

        2. This is me! I keep thinking “but I must have done something awful to warrant this behavior” or something along those lines, when the reality is some people just suck. Kayla is one of those people. (I have had a heart to heart with Pam over the weekend and learned that the reason she dislikes me so strongly is because she and I have the same name. As in, she literally cried for two hours to Pam about how SHE is the “Kayla” of the group, not me, and that when I moved in I was replacing her.) It’s mind-boggling, but I also feel sorry for her – like how much insecurity must you feel to be that upset by someone having the same name as you?

          1. Uh…. really? That’s what it turned out to be? That is kind of baffling. I think you are well rid of this person for all kinds of reasons.

          2. I wouldn’t put too much stock in what Pam (or any other third party) tells you. I’m not saying she’s lying, but she could be.

          3. Proof that the circle of wtf never ends… my first reaction is “riiiiiight, that must be it… or not.” Who even knows. It could be that minor of a reason for disliking you. And that… is fine. It could be something she didn’t want to share with Pam, and that is fine, too. It could be something she doesn’t even understand herself and “we have the same name” was the only way she could articulate that unknown explanation.

            And the point, of course, is that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is, she is not a good person for you to be around. That’s all there is to it, really. The why is what it is, and you can’t do anything about that. But you can do something about the social impact her dislike and her behavior have on you.

          4. *blinks*

            If Pam is telling the truth…

            *blinks again*

            There is not enough WTF in the WORLD. Good grief. African Violet this couple and stay far, far away.

        3. There was a letter not long ago in which Captain pointed out that begging people to explain their reasons for not liking you is rolling out the welcome mat for a parade of new things to be insecure about. If you ask enough, they might actually tell you, or just say something hurtful to make you go away.

          1. Which is exactly why I don’t give into my urge to ask for reasons of someone not liking me. I was just saying that I have this part inside of me that is incredibly nosy and wants to know all the things all the time, not that I go around begging people to tell me why they don’t like me.

    2. Yep. When I was a sophomore in college, the girl I’d been super close with for the entire two years I’d been at school just dropped me for no reason. Mind you, I’d also been the one who ran social interference for her (she was sometimes difficult and not that many people wanted to handle her), drove home when she was sloppy drunk and making a scene, went out with her when everyone else had ditched her….and then all of a sudden she had new best friends and kept canceling on me, ignoring me, ditching me mid-lunch for better plans, just generally being an asshole. It gutted me, and I had this recurring nightmare where one of the friends she had ditched me for (who had originally been another close friend) ran up to me in public and yelled at me for “doing that” to our friend, then refused to tell me what it was I’d done. Eventually, I made different and better friends, but I had to stop wasting energy on someone who didn’t want my friendship first. And oh my god, once I did? So freeing.

  2. Yes, oh yes. I’m a big fan of the Three Times rule – if, after making three real attempts to right a situation the situation is not improving, then for the sake of self and all around it’s time to take a break from the situation. Painful as it is to no longer be part of a close-knit social circle you once enjoyed, leaving it and acknowledging its end is less painful than existing in it when it has already disintegrated. (Allow time for grieving – the end of a social circle is the same as the end of a relationship – even if it has been slowly ending for months, the breakaway can sting in ways you were not expecting.)

    1. There is something magical about the number three. After three attempts, I feel like I’ve done everything I can, and that makes it easier to move on and be free.

  3. I’ve actually been on kind of the other side, where I really disliked someone and didn’t want to interact with that person, but everyone around us kept pretending that everything was awesome and We! Are! All! Friends! I quickly stopped accepting invitations that involved Person I Didn’t Like. If I found myself tricked into an event where Person I Didn’t Like was present, I would just leave as soon as I could without it looking super weird, or if that wasn’t possible I would spend the event on the opposite side of the room as much as I could.

    I can’t even imagine doing the silent treatment to that person’s face, though. I mean, I really, really disliked this other individual, but accepting invites to intimate brunches and just ignoring that person didn’t seem like a plausible course of action, so I just didn’t go. It would have been really nice if the larger group had just understood and not tried to go the rom-com route of throwing us together as much as possible so that we would magically reconcile, but just avoiding Person I Didn’t Like wasn’t terribly difficult even with the interference. I just had to be willing to take some flak for not playing the We! Are! All! Friends! game, and that was a better alternative than trying to play the game while loathing the person next to me.

    1. I’ve done the “ignoring someone to their face” thing. It came out of a situation in which I absolutely despised two people really, really hated them, but had to interact with them on a fairly regular basis. I felt a lot of social pressure to do the, as you say, We! Are! All! Friends! game, because there is a very small group of my fellow language-speakers in a foreign country. But I just loathed those two people, so my reaction at the time was to sit in glowering silence and act like I didn’t see the person two over on my right. It was mega-childish, but I was so righteously pissed off that it was actually the most best thing I could manage.

      Eventually after one time when I went to hang out with a good girl friend and ended up being at a four-person event I couldn’t duck out of, I cracked. I used my words like a big girl and set some boundaries with that girl friend (who was my main connection to the two who shall not be named) so I wouldn’t be awkward and mean and hateful all the time. In my case, my boundaries were “please don’t invite me to intimate brunches with surprise guests that you know I don’t like”. I blocked those people on facebook/twitter so that I couldn’t see their faces, made it clear that I didn’t want to be at small social events with them — and eventually I was able to stop acting like such a weirdo and be more polite when they did pop up where I was. I didn’t really relax for good until one of them left the country–and wouldn’t it be great if everyone we disliked could just move overseas? man, I really am a hater–but it was a really big help.

      So to anyone who’s doing this thing where they socialize with people they hate? Don’t do it! You have your reasons, even if other people don’t get them. We’re grown ups, we’re not all friends, we’re not even all friendly, and sometimes even in social groups two people will have a fight that cannot be resolved. Let’s let the chips fall where they may.

      1. I’ve done the “ignoring people to their face” thing when they’ve severely hurt my feelings, but I know it’s not going to do any good to talk to them about it. I don’t feel good about it but it seems to be part of my disengagement process, especially in situations where confrontation is off-limits, like work.

      2. I’ve also done ‘ignoring people to their face’ when they’ve crossed one or several lines and have ignored direct requests to respect boundaries. Sometimes there’s nothing more to do.

    2. It seems like there are some geek social fallacies making this situation worse than it could be. I have also been on the other side of this: I didn’t like someone in my social group, but I didn’t want to be the one who “caused drama” by excluding this person, so I let mild annoyance fester into resentment and ended up being way more of an ass than I would have been if I had just been able to say “I’m not fond of this person and would prefer not to attend events they will be at for a while.”

      It’s possible to reset a relationship like that, but it’s not going to happen if both people can’t agree to take a long break from each other. In my experience, roommate relationships are especially prone to this; you go from “eh, that’s a mildly annoying thing” to “how DARE she eat those crackers” so much faster when it’s happening in your own house. The original thing that annoyed Kayla may seem so distant and minor now that figuring out The Cause of It All will not fix the problem or explain her current behavior.

  4. Learning that it’s ok to unfriend or hide people who bug me on social media has been one of the best tips I’ve picked up on this blog. Seriously, it’s made my social media time so much more pleasant. It’s also helped me move on from some of the anger/resentment I’ve had at some people that bug me. I hid my boyfriend’s (mostly perfectly nice) ex roommates from my newsfeed several months ago because I was very frustrated with how the end of that housing situation went down, and every time I saw them pop up on Facebook I got bothered all over again. Once they were hidden and I didn’t have daily reminders of how much they frustrated me, it’s actually helped me be a lot nicer to them when I run into them socially or around town. All my mad feelings were healed by a little time apart since I wasn’t letting the scab get picked a few times a week on facebook. Thanks for giving us that push, Captain.

    1. You’ve hit the crux of it. My feelings on this go back to the early LiveJournal days, where there was pressure among a group of people who had migrated from another online community to all read each other’s journals. Fact: There are some people I like ok but I do not want to read their every waking thought, and I don’t want to pretend that I am reading or going to read, and if we’re going to stay at all friendly, that has to be ok. Fact: I’m a pretty ok writer, and probably more people want to read my writing than I want to or even humanly CAN read in return. This created a lot of drama in the early LJ days, but I’m not sorry I stuck to it, and it has borne out well as social media gets more mainstream and more connected. Filters are your friend. I don’t want to hate-read or schadenfr-ead anyone or anything.

      1. For years I was really hard-assed about not having facebook friends who I didn’t actually consider friends on some level. Eventually pressure from professional things and my wife (regarding different sorts of people) caused me to back off that and it sometimes became really unpleasant. Either in “discussions” that nobody was enjoying or just my being upset/hurt/irritated by some jackass’s output.

        Till I embraced the joys of muting people.

        For twitter it’s dependent on if your client supports it, but facebook makes it pretty easy to just never see any posting from someone ever again without the sometimes-drama of actually unfriending them. LW’s situation sounds like one where full-stop is the way to go, but anyone ever on the fence about it or worried about fallout – OMG, life is so much better when you just hide the bullshit. If you have a circumstance where you find yourself having a hard time not looking then that’s useful self-knowledge about yourself too.

        Not that I don’t think unfriending is the better choice, but sometimes situations or personalities makes that harder.

        1. yes to this on twitter! Mute is awesome if you have someone who you don’t want to hear from but can’t block without unleashing the dramapocalypse. And the option to mute retweets is great too if you have someone who you like to read their thoughts, but they keep retweeting OTHER people’s drama that you just don’t want stinking up your feed.

          Or as someone said to me once: “Mute, Disable Retweets, and Block, these three: but the greatest of these is Block — 1Twitterinthians”

        2. Yes! My loose rule is this: If I might see them at the holidays, I hide ’em. So that fits for family, in-laws and people I went to high school with. Everybody else gets dropped. (I’m a housewife, so there is no risk of harming my professional life. I don’t have one!) For me, the satisfaction of dropping someone unpleasant isn’t worth it if it makes the Thanksgiving turkey taste awkward.

        3. Yes! I just recently allowed myself to move some people on my facebook to the “acquaintances” list (which means with my privacy settings that they cannot post on my wall, I do not see their posts in my newsfeed, and all of my new posts are invisible to them by default unless I decide specifically to allow them). I was pleasantly surprised by how much more enjoyable my whole social media experience has been. I’m not hesitant to post happy news just in case my ex’s mom decides to share that info with him, or my weird racist aunt decides to make it all about how much she hates Muslims (wut?), or my mom’s best friend brings the whole thing down by posting a total accurate but extremely depressing and irrelevant environmental rant. I don’t need their crap, and I no longer feel guilty about not subjecting myself to it to be “nice.”

          1. Ah yes! I love the “friends but not acqaiantences” filter on FB. Since it’s a stock filter, you don’t have to redo filters every time there’s a new person that you don’t want commenting on your posts. I have that as my default security setting on my posts. My acquaintance group is for people I don’t want to interact with on social media but I don’t want to sever ties with. Like my extended family who resides on the polar opposite of the political spectrum from me. I pop over to their profiles once in a while to see new pics of their kids/grandkids, but everyone is happier if we don’t see each other’s posts.

          2. I love the acquaintances feature as well! No more picking emotional scabs! No more getting into pointless angry arguments with distant relatives or some guy I went to junior high with! It’s bliss.

          3. My joy at learning that Facebook has an “acquaintances” setting (when did this start?) is tempered by my knowledge that six months from now they will have a completely different privacy model.

          4. I love “acquaintances.” All of my fiancé’s relatives go in there. My friends from undergrad who absolutely hate each other and cause ridiculous drama: in there. Anti-vaxxers: there. Conservatives: there. TERFs: there. It’s lovely.

        4. Twitter now has a built-in mute function – it’s a recent addition. And soo useful. You can also mute RTs only which is useful for some kinds of accounts.

          There’s a nice easy list at https://twitter.com/settings/muted_following so you can sporadically check up on people who you don’t want all over your feed all the time, or easily unmute people who you muted because they were livetweeting at a conference you’re not interested in or what have you.

        5. I’ve found that being knowing people on facebook can actually make me like them a lot less. Someone I’m fine with hanging out with in a group setting in real life will friend me and then I’ll see all of their uber political posts and rants and develop a deep dislike of them. Suddenly seeing them in real life I will be much more uncomfortable around them. Some relationships would be much better without facebook.

        6. I’d love to see an option to block certain types of content from specific people on Facebook. Kind of like being able to block only retweets from people on Twitter or being able to block app messages from people on Facebook without blocking everything from them. I have relatives who only express their awful options on a particular subject in GIF form. When it’s just text it’s regular life updates and other (at least mostly) reasonable stuff. But for some reason they also insist on sharing ugly, pixelated GIFs with awful statements as the captions on them.

          If I could just block those GIFs they keep finding, that would be awesome.

          1. I would also like this, so much. I have one family member and one friend who are constantly resharing images with inane “inspiring” quotes, either about how god loves us or about how being positive will make everything okay. I like hearing about their lives in statuses, but fuuuuuuuck that bullshit.

          2. Yes. I would block all of the articles from those not-actually-satire fake news sites. The only type of satirical news I’ll read is the Onion, because they are apparently the only ones who can actually be funny.

          3. Install Facebook Purity (just google it). You can disable .gifs, autoplaying videos, and there is also a feature to blacklist words. Lots of other great customizable options too. It’s awesome.

        7. Oh yes! I’ve muted various pages my friends regularly post from on my newsfeed, and moved various friends from friends, to aquaintances, to muted, and some to unfriending because I really just did not agree with them and what they were saying was seriously peeving me off.
          Its my social media, and if I dont want you there, I dont have to have you there.
          I’m even pedantic about who sees what I share – and one of my sets of in-laws sees almost nothing I share, as they have been so incredibly dismissive of us.

      2. Aw man, one of my most uncomfortable college social interactions was a friend-of-friends/casual acquaintance who would ask me, EVERY time we saw each other, why I hadn’t friended her on lj yet. I had nothing against her, we just weren’t close, and the constant pressure was super weird and awkward.

        1. I used to get that back when LJ was THE social media everyone hung out on, particularly as my LJ is, and always has been, Friends Only. I get it now on FB a lot as well. My response then was the same as it is now: “Sorry, I don’t use it that way.” I have a firm rule of only adding people I know really well – which 9 times out of 10 means we’ve met more than once and I feel comfortable with them. Some people treat it as a popularity contest; I’m not one of them, and it’s water off a duck’s back to me if someone I barely know gets bent out of shape over that. “being polite” does not mean “You must share all your life secrets with me!” That’s not a social contract I ever signed up to.

      3. I love “shadenfr-ead”.

        Ouch, though. I may have to go shame-drop a frenemy I’ve been shadenfr-eading on facebook.

        1. Not to worry, don’t get hung up in shame, just try the dropping it, and then later FEEL GREAT AND SUPER PROUD OF YOUR AWESOME SELF.

          1. I am going to say that as a writer, sometimes reading someone else’s badly-written stuff fills me with the kind of scorn that compels me to sit down and do something better. I consider this acceptable if 1.) it’s an occasional goad, not a constant practice; 2.) I don’t then wave the results around by saying, “Well, ACTUALLY, I wrote this because I thought (Writer X)’s take on the same subject was puerile to the point of being offensive.” That’s my little secret. FAR more often, though, I write something because I was inspired by a really good, thoughtful writer.

      4. Schadenfread is my new favourite thing.

        (I only have one schadenfread FB friend, I think… she’s a compulsive vaguebooker with whom I have nothing in common… I really should stop!)

        1. I have one FB friend that me, my mother, and my sisters all watch her posts like they are a TV show and then talk about when we get together. Not quite schadenfread, since FB friend is just hyper-amazing-super-mommy-super-wife-super-environmentalist who just happens to get pics of all this amazingness several times a day and just happens to have time to post it all to FB… but it’s fun to watch.

    2. I get this same thing too! There is a person in my extended friend group who annoys the hell out of me. In person they’re (usually) not terrible, but on social media they’re a massive pain. I finally just muted them everywhere on the internet, and it has made things so much better. Not being bombarded by their awfulness online constantly has made it easier for me to be pleasant to them in meatspace.

    3. A couple months ago I unfriended all my and my ex’s mutual friends. I braced myself for messages asking “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” and they never came. Emboldened, I proceeded to unfriend anyone who said anything racist, sexist, classist, homo/trans/biphobic, or (anti-) religiously bigoted. This was right about the time of the most recent IDF-Hamas conflict, so there was a LOT of unfriending going on. Now that the dust has settled, my feed is literally mostly kittens, puppies, and wedding photos. I highly recommend this!

  5. Ha! I had this experience once when I was working for the Park Service. I was living in a bunk house and shared a room with another employee. Everything was great! We were friends and had lots of good conversations! We hung out with all the other seasonal volunteers and had good times! And then I was deployed on a fire for 3 weeks, and when I came back, total silent treatment. It was weird and awkward and super uncomfortable to share a room with someone who was working so hard to pretend I don’t exist. I couldn’t figure it out. I tried talking to her. She didn’t want to discuss it. Ultimately, it wasn’t my problem, and I couldn’t fix it. I just tried to get through it and was happy to move out when my season was done. She was happy to see me go, and immediately rearranged the room and replaced me with a new roommate to finalize the complete erasure of the evidence of my existence. So I have a glimmer of a small part of the pain you’re experiencing, though I recognize that my situation was nothing like 3 couples living intimately as roommates and sharing a long, long history together (at least among the men involved).

    So yeah, walk away. Make new friends. Move on. Be warned that as these are your boyfriend’s closest friends, he may not be willing to walk away from them, even just by cutting back on socializing with John and Kayla. Ideally, he’d be on Team You 100% and be willing to support your needs. But there’s a chance that he’ll perceive any drawing away on your part as some sort of either-your-girlfriend-or-your-friends ultimatum. Try to avoid setting up that false dichotomy. Make sure that when you decline to hang out as 3 couples, it’s framed as you just taking care of your own needs. When you arrange social gatherings, make sure that the couple you like are included, as well as other people to create a larger social space to interact. It’s okay to dislike someone back, to give up trying to fix things, to stop being the person who always bears the social cost of the missing stair that everyone else just works around. I’ve been there. It’s no fun, but it’s okay to stop playing that role and letting those bystanders know that it’s not okay to constantly shift that burden onto you to maintain their semicomfortable status quo.

    1. Well, the letter writer’s boyfriend could still socialize with them if he wanted to, just so long as the letter writer doesn’t have to be involved. I think it’s important to support your partner in distancing themselves from a person who they don’t want to be around, but you can do that without cutting the person out of your life. For example, there is a person that my partner can’t stand to be around (for quite legitimate reasons). So, I never invite that person over to our home, because my partner deserves to feel good in his own home and not have to worry about having people he can’t stand in it. And if I am aware that person will be at a social gathering he is invited to, I’ll make sure he’s aware so he can decide if he wants to skip it. But I will often choose to go, because I am more okay being around that person. I totally support his right not to, but it doesn’t need to affect what I do when I am not with him.

      I think it’s pretty clear that the letter writer and Kayla do not get along, and it doesn’t sound pleasant for either of them to have to be around the other. So, I totally support the letter writer totally cutting Kayla out of the letter writer’s life. But I do feel that whether Brad cuts Kayla out of his life is a matter that Brad needs to decide for himself. Although I would hope he’d be supportive of the letter writer’s decision to avoid Kayla, assuming the letter writer takes the Captain’s advice and does so (and advice I personally agree with and give my thumbs up to).

      1. My boyfriend is 100% on the “Kayla has been awful to you and that’s not ok” page. While he will probably still hang out with John individually and in the group, he has my back when it comes to interacting with Kayla, and for that I’m very grateful. I wouldn’t ever want to put him in the situation where he felt like he needed to choose between me or his friends, but thankfully he feels that someone being nasty to the person you love shouldn’t be tolerated. The way he’s done things so far is to try his best to counteract the weird behavior (if she tries to cut me out of a conversation, bringing me back in. Or if she asks about “his” place, says very pointedly “Our apartment is great, thanks” etc) But there’s only so much of that he can do, and after reading this post we’re both decided on cutting the toxicity out of our lives.

      2. I’m glad that we’ve heard from the LW and it’s all turning out good, in terms of the decision to back off from the problem person, and that the boyfriend is supporting her.

        Indeed, it’s true that the boyfriend doesn’t need to cut off contact with any of the 4 people among those 4 couples and can make his own decisions about his relationships with them. However, continuing to socialize solo with both couples does end up sending a message to both his girlfriend and his friends. And it’s possible that he could still invite both couples over into their home, despite LW’s requests to have no further direct contact with the problem person, which would directly undermine his girlfriend’s sense of safety.

        It’s great that it’s not going to play out like that at all. I was just pointing to the potential snake pit of a partner who’s not 100% on Team You because you’re the person who’s making everyone else uncomfortable by pointing to the missing stair. Sometimes that snake pit can be sidestepped by careful framing instead of the unfortunate framing as some sort of mutually exclusive zero-sum relationship game. I’ve read plenty of horror stories along those lines, and am very glad to hear that this one has a fairly happy ending, or at least mid-story.

  6. I’ve had to deal with a similar (if less extreme) issue with some friends in the past year or two. When my partner and I moved to our current city, we quickly became very close with another couple who’d moved at the same time. The four of us hung out nearly constantly, had some holiday celebrations together, snuggled while watching tv, and got along very well.
    However, at some point our friend A became very cold towards us (myself in particular) sometimes – I never knew, when we were all going to be social together, if she was going to be friendly and seem like she was having fun or sullen and seemingly annoyed that I was around at all. Her “joking” comments towards me started to become meaner and meaner. They both did a bit of a slow fade once they made other friends in the area, but by the time we all hung out last, A was downright nasty – I don’t remember what she said that night but it was very hurtful – and neither of them seemed like they even wanted to be there.

    After that last night I felt terrible, but the next day I made the decision that I wasn’t going to invest any more emotional energy in a person who clearly didn’t like me. It has helped a lot.
    Sadly, we’re all still a bit entangled due to a car-sharing situation, but that’s on my immediate to-do list to fix as soon as I can.

  7. Just remove this Kayla person from your life. It’s not your fault if she can’t behave like a civil, polite person around you. And it’s certainly not your fault she dislikes you; these kinds of situations often arise from some sort of jealousy thing going on in the other person’s head, or imagined grievances, or what have you. You do not have the responsibility to disentangle whatever goes on in her head, and you do not have the responsibility to fix her feelings towards you. It’s her brain, and her life.

    The thing you DO have power over is whether you are going to put up with her. You live in different apartments and have different lives: why should you spend one second of your life in her presence if the relationship is unfair and makes you unhappy? Your boyfriend and his friends can hang out as they please. They are adults who, despite what they might believe, can function socially in non-couple situations. Get other friends. If your boyfriend does not support you in removing Kayla from your life, then have hard think about why this might be. When someone is an asshole to my SO, I automatically dislike that person, and will try to make my SO as comfortable as possible.

    You hang out with people who treat you like a human being, be it Pam and her boyfriend, or other people. Alone with them, no toxic and superfluous Kaylas around. And the best advide from the Captain: erase her from your social media dimension. Out of your life, forever. She will suddenly disappear into oblivion, and your life will be so peaceful.

    It really bugs me when there are such inflexible group rules that you are a set number of friends who always hang out together, and supposedly everyone has to get along with everyone. People are friends with people individually. It’s okay to hang with some of them some of the time, and with others some other time, and to mix people from different “groups”. If we work well as a group, and everyone is happy, that’s fantastic. But that is usually not the case for long. Friend groups change and most of all, it’s better if they are flexible in their members and meetings. And those that remain fixed very often turn out to have stories like this, of power relations, or secretly unahppy people, or everyone pretending Kayla treats you OK when she clearly is not a decent person with you. Groups only have dynamics. It’s the individuals who have friendships.

  8. Yes! Figuring out how to be a “good person” or the “bigger person” in a situation in which someone with whom you are interacting wants you only to fail at that is so, so exhausting. I think if you follow the Captain’s advice you will find it is its own reward — like, you keep thinking if you do x or y you will get some other reward (Kayla will like you, or will explain why she doesn’t, or others will figure out she’s being unfair and take your side, or etc.). But this really is a situation where stopping banging your head against a wall feels *amazing*. You will like it, I pretty much gar-on-tee.

  9. Ahhh! I had this happen not once, but THREE TIMES in a college living situation (enough to make me wonder if I smelled or something), where a suite mate (not even a roommate) decided, out of seemingly nowhere and with no discussion, that we were fucking DONE, professionally. In the first instance, after freezing me out for a while, she moved out (and did the exact same thing to her next two roommates, so, turns out that wasn’t me). The second case it turned out to be a mixture of sadness and jealousy over my upcoming study-abroad experience combined with overwhelming stress over the fear of losing an academic scholarship (admitted to me later, after my return to the US), so I don’t really count that anymore. The third time, it was some bizarro ritual that the suitemate engaged in with the rest of us in the suite — hating all of us IN TURN for a period of weeks before turning around and blessing the forsaken one with the glory of her favor again.

    In all three cases: Nothing I could have done.

    This person wants your energy. She wants you to waste time figuring out how to get into her good graces and earn her love again. But even if she turns around and becomes friendly again — as all the former suitemates eventually did with ME — the trust, on your end, is going to be gone. I am not close with any of those former suitemates — I don’t even talk to two of them anymore — because IMO, they are not trustworthy as friends. You may find after you tell Pam and her husband that you are done with being actively hated and you’re going to tell Kayla to stop and smell the African Violets, that she’ll want to be your friend again. You don’t have to accept it. It’s actually very refreshing not to.

      1. OMG. That website. I was so sad when Claudia’s Room stopped updating, and now I have this. Thank you!

  10. Would it be possible to just find something else to do on occasions Kayla is going to be around? They could be things like playing with your cats,crafting or taking up a new hobby. Skill-based hobbies are good because you really have to put the time in. I wouldn’t make any effort to hide why you’re not hanging out though, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t like how she treats me so I’m going to stay in and work on X.”

  11. +1 to removing people you don’t like or who don’t like you from your life. The drama of breaking it off is so brief compared to the ongoing stress of dealing with them. Other people will try to get you to go along and keep everything calm, but that’s because it’s convenient for them for everything to continue as is, not best for you.

    This goes for people you see all the time in real life and it goes for that one person you find really annoying on social media too. For the annoying social media person you’re still happy to see in the flesh there’s hiding them without unfriending, and for the person who sucks in any context just *unfriend*.

    It helps me to keep in mind that socialising with people who suck drains my energy for socialising with people I actually like, and I have enough trouble with that as it is.

  12. I agree that you should give up on Kayla, and let that relationship finally die. Also, don’t use Pam to check in on what is up with Kayla anymore. Don’t let Pam fish for information on how you feel about Kayla! It would be one thing if you and Pam were BFFs, for you to vent about this situation and ask all of the “whyyyyy” questions, but since you’ve said that Pam is close to Kayla I suspect that there’s not a lot to be gained by having any more Kayla-conversations with her. If you can (and you want to) try to be friends with Pam without having Kayla as the elephant in the room.

    1. Good point about Pam being a go-between. No matter where that’s coming from, there’s no benefit to it.

      I have a good friend who recently decided to cut a bunch of our formerly mutual friends (my good friends). I have a pretty simple policy – I don’t let A run B-F down in my presence, so B-F don’t get to run A down either. If they want to talk about it, that can happen without me.

      Most of the time everyone’s been very respectful, but I do occasionally have to recuse myself from conversations and go Facebook with a cigarette or something. And I’m much happier for it (except for the extra smoking, but that’s a later problem at the moment).

  13. Make efforts to broaden your friend group, and I do mean your friend group. Not you and bf’s friend group, yours. It is too easy to be enmeshed in an unhealthy situation is you haven’t built in some independent outlets for yourself socially. Join a club, yoga class, build Lego with a weird group that meets at a cafe (cough cough), anything so that you’re you and not part of either a couple or part of ‘set’ of couples.

    1. Yes! Husband and I have couple friends, and single friends together, and also couple friends and single friends that are friends of one of us but not both. It’s really worked great for us. If one is not feeling social the other has people to go socialize with without any awkward couple-date-missing-one-person vibes.

  14. I was on the other side of a situation like this back in high school. There were four of us who were a friend group, and of the other three girls, one I adored, one I liked a lot, and one I couldn’t stand. There was nothing at all wrong with her, she was nice and funny and didn’t do anything to get on my bad side. I just… didn’t like being around her. I tried to be cool because we were a friend group, but it’s hard to hide when you just don’t enjoy someone’s company.

    One afternoon she called me to ask if there was something wrong, if I didn’t like her or something. Being a teenager and having no idea how to handle that kind of conversation, I lied and said no of course nothing was wrong and I liked her fine.

    The Captain’s advice is excellent. Life is too short for you to keep trying to be friends with someone who acts like they don’t like you, no matter why they’re doing it.

    1. This happened to me in highschool too. But I guess the other girl didn’t like me much either because when I cut back on spending time with my friends when I knew that girl was there, she didn’t say anything. Unfortunately my friends either liked her more than me or didn’t know how to invite her sometimes and then invite me other times. I lost my whole friend group over it and it was pretty rough, but at least I wasn’t stuck with that girl that bothered me every time she said anything.

  15. There were a bunch of us that ate lunch together at work every day. The 3 other ladies were friends (as in, do stuff outside of work together) and I never really got the appeal of one of the women (moody, bitchy, baby voice), but I was always pleasant. I asked how things were with them–I noticed they never asked me ANYTHING. So one day, this time last year actually, 2 of the women just ate at a different table. I asked the 3rd one, who continued to eat with me (I think out of obligation more than anything) what the hell was going on? She said she didn’t know. It was obviously me though. I hate that I was paranoid about what I had done because I knew these 2 women, especially the one, to be assholes. Ever since, when we pass each other in the hallway, they will actually look away or look straight ahead like they don’t see me. We’ve had to interact a few times for work-related things at which point all of our voices go up about 5 octaves trying to be pleasant to the other. I still don’t understand why so many others in the workplace enjoy these women. They are in all of the “cliques” (it’s a weirdly cliquey workplace)–but who wants to be friends with a person whose mood can change on a dime and admits to not helping people right away because they find them annoying and so on? So at points I’ve kind of taken it personally because it feels like it has to be me–everyone likes them, people just seem to tolerate me. Others didn’t believe me that these women just up and ignored me one day to the next–until they saw it firsthand. But the worst thing is–everyone around acts like this is normal behavior or no big deal “Oh, that’s just how she is.” And…that’s OK and acceptable?! Now I just laugh when I walk past them…

    But the point of my rant (that I didn’t mean to do!) is everyone seems to have that person (or people). At first I questioned myself about why I was so horrible to eat lunch with for 30 minutes a day (my biggest sin is I’m boring, not impolite or too talkative or something), then I remembered I don’t even LIKE these people much (though never as much as they disliked me) and it was actually a relief not to have to see them every day. My only plan for “revenge” is to be the first to get out of our toxic workplace…(here’s hoping!). So in short, I agree with others–get Kayla out of your life. It might feel weird at first but in the end you might find relief. You’ll also get something of yourself back–power, confidence, etc. and you’ll stop questioning the entire situation (and yourself). In the words of my coworkers, “That’s just how she [Kayla] is.” She’s not going to change, so you have to change the situation.

    1. Sounds good to me that you want to leave that workplace because it sounds indeed like there’s nothing wrong with you, but with the group dynamics as a whole.

    2. I actually recently called someone on the “that’s just how they are” thing. There is a friend of my in-law family who is extremely rude in that “just being honest” way, and also racist and sexism and just about every other ‘ist’ out there. I was telling MIL that the person made me uncomfortable and she said “oh that’s just how they are, you have to cut them some slack.” and I responded with, “No. When people are horrible you do not cut them slack. It’s people cutting them slack for years that has led to them being so horrible and expecting everyone to pretend it’s okay.” MIL had no response. It felt really good to say.
      I’ve minimized my contact with that person, and do only the minimal polite social stuff with them at group events. Funny thing is, they seem to have recognized that I’m not putting up with their bullshit. They’re less rude around me and very rarely rude directly towards me.

      1. “No. When people are horrible you do not cut them slack. It’s people cutting them slack for years that has led to them being so horrible and expecting everyone to pretend it’s okay.” <– next time one of my sibs gets on my case about my father I'm using this line. (My sibs have mostly given up, but every once in a while….)

    3. Oh yes. There have been times, plural, when I thought that everyone hated me and wondered if I was being paranoid, only to be pulled aside and told “you know, everyone hates you”. Whereas no one has ever told me I’m paranoid.

  16. The part about Kayla talking to you after the spat bothers me.

    Her treatment of you sets off my “office bully” radar. I know this is a friendship/housemate situation, and not an office, but it’s a similar pattern. Person A and Person B are friends for a while, and then Person A starts with manipulative, gaslighting-ish crap that makes Person B confused. So you and Kayla were friends, and then, when you were living with her and basically in her clutches, she started the weird behavior.

    But then she was briefly friendly when you had the spat with your boyfriend, and that makes me think she was either mining you for personal information that she could later use against you, or that she was actually happy that you and your boyfriend had had a fight, like seeing you two made her unhappy somehow, or that your being unhappy was something she wanted to see, so she was happy to finally see it.

    I agree with everyone else — block her and get away — but please do tell your boyfriend and other mutual friends not to pass on information about you. And your boyfriend and friends might want to be careful about what they tell her about their lives. Generally, when someone like Kayla loses their “target,” he or she chooses another one.

    1. I never thought of things that way, but it makes sense – creepy, sad, upsetting sense. My boyfriend has agreed that distancing ourselves from Kayla and her boyfriend is in everyone’s best interest.

    2. That Kayla refocused her ostracizing specifically on the LW after the spat suggests to me that, having seen there was some potential for trouble in the relationship, she hoped she could get rid of the LW without having to get her bf to drop his friend. Essentially, she was trying to use the group and her position in the group as a disrupting force on the LW’s relationship. To add friction, see if she could push the LW into reacting badly and becoming “the problem”, see if the LW’s boyfriend could be induced to choose the group over his girlfriend. So glad to hear the LW’s boyfriend is backing the LW up instead.

  17. I’m there, except Kayla is my stepmother. She hasn’t spoken to me in over three years, and my dad tried to pretend like that’s normal, even through big events like my wedding and the birth of my son. It’s very stressful tap dancing around the truth, especially when you’re the wronged party. Right now I’m sort of following the Captain’s advice (avoid situations where stepmother will be present, get together with dad separately), but it is very stressful to be friendly with someone who essentially condones another person acting unacceptably towards you and those you love. Thinking about cutting contact with my dad, too, at least for awhile.

    1. I think you are totally justified in drawing consequences with your dad, be that a direct conversation or cutting off contact, if that’s what you need. It’s nice for you to be nice to her, but if the work you’re putting in to appease a person who is so disrespectful to you doesn’t even get acknowledged, let alone supported? Nope, not okay.

    2. Exactly – It’s like, how much do my other friends care about me if they’re willing to hang around while someone is so nasty to my face? Before the most recent episode of ignoring, the same applied to my boyfriend. (Who has, since the most recent episode of particularly bizarre and obvious ignoring, become fed up on my behalf and agreed to African Violet the hell out of Kayla and John)

    3. it is very stressful to be friendly with someone who essentially condones another person acting unacceptably towards you and those you love

      Sounds like a good reason to cut contact to me.

  18. Kayla is a giant asshole. Not because she dislikes you. She is allowed to dislike, even loathe you! She’s an asshole because she does this juvenile “Did you hear something? I didn’t hear ANYTHING” garbage when you’re sitting right there. What she is doing, at best, is a very open and nasty social snub.

    Also, massive side-eye to Pam for carrying messages back and forth instead of just telling Kayla to either be polite to you or stop hanging with you.

    Life is too short to spend it around assholes and their enablers, LW, and you are way to excellent to have to be civilized when somebody else at the table is nonverbally screaming “I hate you” the entire evening.

    1. Hahaha – I was going to say exactly the same thing. This Kayla person is a giant, smelly poop-spot. (My son’s word for asshole.) Disengage.

    2. It’s such a relief to read this here, from the wise and kind Awkward Army. Years ago a guy in a former friend group started doing this to me… and no one had my back. He was more outgoing and confident than me, and definitely better adjusted and better liked. It hurt so much to be treated that way, and I hurt myself by believing that I deserved it.

    3. Thank you! And yeah, as much as I love Pam, this situation has opened my eyes to how she and the rest of our friends act. As others have mentioned, this is tough because the issue with Kayla isn’t just about once friendship disintegrating; it’s about viewing my other close friendships and realizing that yeah, there’s things that could, and maybe should, be different. It’s tough emotionally but it’s not on me to fix it; I’m just focusing on what’s (and who) are good for me.

  19. I really like

    “Groups only have dynamics. It’s the individuals who have friendships.”

    That’s well put.

  20. Co-signing the room’s general advice – just stop caring about her and her opinions. It’s unfortunate for her that she can’t be basically cordial to someone she doesn’t like, but that’s a problem for her life. It doesn’t need to be a problem for yours.

    There’s someone in my friend group I strongly dislike. It was frankly liberating to allow myself to accept the fact that I didn’t like him and not feel like I needed to “try harder”, for my best friend’s sake (it’s her boyfriend) or at the behest of another friend who wants everyone to get along. But I’ve never silent-treated him and he’s never done that to me, because we’re all adults and we can be cordial, even somewhat friendly, despite disliking each other so much. Life’s too short for this junior high crap.

  21. LW, your whole letter just felt so ridiculously familiar to me! I was in a very similar situation, with a friend who became a roommate (in a three bedroom apartment also shared with another friend and eventually my boyfriend), who then decided she hated me and started to give me the silent treatment, interspersed with brief bits of friendliness (which convinced me that I was just imagining her vileness to me the rest of the time, since it was pretty subtle at first and also I suck at social cues), and talking shit about me to mutual friends and also, once she blocked me on social media, talking shit about me on twitter as well (maybe Facebook, too). The situation deteriorated from there, and it was just awful– I think now about how much anxiety I had on a daily basis from living with someone who openly hated me, and I am surprised that I even managed to be functional on a daily basis. There was eventually a blow-up where we actually, finally, aired our grievances, on the day she moved out of the apartment to move in with her boyfriend– and contrary to my expectations, hearing her actually say that she hated me and why (if “you are an unpleasant person and I’m so glad I never have to talk to you again” counts as a “why”, which it really doesn’t) actually made me feel worse rather than better. My boyfriend and I moved out soon after, and the other roommate (who is still a good friend and is the only person in that friend group who completely, unequivocally took my side in the whole thing, because she saw it all go down in all it’s terribleness) moved around the time we did.

    It was a hugely hurtful, distressing situation that I’m still not over in a lot of ways, a year and a half after that final blowup. I spent a lot of time grieving, both for the friendship that I’d previously thought she and I had, and for the loss of the kind of social group that sitcoms tell you you’re supposed to have in your 20s, where everyone hangs out at bars together and has barbecued together on the Fourth of July and whatever. I’m still friends, to one degree or another, with all but a few people in that group, but that situation kind of fractured the group as a group.

    So LW, I can tell you, now that I’m out of the cycle of trying to impress my former friend and only making her hate me more, that you should end contact with her and maybe her boyfriend, and that after you do so, you will probably look back on the stress of dealing with her regularly and wonder how you even did it. But at the same time, give yourself permission to be upset and affected by the whole thing– you are losing both someone you thought was a friend and a friend group as a whole, here, and once you’re out of it, you may see an increase in social anxiety and related brainweasels, if that’s something you deal with. I really struggled with giving myself permission to be upset, because my jerkbrain kept telling me things like “it’s only as friend breakup, not a romantic one, and your relationship with your boyfriend is and continues to be totally awesome so who are you to complain” and “she was never really your friend anyway, you should have figured that out from the beginning”. But, LW, my jerkbrain is an asshole. And so is yours, if it says things like this to you.

    Best of luck, and here’s to a long and happy future full of friends who actually like you!

    1. >>my jerkbrain kept telling me things like “it’s only as friend breakup, not a romantic one, and your relationship with your boyfriend is and continues to be totally awesome so who are you to complain”

      I firmly believe that friendship break-ups/rejections are worse than romantic ones. It’s much easier for me to get my head around “so-and-so doesn’t fancy me / doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship with me” than “so-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend”, especially if it’s someone who has previously been my friend. Your jerkbrain doesn’t know anything!

      1. Agree 100% with this. We have a lot of scripts and books and advice columns that focus on the break up of romantic relationships, but friendships that go bad or just need to end can drag on for ages while you try to figure out exactly what to say. When it’s a friend from a friend *group* you hang out with? Gah, that’s my worst nightmare.

        1. ::nodnod:: We had a really good conversation about the Myth of the Friend Group a couple of posts back that maybe LW could check out too. It’s something that tends to go away after college, I’ve noticed, as people go different directions in their lives. And that is ok! This was actually one aspect of the ending of HIMYM I could get behind — it was a pretty decent view of how these kinds of groups tend to sort of dissolve.

      2. Yes, I think partly because there’s more of a cultural idea of attraction being a little random and not necessarily a judgment on someone, and partly because there’s far more of an idea of people having a finite number of romantic partners (very often one) at a time. So while in some ways it’s a huge rejection, at least there’s this consoling idea of ‘random chemistry’ that the person can’t control, or of wanting to be free to find someone else.

        But with a friendship, it’s harder to find other ways to interpret is as ‘this person must just dislike me.’ Which isn’t always true (sometimes you bring out the worst in each other without there being anything ‘wrong’ with either, for example) but it feels reasonable.

    2. Thank you – it’s hard to keep my jerkbrain from butting in on this situation, when it keeps on trying with things like “there must be a reeeasssooonnn based on how awful you are.” But at the end of the day it’s not me. It was never me. And that’s nice to acknowledge.

  22. Sometimes I wish everyone I knew read this blog, because then they would know when it is time to give someone an African Violet, instead of subjecting them to an OVER THE TOP level of social awkwardness and cruelty. Because honestly “Disliking” someone is NOT a reason for the behavior you are dealing with, especially as an adult.

    I will admit, that I had a few instances of similar stuff happen when I was in college, and sometimes it was me dropping a friend, and sometimes it was me getting dropped. Both sides were always hard. (Though I maintain that having someone else help rearrange our apartment so they could have it the way they wanted it was out of line.) But ultimately, the anger fades and eventually you stop being so horrible to each other, you re-friend on face book and say hi when you bump into each other..

    I didn’t like ANY Of my roommates by the time I moved out, and i”m sure they hated me with the fire of 100,000 suns, but we all managed to be civil to each other after, no matter what drama had gone down. Ultimately, she’s making a big deal out of this, I have no idea why. (Attention? making a point that no one understands? Silent Treatment Fetish?)

    You do not need people like this in your life. No matter how wonderful they were at one point, no matter how she feels about you, she is clearly not a good person, she’s not mature enough to navigate conflict or awkwardness without making it horrible for everyone. So you should avoid her, not because she might dislike you, or because she is rude to you, but because you deserve a life without having to manage people who don’t know how to behave appropriately in social situations. You deserve friends that can communicate any issues with you clearly, so you can resolve them.

    And honestly, if I were Pam, I’d be out too. (Possibly only because I’ve seen how this pattern shifts in my life before, first it is someone else, then it is you, people who have a tendency to manage their relationships poorly have this tendency with ALL relationships.)

    I hope you find some more awesome people to have more awesome brunch with, you deserve real friends.

    1. My first flatting experience at university, I was desperate to get out by the end of the year.
      I think the others largely stayed friends, but I just didn’t care. I was uncomfortable and unhappy.

      My cousin wound up working with one of that years flatmates a couple of years ago, and friended him on Facebook. When I chatted to her about our mutual aquaintance, she suggested that it must be awkward for me to not be FB friends with someone I had lived with.
      Not at all.
      I wasn’t (at the time) friends with ANY of that years house mates. Over the last 7 years I’ve been on FB (seriously? thats a LONG time!), I’ve been friends with 4 of the 5 housemates. And am currently “aquaintances” with only one. The rest I have unfriended, because we honestly have nothing in common anymore (and I dont know why I am bothering keeping the other)

  23. Love the advice.

    Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to “fix” a friendship. If there was one in the first place. I used to have a friend who started to be cold and use”veiled” insults at me. At first I couln’t understand where that came from. I guess you try to find a reason for the change because you want to understand.

    But at some point, we had a dissagreement, a big one. Because she have a fight with a common friend and I refuse to take her side (I tried to mediate). In fact, what I really don’t get to this day, is that she expected me to accept her word and agree with her no matter what. And the fact is that I didn’t challenged her version, I just didn’t though she was right and said so.

    After that, she stoped talking to me and I felt relieved. So even if she wanted an apology so we could “be friends again”, I just cut ties. Later, I understood that it doesn’t really matter why she insulted me or was cold, what matters is that now I’m better than when I tried to figure out why she treated me badly, what matters is how she made me feel.

    Once I learned that, my life has improved, because I’ve been able to do that with other people in my life who are toxic. That guy in the group who’s creepy but keeps pretending in front of other people and denying things? Out. That person who talks at your back and you know it but can’t probe to others? Out. Once you star doing this, your emotional weight lowers and that let you focus in the people that really are important, family and real friends, the one’s that care, love you and have your back, so you have their backs too.

    Outcome, not reasons or motivation. So yes, really good advice.

  24. Thank you so much to the Captain and everyone for their wonderful advice. I’m officially in “disengage” mode with Kayla and have the support of my boyfriend. The energy I’ll undoubtedly conserve from now worrying about her opinion of me will go towards meeting new people and cultivating healthier friendships!

  25. Is it just me or do a lot of these situations involve roommates? I guess there’s something in the way living with someone is as big a stress on a friendship as it is on a romantic relationship(if only because habits that are not noticable in doses of three hours become noticable when you’re living with someone).

  26. This is a little weird as a comment perhaps, but…I was thinking about how recognizing someone and not talking to them used to be, in Regency England at least, a specific social weapon, the Cut Direct. I looked it up and here it still is in the 1922 Emily Post, so apparently this was codified in America too, and much more recently:


    For one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other’s bow is such a breach of civility that only an unforgivable misdemeanor can warrant the rebuke. Nor without the gravest cause may a lady “cut” a gentleman. But there are no circumstances under which a gentleman may “cut” any woman who, even by courtesy, can be called a lady. On the other hand, one must not confuse absent-mindedness, or a forgetful memory with an intentional “cut.” Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness. A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.

    Please note how it’s explicitly horrible for everyone else around, and explicitly only for the gravest insults. It’s the last social resort for a woman (whereas men had dueling — in Regency England, I mean, not 1920s America, unless my AP US History class skipped over some lively Prohibition Duel antics.)

    When someone does this, it takes effort, and it is a BIG DEAL. Obviously we don’t want to embrace antiquated classist sexist etiquette structures or anything, but I think it’s worth bringing up because people often self-deprecatingly think they’re ‘making a big deal’ out of the silent treatment: you’re not making a big deal. It is itself a big deal. It’s next door to dueling.

    Seriously, at least buying some NERF pistols and naming seconds would be more upfront and more fun. This is a big deal, and no one should try to tell you it isn’t.

    1. Right?!? The Cut Direct is a BIG DEAL and an implicit demand that bystanders take notice and take sides. Also, being on the receiving end of it, and then being admonished (by the Cutter or bystanders) to treat it as though it is not is MASSIVE GASLIGHTING.

      I have an ex, who – because, after we broke up she decided she wasn’t bi after all – was perceived-in-public as a friend-ex, not a romantic-ex, which was massively uncomfortable to start with. And there was enormous pressure to be civil and social, because, as we’ve talked about many times here, society doesn’t treat friend-breakups with the same seriousness. Also, small town.

      So we would run into each other – at the grocery store, at a party, at a meeting that I was professionally obligated to attend – and she would treat me this way, and it would be deeply awkward and humiliating, and *other people* would apologize to me for – being in the presence of her bad behavior, I guess? And yet, when called out on it, she would tell me to my face, and tell other people, that she was being perfectly polite and if I was imagining her to be rude, I was obviously projecting my own hostility onto her in a conflict-seeking fashion. Which lead to lots of falling over my own feet to avoid her if possible, to be meticulously above any possibility of criticism in my public dealings with her when I couldn’t, and lots of pressure to consider the possibility that she wasn’t being mean on purpose, and lots demands to “be the bigger person” (when I was already doing that to myself), and lots of supposed friends just starting to avoid ME because they didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it or get “caught up in drama.”

      The unfucking of my head from that took YEARS, and still stirs up the brainweasels from time to time. NERF pistols would have been so much better.

    2. Thanks for mentioning this. I think people forget that this isn’t just a bit of childishness. I mean, it is childish, because people who do this rarely reserve it for the gravest offenses and in situations where they could not avoid the person they’re ignoring. But the effect is serious. It makes everyone else in the room uncomfortable. It’s sending a message, which everyone picks up on, and everyone has to deal with.

    3. I was thinking about this, and what kind of gross misdemeanor would you have to commit to be next to dueling, and thus for a lady to give you The Cut Direct? (Answer: something these days that would earn you a “creeper no creeping” chant, methinks.) Thankfully there are other means of expressing serious dislike, as you say.

      (We’ve had mention here before, I am almost sure, of how abusive and terrible trying to control people by giving them the silent treatment can be when the treat-er is the person with social power, and yeah, it’s terrible.)

  27. When I was in my final year of law school, there was also a Kayla in my friend group. We’d gotten along fine our first and second years, and then my third year she arbitrarily decided she didn’t like me and started blowing me off publicly or deliberately acting like I wasn’t in the room.

    Mutual friends told me that I’d done nothing wrong and that it wasn’t personal, but the last straw was my birthday party, where I decided I’d had enough with her rudeness. Since there were three weeks left before graduation, I decided to remove myself from her presence, which meant, of course, if I saw her in the cafeteria with the friend group, I immediately ate at another table, at the other side of the room. It wasn’t fun, but it was much better than subjecting myself to her horribleness.

    Seems like you’ve got it all worked out, LW! Good luck to you, and great that your boyfriend is behind you all the way!

  28. I think it’s partially because you can’t use the classic escape clause with roommates: “Oh gosh look at the time we really must be getting home.” You ARE home. Awkward…

  29. Oh man, I posted something to this (but involving coworkers) on the FOCA boards recently. I’m glad things are getting better, LW, and that your boyfriend is on your side. I wish I had other advice besides….”I hope it gets better?” because I sure don’t know what to do about my Office Kayla.

    Why do people do stuff like this???

    1. I suspect because they are bad at using their words. But some may also be just malicious.

      In your case I think avoiding as far as possible and, in situations where that’s not possible, Being Professional is what you can do. The being professional can also happen in writing, so you have a documentation of being cooperative.

      1. I know it’s petty of me, but I kind of enjoyed pretending I didn’t know I was being ignored by our office Kayla.
        Office Kayla sees me in the hall, pretends she doesn’t.
        Me [very cheerfully]: Good morning [Office Kayla]! how are you today?!!
        Her: silence
        Me: you have a good day, ok?!!

        It was probably not fair of me because though not her boss, I’m hiring up in the hierarchy than she was, so she couldn’t say anything too snarky to me (but I think there’s a good chance she keyed my car). And I would not have done it if there was a chance, however remote, that I had actually done something to offend or upset her. But without getting into details, I promise that there’s no way I did anything other than not let her pull something against one of my direct reports. And rather than fire her for her many, many job failures and acts of unprofessional behavior, her managers just waited for her to quit.

        So I did the be super friendly and ignore the ignoring thing because (1) I knew it would drive her crazy, and (2) how could she complain about that? “JB keeps saying hi to me in the break room and trying to make polite small talk with me, even though I’m clearly pretending she’s not there.” Even she was smart enough to realize she couldn’t do that.

        So maybe it wasn’t mature of me, but it kept me from getting irritated.

        1. Dunno … yeah it’s good to have power imbalances in mind, but she actually started it? You are not acting, you are reacting to the (passive) agression directed your way. And keying someone’s care is WAY out of line. So in this case, I’m not even sure you did the wrong thing. Because “being professional” would mean basically the same stuff you did, maybe a tad less cheerful.

      2. Thanks, winter! “My” Kayla is on my team but I don’t report to her. So I can only avoid crossing her path to a point. I try to be professional as much as possible. The biggest frustrations are when I’ll ask her direct questions in email or group chat or even 1-on-1 IMs and she’ll straight up ignore me. Or when she does reply, it seems…pretty bitchy. I try to not read it that way but she ignores me in livespace group settings too so…gets awkward. Awkward indeed.

        1. That at least gives you some opportunity to document. If you think it could help, I’d collect some of those instances in writing and go to your boss/supervisor/whoever with it and tell them that you’d like to be productive but you feel there’s something missing in your communication with “Kayla” because of instances x, y and z, where she ignored you and do they have a tip how to communicate better? Ideally they will see she’s fucking up and go talk to her. But in any case, they would be made aware of the issue.
          Whatever strategy you employ in the long run, it should a) give you documentation so you can prove your case if necessary and b) make you not wanna tear paper in tiny little pieces aka seething with suppressed rage all the time.

  30. I already commented upthread, but re-reading the comments here I’m reminded of something my dad often says about Using Your Words. I’ve said it myself a few times now too.

    My mom and the man she remarried after my parents’ split, who was also a coworker and friend of my dad’s at one point, have given him the silent treatment for about 20 years now. It’s been… awkward. And weird. My dad says that even the nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials were given a full accounting of what they were accused of, and they were given the opportunity to defend themselves. He believes that if someone cannot even offer him that same courtesy (telling him what he did wrong, and letting him explain himself) then he isn’t interested in worrying about what he might have done wrong or trying to convince them to like him again. He’s happy to give them their space, and he will be polite but utterly uninterested in further interaction with them.

  31. What stands out to me here is that it seems like these people feel obligated to hang out together, purely because their boyfriends are friends! Or because they happen to share a friend or two in common!

    Clearly LW and Kayla are not in any way friends and are both sick of pretending to be. But there’s this weird thing where they seem to feel like they have to spend their free time together anyway? They don’t work together, this is their spare time! Like what, the boys can’t just go out and spend time with each other when they feel like it without dragging along a reluctant girfriend? All six of them must go out together? Do the women not have their own friends they could spend time with instead, or just read a good book at home, during times when the guys are doing something together? It would make sense if they all happened to get along great and they actually were all friends, but they don’t and they aren’t.

    What’s up with Kayla’s relationship with her boyfriend that makes pretending someone she hates doesn’t exist, to her face, seem like an easier option than not accompanying her boyfriend to meetings with people she knows she doesn’t even like?

    I know some couples just happen to really enjoy shared socializing and spending time with friends together as a couple, but this is taking it a pretty far… Also, it seems like it’s being disproportionately dictated by who the guys are friends with.

    IMO, LW and Kayle should BOTH go and make some more friends of their own, so they’re not stuck tagging along with their boyfriends out of pure boredom or whatever reason this is happening, and can more easily save socializing together as a couple for when there are people who both actually happen to be friends with. Everyone would be happier.

  32. I think it might sometimes be easy to fall into a habit of kind of ‘inheriting’ friends. Hanging out with someone semi-automatically because they’re a friend of your friend, or particularly, a friend of your partner. But then it’s easy to end up with a group of people hanging around who mostly aren’t actually friends! In this case it seems like both the LW and Kayla may have got into a habit of just tagging along to their boyfriends’ social gatherings.

    It does work sometimes, because sometimes some of your friend’s or partner’s friends end up being people you genuinely become friends with too. And if you’re shy or don’t have a lot of hobbies, it can feel like an easy way to meet people and be friends. It’s not a totally crazy way of meeting people or of making new friends, but it’s very far from a given that you will be friends with someone just because you’re friends with people who are friends.

    To me it sounds like pretty much everyone in this story would benefit from going out and making more of their own friends, individually. And not treating friendship as something you can inherit from another person, or something that automatically happens in clusters.

  33. OP, I totally feel your pain. A few years ago, I was in school. It was a close-knit program (think 24 of us who had been together, exclusively, almost daily for a year) and I considered almost all my classmates my friends. Then we got a transfer student that I’ll call “Kim.” For some reason, Kim took an instant dislike to me. And, because she was the mean-girl queen-bee type, she soon got several of my “friends” in on the action. Suddenly, I was being excluded from social events, ignored in class, and trashed behind my back by Kim and her Kimions. It was terrible.

    So one day I came home and, for the 50th time, complained to my husband about Kim and how I didn’t understand why she hated me so much. And he finally just looked at me and said “isn’t the more important question why you care what this jerk thinks of you anyway?” And I thought about it, and realized he was totally right. I didn’t need to waste energy caring about Kim. This realization was incredibly freeing.

    That night, I sat down and made a list of classmates I really considered friends. It was a short list. Everyone else got blocked or defriended on social media so I didn’t have to see pics of their outings or posts about their in-jokes anymore. I stopped trying to engage with Kim or the Kimions in class and changed seats to get away from them. I started spending more time with out-of-school friends and the classmates who I really wanted to get to know. On the rare occasions that one of the Kimions would try to stir the shit by saying “hey, guess what Kim said about you!” I would respond “huh. Did you get through all of chapter 20?” Basically, I made it impossible for Kim to get to me anymore. And that felt great.

    The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes people dislike you, but you should never, ever let that make you dislike yourself. Kayla’s issue is Kayla’s issue, just like Kim’s was Kim’s. It’s not your issue. You don’t have to own it. Take care of yourself, OP, and remember that it’s a big world with plenty of people in it who are going to like or love you for who you are. The Kaylas out there don’t take anything away from that. 🙂

  34. I wish I could get “Stop auditioning for the approval of people who dislike you” tattooed on the inside of my eyelids so I saw it like 500 million times a day. Sigh.

  35. I read things like this and it makes me wonder whether having friends is really worth the effort.

    I say this from the point of view of someone who has not had friends for nearly 15 years now, and has been told that she should, and has always held it up as a vague ambition of the ‘someday I’ll get around to it’ variety, but is increasingly wondering whether it is something that she actually wants.

    1. I think it’s very worthwhile to have friends. But spending a lot of time with someone and both saying you’re friends doesn’t make it so.

      And pretending to be friends with someone is often way worse than finding stuff to enjoy alone.

    2. I’ve found it very worthwhile to have friends, but… the big, big BUT is this: I am prepared to walk away when it turns out the friendship is toxic. Whether it’s the person him/herself (a revealed manipulator, racist, homophobe, etc.) or just an unhappy interaction of our combined quirks, toxic is toxic and needs to be out of one’s life.

      I suspect that our needs for friends also vary according to what we need and how we’ve been raised. “Someday I’ll get around to it” sounds rather like there isn’t really a need. If you’re happy in yourself, that’s the main thing.

      And if you aren’t happy, but thinking friends aren’t really what you need… it’s probably a good signal of a mismatch between whatever friendship is currently being sold to us by society and your own needs. In my own past, that was the sign to start systematically considering what I did need, and if there was anything I could do (or change) to help meet that need: there’s more than a grain of truth to the old doggerel about being your own best friend. Being my own best friend means taking positive action in the face of (for example) dealing with some Social Geek Fallacy-based drama, for instance.

      That said, Omphale, I’m sure you would make an awesomely-rocking-the-world friend for the people you would choose to let into your life. But those are people you *get* to choose, not *should* choose.

      (Thank you for your patience with the above… I’d struggled for years with the notion of wanting friends but being stymied by several failed attempts at connection – and this inside a very happy marriage! I kept thinking, it had been so easy with the heroic hubby, why wasn’t it working outside the house?)

  36. I wish so hard that I had found this website years ago when I was badly suffering from a friendship divorce from a male friend who was the only person who shared a nerdy interest of mine. I tried SO HARD to fit in and be friends in order to cling to a group of friends who pretty much all ditched me after the “divorce” and have someone to go to the nerd events with me. Reading this has made me realise that it’s not a sign of mental illness to not want to be around someone who blanked me and was so awkward around me 90% of the time that he couldn’t even look at me, interspersed with really fun nights out and sharing of the said nerd interest for the remaining 10%. Generally the feedback I got was 1. you’re imagining it, lunatic 2. just meet up with the group and don’t care about him (hugely awkward when that group was me, him and one other person…), a sane person would be able to just block him out and enjoy the evening 3. why do you even care? he clearly doesn’t like you and you have a boyfriend so why do you care about other friends? It’s 9 years on from the “divorce” and I have other, less draining friends now although I’m still mostly going to the nerd events on my own, sob sniff, and I sometimes look back at the LJ from that time and feel so sad for 2005-era me and wish I had found the awkward army then.

  37. Ugh I had a “friend” like this in my friends group in college. We were close, then suddenly she decided she hated me. I was baffled. I finally asked her something like, why didn’t she invite me to this thing? And she said she felt like our personalities just did not mesh. I took this at face value and decided to never be friends with her again. I got over it. I realized she is just kind of a messed up, passive aggressive person. Not meshing is one thing. Not wanting to be friends is fine. But she treated me like total crap and it was just NOT necessary.

  38. Oh man I used to try and be buds with a girl who did EXACTLY this because she was dating a good friend of mine. It feels SOOOO good to dump/block/give up on them. They are not worth it at all ever. Babies and toxic people always get more chances than they deserve, dump her!

  39. Drop this chick immediately ( and her enabling boyfriend) . It may be just me but does Kayla have a thing for LW’s boyfriend? She acts pissy when they act as a couple to bring up house issues and then when LW and boyfriend have a bad day suddenly she’s trying to push LW out of the group.( ala she senses what she thinks is weakness and is going for it) The explanation about the names seems crap/misdirection; ” She’s replacing me” though rings a bit more true if she has a crush on Brad.

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