Dear Captain Awkward:
My boyfriend, before we started dating, moved in with a friend and his wife. When I came into the picture, the wife excluded me from things and invited only my boyfriend. If my boyfriend tried to invite me, she’d throw a fit and my boyfriend would have to call me to say sorry, you can’t go. If she did invite me, she told me that I had to pay my own way, even though she bought tickets or whatever for my boyfriend. And she openly flirted with him, even when I was there in front of her. When I told my boyfriend about it, he would get mad, tell me that I was jealous for no reason, and that I was making stuff up.
Well, her and her husband began getting worse, and my boyfriend would frequently get kicked out of the house because she “wanted to kill anyone who came through the door” (what my boyfriend told me she said to him over text). Eventually he moved out, but it still bothered me because she would call him and text him, asking my boyfriend if they could hang out. We’ve had a lot of fights over her because she keeps butting herself into our lives, and she’s a toxic friend, but it’s like he can’t see that. I’m not jealous about her because I know he doesn’t like her like that, but it hurts that he doesn’t understand how I feel about this situation. I’ve told him that I’m going to unfriend her on FB and he got mad at me, saying it’d cause a lot of drama between her and him, but when I asked why it mattered since he always says she’s not his friend anyway, he wouldn’t answer.
I don’t know what to do about this. My boyfriend and I are in a long distance relationship (we’ve been dating for a little over a year and a half), but when he’s home, she’s constantly trying to see him and get together with him. I’m at a loss about what to do, especially because talking to my boyfriend about it results in fights. Any advice would be great.
This old answer is relevant, because you don’t have a toxic friend-of-a-friend problem, you have a boyfriend problem. HE has a toxic friend problem, but your problem is how much of this he allows to impact your life.
- Your boyfriend disinvites you from events to please this person.
- Your boyfriend tells you to disbelieve the evidence of your own eyes when this person flirts with him in front of you and calls you a liar.
- Your boyfriend tells you to override your own boundaries and remain friends with her on Facebook against your wishes.
I don’t know how you and he will work all this out over the long term, but I have some concrete suggestions for you that are about things you can control right now:
1) Disengage from her. Block the “friend” on all social media. Not unfriend/unfollow. Block. You will become invisible to her, she will become invisible to you, your long-distance life will become immediately better. You don’t need your boyfriend’s permission to do this. Avoiding interactions someone you don’t like who doesn’t like you isn’t “causing drama,” and whatever reaction she has will not be your fault or on you at all to manage.
If he brings it up with you, you can say “I thought about what you said, but I think my life will be better without her in it, so I took the steps I needed to make that happen. You handle your friendship with her however you want to.” See also: “Tell her whatever you want to.”
2) Disengage from her…as a topic that you and your boyfriend discuss in your relationship.“You handle your friendship with her however you want to” is your new mantra whenever this person comes up in conversation. See also: “Wow.” “I don’t know.” & “Huh.” See also: Changing the subject.
Boyfriend: “Listen to this ridiculous text that Toxic sent me, blah blah blah.”
Him: “I mean, what is she thinking? She blah blah blah blah blah.”
You: “Huh. So, how did class go today?”
Him: “But what do you think I should do about her threats and demands blah blah blah blah.”
You: “I don’t know. We still on for the movie on Sunday?”
Him: “I know you don’t like Toxic, are you trying to tell me you don’t have an opinion?”
You: “I have opinions about her (those opinions are: I don’t like her/that was really inappropriate/I don’t like how she treats you, etc.), but you run your friendship with her however you want to. So, about Sunday…”
Keep an even, chill tone of voice in these discussions, if you can. Disengage, as much as you can, from having a strong reaction to anything he says about her. Change the pattern where he tells you all about her and then you get riled up and now it’s an argument between the two of you over what he’s tolerating from her (basically her dream scenario).
3) Choose your battles. I think she does not treat him well (to say the least), and that he would probably be happier cutting her out of his life, but that’s his decision to make and no one can tell him what to do. It might be that he puts up with her to maintain his friendship with her husband. It may be that the way she behaves is manageable…for him. Whether they stay friends is not within your control, and it’s not really worth investing your energy in convincing him of this. Focus your energy on your relationship with him, and if there is conflict, focus that on the expectations you have about how you need to be treated. For instance:
- When you visit him, you don’t want to hang out with her, and you’d appreciate it if he didn’t make plans with her while you’re in town, especially since you get to see each other so seldom.
- If you do end up running into her, he should act as a buffer. When she says weird mean things, he should be the one to be like “nice seeing you, we gotta go” and not make you the bad guy.
- The accusations that you are making things up have got to stop. Does he really think you are lying about her behaviors? That’s him being pretty disrespectful to you.
He may not react well to some of this boundary-setting, especially in the short term, especially under increased pressure from her as she senses that you’ve stopped paying attention to her. Maybe with some time, you modeling healthy behavior will rub off on him, and he’ll be grateful for a refuge from her drama. But whatever happens, be firm and do not get sucked in. “You want to be friends with her, cool, but I only have 15 minutes to Skype today and I don’t want my time with you to be another analysis of this person’s emotional state.” She’s gonna do whatever she’s gonna do. The question is, how does your boyfriend treat you when you stand up for yourself and set boundaries around how much this person is allowed to intrude on your life?