#888 & #889: “That thing you did is not cool, friend.”

Blanket statement: Friendships have to be able to withstand boundary-setting and communications that certain behaviors are not cool, like “You are hurting my feelings” or “That thing you did is not okay, could you stop?” If you are always biting your tongue when the other person hurts your feelings, what you have is not a friendship.

Example #888:

Ahoy Captain,

(Note: I am girl and use she/her pronouns. Also, I changed all my friends’ names).

So I’ve been having some problems with a friend, Jasper (also female). She’s been snapping at me more than usually, especially over little things ( saying “Your laugh really annoys me” and “Please stop singing. If you can pronounce this, don’t even bother trying to learn it.”). This criticisms have gotten so frequent that I feel like I need to stay completely silent all the time, lest I stand on a landmine.

She also never answering any of my messages, even though she talks with our other friends all the time on Skype. I then have to call her for any confirmations, which she snaps at me for and demands I keep it to texts (which she rarely answers). It got so bad one time, because I was essentially stuck at her house till 9 at night, waiting for an answer to texts. Meanwhile, she had picked up a couple of our buddies and they were hanging out in town, playing Pokemon Go. I thought this would change things, but she would still ignore my texts when I want to plan things.

My friends, Skellington and Steven, have basically told me that this is getting too much. Steven even said, “The last time we hung out with you and Jasper, I felt so awkward. It was like I was only invited just to watch her tear you down.” The only reason why they can’t speak out if because they can’t drive and usually Jasper is their ride.

I started taking measures to distance myself from Jasper, but a part of me really does hope we can reconnect in better, healthier terms. I have blocked her on everything (except her phone number because she never texts me) and I’m not gonna hang with her for awhile. I also started reconnecting with friends I use to have before I got completely absorbed by Jasper. I am building a team me around me (which already consists of my mom, Skellington, and Steven).

So what I really want, Cap, is a script for when I finally confront Jasper. I really do want to connect with her, but I know I need to tell her what she did was not right.I want to try to mend the fences before I have to resort to possibly burning a bridge. Can you help find the words to say to a toxic friend?


Lapis Lazuli

Dear Lapis,

You are doing all the right stuff to take care of yourself (minimizing contact with Jasper, prioritizing other friends). Keep doing that thing and maybe time will do its work and let the friendship end of its own accord.

I don’t know that you can “mend fences” with someone who constantly picks at you, not to mention someone who avoids you. It doesn’t sound like she likes you or wants to be friends anymore, I’m sorry. I think the tactic here is to keep ignoring her until/unless she actively seeks you out, at which point you could either try having a big talk along the lines of “Hey, I don’t like how you’ve been treating me, what’s going on with the constant belittling one second and avoiding me the next?” (at which point one or both of you admits that you’re not really feeling the friendship these days) or you could try waiting until she does or says something unkind and then saying “Hey, that’s pretty unkind, could you not?” and seeing how she reacts.

I think the big talk where you confront Jasper is unlikely to have the outcome you want (unless the outcome you want is extreme defensiveness & blame). A better strategy is to call out a specific instance of bad behavior in the moment. Someone you can make peace with is going to say some variant of “You’re right, I’m sorry” and then stop doing the unkind thing. Someone you can’t make peace with is going to explain how you are misinterpreting or exaggerating and how it’s not their fault anyhow. Even if it doesn’t help you right now with Jasper, maybe you could practice this skill a little bit and learn how not to go silent in the face of conflict. One way is to start speaking up more in low-stakes interactions, even if it’s just stating preferences – “Steven, I like that sweater on you!” “No thanks, Skellington, I don’t want anything to eat right now.” “That meeting time won’t work for me, could we do something earlier?” The more you practice, the easier it gets, and the less tongue-tied you’ll be in higher-stakes interactions, like when your supposed “friend” is telling you they are annoyed by your laugh and you can say, “Really? My laugh? Why would you think I want to know about that?”

Example #889:

Dear Captain,

I have become friends with (Friend), a work colleague, over the last few years while they’ve been getting through a domestic crisis (separation from an abusive partner), through which I have provided some support and advice. Friend’s life is improving gradually professionally as well as personally now, and a few months ago she was promoted to a position of greater responsibility at work.

Unfortunately she has responded to this new position by behaving like a real jerk from time to time – not to me (I’m not in her area), but to people who are under her, and in no position to defend themselves. She will tell me stories about things she’s done to people, machinating against them, yelling at them, and so on. In the most recent one she yelled at someone over the phone at some length, who had made a minor and unintentional error. She tells these stories clearly because she’s proud of herself; she sees herself as standing up to bullies in these situations. She has no idea, as far as I can tell, that she is behaving badly.

I understand how her background in a lengthy abusive relationship would predispose her to be confused about what “standing up for yourself” really looks like, at the same time as it would make her really want to do that. But in fact she is behaving abusively herself, now that she’s got enough power to be able to do so.

I’m never around when these things are happening, to intervene; she tells me later. You could argue that it’s none of my business, but it is my business, in that she is telling me, and in that I am beginning to feel as if I don’t want to be her friend anymore if she’s going to be abusive to people who can’t defend themselves.

What do I say? How do I conduct an intervention here? Or do I slide gracefully into the woodwork and just stop being available to see her?


self-righteous and judgmental church lady

Dear Church Lady,

If you were this person’s supervisor, there would be material for a long talk or series of talks about management styles, how to motivate people, how to communicate when someone has made a mistake, and other “How To Be A Manager” topics. It sounds like she could use some training around all of this stuff, at very least. Perhaps that uncomfortable talk is coming in her near future. Let’s hope, for her direct reports’ sake!

Not being her manager, your reaction can be less about “documenting incidents for HR” or “finding the teachable moment” and more about “being an appalled human being,” for instance:

  • “I don’t know how to react to this story; it doesn’t present you in a good light.”
  • “Wow, that seems like a really harsh reaction to an innocent mistake by (employee).”
  • “Wow, it sounds like you yell at these folks a lot. What’s that about?”
  • “Wow, that story is pretty uncomfortable. Why are you telling me this?”
  • “Wow, that story is pretty uncomfortable. What does your manager say about how to handle things like that?”
  • “Am I missing some context here? It sounds like you are the one who is out of line.”
  • “How does (employee) react when you spoke to them that way?”
  • “How is it ‘standing up to bullies’ when you are the boss and the one with the power?”
  • “Wow, that story is also disturbing. Are you noticing a pattern here? This seems like way too much conflict for something so innocuous/simple.”

I would not bring up her recent personal relationship history or psychology or reasons you think this might be happening. That way lies Extreme Defensiveness Town, Population: There Is No Winning Any Arguments Here. Keep your response focused on the specific story she is telling you and the specific behaviors. Maybe float something like “There has been so much conflict in the stories you’ve been telling me lately. Have you thought about getting some management training or asking your boss to help you lessen the amount of conflict in your department? As your friend, and someone who knows your work well, I think you could use some support/some new tactics/to give people a break/some strategies for keeping your cool.

If this is how she treats her staff, you’re probably taking a trip to Defensiveness Town anyhow, so your question about fading into the woodwork is on point. Make yourself less available, and when you do see her, disengage from serious topics and inviting confidences & keep your conversations very light. It sounds like your friendship was very helpful to her during a difficult time in her life, but you are no longer wanting to serve as her chief work confidant. Do what you can to steer your conversations away from “Here is the dirt!” to “Seen Ghostbusters yet?

tl;dr If the person truly is your friend, engage directly with the crappy behaviors and trust that the caring you have for each other and your friend’s innate goodness will carry the day. “Not cool, friend” does not mean “I hate you!”

If they are not your friend (or their “goodness” is particularly “deep down” of late), engage anyway, and take the risk of a conflict that ends the friendship.

In any case, “appalled silence” is not working. It is too easily mistaken for assent.




182 thoughts on “#888 & #889: “That thing you did is not cool, friend.”

  1. re 888 – reminds me of the lead up to my ‘best-friend’ dumping me. We’d been inseparable at primary school, went to different (but next door) secondary schools. She got new friends, but I was still her best-friend and she mine. Till she started mocking me in front of all her new friends, leaving me out or inviting me to things only to ignore me/make me an object of derision. I can’t remember the precise moment my heart broke, but it was a particular laughing at me (already cripplingly shy) at her house. I just got my stuff and walked home, crying. The next day we walked to school together as normal, and I slipped a break-up note (i.e. we’re obviously not friends any more, don’t know what I’ve done, it sucks, but I get it).

    I just wasn’t cool enough for her, and she wasn’t very cool at her new school, so I was apparently making her look even worse.

    Yeah – it hurt. But she was young and insecure and doing what she felt she had to to feel popular. The fact those friends then screwed her over… well. Not my problem. She’s a decent human now, but we have literally nothing in common. We’d have ceased being friends eventually. I spent more time with my other friends, got decent friends; you know, loyal ones who’d give back what I put in.

    Someone’s showing you what they are – believe them. Friend, partner or colleague. And I wouldn’t even bother confronting them unless you have to interact; they’re not worth your energy. I’d just drift elsewhere. But I’m non-confrontational. Or was.

    1. “Someone’s showing you what they are – believe them.”

      Yeah, this is a lesson that takes some time to learn. We make excuses for people, and sometimes that’s justified (everyone has asshole days… but most of us apologize after!) but eventually you have to decide that it doesn’t really matter WHY they behave a certain way. The fact that they think it’s okay to do so is reason enough to let them drift away.

      1. It seems to be a common theme among letter writers, this idea that if you can find an explanation for someone’s behavior and then say the right things about it, then everything will take care of itself. But putting words to a problem doesn’t actually solve it – actions do.

    2. So much this.

      There are people in this world who want an entourage they can shit on. That is their entertainment. And people join their entourage because sometimes anything else looks too lonely and isolated.

      It takes courage to drop these people. But you are so right — anyone whose entertainment is belittling you is not your friend.

      Related to the other letter — I’m the witness to a relationship (thankfully not mine) where one person vacillates between distance and trying to run the other person’s life, then being annoyed when the person doesn’t want to be controlled and asserts themself.

      The vacillating person had a role model who insisted that the price of the relationship was submission and following orders. This apparently is the only model for relationships — boss or servant.

      It’s none of my business and I’m staying out of it, but my heart is so sad for everyone involved. It’s hard to relearn these things if your history is full of bad dynamics.

    3. Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m glad your ex friend grew out of it. Maybe your note prompted a period of growth for her?

      I personally found, recently, that writing a letter neatly summarizing my issues with the person at hand worked well.

      LW- if you go the letter route:

      -Keep things focused on things they did, and how those things made you feel.

      – Do not respond to manipulative or punishing behaviors. If someone contacts with a genuine apology and reconciliation, you can decide to engage or not.

      – What do you want out of this? Initially, I was open to reconciliation. However, I made clear in my letter that I was not interested in any more shenanigans or being sucked into the same old toxic bs.

      -Try to keep the letter gentle but firm. “You did xyz, that is not ok because those behaviors are manipulative/abusive/coercive, I don’t like these behaviors, you’re better than that.”

      -Block this person on social media prior to writing the letter. People can get upset even with the nicest, sweetest letter, and decide to go to social media and drag everyone else into a private matter. If you do get back together, you can unblock.

      -You may do the slow fade. Confrontation is not right for every person or every situation.

    4. Oh wow SmallestGoat – I had an almost identical experience with my primary-to-secondary best friend, the only difference being that she broke up with me in the end, rather than vice versa. It must be a really common dynamic among some people.

    5. I agree. Confronting Jasper just sounds like a bad idea. I think fading out might be best though I can understand wanting to attempt a ‘come to Jesus’ talk if preserving the friendship is something you want to do.

      Also don’t get trapped in an unhealthy fusion under the sea! That rarely leads to anything good.

    6. Wow. I went through almost exactly that as a kid. The friend in question admitted to me one time (when we were still young; conversations now are infrequent and of the “where are you living now? how’s the family?” nature) that they way she treated me was the way her new friends treated her when I wasn’t around. Sigh.

  2. In my experience, if a “friend” has responded to “Hey, this thing you did was not nice and upset me” with anything other than “Gosh, I’m sorry, I will try not to do that anymore,” the friendship is over. Defensive justifications of behavior, tossing blame back to you for behaving that way, asking not to be judged for behaving that way, and downplaying the relative badness of the behavior all signal “your feelings are not important to me.” At this point, once a person has signaled that your feelings do not matter to them, it is, in my opinion, OK to walk away from the friendship, with or without explanation. If your feelings don’t matter to them, why should theirs matter to you?

    1. Mm, behavior’s important too. Personally, I know I do tend to be defensive when confronted, sometimes overly so. It takes me time* to process and commit to altering behaviors I didn’t know to be hurtful. So sometimes it may be appropriate to look past the content of that first discussion and see what actually happens next.

      *Time like “a day or two to think about things,” not time like “I will continue to be a shit to you indefinitely.”

      1. But the content of that first discussion *is* important behavior and important information. It says “My immediate reaction to criticism is not to listen to you telling me I hurt you; it’s to protect myself by reacting defensively.”

        That doesn’t automatically mean people who do this are malicious or are terrible friends! Especially for people who are accustomed to abusive environments, reacting immediately to deflect blame can be a hard habit to break.

        But it does mean that other people are allowed to decide they can’t maintain a close friendship under those circumstances.

        1. Right, people get to disengage for any reason they want, really, but I think it’s a bit of a jump to go immediately to ‘the friendship is over’. I think reacting defensively is a piece of information that people can use to decide if they want to continue a relationship. I’m just uncomfortable with the degree of prescriptivism in the original comment, especially since initial defensiveness is a really, really common reaction even among people who are not otherwise assholes.

          tl;dr, you don’t have to be friends with someone who reacts defensively to being told their behavior is unacceptable, but I wouldn’t immediately jump to ‘the friendship is already over.’

      2. Yep. As a (mostly, I think) reformed Jasper, I know my go-to strategy to being confronted with bad behavior would almost certainly still be to launch a scathing Reasons You Suck speech against my confronter.

        Granted, the reason I know this about myself is because up until an embarrassingly low number of years ago, my way of pushing people I no longer liked out of my life was by, well, behaving like Jasper, so I can’t say as I’ve had that problem of late…but I imagine I’d still need the cooling-off period if I were addressed by someone whose company I wanted to continue enjoying, due to the “raise shields, return fire” mechanism being so ingrained.

    2. With the caveat that “try not to do that anymore” can take many different forms.

      You are allowed to prioritize things over another person’s feelings without kicking them to the curb entirely.

      1. Yes. In this case, the person’s actions are pretty clearly unacceptable (I can’t think of a mitigating circumstance that would cause a reasonable person to push back on a request that they stop making fun of someone’s laugh). But there are cases where one person can say “please do/don’t do this thing, it hurts my feelings” and another person can decide that they can’t comply with that. I had one friend who had a very, very strong reaction (bordering on a trigger, I think) to plans being canceled at the last minute, so her “rule” was that her friends must never, never cancel any later than three days before the event for any reason. She was really, genuinely hurt and upset by these cancellations. But one of our mutual friends does work with foster children (on top of a really busy schedule), and sometimes if one of those children was in crisis, she’d have to prioritize that over her own social engagements… including potentially canceling on Friend 1.

        The difference is that she didn’t say “oh sure, okay, I understand” when she had the three-day rule and the reason for it explained to her and then cancel anyway. She said, “I don’t think that’s something I can do.” And they had to figure out how to navigate the friendship given that the thing that one person needed to avoid really bad feelings was not something the other person could 100% commit to. Sometimes you can find a compromise, sometimes you can’t, but the only way to find out is to have the conversation.

        (And sometimes the request is in and of itself sufficiently out there that there’s not much you can do–I’m thinking of the number of times that a parent has said “it hurts me that you chose to change your name” or “it hurts me that you chose to get a tattoo” or “It hurts me that you left my religion.” There’s really nothing to say there, beyond “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to do anything differently.”)

        But that’s a tangent, because I’m trying to imagine having an honest conversation with a friend about why they can’t commit to not insulting my voice, and failing.

  3. Sometimes people make themselves out to be a lot meaner or tougher than they are in their own stories. I know several people who will tell a story of, for example, talking to a customer service rep on the phone with fairly rude remarks. Yet in actual situations that I’ve personally witnessed, they were not as demanding or rude. I think they want to give the impression of being “strong” and so exaggerate their rudeness or assertiveness. So, it’s possible that this coworker friend is not being truthful, but trying to make herself seem stronger to her friend.

      1. I think your advice still stands. Point out the inappropriateness/over-the-top-ness over her reaction, and then maybe the truth will come out. If you’re then supportive of the truth, then she won’t feel the need to exaggerate her assertiveness.

        1. That’s a very good point and I agree; I had a friend who was very prone to over-exaggerating everything that he did and others did to the point that I never took anything he said seriously anymore. He would also generally stand by his claims if I tested them gently with phrases like “wow, that seems unusual” or “that sounds pretty extreme”. He generally got pretty defensive that I was insinuating that he was being hyperbolic. But there were many, MANY times when he was definitely using hyperbole because his stories made no sense in the real world.

          I found it incredibly irritating because I felt like I was constantly playing a guessing game with him about what’s true and what’s over-blown. I like to be able to take my friends seriously, and playing guess-the-exaggeration every minute was exhausting. I brought it up to him point-blank on a couple of occasions and just got more defensiveness. I ended up sorta letting the friendship drift off once he no longer worked with me.

          So I agree with you that the Captain’s advice is good, even in this case. But there’s a possibility that Friend will stick by their story, even if it’s not true, because exaggerating things for dramatic effect is just how they roll. Then the LW should consider if that’s something she’s willing to put up with constantly or not.

        2. That’s what I do to my friend who does it. I also do it when she tells me something rude someone else supposedly said about me (when I know it’s all her). It tends to work quite well.

      2. Sometimes asking “did you actually say that to them??” helps to clear up what went down. I often say “and then i was like, well screw this then” and I’m describing my attitude shifting while it sounds to other people that I said that to my supervisor.

        1. agreed. I often ask this clarifying question when I’m listening about friends’ work stories.

        2. Hahaha “–I didn’t say that, I just thought it” is a frequent clarification in my work-related stories.

    1. I’ve definitely seen that (no clue if that’s what’s going on here). In that case, I actually think that the Captain’s response is still entirely appropriate. If that is what’s going on, a “wow, that sounds pretty unkind” or “oof, you seem to talk about yelling at your employees a lot, and it’s making me uncomfortable” will signal that her pose is backfiring on her by making her look jerkish instead of strong. (And if she really is yelling a lot, it’s still an appropriate response.)

    2. In which case, all of the Captain’s scripts are perfect, because Friend can then say “well, okay, actually I didn’t YELL at her, I just said blah blah blah….” and, one hopes, will slowly realize that her stories are not actually, as she intends, making her out to be a badass.

    3. My brother is like this, He has a pretty boisterous personality with people he is close to, and often this will present itself in stories where he gave a customer the business or told off a superior. But in public he’s very polite and on the reserved side. From experience I now know he doesn’t actually do the rude things he says he does. He’s not even purposefully lying or trying to deceive…it seems like revising the story is an outlet or his way of venting since he couldn’t actually behave that way. Don’t know if that’s the case with LW.

      I agree that the Captain’s approach still works and is what I do. Usually I will say “Isn’t that a bit harsh?” in response to the story, at which point he will clarify that it didn’t really happen the way he said.

    4. Also I need to point out that there are people who are uncomfortable when others are direct (but still kind) and consider it being mean.
      EX: I recently started a book club. I had stupidly put something on Facebook asking if there were friends who wanted to join and one woman jumped at the opportunity. I had gone to high school with this woman, we’d been merely acquaintances at best then and I hadn’t seen her in years. She joined the club and immediately it was clear she was going to be a distraction, but I gave her several months. Other members of the club came to me and complained that she was hard to deal with, she derailed conversation, etc. Basically…I wanted her out, but I didn’t want to come off as a huge bitch. Because all of our communication was done through text or email I sent her an email explaining that while I was happy to see others loving books as much as I did, that she wasn’t really a good fit for the group and I was limiting the group to people in my area only (she drove some distance to be there and complained about it each month). I wasn’t mean, I wasn’t insulting, I wished her the best, but I let her know that it wasn’t working out. She handled it with grace and thanked me for letting her know and hoped that we would keep in touch.
      When I explained what I had done at the next meeting I was accused of being mean. I wasn’t mean. I had been aware that someone’s feelings would be hurt, but I wasn’t going to continue being miserable month after month just to spare someone’s feelings. My feelings are important too.

      All this to say: if the LW is at all uncomfortable with direct, honest communication then it’s possible she’s projecting “mean” and “inappropriate” into the dialogue herself. Please be clear…I’m not trying to defend bad behavior. If the friend is, indeed, yelling and belittling employees than that is not appropriate. But as someone who has been accused of “yelling” when I’m using a firm voice and the volume of my voice hasn’t changed a bit or who has been accused of being mean when I am being direct (I was written up once for expressing my opinion about an efficiency issue to another employee at a brainstorming meeting to discuss efficiency issues!…and it made it negatively onto my annual review!) I find it hard to even share aspects of my day without facing criticism from others.

      1. This is true. A lot of my current behaviors can probably be described by observers as rude, even though I swear I’m not disengaging from/refusing to engage in conversations with strangers out of cruelty; I would simply rather engage with the book I brought into whichever restaurant or coffee shop I’m in than with other patrons, and I get the feeling that it’d be perceived as even ruder to explain that I’d prefer my book’s company than to simply pretend I didn’t hear the other person/smile tightly and quickly return to said book.

        There is, however, an extra-special level of fraughtness associated with hierarchical (? I wasn’t certain whether Colleague was LW’s supervisor; could be reading comprehension fail) work relationships that there isn’t with anonymous fellow food and tea connoisseurs, so I’d think it’d be in LW 889’s favor to use the Captain’s scripts in hopes of, at minimum, gaining clarity on friend’s intent with these stories.

        1. This is all extremely helpful, thank you! I had not thought of the possibility that my colleague is simply exaggerating. Appalled silence is not working but simply reacting mildly dubiously Will give her the hint she needs that the stories are not serving their intended effect. Whether she is exaggerating for effect, or is actually doing exactly what she says, a dubious reaction will have the same effect of telling her she should rethink. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that, except that in our previous interactions I have taken such care to be nothing but positive and reinforcing, which was what she really needed then. And I was indeed afraid that “hey, that thing you say you said, sounds a bit harsh” it sounds a bit harsh” equaled “I hate you now and we aren’t friends anymore”. But of course it doesn’t need to mean that at all. Confrontation doesn’t come naturally to me, I usually have to be angry to do it, but that is not what called for here. Thank you. LW

          1. I’m most likely autistic, so it took me yeeeeeeeeears to figure out that just as much, if not more, could be communicated in a single facial expression instead of my preferred oral dissertations. I’m glad you figured out that dubiousness is the way to go here!

  4. I figure that the big confrontation would not yield the perfect results. It’s been a week and I’m slowly realizing that Jasper’s behavior has not only affected my relationship with her, but everyone else’s with her.

    Steven and Skellington are both mad at her for how she treated me. They are slowly not considering her as their friends anymore and have been hanging out with other peeps. We had other friend that use to hang with Jasper that don’t anymore: Dorian, V, Bea. Jasper had an explosive argument with Dorian that resulted in V and Dorian splitting away from her. Steven also told me that Bea has wanted nothing to do with Jasper anymore (when I originally thought that Bea was just so busy with his job).

    I guess one of the things I had problems with is that she will contact me whenever her house is open . . . but never contacts me whenever I wanted to make plans. I could have understood if it was “I’m sorry, I’m busy” kinda thing . . . but she will actively ignore all of my invitations and talk to other peeps whenever they talk in our skype chatrooms.

    I guess it’s gotten hard to see the good that she had when we were buddies: she told me to be more confident and assertive, she got me into a ton of fandoms, we give each other gifts, we room at cons, and . . . . honestly, all the negative stuff now has made it hard to recall all the good things.I want to be on good terms with Jasper, cuz they were there, but I can’t recall them now. Maybe it’s because it’s still only be a week.

    Thank you for the advice, Captain. I’ve always been a pushover, and it wasn’t until college when I had some actual friends that I hung out with outside of school and club — consisting of Jasper and the rest of the group.

    1. I had a friend like that once. We were really good friends but then she started only wanting to do things with me on her terms: i.e., when she had no other more-interesting plans or other, cooler friends to hang out with. We drifted apart a few months later for natural reasons, but I really wish I had had the self-respect to decline to be her Plan Z and to just let that friendship go.

      I would suggest being “busy” whenever she wants to hang out with you from now on. Your other friends seem cool and like good people! Maybe invite them to do things WITHOUT her.

    2. Some people have a toxic pattern of behavior wherein they develop a “whipping boy” member of their friend group that they use to heap abuse on. As the friend that they pick on gets tired of it and exits stage right, a new member of the friend group takes over that role. It sounds like maybe Jasper might be doing that with your circle, and it’s your turn to be the dumping ground?

      1. My friend has a friendship group like this. (I used to know some of them but cut them out of my life years ago because they were horrible). Recently he told me a story about how happy he was about something that happened the last time they were all together- they had all been making fun of him (he was the ‘whipping boy’ and seemed to take this for granted) but but! He managed to cleverly switch them to making fun of another guy in the group! (And one of the youngest I should add.) He did this by basically being an asshole to the younger guy. I was just like ‘..wow. That’s awful.’ And I said ‘look, I’m fine if you want to talk about these assholes being nasty to you if you insist on being friends with them in the first place, but I’m not going to co-sign you being a dick!’

      2. yeeaah, abusers have a thing where they’ll put on a non-abusive front to other people in a group but single out one. Friends can be abusive too, it’s not just limited to romantic partners. felt like dropping that line ’cause sometimes it’s not obvious to people and that sucks.

    3. It sounds like, for whatever reason, Jasper cannot be your friend right now.

      I’m sorry. Good memories hurt in that situation.

      Sometimes people change temporarily due to bad shit going down in their life. You could try giving it 6 months. Don’t reach out at all. Treat her contacting you the way she treats you contacting her – don’t reply unless you’re actively bored and without anything else do to. Don’t go to her place at all. Don’t invite her over. Don’t hang out in groups. Give her a lot of space. After six months, reach out and see if anything has changed.

      But – sometimes people change and don’t go back. And sometimes, people change temporarily, but their behavior is bad enough during that time that its not worth rekindling later even if they chill out. And sometimes its not a change, its just finally seeing how they always behaved. From what you’ve described, I’d personally block Jasper everywhere, and start organizing stuff for my friends, say that the event is invite only, and not invite her. I’d also ask friends to tell me if they’re inviting her to a group thing, and explain that if she might come, I won’t go.

    4. Lapis, the good times and experiences you had with Jasper are part of your past and they remain a positive part of your past, even if Jasper is no longer part of your present or your future.
      Good memories aren’t negated just because they’re not repeatable. Please don’t let your sorrow that they can’t happen again keep you from cherishing good memories.

      And look at it this way, Jasper really did help you be more assertive and outgoing: which you’re showing by not putting up with her nonsense any more. You’re getting the last laugh there!

  5. I would like this phrase embroidered on a pillow, mass-produced, and handed out to everyone everywhere: “Appalled silence is too easily mistaken for assent.”

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    1. Can I make one of those picture quotes of this & attribute it to you (I’d attribute it to CA except this isn’t exactly what she said & I like the pithiness of it).

  6. I had a friend once who said/did X that hurt my feelings. I said, hey, could you cut that out, because? She did not understand why it was painful to me, and told me that if I had done X to her, it would not bother her. As we both knew we were very different people, and had a history of deep discussions, we talked it all out. She went away understanding the *why* I didn’t like X, I understood why she did not care about X. I thought we were good. So did she.

    Then, she did X again. And I reminded her about everything, and she said, shocked, “I thought we talked about this”. I allowed that we had. It turned out that she believed that once I got a handle on her point of view, that I would automatically adopt it because it was obviously *correct* and that I had been *irrational* previously. Having great faith in me, she presumed that I would take up her stance on the subject because it was so obviously *right*.

    I was baffled and asked her if there was any situation in which she would stop doing X. Turned out, no there wasn’t. She was right and I was irrational. So irrational me wandered off into the sunset. I don’t wish her any ill, I’m sorry it turned out that way. But my Job One is me. She seemed to think it should be Her.

    1. That seems to be that way for me and Jasper. Jasper is more outgoing and brash, and I am more quiet. I’m starting to realize is that all of her talk about making me more assertive and outgoing is resulting in the very opposite, that I am getting more and more quiet. I feel like I’m walking on landmines whenever I talked to her as of late, and even my friends are beginning to feel the same.

      She’s already exploded on 2 people, resulting in them severing ties with her. I feel that I’m just going to be yet another one.

      1. On the bright side – you do have a team you if your friends are noticing this too.

        If yet another one leaving helps her get the point, then great. If not, then at least your life will have a little less darkness in it.

      2. Why on earth does she think it’s HER job to make you the opposite of what you are? To what end? Is she going to whip out a medal if you manage to (miserably) make yourself over into how she thinks you should be? How incredibly patronizing and presumptuous.

      3. Funnily enough, the person who kept telling me to stand up for myself and not be so wet (she often did it in a hurtful, immensely pressurising way that yanked me right out of my comfort zone unnecessarily rather too often) was the person I was most afraid of because she bullied me so much. She insisted we were best friends and I had to spend every moment of my spare time with her, no choice in the matter. (We were kids at the time.)

        If it weren’t for her I’d be a lot less assertive and probably achieved a LOT less in my life than I have.

        But also without her, I’d have had a few years of my childhood back when I could actually spend the time I wasn’t at school engaging in stuff I liked. When we went to separate secondary schools and she started hanging out with a new friend she met there, I rejoiced. And let her slowly slip away from my life.

        Point is, although in some ways she did me favours, I owe her nothing. Her bullying cancelled out anything good she ever did for me.

      4. Possibly weird question, and please don’t hesitate if you’d rather not answer: How did the thing where Jasper wants you to be more assertive and outgoing get started? Like, at one point, was this consensual and/or something you wanted for yourself, or has it never really been?

    2. Yikes!

      I had a SO once with the same attitude. “X is not a big deal to me so it isn’t to you either” where X ran the gamut from running errands for her on no notice to keeping shtum when she let herself into my apartment and borrowed clothes without asking.

      So yeah. Sometimes you can give up your preferences, sometimes you can’t.

    3. Oooh, yes, that rings a big bell for me. I’ve run into similar things, where when I thought we were mutually sharing our experiences and responses to things, what they thought was happening was that they were telling me the correct way to be. So I’d walk away thinking, “Wow, I really think they understand me better now, things should go much more smoothly!” and they’d walk away thinking something like, “Wow, I really made my case, I’m sure she’ll see things my way in the future!”

      In some ways it reminded me of the “Logic Wins” Geek Relationship Fallacy; if something hurts my feelings, and they don’t think my feelings should be hurt, they want to be able to make an argument that will make my inconvenient feelings go away (or at least they want me to act as though the inconvenient feelings have gone away). And they think I should agree with that and be grateful for being shown the error of my ways, because obviously their “rational” responses are superior to my “irrational” ones (and never mind that, honestly, most of the people who have felt that way were responding based on emotion too–they just had some justification for why their feelings were logic-driven and mine were not). But you also see it along other differences as well; I see this a lot in Hint vs. Statement cultural conflicts, where Statement types want to be able to just tell Hint types to stop doing that and start being more direct, and then are often kind of baffled when that doesn’t work. Or in the “I’m just being honest” species of insult, as if simply announcing to someone that your opinion is “honest truth” makes it so, and thus means that they’re somehow not allowed to be insulted by it.

      In all those cases, it’s a case of assuming that there is a correct way to be a person, and obviously discussions around feelings are a way to find out who’s Right, at which point they get to win and you have to do things their way. But it ain’t so. People and cultures are waaaaayyyyy more complex than that.

      1. Yes, and often those very same people will have their *own* things that bother them…but somehow*those* things are never subject to the same “feelings are irrational” rule. It’s like..”If I hurt your feelings, I didn’t mean to, so you shouldn’t be hurt. But if my feelings are hurt, obviously it’s because you did something terrible!”

        1. Ooh, I know this one! There’s a name for this: Fundamental Attribution Error. Oversimplified, it comes down to “I do xyz because of these perfectly understandable reasons and circumstances, while you do xyz because you are inherently flawed.” Here’s an article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

          I think this is also related to “You need to get off my foot”: https://hoydenabouttown.com/2013/01/30/nugget-of-awesome-you-need-to-get-off-my-foot/

      2. There’s also the lovely variant, “my way is more moral and yours is obviously immoral.” That was my brother’s favorite tactic – he’s a big user, and he’ll defend it by saying he believes that it’s important to be selfless and share and that if anyone wants something, they should feel free to take it. Implying, of course, that anyone who disagrees is selfish and immoral. And he thinks that just stating that means that he wins the argument and can therefore steal your stuff – and what do you mean you’re still mad at him?

    4. Also, the Actual Friend response would be: “Well, Anti Kate is irrational about this thing which does not bother me. However, it bothers here. Because I care about her feelings, I will stop doing and saying X even if I think it’s silly and not worth being bothered about, because she asked me too.”

      1. Yes this.

        It’s not about whether I agree with — or even understand — the reasons for being bothered by whatever. It’s about respecting them as a person, and respecting our friendship, and not doing the problem thing (or apologizing if I slip up).

        Obviously this only applies to things I can control; if someone is bothered by e.g. me being in a wheelchair, we won’t be friends for long.

        1. Absolutely – at the end of the day friendship is about accepting someone. We all have our flaws or qwirks and how we navigate those shows how much we love one another.

          For example my dad is sprain goes-too-far and defensive, but if you hold back and give him time and room he always circles back to apologise. My friend has some weird superstitions like saluting magpies and not looking at te backs of ambulances and after the inevitable kid-phase of teasing a bit because is so illogical, now we’re older we don’t comment on it and she can do her thing. Same with a friend with aspergers who can be rather condescending at times but would be appalled if he knew it was offensive and its balancing the when is appropriate to call him out on it and when is appropriate to let it slide because the intentions aren’t harmful.
          Hell I have my own crappy sides and friends patient enough to balance when is appropriate to let it slide and when to call it out.

          You love someone flaws and all – even because of those flaws sometimes. And a friend works with them while not taking crap when it gets genuinely hurtful.

    5. I had a friend once for whom being assertive and saying what was bothering her was difficult so I was glad when she told me that a small thing was bothering her: I’d assumed we’d eat at one restaurant when she preferred another. It obviously meant more to her than it did to me, so I was fine with doing it her way. We talked about her feelings a lot, and I was fine with that. One time I came back from a trip I’d been able to take, and she, gathering confidence, told me that she was feeling jealous. I was sorry that I’d hurt her feelings by going on about my good luck and stopped. She admitted that she’d taken similar trips in the past, but that was how she was feeling just then, and I was glad to stop droning on about my trip, something I hadn’t realized I was doing, but that was certainly impolite, when I could have been considerate of her feelings. It continued in this way in which she shyly tell me that I was hurting her feelings, and I’d put logic aside and try not to hurt her feelings. I figured that’s what friends do.

      We’d both been single for a while when she told me quite excitedly that she’d met someone. He was married, and he was still living with his wife, but they were estranged, and wasn’t this great. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by blurting out that I couldn’t believe she was actually considering sleeping with a married man. I put my moralistic and judgmental reasons aside and managed to say that I didn’t think this was a good idea for her, that she deserved someone who could love her completely and freely. (This was in the day before any of us had heard of being poly, and our earlier talks had made it clear that we were both looking for monogamous relationships anyway.) She was still thrilled with the guy she met and assured me that his wife understood and was fine with what he was doing. I said “Really? She said that? You’ve spoken to her directly?” She said that no, but she trusted him and didn’t want to betray his trust by checking up on him. She went on to tell me that I’d hurt her feelings and why couldn’t I just be happy for her. I backed down, and we didn’t talk about her shiny new relationship after that.

      She got involved in a life transforming seminar, a whole movement that was supposed to make her more assertive, responsible, and happy. I wasn’t interested in it or her new friends, and said so, and said why, but she kept inviting me to their events. At first I turned her down cheerfully and repeatedly, just kept saying “no thank-you, I’m not interested.” I tried to invite her to do things like we used to, but she was involved with her new friends. Finally, in response to another of her invitations, I used the same phrase through clenched teeth. She practically started to cry. She told me how important this was to her and how I’d hurt her feelings, and asked why I couldn’t trust her that this was wonderful. We didn’t talk for a while.

      A few months went by, and she called. She’d realized how her new friends had taken advantage of her and added up how much money she’d lost in trying to do everything they wanted. She didn’t come out and say that I’d been right. In fact, as we were talking, I characterized the group negatively, and she upbraided me by telling me that I couldn’t possibly know. She told me straight out and assertively that I’d hurt her feelings when I said that.

      And only then did I start to get the idea. If a guy had made it clear that we’d do what he wanted, that we’d talk about the things that interested him, that we’d see his friends, and if I tripped up and made him unhappy, he’d beat me up, I’d have realized what was going on and been out of there immediately. But when a shy sweet woman my own age made the same demands or she’d accuse me of hurting her feelings, I fell for it. What was I thinking?

      tl;dr: Sometimes it is alright to want a more logical reason than “you’re hurting my feelings” to stop doing something or other. “It bothers me” is a starting point, but if “that bothers me” in return leads you to a standstill, then you’ve got a standstill, and the friendship might be over anyway.

      1. I had a friend who responded to a lot of things by saying her feelings were hurt, too. I don’t think it was abusive, but I do think it was extremely self-centered, like she didn’t see that her hurt feelings weren’t the only/most important issue. One time I hung out with her, she pestered me about something and I deflected repeatedly but she kept going until I snapped at her to stop. Then, even though she’d spent the last however-long pushing me about something I clearly didn’t want to talk about, she threw a literal tantrum and acted like she was the wronged party. Because, you know, her feelings are the only important ones.

        It took me a long time to realize that she’s always like this. (After the aforementioned situation, she said she preferred people be straightforward – but before, when I had tried to say “I don’t want to talk about this” in so many words, she STILL kept grilling me. There is no way to make her stop without causing a scene.) The only way to avoid the drama that surrounds her is to avoid her, so I decided to stop hanging out with her.

        It kind of sucks because it means I have to avoid her family as well, and sometimes our mutual friends hang out with her instead of me, but even so, I’m much happier not being around her.

        1. I think you were both friends with my mother. She would have said ALL those things. Every time I try to tell her politely and assertively about something I’d like to change about the way we interact, she throws a “you’re hurting my feelings” bomb at me and we never actually discuss the thing I want to discuss.

      2. Clarry, I think you’ve hit on something really complicated and important – this blog talks a lot about Using Your Words, which is awesome and I think a really important part of any relationship. Being able to tell someone, whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner, that you’re upset or your feelings were hurt is really important.

        But what happens when you end up in that walking on eggshells relationship, where EVERYTHING you do hurts their feelings? Or you lose the ability to figure out if they’re using their hurt feelings as a weapon to keep the upper hand? I don’t actually know if that’s been addressed anywhere in other questions on the blog.

        Comparing it to another relationship in a different context, like you did, is really helpful. In this case it definitely sounds like your friend used her “hurt feelings” as a stick to keep people in line – like the one-sidedness the Captain mentions in her blanket statement.

        I think in my decade-plus-some relationship with my best friend, I’ve only had to tell her she did something hurtful, like, twice.

        1. I do hope our Captain will weigh in on this because, like you say, it gets complicated. I certainly agree that Logic doesn’t always win because Messy Feelings are important too, but I don’t think that means that Messy (Hurt) Feelings therefore win by default. There is a place for logic and, I think, for evidence.

          There was one more last straw with that friend that I didn’t mention earlier. We’d both seen something on t.v. about incest sexual abuse, fathers fondling their daughters, and repressed memories. It was disturbing and something to think about. While talking about it, my friend seemed to be referring to earlier abuse, something she’d never told me before. It took me a moment to clarify that she was sure she herself had been abused. Not only that, she was sure she’d told me. She was hurt that I didn’t remember. I stood up for myself. I owned that if she had told me, and if I had forgotten, then surely that would be a terrible thing for a friend to do, just to blithely disregard something of that importance. However, I was equally certain that she hadn’t said anything on the subject. She was sure that she had. I asked her where we were when this supposed conversation had taken place. She couldn’t summon up the details. I asked her what I’d said at the time, what my reaction had been. Again, nothing, no particulars that I could either confirm or refute. Still, she was sure she’d told me.

          I pressed for details about her memories. She said that she’d been watching the show when something within her, a thought or a voice came to her and said “And now you have to face the fact that your father did this to you.” I was astounded. I asked her if she had any specific memory about her father, where they were, what he’d done, how old she was, anything specific. No, she didn’t remember anything like that, but she was sure.

          A clearer picture was starting to dawn on me. Her accusation that I’d listened to something that important and then forgotten it was certainly horrible, but it wasn’t against the law. Her accusation against her father was something that could land him in jail– if she had evidence, which it certainly sounded like she didn’t. I’m afraid my thoughts at that time were running towards myself and not what was starting to sound like her lunacy. I thought of how if I visited her house and something of hers went missing, she could be certain I’d stolen it, and I’d have no way to defend myself, not if inner feelings were all we were going on.

          In later years I wondered if we could have gotten into a contest to see whose feelings were most hurt with the idea that whoever has worst hurt feelings wins.

          All this said, I look back on that time and that friendship with humor. When I write it out now, it seems pretty funny.

          1. That…doesn’t sound that funny? It sounds horribly frustrating and disturbing, but not funny. I don’t know what was going through her head but I sure as hell don’t think she is likely to make a false accusation against her father. Not to mention getting an adult thrown in jail for sexual offences against a minor that no one witnessed, and as you say, no evidence, is practically impossible. He’ll be fine. Not sure she will be fine as she clearly has a lot of stuff to deal with, whether or not she has really been abused. At this point, I’m not sure it matters because there is obviously something terribly wrong. I’m glad you are away from her manipulative tendencies, of course. This is certainly not your problem to solve and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think it is.

          2. Mossyone– You’re right. I should have been more clear. There’s nothing funny about false accusation. I can’t be sure because we “broke up” soon after that conversation, but I don’t think she ever did accuse her father. I think it was just something she talked about, turned over in her mind and in chats with friends, and never acted on. The part that I can find funny now is how long I tried to make the friendship work, how earnestly I kept at it. I see it now as one of those silly things that people sometimes do and that they learn from. I put it in the same category as when a group of folks my age– we’re in our 50s– got on to the subject of first jobs. We shared and laughed about our stupid mistakes that got us fired. This can be funny now because we’ve all managed not to make the same mistakes and to keep subsequent jobs. Same with early relationships. My friendship with this woman took place when I was in my mid-20s. I’ve had plenty of healthier friendships since, and I’ve been aware of hurt feelings contests much more quickly since. I sometimes smile to myself when I see strangers engaging in them on the net.

            I don’t think that friend was abusive. I wonder if she even knew she was manipulative. I do know I was naive, but I’m also able to remember good times with her. I knew her during a time in my life when I didn’t have many other friends. In a way, she filled a gap, helped me bridge my way to people who are better for me.

          3. That’s *not* a good approach to the topic childhood sexual abuse. First of all, it’s common symptom of survivors of a trauma not to be able to name specific situations even if they remember them. (Not all, obviously, but many).Second, probing into what her father exactly did to her can trigger a psychologic crisis.
            My mother didn’t get it when 20 year old me tried to tell her about what had happened when I was five.
            A friend of mine invited someone over who had assaulted me, and I had told her, and she just forgot about it.
            It’s totally possible that e.g. she wanted to tell you and made a reference, but you didn’t pick it up.

        2. Your last sentence is a really good point. I personally don’t really have friends where we need to have the “you hurt me” or “I don’t like when you do this” conversation often, because I find that people I’m compatible with and I don’t tend to bump up against each other super often. If either a friend of mine was very frequently doing things that hurt me, or if conversely I would often step in it with them, we’d probably end up less close by no particular “plan”.

          There is a person who I like a lot, but will never be close with, because a lot of my normal behaviours/language are things that bother them, and even if I twisted myself around to never do those things, it would be making me less…me, as well as being anxious in every interaction, which is not a great start for a friendship.

        3. I’ve known people who use their hurt feelings as a method of control. It’s very hard to deal with this without feeling like you’re in the wrong, especially if they’re crying and having crises every time you try to ask them to do something differently or have the conversation not be focused on them. It can be really hard to address this. My own compromise is: their feelings are important but so are mine, and feeling suffocated, trapped, and threatened is a good enough reason for things to change.

          1. I’m feeling I’ve learned something from reading your comment, that had escaped me before.
            “You hurt my feelings” has gotten to have the position of Uncontestable Truth. But isn’t it true, that it’s the start of a conversation? What would happen if we said to Friend, “Tell me more” and made Friend own their emotion.

            Aren’t they asking us to tremble and take over figuring out why they’re hurt? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to say “Now it’s my turn to speak about this” and- or “What do you want from me at this point?”

            Any of that “My Mom always did this to me, too!” would sound to me as if, the position that Friend takes with people hasn’t changed with maturity. That’s not going to help navigate Life.

      3. Yep yep yep! If someone tells me that something I said or did was hurtful, I definitely take this as a sign to stop, calm down, and think things over. But that doesn’t mean that I am required to submit to their whims either. A lot of abusive people like to use “hurt feelings” in order to manipulate and subdue others. Examples: my mom complaining that me (transgender person) using my new name to sign emails was “hurting her feelings”. My sister saying that anytime I hung out with friends or even went on dates without her I was “hurting her feelings”. My parents saying that dating a woman against their moral values was “hurting their feelings.” My sister saying that me standing up for myself was “hurting her feelings.”

        Emotional abusers love to make you personally responsible for all of their feelings. And it’s a lie. That doesn’t mean that one should never listen if a friend says you’ve hurt them. But friendship is about compromise not acquiescence. If someone says you hurt them listen. Apologize. Talk it over. If you can avoid those behaviors with no infringement on yourself, do so. But you should also be able to openly share your own reasons for doing things and try to work out a common understanding and compromise that works for both of you.

    6. This pinged some things for me… about myself. Thank you for articulating it.

  7. Oh, #888, your letter made my heart ache for you. I think most of us have been there at some time or another, with an unbalanced relationship where you feel like you do all the communicating and get little or nothing back–not even kindness.

    I can’t tell from your letter whether she used to be a better friend to you, but what you’re describing (being insulted when you aren’t being ignored) is not friend behavior. I’m glad you have other friends who recognize that you deserve to be treated better, because you do. You deserve a lot better than how you’ve been treated–“willing to communicate” and “not frequently, actively nasty” is a really low bar for friendship, and she’s not even meeting that. On the flip side, I don’t see how you can mend a fence here, because there is no fence to mend; instead of a fence there’s a big stone wall covered in spikes. You don’t have to keep trying to climb that wall and getting poked by spikes. You can just… stop. My guess is that this person will then pass more or less out of your life, except for maybe occasionally seeing her at group events, and you will no longer be subject to guessing games and unkind remarks and can focus on your friends who do treat you well.

    I presume the reason you haven’t done that thus far is that you want to keep some hope of maintaining the friendship (especially if it used to be a good friendship), but from the outside, at this point, it just doesn’t look like there’s any real friendship there to save. Which sucks. But at least it clarifies matters.

    As I said, you have all the sympathy in the world from me, because I’ve been there, and it hurts like hell. But I think you’ll feel so much better and freer once you stop putting forth so much effort to spend time with someone who treats you poorly.

  8. Oh, 888, I feel you. I had this friend for 6 years. Have an opinion she didn’t share? I was ridiculous and uninformed. Wear something she didn’t like? I’d be “so pretty” if I “just wore the right colors!” And despite the fact that my ACTUAL best friend didn’t do any of this, I thought it was pretty normal because my mom was just like that too.

    I didn’t get the chance to “break up” with her. She dumped me, in college. After sleeping with my boyfriend. Because I had the nerve to be angry about that.

    20 years and two high school reunions later, she sent me a FB friend request. I accepted it out of some morbid curiosity, but she said nothing other than a passive-voiced remark to someone else about how maybe she wasn’t always the best friend to me.

    I doubt you’re going to ever get any acknowledgement out of Jasper that her behavior is not friend-like. She’s probably going to be mad at you for daring to mention it. With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say just walk away. How will it feel if YOU be the one not to return her texts? I’m betting pretty good.

    1. Wouldn’t it have been nice to dump your asshole friend? It was like one last slap in the face. It’s just… grrr. Terrible people shouldn’t have the last word! *stamps feet, pouts that it isn’t fair*

      I got a bad case of deja vu- “I doubt you’re ever going to get any acknowledgement out of Jasper that her behavior is not friend-like. She’s probably going to be mad at you for daring to mention it. ”

      Yeah, either Jasper will ignore LW, find it oh so hilarious that she got a reaction out of her, or play the (potentially angry) victim. As long as LW gets away from the Evil Beekeeper, this will be a success. I don’t think Jasper will give a hoot if LW does ignore her, and it’s better than having Jasper harassing her, which is the other alternative.

    2. OMG. I made a comment down thread vaguely wondering what inspired me to my previous Jasperian incarnation, then I reread your comment and zeroed in on “my mom was just like that too,” remembered that my own mother could play people like a master pianist, and my face must’ve looked like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

      Note to Future Self: always ask, “What Would Mom Do?” Then, 85% of the time, do the opposite, as Mom was a genius…who didn’t always use her powers for good.

      1. Yes!! When, in the case of a Darth Mater or Darth Pater (also Darth Madre or Darth Padre) one finds oneself “doing what feels normal” it is always good to simply Refrain for a moment whilst asking “What Would (Mom) Do?” and if the answer is Become a sniping, petty, rageasauraus – Opposite Action is called for.

        also, referencing The Scream made me choke on my popcorn

        1. Darth Mater! Oh my stars and garters that is good.

          To Lapis Lazuli: Thank you for writing to CA, because all this advice is very timely for me. May you walk away with your head held high and celebrate new freedom from Darth Jasper.

          If I knew how to embed clips, I’d show Steve Martin in “L.A. Story”, going down stairs after learning that his Darth Girlfriend was cheating on him. He goes from dejected to jubilant in about 5 steps.

        2. I love that painting. I sometimes think I should get it tattooed on my face since it represents my feelings a disturbing amount of the time.

          Darth Mater made me roar with laughter! I do feel kinda bad referring to mine as such, because unlike a lot of the Darth-y parents who either star in or make cameos in the letters and comments, mine genuinely seemed to love me and want what was best for me…she just had a flawed way of demonstrating it at times. :/ Definitely worth remembering that Mom could channel the Dark Side, though.

          1. How many of us who grew up with Darth Mater now have well-thumbed copies of both The Gift of Fear and Will I Ever Be Good Enough? My hand is raised.

          2. @Cora, I do have The Gift of Fear on my list. I mean, Mom passed nearly a decade ago, but to judge by the unrelenting jolts of clarity I’ve received reading Why Does He Do That? (namely, some of the traits Bancroft discusses bear an uncomfortable resemblance to my ex’s, others bear an uncomfortable resemblance to *mine* in the past…like, wtf, past-me), I think I could use an extra helping of What Mom Did Was What Not to Do.

  9. 889 reminds me of my former best friend. He was mostly fine towards me, but the stories he would tell me about his interactions with his crush/eventual boyfriend/even more eventual ex-boyfriend (who I never met)… they were awful. At first I wanted to give my friend the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was just an unhealthy relationship on both of their parts, but eventually I realized that no, my friend was the problem. He was extremely manipulative and probably emotionally abusive. And whenever I called him out on it, he just laughed it off. It was clear he wasn’t going to change, so I decided (after far too long, I’m ashamed to say) that I couldn’t be friends with someone like that and faded out of his life.

    What I realized in retrospect after breaking off the friendship was that, even though the worst of his behavior wasn’t directed towards me, it still wasn’t fun to be his friend. Not only did I not feel like I could trust him thanks to knowing how he betrayed the trust of others and having heard all the nasty judgmental comments he made about everyone he knew… but I also realized that he actually HAD been manipulative towards me too and I just hadn’t noticed at the time. He had been my best and only friend for a long time, and I expected to miss him after I broke off our friendship, but instead I mostly just felt relief at getting this huge source of negativity out of my life.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is that IME people who act abusively towards others don’t make for very good friends even if they don’t (currently seem to) act that way towards you. Now, maybe your friend is a nicer person than my friend was and actually would listen and make an effort to change if you call her out on her behavior. But if not, you might actually find breaking off the friendship to be a breath of fresh air.

  10. 888: Jasper sounds like she’s got bridge burning down to an art form, and it sounds like she’s downright trying to burn bridges with you. She’s already burnt bridges with Dorain, V, and Bea, and she’s repeatedly starting small fires on your bridge, Skellington’s bridge, and Steven’s bridge. I’ve been in this exact situation – a friend had a bit of a mean streak, and while the rest of us put up with it because she did have redeeming features and we didn’t want to leave her with just her parents (this was back in highschool, and it was pretty clear that the mean streak was inherited from the vastly worse ones of said parents, both of which tended to aim there back at said friend), she eventually burned all her bridges. At some point I just decided that I was done putting out bridge fires, and would let it burn. My advice would be to do that here.

    889: I’m going to jump on the bandwagon here, and suggest you just tell your friend that she is coming across as a real jerk in these stories.

    1. “done putting out bridge fires” is such a great way of putting it. And I’ve known people who do exactly as you describe–burn bridges repeatedly and apparently deliberately. In some cases, I think it’s people who thrive on the attention and the drama; in other cases, I think it’s people who get tired of a friends group and rather than finding new friends in a calm way instead to decide to burn everything to the ground on the way out the door; in some cases, it’s pretty much inexplicable. It’s… interesting. But once you notice the pattern, really the only non-crazymaking thing you can do is stop trying to fix it, because if they’re trying to burn things down apparently on purpose they will, eventually, succeed no matter what you do.

    2. Knayt, that is such a fascinating observation. I feel like I’ve accidentally put out some bridge fires before (I can be oblivious sometimes), but now some of a former friend’s behavior makes sense in the context of her trying to eliminate the relationship rather than let it die back.

      1. I’ve gotten careful about how I treat the bridge-burning thing. I found out once, much too late for my own peripheral side of the situation, that the reason an acquaintance had burned a bunch of social bridges was that she really, really didn’t want the people on the other side crossing them ever again.

    3. Good point. I think it can also be when someone is stuck in a very black and white mentality.

      It’s much more emotionally complex (and requires a sense of self worth) to think/feel: “This person isn’t for me. | This person has some really lovely qualities but also a few of my deal breakers. | We had some really great times but we are on different paths/maturing at different rates. | etc.” It requires acknowledging and owning your feelings and honoring your needs. As well being selective of the people you allow into your life in the first place – something that is nigh impossible for some people at certain times in their life.

      It’s a heck of a lot easier to feel hurt, misunderstood, annoyed, triggered by someone and then cast them as Lucifer in your life. Emotionally detaching with a righteous vengeance, riding away on your steed from the fiery inferno burning with justice!

      I’ve uh . . . clearly never experienced such exhilarating drama myself . . .

  11. Oh man, LW 888, I went through almost this exact thing around this time last year. I think the Captain’s advice is very good — it doesn’t sound like there is a lot worth saving here. However…. I don’t know how much you and I are alike, because we are Internet Strangers™, but I am the sort of person who hates to let go of people I love, even when they’re behaving badly to me. So I actually did sit down and have the big confrontation with my former friend (let’s call her Pearl). Pearl really liked to think of us as friends, even while she was doing the exact same thing you talk about Jasper doing — criticizing how I did anything (apparently I cook everything wrong and I’m an idiot for not knowing how to make everything from scratch???), constantly belittling me and telling me how young & inexperienced I am (I’m older than her), always acting like I was a bully who needed to be shouted down, and never being around when I actually needed anything. Sounds a lot like your Jasper! Anyway, when I confronted her about all this, she insisted that she did this stuff for my own good, because, Pearl said, “I can’t trust you to be kind to other people.” She also insisted she “had my back” and was always there when I needed her, and I was the one who didn’t care about *her*!

    I’m saying all this because it really opened my eyes about what was happening and what our future was likely to look like together. I thought for a long time that maybe there was a way to fix our friendship, that maybe I really was a bully and a baby (somehow both at once??), and if I could just be nicer/more patient, everything would be okay… but the truth is that there was never a world in which our friendship had a future and she realized she’d done something wrong and apologized (as the “real” Pearl did). People who are willing to treat their “friends” like this are way more invested in believing that they are good people than they are in actually being good people.

    tl;dr I think the Captain is right that there’s no outcome here where you two remain friends, and it’s okay to do what you need in order to protect yourself. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    1. “I can’t trust you to be kind to other people.”

      What? Holy Batmonkey. What a gaslighting asshole. To this day, she probably thinks of herself as a non bully, and she made you think your normal interactions were wrong. That’s messed up. And this is sadly not unfamiliar. My friend thought I needed some loving molding, by her hand, so I would become the little pet she needed. They’re all so similar, it’s scary.

      Is there a forum on the internet where these people hang out? Like, instead of Captain Awkward, they hang out at Sargeant Mind Melt or Colonel Turd Warbler and trade notes? Or maybe it’s like on The Simpsons, where the Republican Party meets in a gloomy castle.

  12. LW 888:

    Considering the source of the pseudonyms you chose, I think you know how jank and unhappy your friendship with Jasper is. Do really want to form Malachite when the experience is so miserable? I think you know you’ll feel a lot freer once Jasper is moved from the “friend” category to the “person I used to know” category.

  13. LW Lapis, as others have said and I think you’ve realized, this friendship isn’t salvageable.

    I’ve also been in a situation where I clung onto someone because I just *knew* they could be a good person, they’d been one to me before, but all they did at the more current time was to denigrate me, shout at me, do their best to rip me to little tiny shreds and then stomp on those shreds and spit on them. I shouldn’t have put up with it, but I did, and it took a comment from another friend I was venting to at the time to snap me out of my “but she really IS a good person!” and make me see what was happening.

    I was horrendously depressed and suicidal. The abusive friend was stopping just short of telling me outright to go off myself and get it over with (but was certainly implying it). The reasonable friend said, “I fail to see the purpose of tearing down someone who’s already at a nadir.”

    There was no purpose. But it took that moment of truth to make me see it and start distancing myself from the abusive friend.

    I think you’re going to have to distance yourself from Jasper, and I think you’ll be a lot happier for it. Good luck.

    (Also, I giggled at the Steven Universe references. :D)

    1. I’ve come to realize the friendship is trailing to it’s end too.

      Steven pointed out that jasper seems to have a switch between who she treats “nicely” and who she will snap at. I always seem to be on the snapping end, and Dorian previously when he hung with us, while Steven and a few other friends get the nice treatment from her. Steven even mentioned, “I feel like I’m on the nice list, but I don’t know for how long.”

      So it might not be accurate that she is trying to burn Steven’s and Skellington’s bridges just yet (it sounds more like the opposite, that they want to burn the bridge), but I think she’s making a clear message that she eventually wants to burn mine to the ground.

      1. Keeping people unsure about whether they’re on the “nice” list, and trying to avoid pissing her off so they stay on the “nice” list, is classic emotional abuse.

        Steven needs to nope on out of there.

        1. You have to look at the cost/benefit ratio, too. That sounds cold, but what I mean is that although friendships are work, if the majority of your interactions with her are fraught with peril (what if I do something mysteriously *wrong*? what if she’s in a bad mood today?), and you even spend your own time ON YOUR OWN worrying about the next interaction with her, then that’s an awful large weight on the “not worth it for me anymore” side of the equation. Friendships should be work in that you consider the other person, try to do things that make them happy, share of yourself. They should not be work in the realm of “I have to manage this person’s feelings and interactions so they don’t explode at me”.

          Friends don’t have to be forever. They can be your “that person was a great friend to me at x point in our lives” but who doesn’t fit in now, whether because your situations have changed or one or both of your personalities have changed. It’s not dishonoring a friendship’s history to decide that it’s not the right thing for you any more.

      2. Jasper has got way more than negotiating these friendships going on. And is as far from confiding in you and asking for help, as a person can get.

        Take the good things that Jasper taught you in the early days, back into your life as part of your plans with new friends. Jasper has gone on a different path.

  14. I am a recovering member of the Burn Everything to the Ground In Lieu of Calmly Finding New Friends Club (well, in my case, it was never a whole group, just individual people…particularly people who were romantically attached to me). I can’t say for certain why I thought a sustained campaign of being a raging, toxin-spewing dillweed was somehow a better strategy than saying, “Yo, I don’t think we’re meshing well anymore. How ’bout we don’t see each other for at least a while?”

    I can say that, in my experience, the strategy of tossing a still-smoldering cigarette onto a bone-dry bridge a) amazingly did not succeed in pushing away the object of my disaffection and b) made me look like a royal jackass.

    Lapis Lazuli, I have no idea if your Jasper’s actions are as calculated as mine were, but she’s sending you a message either way. You deserve far better.

    1. (This was supposed to be in response to one of TurtleCandle’s comments above. Maybe this is technology inflicting karmic justice on me for my previous passive-aggressive indiscretions. :/ )

  15. 889: One other thought to keep in mind (as other people have hinted at) is that your friend is telling you a lot about what she will treat you like in the future, or what she considers to be appropriate treatment. One useful life lesson that someone passed on to me is that you can tell a lot about how someone will treat you/what they will say about you behind your back by watching how they treat others and what they say about them behind their backs. It’s not a perfect, hard and fast rule, but something to think about: do you want her to treat you the way she’s treating her subordinates? Even if she’s not doing it right now (perhaps because she has no official power over you, perhaps because she likes you more, whatever), there’s too much of a chance that this will change in the future and she’ll be a jerk to you also. That of course is your decision to make as far as how comfortable you are with that, but there’s a big risk that she will turn on you in the future.

    1. My grandmother, of blessed memory, was fond of the phrase “If they’ll say it to you, they’ll say it about you.”

    2. Exactly. This is your warning sign. The big yellow Caution light is blinking at you, saying, “TAKE HEED, MORTAL, FOR THIS WILL BE YOUR FATE.”

  16. I used to have a lot of mean friends. I would make excuses for them to myself — “she’s having a bad day,” “he’s upset about [other thing],” “she can’t help her anger management issues,” “well I did make a really stupid mistake,” etc. But there’s just no excuse for being mean. It’s never a productive way to behave. Even if you feel you have a good reason to be angry/upset with someone, saying “I’m angry/upset with you” is plenty clear.

    I made it a rule in my life a couple of years ago that I would not tolerate mean people anymore. When I see someone being mean, they are instantly on my not-friends list. I’ve met a couple of people since then who would have been my friends if not for this one thing, and I feel nothing but relief that I was wise enough to steer clear of them.

  17. I have a question for the Commentariat which fits nicely with these letters.

    What do you do when somebody sets a boundary with you?

    In my case, a friend recently set a boundary with me that I do not understand.
    As in, I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t know what I could have done better. I don’t know what to do in the future if the boundary is ever lifted. And I cannot find out from my friend.

    Because the boundary in this case is “you did {some stuff} that really bothered me so do not talk to me again until I contact you first.”

    The problem? I didn’t actually do {some stuff}. I did some {stuff-adjacent actions}. And I’m not sure how those were transformed into {stuff} by my friend.

    However, when my friend contacted me to say this I reaponded with “I’m sorry that I did {some stuff} and that it bothered you. I won’t contact you anymore.”

    Because I’ve read CA and I realized that going “well no, I didn’t actually do {that stuff}” wasn’t going to help things.

    So now I’m feeling very confused and a little hurt. I want to do better, but I don’t know how and I don’t know whether I’ll even have the chance.

    1. The boundary from this ex-friend is “do not talk to me again”. That’s painful, but it’s a pretty easy boundary to set.

      If your stuff-adjacent actions were objectively problematic, then doing better means thinking about why they were a problem and not doing them. If your stuff-adjacent actions were not inherently bad, but very upsetting to your friend for her own reasons – well, she gets to decide she doesn’t want to hang with you even if you did nothing wrong, painful and even unfair as that can feel, but that doesn’t mean you have to “do better”.

      The “until I contact you first” is raising my eyebrows a little, though. It’s one thing to cut off contact with somebody. It’s another thing to dangle the possibility of friendship but to insist on having all the power.

    2. The only good thing to do when someone sets a boundary is respect it.

      If I may be frank, I feel like there’s a good chance you may have already blown any chance you had at having your friend contact you in the future when you sent your apology, though of course I don’t know that for certain; I mention this because I myself recently had an e-stalker pop back up, ostensibly to congratulate me on something I had published, and I sent him a response saying I knew what his pattern was, I’d kept the proof of his harassment, and I ordered him never to contact me again, not even in response to my email. Naturally, he responded, and that as well as any future emails from him are going into a special folder labeled “Future Restraining Order.” I have no intention of talking to this asswipe ever again, no matter how much admiration he professes for my writing.

      Based on that, I can tell you that even if {stuff} was of a less creepy variety than what I went through, nobody likes having their boundaries violated. The only way you can do better by your friend right now is to honor that boundary, regardless of whether you understand it or not.

      1. We definitely did not have the sort of stalker/stalkee thing going on that you are dealing with.

        The boundary setting came totally out of the blue, did not follow any sort of “warning shots” or disagreements of any sort.

        As I commented below, I know this person only online, so I received the boundary via a private message. Therefore I’m kinda confused by you saying I blew it by apologizing.

        I look at it like I was having a series of phone conversations. Then the person called me up, said we’re not talking anymore, and I was supposed to just hang up the phone without saying a word?

        I mean, I get why it would be detrimental to contest it or to argue in the moment. But CA says that the marker of a person willing to change is someone who apologizes and follows the new boundary.

        I have indeed refrained from contacting this person in any way, whether commenting on her posts, sending messages, or reposting any of her content. Basically anything that would result in her seeing my name pop up in her notifications.

        1. I am so sorry, they don’t want to be friends with you anymore. You may never get more information than you have now or a fair setting the record straight. Time to disengage.

        2. I hoped/assumed that whatever you did wouldn’t merit police involvement. A less recent example for me was that I asked my ex not to contact me again after he handled the settling of our affairs in a manner I saw as disrespectful. He contacted me a few weeks later to make sure I’d gotten the books he accidentally took. It was perfectly innocuous, perhaps even kind according to some outsiders, but all I could think was, “Wow, this perfectly reinforces my perception that you’re incapable of listening to anything I say, doesn’t it?” But I am also not your former friend – maybe they are more generous about the one last follow-up than I.

          I’m not completely unempathetic to you. I know how much gets lost in text-based communications; hell, I wrote a paper on that topic in grad school, using an IM conversation with the aforementioned ex that spun completely out of control due to lack of tonal context as my prime example. But whether or not you can go back and prove that {adjacent-stuff} is definitively not {stuff}, the Captain’s right: your friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore. It’s painful and you have every right to grieve, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

        3. [blockquote]Then the person called me up, said we’re not talking anymore, and I was supposed to just hang up the phone without saying a word?[/blockquote]

          I would tend to say “yes, exactly.”

          [blockquote]But CA says that the marker of a person willing to change is someone who apologizes and follows the new boundary.[/blockquote]

          Yeah, but if the boundary is “don’t talk to me even to apologize” it’s more important to respect the boundary than to apologize.

          [blockquote]I have indeed refrained from contacting this person in any way, whether commenting on her posts, sending messages, or reposting any of her content. Basically anything that would result in her seeing my name pop up in her notifications.[/blockquote]

          This is very good of you! I understand that it may be hard and hurt, but you are behaving well now for respecting it.

          1. Hmm. I’m tending to lean the other way. If someone tells you that you did something wrong and then you send them *one* message apologizing and then leave them alone, that seems reasonable to me.

          2. Huh. I… have encountered ‘I never want to speak to you again’ scenarios only rarely, and generally as a third party, but in all the cases I can think of, responding to that with simply the [click] of a phone hanging up (r even “Okay. [click]”) would be seen as deliberately infuriating/provocative rather than being seen as taking them at their word. Maybe my experience is unusual?

          3. Oh dear. Captain, could you please delete the radiant design link? It was cruft in my phone’s clipboard and should not have been posted. I would be very grateful.

          4. Oh, certainly. I would be inclined to do exactly that. But I do so knowing that most of the time, in my experience, it would be taken not as a kind respecting of boundaries but as a slap in the face.

          5. Turtle – doesn’t that only hold true if you assume that most of the time someone who says “don’t talk to me again” really secretly wants you to keep talking to them?

          6. Since I cannot trust my phone nesting:

            TW: sexual harassment

            Jackalope, if someone tells you you did something wrong, absolutely.

            If someone tells you that you did something wrong *and not to contact them*, no. Absolutely not.

            (I am specifically very heavily associating this with an incident where a guy was leering at a woman, and telling her she had to stop making him THINK those THOUGHTS, and touching her, and following her around, and when he was told to step the hell off he proceeded to try and talk to her for the next day and a half because it was just SO DAMN IMPORTANT that he get to APOLOGIZE. Didn’t matter she’d TOLD him she wanted him to leave her alone. That wasn’t NEARLY as important as him getting to give an apology.)

            I’m not saying that what Devorah_Havazelet is talking about is that bad. I’m not saying that being shut out doesn’t hurt. I’m saying that when the boundary is “do not talk to me again” then you do not talk to them again.

          7. Well, I’m not assuming; I’m speaking from personal experience. As I did in fact say, I take people at their word. But my lived experience is that quite often when people say “I never want to speak to you again!” what they actually want is groveling, not to be taken at their word. I say this as an abuse victim who had that bullshit pulled on me repeatedly (“you should have known that when I said X what I really wanted was Y.”)

            If you don’t gaslight people in that way, then that’s wonderful. I have been gaslighted in that way, so I know that it is not a cost-free decision to actually do as people say. I think it’s the right thing to do, so I do it, but it would be disingenuous (and contrary to my personal lived experience) for me to pretend that such statements are not at least sometimes used manipulatively.

          8. I totally grant it’s used to manipulate sometimes, and I’ve probably been lucky to be able to say that IME “most of the time” it’s heartfelt and people are not starting to gaslight me when they tell me what they want, nor I them.

            So: yes, I think if your experience goes to most of the time that statement being disingenuous, I think it is unusual and I’m sorry. I really hope you have better interactions.

            (And yes, if someone takes it personally because their target didn’t follow their abuse script, they may indeed be hugely offended. That doesn’t make taking someone at their weird an inherently hurtful or offensive action most of the time?)

          9. That’s fair. And as I think I’ve said at least three times now, I do cut people off immediately when they tell me they don’t want to talk to me. Because I think it’s the right thing to do.

            But I confess I am a little envious that you live in a world where you can hang up on someone without a word and not have it be taken as a deliberate insult, under any circumstance barring maybe “my house is on fire;” even if the person doesn’t want you to ever contact them again after the call, they have historically wanted people, in my experience, to stay on the line long enough to be berated, at least. The idea that you could get a “I don’t want to talk to you” phone call and hang up wordlessly and not have repercussions–well, that’s very different than any cultural context that I’ve lived in–and I’ve lived in a few, worldwide. I wish I had a culture group that emotionally honest!

          10. Well, I’m taking about hanging up once they say they don’t want me to talk to them again, not hanging up the second I hear their voice. I don’t know anyone where I’d reliably expect the latter not to be taken as an insult.

            I never meant to imply it was easy or didn’t hurt! And I have stayed on the line to be yelled at because I was so shocked that I couldn’t hang up immediately, but not because I wanted to talk to them or thought they wanted to talk to me. Pretty sure they were still yelling when I hung up in tears, though.

            And I’m not saying there are no repercussions to doing it, or that they will never take it as an insult if they say “don’t speak to me!” and you respond by not speaking to them.

            So… we’re agreeing it’s the right thing to do, and just putting different emphasises in this discussion on how much it matters how they react?

          11. (I see that the only comment of mine that didn’t appear to make it through was the one to Jackalope, outlining the situation of a boundary-violating creep who after being told to step off proceeded to follow the woman he’d been harassing around because he really really wanted to apologize and that mattered more to him than her getting to not be around a gropey creep. So my experience with people who respond to a no contact boundary by offering polite contact is *really* heavily skewed in the direction of nope, and I realize it may not be balanced.)

          12. Well, we’re agreeing that it’s the right thing to do. I think I have gotten confused–so much of this conversation has been about “hurtful” vs. “not hurtful” rather than “right” vs. “wrong” that perhaps I got tangled there. I think it is the right thing to do to cut off communication immediately upon being asked to do so, but I think in a lot of cultures and social groups when someone says “I don’t want to talk to you” or “I never want to speak to you again” is meant and is interpreted as hyperbole, and thus if you actually do it, you will hurt them further. So if you don’t want to hurt them… you have a guessing game in front of you. Which meaning do they mean by it?

            It’s still, hm, the safer thing to do. And I am inclined to do it not least because I dislike that kind of gaslighting hyperbole. But in the context of hurt feelings and what to do about them, I think I got tangled up, because in my experience very often it’s meant not as a boundary but as a “you are really going to work hard to get back in my good graces.” If you want to respect boundaries, you do what people say, and if they didn’t mean what they say they need to amend it. But if the emphasis is on hurt feelings… it’s a lot more complex.

            That’s what I mean by ‘not cost-free,’ not that it may be painful for you, but that it may be exactly what the person you are talking to wants–as your experience seems to be–or it may be basically like detonating an emotional grenade on top of them. They might weep with joy (as you say) or they might weep with abject misery and you have to guess. I go with the literal meaning because that’s what I want to reward, is emotional honesty. But it is still the honest truth that in the face of the original question, of whether what people want when they say “I don’t want to talk to you anymore” is an immediate hanging-up of the phone, my experience is that many, many people do not want that, and will in fact be hurt by it. Whether they should be hurt or not is another question entirely.

          13. /nods – This.

            (I think part of the tangle might have been that we’re talking about several groups of people – those who are speaking genuinely out of self-preservation, those speaking disingenuously out of an understanding that the social script will trump the specific words, and those speaking to entrap as abusers – at once, because all of them can use the same words. I was thinking specifically of the first case, and apologize for eliding the others.)

          14. (I admit, I’m still in slightly jealous awe that you come from a cultural context where someone can say “I’m so angry with you, I never want you to speak to me again” and you can hit End Call or wordlessly walk away at that point and they’ll be pleased instead of deeply annoyed. Most people that I know at least want you to stick around to hear why, especially if they’re already upset.)

          15. Oh, to be clear: when I wanted that, I would have cried for joy, which is (1) not an Indian of being ‘pleased’ and (2) an illustration of exactly how badly I needed that person to get the fuck away from me. And they didn’t. Because REASONS and TALKING.

            The people I know who’ve said it to me – well, in some cases they reapproached after a while. None of them ever told me they’d taken it as an insult. This is not the same as they didn’t, and I have anecdata of one person who was outright told “you were supposed to call me after I yelled at you to not call me and hung up!” (I’m not sure if they took it as an insult or just confusing.) Still, as you say, the best option.

            I’ve seen it third hand several times in person, too, and no one’s ever happy but no one ever really read as expecting anyone to say anything back or obliged to stick around and get screamed at. IME “I don’t want to talk to you” or “don’t talk to me” is very commonly read as containing an unspoken “so fuck off”. Sticking around is starting an argument and being pushy.

          16. Oh, nothing to apologize for! It is one of the unfortunate things, that people can use the same words and mean very different things. There are people who say “I don’t ever want to talk to you again” and mean exactly that; there are people who say “I don’t ever want to talk to you again” in a fit of emotion and don’t really mean it (and who may or may not expect you to realize they don’t mean it); there are people who say “I don’t ever want to talk to you again” and mean it hyperbolically because that’s something common in their culture/subculture, and expect you to understand that it’s hyperbole; there are people who say “I don’t ever want to talk to you again” and who are deliberately manipulating or gaslighting you, and who mean “actually I want you to grovel.”

            I have decided that the best thing is to assume that everyone is the first case. This pleases people who mean it that way, and if manipulating assholes take it amiss, well, that’s their problem. (Although I admit I am fortunate that at this point I can piss off manipulating assholes without repercussions.) But sometimes things do get tripped up on when it comes to the middle cases, where people don’t mean it either because they just have bad impulse control when it comes to what they say, or because they expect that ‘everyone’ knows that it’s hyperbole. If I always take people literally, I’ll hurt those people. But there’s really no help for it.

            (And some people who are gaslighting assholes will make it so that either choice is wrong. You contact them? You ignored their boundary! You don’t contact them? You don’t care! Etc. There’s no way to win.)

            I think my initial point, which I did not state at all well, was that I think that it’s wise to take people at their literal word when they say “I don’t want you to contact me” or similar… but that the response that you get may be gratitude, or it may be hurt, or it may be anger, and that’s something to be aware of so that you can approach the response with eyes open.

          17. IME “I don’t want to talk to you” or “don’t talk to me” is very commonly read as containing an unspoken “so fuck off”. Sticking around is starting an argument and being pushy.

            Ohhh, that’s fascinating, and I think I have identified our miscommunication. Because in the culture groups that I am most familiar with, it does not contain an unspoken “so fuck off.” It contains an unspoken “please, please, ask me why, so I can go into GREAT detail.”

            So the assumption of what someone wants is opposite. If someone says “don’t talk to me” and wants “fuck off” then yeah, absolutely sticking around is priming for a fight. But if someone says “don’t talk to me” and wants “ask me why! so I can unload!” then what they want is at least a temporary sticking around so they can get shit off their chest–and they’ll be peeved if you don’t give them that chance.

          18. but I think in a lot of cultures and social groups when someone says “I don’t want to talk to you” or “I never want to speak to you again” is meant and is interpreted as hyperbole, and thus if you actually do it, you will hurt them further.

            @Turtlecandle – if somebody says “don’t ever contact me again” and you don’t, well, isn’t that on them? If what they secretly wanted was for you to grovel and beg to be back in their good graces, isn’t the hurt on them, not on you? I’m a little baffled at this idea that if somebody sets a clear boundary, it’s quite reasonable to accept that they don’t really mean it and it’s OK in some form to push back – and by baffled I don’t mean that I doubt you, I mean that groups with that kind of dynamic are hugely dysfunctional and why would you want to buy into that.

          19. @neverjaunty: I’m a little tired and so I may be being shorter than I mean, but my weary response is: If you grew upi n that culture, and/or have to interact with people from that culture, then the “why would you want to buy into that?” question seems pretty disingenuous, because the obvious answer is “self-protection.” It’d be lovely to be able to just reject it but that’s… not always a safe choice. In my experience, “I never want to see you again” often means “please grovel,” not actually “I never want to see you again.” And I have not just encountered this in bizarro world tiny oppressive subcultures, but in my husband’s West Coast Jewish family, my father’s Georgia Southern relatives, other in-laws’ Shanghai Chinese immigrant culture, and my best friend/roommate’s California Hispanic culture… so I don’t think that it’s some odd little offshoot corner of dysfunction. I think it is, at least, reasonably common.

            As I have said several times, I try not to buy into it… and I envy y’all who can take “I don’t want to hear from you” and safely not talk to them. But as is often said on Ask A Manger (which I know you frequent, having seen you there before–hello!) I have to deal with the experiences I deal with, not the ones I wish were in place.

    3. I would give your friend some space and let them contact you again. When they do talk to you again, just ask: “Hey, I want to apologize for making you feel uncomfortable before. Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?”

      The established a barrier between you might have did something that made them felt unsafe. If you prove that you are willing to take the steps to make them feel safe again, they’ll probably open back up to you in time. Needling them for details is only gonna build more walls

    4. From this, I’m assuming that the thing you did was a) burn down this person’s house and laughed about it b) stolen their spouse or c) had Friend deported. This is a big set of strong actions Friend is taking. What else could warrant the drawbridge going up like this?

      To my ear this sounds like a ferocious amount of choices being made for both of you, but only by Friend that don’t acknowledge you as the other person in a relationship. My own experience with this sort of thing is it ends up being a test of how much I’ll tolerate being blitzed. Old me used to grovel and propitiate. This set the stage for more bad behavior. I was angry and miserable and eventually had to cut them off, something I should have done at the first indication.

      New me would say, “Friend, you may have information that I do not, and you are not sharing it with me in a dialogue. This is one-sided and I don’t want this. If you are not going to talk to me until some future time known only to you, I’m telling you now that I will not be available.”

      My feeling is that your “opportunity to do better” will be with a new friend.

    5. The only circumstance I can think if where it would be appropriate to contact them would be if {stuff} is clearly, objectively different from {stuff-adjacent} and it was a lack of information that led to the misunderstanding. Then it *might* be appropriate, after a week or two, to write one (1) letter carefully and respectfully clarifying the facts while emphasizing you respect her decision not to talk and won’t contact her further until she does.

      By objectively different I mean stuff like:

      “I wasn’t actually kissing your boyfriend–that was his twin brother”
      “I know it looks like I tried to kick your dog but actually I was squishing a poisonous spider that was about to bite her”

      However, I suspect the misunderstanding is probably more like “I said a thing and you thought I meant x but really I meant it more like y” or “when I did thing I had different intentions than it came off” which is an area where you have out your words/actions into the world and cannot control how others receive them, and trying to do so will look like trying to avoid responsibility.

      1. Yeah, there is a very factual, concrete difference between {stuff} and {not stuff}. To back it up, I have the full log of all of our communications (I know this person online) and can prove that I did not do or say the {stuff} I was accused of.

        And no, I did not do anything in the realm of salting this person’s field or killing their dog or having them arrested by the border police. Which is why I’m so confused by the “punishment” I got.

        1. I think it might be helpful to read all the breakup posts on CA, around the idea that not wanting to talk anymore is the only reason you have to give for not wanting to talk anymore (especially the logic boyfriend). Your friend said you did x and y and they don’t want to talk to you anymore, and all of the weight for you is on that first part rather than the second. But the second is also true and there isn’t anything you can do about it except hope it maybe changes all by itself. It may be that 99 out of 100 people would not have interpreted/remembered/perceived not stuff the way former friend did or felt the way they did about it, but former friend did. It’s also possible that you are focused like a laser on the particular misunderstanding while for former friend it landed in a growing feeling or perception and confirmed something/reinforced something about how they felt about being in touch. It’s really hard to take a boundary and not try to negotiate it, but it’s the only thing to do. The way to do it, I think, in addition to respecting it, which it sounds like you are now committed to doing, is to shift your focus from evaluating the validity of the criteria friend used for determining the boundary, to dealing with the pain and focusing on you. Part of that, I think, means changing the story you are telling yourself from ‘friend had some wrong facts and made an unreasonable decision’ to ‘friend feels bad when we are in touch with each other’ because that’s currently the most important fact and whether you think friend’s reasons for that are legitimate isn’t going to help change it. Telling the story that way feels bad, it confronts you with a very painful thing, it’s going to require you to grieve for your friendship: being in denial or negotiating around a painful change or loss is a totally natural stage of experiencing loss. Pushing yourself into other feelings around the change in the relationship is the only way through dealing with it, I think, that you have control over.

          1. Yes, this exactly. The important message here is not “figure out how to prove it wasn’t {stuff}” but “respect that friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore.”

        2. I’m so sorry, Devorah, this is a very hurtful thing to go through and I hope you’re able to find healing and move past it. As the Captain and other comments have said, the best thing to do is to respect this person’s wishes and not contact them. You are under no obligation to talk to them when/if they ever decide to contact you again, and in the meantime, other posts on this blog have some very helpful ideas about finding ways to process and move past something like this.

          One thing that I have found helpful even though it’s a little goofy is to have imaginary conversations with the person (I do this while driving for some reason) in which you have it out the way you wish you could, or even to write them a long, explain-y letter, but do NOT send it. I find this helps me work out what I wish I could say to them in person and it’s pretty cathartic.

          Good luck.

        3. I am so sorry. You are looking for fairness and justice and all I have is pragmatism.
          If she has misunderstood something you said or did to the point of asking for no contact, it probably doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. Something is wrong with the relationship, and it may just be that you are incompatible in some fashion. Something is not meshing well and the results are bad enough that the other person has told you to not contact them.
          So, let them be.
          I know you want it to be fair and just, but, sometimes distance and peace is all you get.
          Find other people that understand you better, where the relationships function better.

        4. In re “punishment”: I’m glad you put that in quotes, because it suggests you don’t really think of your friend’s actions as a punishment. A boundary is not a punishment. I’m speaking from the POV of having gone very low contact with my mom and her characterizing this as a “punishment.” I’m not VLC with her because I’m trying to get her to change her behavior, I’m VLC with her because that’s what I need to feel safe and happy. It’s an important distinction to recognize. Your friend’s boundary is not about you. It’s about them. You don’t need to spend your time and energy figuring out why. “This is what they need” is all the why you need.

    6. There is a difference between a boundary and a punishment. If someone is unclear on the difference, it’s usually it’s the person on the receiving end, but it’s possible for both the boundary-setter and the boundary-imposed-on to be mixed up. It sounds like that’s what’s going on here. It sounds to me like your (ex)friend meant to say or was trying to say “Never talk to me about X again. If you can’t refrain from talking about X, don’t contact me.” That might be fair, or it might not, but at least it’s clear. If they’d said that, at least you’d understand. That would have been a clear boundary, but that’s not what they said. Instead, you got a mish-mosh of false accusation, the silent treatment, and bridge burning. No wonder you’re confused! No wonder you’re hurt. No wonder you want to know what’s going on. And small wonder you want the last word. People who are getting the silent treatment usually do. It’s normal to think that if you do everything right, if you “want to do better,” then better things will happen to you. In this case, it sounds like you did try to figure out what you’d done wrong; you did try to explain yourself; you did apologize. And now you should disengage. In time you’ll get over your hurt.

    7. If something like that happens again, you might try saying “I’m sorry I hurt you by doing adjacent stuff . I’m here if you want to talk again.” So, apologize for hurting her but don’t explicitly say you did something you didn’t. That also leaves room for the sort of problem where you meant to do Dark Purple and she perceived it as Lavender, and the hypothetical Objective Observer would say “Devorah definitely did something, and it was somewhere in the wavelength between blue and ultraviolet.”

      But that’s doing better for a hypothetical future interaction. If she does contact you again, and wants to talk about it, you could say that you’re sorry you hurt her, but aren’t sure what you did wrong, and would like her to help you avoid doing that again. I don’t know what I’d do if, after something like that, the person contacted me again to say something like “I miss you, so let’s hang out again, but I don’t want to talk about what went wrong last spring.” Maybe say that I miss her too, and will try not to hurt her, but it’s hard because I’m not sure what I did wrong when I was trying to do stuff-adjacent thing.

    8. I’m sorry. Maybe your friend is factually wrong, but they’re emotionally still uncomfortable with you. I understand the impulse to try and win them back, but now that you’ve sent the letter, you’re committed to no contact. You didn’t have to do anything wrong for her to decide “No more”.

      I’m on the opposite side of the coin you’re on. I just cut a friend off for long term meanness. She is still using intermediaries to contact me, sending friends after me, and calling/hanging up. Creepy. It doesn’t sound like you would do that, but once someone throws the “no contact” gauntlet down, do not cross it.

      Captain is always recommending hobbies, Meetups, trying new coffee shops, getting out of the house. Find a new bookstore. Go for a day trip. Make yourself breakfast. Play with kittens at the animal shelter. Take a relative to a movie. Do things that make you feel good, and don’t remind you of your friend.

    9. I think one of the things that can complicate this kind of thing is that there tends to be a feeling that if you’re a good person, people will not feel the need to cut you off, and if someone cuts you off it therefore means you are a bad person. Or, relatedly, that if you trigger someone ever under any circumstances, you are awful and cruel and heartless and at minimum you need to grovel. And because of that, it can be very tempting to feel like you need to explain yourself or have a chance to apologize and hash it out if someone is upset, because–well–nobody wants to feel like an awful person.

      But it isn’t so simple. One of my dearest friends in the world is triggered by the smell of a particular brand of dish soap. Being triggered is miserable for her, but the truth of the matter is that that’s not something that anyone can predict or avoid, and there’s really no reasonable way to apologize for using a specific type of Dawn in your kitchen, you know?

      And a similar thing goes for people who are upset by something that they think you did that you didn’t do, or etc. I had a member of my friends group years ago who tended to exaggerate any emotional interaction in her own mind. This worked in both overly-positive ways (“cute guy smiled at me” would morph over a few days of her dwelling on it to “cute guy told me he wanted to ask me out”) and negative ones (she had a dramatic falling out with a friend who she asked to look over her resume; friend said “you should get this thoroughly proofread, because it has some typos in it;” over a few days of stewing she was telling people that friend had said that she was too stupid to ever be hired, and no amount of “wait, but I was there, that’s totally not what she said” could convince her). I don’t think it was deliberate manipulation, but it was definitely somewhat maddening, especially when she’d cut someone out of her life for something they had not even said. (It was maddening enough that I eventually stopped hanging out with the exaggerator, in fact.)

      But the thing is, just because resume-reviewing friend didn’t say that doesn’t mean that she can insist on an answer, or make exaggerating friend walk back what she said, or make exaggerating friend want to talk to her again. Even though in that case I was present for both interactions and I know that exaggerating friend wildly exaggerated the offense, my advice would be the same: leave her be and let her get in contact with you. You don’t have to reconcile this; you don’t have to get her to acknowledge that she’s accused you of something you didn’t do; you don’t have to ‘win.’ And if you have the little niggling sense that you have to get back to communicating to be validated as a good person–you don’t. It isn’t a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s a matter of respecting her right to interact with who she wants to even if her stated reason is factually incorrect. You may never get closure on it–resume-reviewing friend didn’t, as far as I know exaggerating former-friend is still peeved at her for something she manifestly did not do–but that’s okay. Closure is overrated anyhow.

  18. LW #889 – I had a friend in the past who was a manager, and she worked in a field where there are many different nationalities and ethnicities and races. She at one point started talking a lot about cultural differences with some of her non-white, non-anglo staff, and at first it was of the culture A has a different attitude to disagreeing with the boss than culture B and other stuff that was reasonable for a manager to try to work out. But then it drifted into outright racism, and she posted on Livejournal (because this happened when dinosaurs walked the earth) a massive rant about how lazy people from that culture were.

    I called her on it. She did not react well. She reacted exactly like people always do when you say “That thing you just said seems pretty racist” with the usual defensiveness and taking it really really personally and acting as if I’d said “You are an evil bigot at all times and in all ways”. (Pro tip, if someone says something you did was racist or sexist or whatever try to step back and not take it as a mortal insult, and instead think about the specific thing…) Anyway, among some other issues we’d been having it ended the friendship. I’d called her racist, it was dire.

    I also don’t regret saying it for one second. Because I was thinking about her young immigrant staff, working for a manager who thought they were lazy because all people of their ethnicity are (according to her) lazy, and I was thinking about their performance reviews and career progression and all that stuff that relied on this friend of mine. The least I could do was to point out to her it wasn’t OK. I chickened out on contacting her work, especially because I really didn’t know the details or how she treated them face to face. But at least she knew that one person thought it wasn’t OK, and hopefully later on when she’d calmed down she thought about it. Anyway. I’ve had some terrible abusive bosses in my time and I would hope that if they told their friends what they were doing, their friends would look shocked and uncomfortable and say stuff like the Captain suggests. :-/

  19. Hi LW, the answer is, in true Jedi fashion, to Search Your Feelings.

    If you can’t bring yourself to cut contact with Jasper completely and forever at this point, at least try cutting contact temporarily and see how that makes you feel. If all you feel is a tremendous sense of relief and freedom, you have your answer. The relief may be mixed with feelings of loss and loneliness, or feelings of failure (that if you just tried harder you could make it work), but those additional feelings are often more a reflection of the friendship being unhealthy (or even enmeshed and abusive) than a reason to go back.

    Several time in my life I’ve had to make the choice between Crushing Loneliness and Abusive Friendships, and crushing loneliness is by far the better option. Making new friends may be slow and difficult, but it is a lot easier while you still believe in yourself than after your self esteem has been eroded to the point where you don’t think you are worth any better.

  20. I hope Jasper gains self-awareness and realises what a jerk she’s being before she manages to burn all her bridges. But there’s no point in reaching out to her or holding on until she figures out she’s making herself unhappy, because what she is doing when she excludes or tears into you is bullying, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it for a single second.

    If she finally comes around and makes a sincere apology for the way she’s been treating you, then you can decide from there whether the fences can be mended, but until that happens, it’s best to just leave her alone, decline to spend time with her, and concentrate your emotional energy on those non-toxic friends that make you feel positive, instead on this mean person who has been tearing you down.

    You deserve to be treated with kindness, Lapis.

    Come to think of it, both these letters are about how to confront bullies, either as their target, or as a bystander.
    I want to imagine your friend is mostly putting on a tough boss act and not realising how off-key she is, Church Lady, and that using The Captain’s scripts might give her pause for thought. But it may take her a long time to figure it out, so if you want to avoid being disappointed in her, it’s probably best not to talk about her work.

  21. What do you do if Jasper is your mom and you have already had the “please stop stepping on my foot it hurts when you step on my foot. It’s broken from how much you are stepping on it” talk and got a “how dare you question my footstepsing skills!!!!” as a response?

    1. First, get to the point where walking away is really an option. Put up with her while you single mindedly become self-supporting in all senses of the word. That’s making your own money, having your own friends, living in your own space, credit in your own name, probably a car or other reliable transportation. Then you set your boundary. Explain: For now on, when you footstep, I’ll leave (or hang up the phone or end the conversation). (Or you may skip the explanation since you’ve already had the “please stop” conversation.) She’ll footstep. You leave (or hang up the phone or end the conversation). (Definitely don’t explain a second time. Don’t use the word boundary. Don’t listen to her side. Just leave.) She’ll maneuver a situation that will make your escape impossible, or at least inconvenient. (My mother would footstep when in the car when she was driving when we were far from home. I had to wait for a traffic light before getting out.) It may be years, but most parents come around to the decision that given a choice between footstepping and having any sort of relationship at all with their children, they prefer the relationship.

    2. First, get to the point where walking away is really an option. Put up with her while you single mindedly become self-supporting in all senses of the word. That’s making your own money, having your own friends, living in your own space, credit in your own name, probably a car or other reliable transportation. Then you set your boundary. Explain: For now on, when you footstep, I’ll leave (or hang up the phone or end the conversation). (Or you may skip the explanation since you’ve already had the “please stop” conversation.) She’ll footstep. You leave (or hang up the phone or end the conversation). (Definitely don’t explain a second time. Don’t use the word boundary. Don’t listen to her side. Just leave.) She’ll maneuver a situation that will make your escape impossible, or at least inconvenient. (My mother would footstep when in the car when she was driving when we were far from home. I had to wait for a traffic light before getting out.) It may be years, but most parents come around to the decision that given a choice between footstepping and having any sort of relationship at all with their children, they prefer the relationship.

      1. I forgot a sentence: Since you know she’ll maneuver escape-difficult situations, make sure you avoid them. It could be invitations after the buses are no longer running or weekend trips hours and hours away so that you’ll just have driven hours only to be faced with turning around and leaving again. Sometimes money will be used to make your escape difficult. Be aware, and just say no. Without explanation.

        My example: My mother had this thing about letting me sleep. I realize now she was an adult with her own difficulty sleeping and her own anxieties about being left alone. This translated to her waking me in the middle of the night. She thought it hilarious when I’d object. I didn’t explain it, but I did stop ever sleeping under the same roof with her. I did find it possible to vacation with my parents in a foreign city away from both her home turf and mine. Separate hotel rooms obviously. Looking back, I should have predicted what happened. There was some screw up with my parents’ hotel reservation so my mother blithely suggested that they’d just move in with me and my boyfriend. We could all share. We’d just driven 10 hours to the location. My parents had flown on a non-refundable round-trip. I realized what was up, expressed my sadness that the hotel had screwed up so badly, magnanimously offered my parents the hotel room that was in my name, and said we’d drive back home. Turns out the hotel was able to find a room for them, and the vacation proceeded as planned.

        1. Thanks for all the advice and shearing your story. My mom ussualy skips the whole invitation pretense and literally try and corner. She recently climbed up my loft bed and sat by the ladder so I couldn’t escape and began shouting at me how I was “attacking her with my negative energy”. The best part is she failed to see she was actually attacking me with words.

          1. Whoa! That’s all kinds of wrong.

            I was once verbally attacked by my sister’s fiance who leaned over me with one hand on each side of the back of my chair (a big wing chair) and shouted at me.
            I was scared spitless, but just kept repeating “I will not discuss anything with you while you maintain this threatening posture.”
            He finally backed off and sat down, and admitted that his posture was inappropriate and apologized. We were able to talk things through and maintained a fairly decent relationship, until their relationship went sideways. In light of my experience, I’ve always felt she dodged a bullet that he wasn’t physically abusive to her.

            May I mentally push your mother off the bed in his honor?

    3. Wow, sorry you’re having to deal with that.
      The answer depends on whether you’re dependent on her for housing or other financial support. If you’re living under the same roof, it’s a different problem than if you’re self supporting.
      Have you read through the archives? The Captain has addressed various ways to manage footstepping parents, from how to escape an abusive household to how to maintain boundaries with a PIA you still love and want to maintain a relationship with.
      Good luck!

      1. Thanks for writing back. I am an avid fan of the Captin (I think I read about every article and comment). Reading this blog actually helped me recognize how toxic the relationship between my mother and me is. I’ll definitely go back an re read those articles

        1. We cat people have to hang together! I’ve gotten so much out of this blog, even when the situations in the letters bear no resemblance to my own, because the same principles of respect and integrity apply.

          Good luck!

  22. Regarding the first letter: sometimes, you just need to cut someone out of your life. You don’t need to get an explanation because there will never be an adequate one.

  23. My friend in high school behaved exactly like the friend in the first letter. Turned out she was bipolar, anorexic, and having major issues with her family. I regret backing away from someone who so clearly needed my friendship, even though she was being a jerk and ignoring me.

    1. I’m not sure you sticking around to be the subject of jerky behaviour would have helped that set of issues and would have resulted in damage to you. There is only so much you can do sometime.

    2. Having a mental illness is not a free pass for treating people like crap though. You are not obliged to put up with any kind of abuse just because the perpetrator is ill.

    3. I kind of disagree that someone who is actively pushing you away, and being hurtful in the process, “needs” your friendship, no matter how much they themself are hurting. Because there is really nothing you can do for them. Any attempts at helpfulness will be unwelcome. You do need to take care of yourself first. The best thing you can do for someone, if they’re not a good friend right now but you think they may be once they start pulling themself together, is to disengage but keep a line of communication open in case they later contact you again and have actually started changing. Friendship isn’t one-way, you can only be a friend to someone who’s a friend to you.

      1. As someone with a formerly untreated and undiagnosed mental illness who said/did some regrettable things before getting diagnosed and treated (generally self-harmful, not directed towards other people) I have to agree. I struggled very hard with depression after college and it was very hard on the friends I lived with to see me go through that. It wasn’t anything as severe as trying to make someone be my therapist or sounding board, but coming home to a roommate crying on the couch several days a week must have been awful.

        While I needed friends and needed support, what I really needed was a diagnosis, competent health professionals, meds, and treatment, which I eventually got. While I deeply appreciate how supportive my friends were and continue to be, it wasn’t their responsibility to try to manage my illness.

        Fortunately I have come to a place where I can ask for X, Y, and Z (a hug, some hanging out time, someone to listen to me vent for five minutes before we change the subject).

        If your friend is able to come to you and ask for something specific that you can provide, that’s one thing – but I don’t think that anyone should have to tolerate someone lashing out in pain, even if it’s for reasons like mental illness or family trauma.

    4. Seconding Vasha and CommanderBanana. As mentioned elsewhere in the comments, I’m a former jerk who tried to leverage my jerkiness to push away people I no longer cared for. And y’know, some of that behavior and prior self-justification for that behavior probably does stem from MH issues that I realize I ought to address with my insurance company’s psychiatric department…but they were no excuse for the behavior, and the more my Lapises tried to smother me (from my perspective) with their friendship, the nastier I became in response.

      I know it’s a common belief that the most toxic individuals are the ones who need help the most, and there may be some grain of truth to that, but the help needed is almost certainly of a professional variety, and that has to be sought out voluntarily by the toxin-bearer. Being an ass to people around you may or may not be a conscious way of keeping them at arm’s length or farther, but it is sending a message nonetheless.

      In short, you have the permission of an internet stranger with issues to let go of your regret, if you so desire. :S

    5. As someone who also self sabotaged in high school by pushing away anyone who resembled a friend to me, I know that them sticking around would not have gotten me the help I needed at all. It was losing friends and making me reevaluate my approach that got me to a place where I was no longer shielding myself from other humans by being a toxic bubbling waste dump. So actually you did the right thing by backing away, do not regret that decision. You cannot save anyone from themselves.

  24. 889: When you express dismay at your friend’s stories, maybe suggest askamanager.com to help her find better approaches.

  25. I really like the bit about silence can equal assent to what is going on, and how speaking up in the moment to either set a boundary, clarify information or reality check a situation can be so healthy for everyone involved.

    I’ve found asking a question eg: “not sure I’m following, did you really (mean, do, say etc)….?” can be effective in the moment, gets me some more information if I need or buys me time to phrase a reaction. I have to watch the tone that I use, but it’s worked well.

    1. I use this a lot, and it’s great. It allows people to clarify legitimate misinterpretations, prompts well-meaning people to re-think unintentionally harmful actions, and identifies people consciously dedicated to positions or behaviors that one finds problematic.

      1. This is all really, really good advice. It’s true that not saying anything seems to be being taken as assent or approval. I need to ask “did you really do/say X”? Because even asking that question implies that I am dubious about this. Thanks. LW

  26. LW 889: I read a great article not long ago about how the most effective managers weren’t just firm with expectations, but also conveyed a sense of caring about their employees. Because if a manager or supervisor doesn’t care about you, everything else just comes across as cruelty. I think it might be good to ask her if she genuinely cares about her subordinates lives, their quality of life, and them being good at their job. And she should think about whether they also know that.

    If she doesn’t care about the people who work for her, and doesn’t care about their careers, etc, she should re think being in a position of responsibility over other people at this time. Maybe there will come a time when she CAN be a good mentor and build up her employees and build a fully functional team. But if she thinks that tearing people down and ruining their careers and making their lives harder is a badge of honor, she might not be at the right place in her career to be supervising.

    Maybe her working alongside HER supervisor to manage her team, and get some guidance from someone who is more comfortable?

    But if she doesn’t have the emotional resources to care about the people who work for her, and want them to have a good career, and want her team to be successful, she’s not in a good place to be running a team.

  27. Ugh, I feel you LW #888. My mother is hoping to have a similar ‘big talk’ with a cousin who has been unkind to her for the past few years, and she’s holding on to the hope that their discussion will lead that cousin to admit their wrongdoing and ending with happy tears and a big bear hug. It hurts to have the people you care for not show the same affection in return, you should certainly grieve for the relationship and happier times you once had. But that thought you have, that my mother has? The one that says ‘If I’m able to put together a REALLY killer argument, the perfect words in the perfect order, they’ll have no choice but to realize how much they’ve been hurting me and never do it again’? Don’t listen, it’s a lie. Someone who has no problem treating you cruelly in public, to the point where other people are uncomfortable, will not provide you with the resolution you’re looking for. You’ve made a choice (an excellent choice!) to gather Team You and regroup from this situation, and I would suggest taking a beat before running back to fix things. You’re a bright and shiny star, LW, you should do a few loops around the galaxy, hang out with other cool ass constellations or just bask in your own illumination before you even think about heading back to someone who says things like ‘Hey, don’t shine so bright’ or ‘You know, I find your twinkle super annoying, turn it off.’

  28. LW889: While I agree with the Captain that it would be counterproductive to bring up her psychology/history, you might still like to recommend that your friend read “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. While it is aimed at those who have not yet left an abusive relationship, she may still find the insights useful. Chapter Six, “Am I the Problem?” has some good advice for those who may be treating others as they were treated… for whatever reason. Good luck!

    1. I’ll keep that reference in mind,thanks. I’ve read some Lundy Bancroft and found it very useful, and she might also.

  29. So a small update: I hung out with V today, and it was AWESOME! We got some comics (the paperback of Jem and Holograms & Suzune Magica) and then stayed at her place. We had pizza, watched Yura Yuri, watched Rifftrax and Isle of Rangoon, and read some comics.

    We chatted, made jokes, and had tons of fun. We looked at a few things I likedwithout having make a big arguement about it like I sometimes had to with Jasper (where 95% of the time, we didn’t do a lot of things I wanted to do). V didn’t pick on everything I did. I didn’t feel like I had to be super careful and everything I did or say without causing an explosion.

    It just felt so wonderful! This and Sharknado 4 (where I hung out with everyone except Jasper). I feel a lot better than I did while hanging with Jasper.

    While I might miss Jasper just little bit, I think I’m ready to drop the friendship with her. I just feel so much better without Jasper.

    I will keep y’all updated. In the meantime, thanks Captain Awkward and her loving, dastardly crew of Awkward-Pirates. Consider me part of the crew.

    Glub glub. >0>

    1. Glad to hear the update! Life is so much better when you’re not walking on eggshells during the time that is supposed to be your “fun” time.

    2. Sometimes a friendship can be so all-consuming that you can’t even imagine what it would be like not to be in it (even when it’s totally dysfunctional). When you finally feel the relief that comes when your world doesn’t end (and other people don’t treat you badly), it can be totally liberating.

      I’m so glad you had a chance to hang out with someone whose chief hobby ISN’T tearing you down.

  30. 889:

    There’s a Stephen King book called Rose Madder that I can’t help thinking of here. Summarizing briefly (and cutting the best parts of the story out entirely): Rosie is the victim of spousal abuse, she escapes, and then in her new, safer life, she suddenly is subjected to fits of unexplainable rage.

    This sounds like your friend. If she hasn’t sought counseling, it might be worth it to suggest, if you can, if you don’t think she’ll explode on you.

    Otherwise, yes “Wow, that’s inappropriate for a manager” is your best friend. “Wow, that makes you sound like a horrible person and I know you aren’t, what’s up, are you okay?” is also a good one. I’ve had success using it on someone who tried to play the race card with me i.e.: ‘all peoples of X are Y’, ‘wow, that makes you sound like a horrible person. are you okay?’

  31. Lapis: Jasper is deliberately trying to cut off her friendship with you and doing it in a passive-aggressive way. If there was no clear instigating incident, she’s probably decided she doesn’t like your company for some reason. It may be something reasonable (e.g. there’s something about your personality that truly bugs her or she feels like you don’t have the same interests anymore) or something unreasonable (e.g. you got a haircut that reminds her of someone else she despises.) I think you’re doing exactly the right thing by backing off and not confronting it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t confront it eventually. If this is someone whose friendship you value, it’s worth trying to reconnect after she’s had a chance to think things over (without any communication from you.) If it’s clear she’s still giving you the cold shoulder at that point (I would say at least a month or two) I would say that would be a good time to be direct and ask why.

  32. Also, I am giving major side-eye to the other friends named in the letter because of this:

    “My friends, Skellington and Steven, have basically told me that this is getting too much. Steven even said, “The last time we hung out with you and Jasper, I felt so awkward. It was like I was only invited just to watch her tear you down.” The only reason why they can’t speak out if because they can’t drive and usually Jasper is their ride.”

    Really? You can’t speak out because someone is your ride? Maybe look into some other transportation options, or if you know someone is the type of person to refuse to give you a ride home if you disagree with them, 1. find other options and 2. rethink that friendship.

    1. Originally, steven and skellington were in a town that was too far me for to drive, and closer to jasper. They have a new place to live now that is closer to my neck of the woods.

      Also, Steven is getting his permit. He’s making steps to try and drive more independently.

      And yup, hanging with steven and skellington again, without Jasper. We’ve been having skype chats (until skype updated and became awful) and they’ve been been encouraging me to keep at a distance from jasper. I think they’re trying to keep their distance too.

  33. This response is only for LW #1:

    I’ve had the friend that bullies you and ghosts you intermittently.

    I’ve had that friend more than once.

    Let me tell you what I learned.

    1. Finding out “what you did wrong” WILL NOT make you feel better. The curiosity is burning you, you feel like you’re dying inside. It hurts so much. But I swear to you on everything I love, it will never, ever make you feel any better.

    Finding out “what you did wrong” just opens up cans upon cans of worms you didn’t even know existed.

    2. If a friend cares about you, they’ll act like they care about you. They really will. A person who treats you poorly is a person who treats you poorly. They’re not a person who’s stressed out; they’re not a person who’s angry with you; they are simply a person who treats you poorly.

    Back off your friend, LW. You can’t, and shouldn’t, “reconnect” after this. It’s over. It was over the second your friend started treating you poorly. It was over the second you made that imaginary transgression. It’s been over for a long time.

    That sucks. I get it. But if you escape now, instead of writing a breakup letter or fighting it, you’ll have your dignity.

    I just have one more thing to say. Steven and Skellington shouldn’t have let this go on so long. Friends don’t let friends get abused. There’s no caveat there. “Hey, Jasper, I heard what you said to Lapis. That really wasn’t cool.” “Wow, Jasper. What did that mean?” or even interrupting and rerouting her when she’s treating you like shit would all be acceptable responses. An unacceptable response is sitting quietly and then bringing it up later, as if the fact that they observed her abusing you is enough to cancel out the abuse that took place. Fucking do something about it.

    Or at the absolute very least, STOP HANGING OUT WITH HER!

    Oh, Jasper’s the only one with a car? Take an uber. Take the bus. Walk. Stay home.

    PSA: Stop letting friends bully other friends. That’s not okay. It will never be okay. It’s something that put me in a hospital once. Stop fucking doing it. Just because it wasn’t you physically saying the words doesn’t mean you’re innocent. Your silence is approval.

    I just don’t get it. I just don’t fucking get how people can continue to hang out with someone that treats SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT so poorly. I just don’t fucking get it. Where’s your empathy? Where’s your sense of human decency? Where’s your conscience?

    That’s all. Thanks.

  34. While I appreciate the help, I would like if you guys stop picking on Steven and Skellington. They have their reasons why Jasper was their only ride for a time. And now they are not only keeping their distance from Jasper, but also taking the steps to be independent.

    In the meantime, I have made no contact with jasper. We are pretty much through.

Comments are closed.