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#898: “My friend’s wife loathes at least half of us but comes to our weekly games night to hang out anyway.”

Hi Captain Awkward,

I have a good female friend, V. Friend V has a wife, O. Every weekend, all of our friends group and SO’s will get together Saturday night to hang out, have a drink and play games. This is great. What is not so great is that O has privately reached out to every masculine person in the group that she has not dated and let them know that they make her uncomfortable and would they please not talk to her or interact with her in any way. She has also publicly said that she thinks each one is an asshole and will ask people who date those men what they see in them anyway.

When I thought that she only felt this way towards me, I was hurt, but tried to do the right thing to make her more comfortable. At this point, as more of the situation is coming out, I’m struggling for a solution. Her discomfort is beginning to feel secondary to the discomfort of the half of our group she’s slagging and asking to tiptoe around her, but I don’t know how to deal with this.

Please, help!

Sincerely,

Frustrated

(He/Him pronouns are fine)

Dear Frustrated,

Read about the Five Geek Social Fallacies, if you haven’t already. It explains a lot about how a situation as weird as “I strongly dislike you, please never speak to me or interact with me at these small events that both of us come to literally every Saturday 52 times/year” can come about. I’m on the record that folks gotta call out the creepers they know, but in this case O. is giving no one any path to improve relations with her and insisting on attending gatherings with y’all just so she can tell you she doesn’t like you. Like, what’s her end game here? “Could you please stop doing that offensive thing” is a reasonable request because it has an unspoken “…because I want spending time with you to be more pleasant and comfortable” at the end of it. Critique is an investment in the relationship. What’s the plan for “Don’t address me, ever, even when I am right here eating your bread and salt“?

I wonder how much V. knows, or guesses, and how incredibly awkward the situation has become and how much of this happens behind her back. None of her choices are fun ones. She could either let try to shut down O.’s behavior, let O.’s likes and dislikes rule (and isolate herself from hanging out with you), or let her wife be mean to all of you and hope that you will put up with it for her sake and that it doesn’t all blow up in the end (probably what’s happening now). You can’t control O.’s behavior, or V.’s reaction to it, but I see several choices that you can control:

Address O. directly when she says something mean to you:

You can go short: “Wow.” “Okay.” “I’ll keep that in mind.” “Noted.”

You can go for sincerity: “I don’t really like you either, but you make my friend happy and I do my best to be cool for V.’s sake. Since you’re at my home for games night, I sure wish you’d do the same. I’ll stop saying or doing [that thing that pisses you off so much], but I’d like you to either make some kind of peace where you can be basically polite to me so that V. can see her friends, or take a break every once and a while and schedule some solo time with *your* friends. You don’t have to like any of us, but you do need to be civil if you’re gonna hang.

Have a private conversation with your friend:V., did you know that O. has asked me to never speak to her or interact with her? It’s really awkward and makes me feel terrible, especially since we see her every week when we see you. What’s going on with that?

This is risky, because V. will feel obligated to take O.’s side, and if O.’s behavior is an attempt to isolate V. from all of you, this plays into her hands. It also risks making V. feel responsible for O., when she’s not the one messing up. A boundary would be “O. needs to be polite or she will be uninvited” and then enforcing that, which also means that V. will no longer feel invited or will be subject to all kinds of pressure to stay home in solidarity.

Depending on what V. says, a follow-up of “Is there anything I can do to make this all easier on you?” and also “I don’t want you to have to mediate this, I just wanted to find out if there is something I am unwittingly doing that I could do to make this all less hostile. I can talk to O. directly next time it comes up. 

See also: “O. doesn’t have to like me, but this open hostility is getting old. Can we hang out sometimes without her?

Change up the routine. Arrange private/smaller hangouts instead of the weekly All Hands Hang: Lunch with just V. sometimes, hard-core game days with the hard-core gamers, stay home sometimes, make it somehow OK for others to stay home, invite some new blood. Try back in a month and see if it’s better.

Other ideas, readers? I notice that O. talked to “all the men in the group she has not dated” and I wasn’t sure how to parse it- what about the ones she has dated (if any)?

 

 

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135 comments
  1. Catherine from Canada said:

    To me this sounds like O is trying to isolate V by pissing off all her friends so that they both get excluded from the group, which leads naturally to Abuser Step One: “You can’t trust your so-called friends, you can only trust me.”

    • Guava said:

      Ding ding ding ^^^ That is what jumped out at me too.

    • This is exactly what I am thinking. If O. is insisting on going with V. to social activities with people O. openly dislikes and speaks ill of, rather than staying home, she is forcing a limited number of unpleasant choices on V. and punishing V.’s (entire?) social group while at it. The ones that come to mind are:
      * O. wants to get V. disinvited from Game Night thanks to O.’s behaviors so V. has fewer or no social support system friends to interact with — in other words, O. is hoping V.’s friends will gang up on her and ask her not to come hang out or start quietly disinviting V. from group events with SOs, because O. is such a pill
      * O. wants to make it so unpleasant/embarrassing for V. to attend Game Night (thanks to O. being a Jerkus Maximums to everyone else there) that V. stays home, with the same result of cutting V. off from her social network — in this case, O. wants V. to divorce herself from her friends (perhaps as a way of reassuring the unreasurable O. that V. loves O. more?), thus making V. choose this decision on her own while feeling committed to it because of that, and perhaps even deciding it was 100% her own decision and choice.

      My antennae are twitching, and I am not feeling particularly comfortable about O.’s behaviors.

    • Beatrice said:

      Yeah, this pretty much happened in our gaming group at one point. (The isolating behaviors were different, but the result was the same.)

  2. darthtrina said:

    That clause about the masculine people (which is not necessarily men) she has not dated got my attention too. Proportionally are there more she has or has not dated? How does she treat the masculine people she has dated?

    • B. said:

      Good questions. Seconding that masculine people =/= men, even though the LW uses both terms in his letter as if they were synonymous, which confuses me but is not the crux of the matter. My interpretation is that O. is trying to sow discord and make people feel bad under the guise of asking for respect. If she wanted people to respect her boundaries, she would state them clearly *and* take herself out of a situation where she doesn’t feel comfortable so V. could spend some quality-time with her friends.

      LW, maybe you could institute a “singles”-night, in which you hang out with your friends without spouses and S.O.s? That way, V. wouldn’t feel like she must bring O., and O. wouldn’t feel pressured to come. Pay attention to O.’s reaction to your suggestion: if she flips out at the mere prospect, there may be controlling or abusive behaviour going on.

      • KPie said:

        A singles night sounds like a great idea. If it’s too much of a burden to be scheduling two events in one week, you could try to alternate weeks between “singles” and “all in” nights. This has the added benefit of continuing to allow everybody to get together to hang out regularly, and also allows V to still come by regularly and not feel as though she is excluding O – which is important if O IS the abusive type as she as she may try to prevent V from attending otherwise.

      • Raptor said:

        Is O even a gamer?

        Honestly, whenever I hear “singles night” and “no wives,” I just get irritated. My husband and I are about equally nerdy, but only one of us would be invited? Would it be me, because I’ve been in the board game group about a year longer (out of 5+ years)? Or him because someone specifically said “no wives?”

        On the other hand, the non-gamers who show up for food and beer don’t always have to come along. All of the SOs in our group are actually interested in playing the games, but the roommates and siblings mostly show up for food and maybe Resistance.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          That would be my big issue with “singles night.” If both members of a couple are gamers, who gets to come? If O isn’t a gamer as is just attending because of V, it’d remove her from the context… but in my social circles, at least half the people who go to game nights are paired up with each other, and both half of the couples are themselves gamers as opposed to tag-alongs (some people of both genders are beer-and-chips-and-socializing tagalongs who would be fine being excluded… but many people are in both-gamer couples). Which means that the solution is not so simple. (If my partner was invited to a ‘singles gaming night’ without me, or vice versa, if it was stated as such, I know we’d both be wondering why we were considered the ‘single’ in that equation.)

          • B. said:

            Clarification: I suggested it because it looked to me like the LW was looking for a low-confrontational way to hang out with his friends without having to put up with O’s bad behaviours. I figured that “hey, V, guys, I want to hang out without our better halves tonight, who’s game?” is a better way to achieve that than “O, you’re excluded because you’re being a jerk”.
            It’s not necessarily simple, but it could be feasible.
            That said, I hear you all on the weirdness of splitting couples when everyone usually hangs out together.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            I think the issue for me is that any kind of phrasing that made it clear that one half of the couple is considered the ‘real member’ of the group, and the other was the ‘better half’ who was tagging along, would actually make it way more confrontational. If my friend says to my partner, “Hey, I’d love to hang out just the two of us some time,” then that’s fine. If my friend says to my partner, “Hey, I’m doing a singles night with you and Joe and Sally and Rachel; Turtle and Bob and Anne can’t come,” that’s going to at best… raise some questions. Like, why Joe and Sally and Rachel but not me and Bob and Anne? If half of us are gamers and the other half are not, sure, but it’s rare IME for groups involving couples to split neatly that way, where one half of each couple is a gamer and the other half isn’t. It feels like this would, in attempting to make V and O feel okay about O’s not being invited, potentially create brand new conflict where there wasn’t any, as people tried to figure out what criteria made their partner the “single” and them the “better half.”

          • B. said:

            Well, in this case, I think the criteria would be that LW is good friends with V but not with O, according to the start of the letter. But I guess one-on-one plans could work sometimes, or issuing individual invitations to the people the LW wants to hang out with, explicitly asking that no one brings anyone who wasn’t also invited, because [insert believable excuse about room/expenses here]. A victory here would be a fun evening with no O presence, or with O present but behaving politely, more than an “everyone hanging out” situation, which is not working too well so far.

  3. Cora said:

    Agreeing with all of the practical advice here, on the surface that seems like a monster ego, with the attendant monstrous insecurity. She can’t be without her partner (insecurity) but she’s better than all of you (ego). She has told the men she hasn’t dated not to interact with her, because if they do, well obviously they’re going to fall instantly deeply in love with her (ego), because if they don’t, well, then what is she worth? (insecurity). She has to make sure no one is out the steal her partner (insecurity) but she has to have everything her way (ego).

    I think the only practical way to deal is to always put the responsibility back on her, following CA’s advice. Either she doesn’t come, or she shuts up and plays nice. Any pushback (well, you FORCED me to stay home/you FORCED me to go) gets immediately shot down: no, you had a choice, this is what you chose. But above all, be there for your friend. If this is typical, she must be exhausted.

  4. If there is any concern at all that O. and V. have some kind of toxic dynamic going on, then LW doesn’t need to talk to V. at all. I think LW can handle everything with O. alone, starting with a very direct question: “Why are you still here?”

    I’d bring it up with O. one-on-one, so that O. can save face. But it’s an eminently reasonable question. If O. doesn’t want interaction from half the people in the room, then why does O. remain in the room?

    LW, there is nothing you can do that will satisfy O. It’s your house, and the people who attend this gathering are the people who attend. O. is clearly deeply unhappy when she is there — so it’s absolutely fair to ask O. to put up or shut up.

    • Flash Bristow said:

      “If O. doesn’t want interaction from half the people in the room, then why does O. remain in the room?”

      Well, we can surmise that the answer is most likely “for control, to keep tabs on V”. If this is so, O’s not going to admit to that! So whatever O does say is likely an excuse (it’s convenient to travel together / we both do x thing beforehand / why not, I enjoy it… And so on…) and so if you attempt to take what O says at face value and address it, you can bet a new “reason” for attending will suddenly pop up.

      Because O is not going to say “I need to keep an eye on V’s interactions at all times”, is she?

      • glomarization said:

        I don’t want to surmise anything, though. I’m not a mind-reader, and V. and O.’s relationship dynamics aren’t my business, in any event. O. is choosing to come to the gathering and sh*t all over it. I would want to call out that behavior and bring it into the open. I’d be happy to take each and every response that O. gives me and continue the conversation. Right now, LW is ending the conversation when O. says “don’t talk to me,” and that’s some nonsense right there.

      • This is dead on. The only reason I can think of for a partner to attend an event where they don’t like the other participants (and maybe do not even like the activity? Not clear on that) and then act like an asshat to most of the other people there is to keep tabs on their SO.

        Or maybe O. owns the “family vehicle” or is the designated driver or the only licensed driver. If O. is the reluctant chauffeur for a Game Night every week and she doesn’t like V.’s friends, that MIGHT explain some of the rudeness. But it’s still rude.

        If the group is meeting at a single private home or round-robinning so Game Night happens week by week at everyone’s homes, that, as another commenter notes below, is a different problem from a Game Night held at a public space or business. There are difficulties involved with each situation.

        If they are meeting at one person’s house every week, that puts an onus on the host to deal with the O. issue and with V., and if GSF are in play, or the host is non-assertive, this is not going to be easy. Note also that talking to a friend about her wife behaving badly is going to require more finesse than discussing the bad behavior or a casual date or short-term girlfriend; there’s an element of “package deal-ness” going on when everyone else is bringing well-behaved SOs. This, however, strikes me as the most promising scenario where positive change can take root.

        If they are playing at a variety of private homes, it is even less likely that everyone will lay down consistent rules with O. and the problem with O. being a jerk is probably going to get worse and end up punishing V., whose only sin is picking a rude woman to marry. This is also much more likely to encourage triangulation, sides-picking, in-fighting and gossip, as the group is going to deal with shifting territories and shifting rules every week.

        A public venue makes it nigh-impossible to disinvite O. There’s a slight chance that going from a private to public venue will encourage better “social politeness” behavior, but there’s little you can do it it doesn’t, and O. continues to be a pill AT people. (I mean, it is OK not to like someone, but what purpose does making it obvious and shoving it in their faces serve? I’m agog.)

      • Doesn’t matter. The goal is to make her squirm and know no one’s buying this nonsense. (Well, that would be the point for me, but this is also a much nicer variation on what I’d say, too.) I would jump to disinvite, but this is actually brilliantly mercenary. Make it HER awkwardness.

        • Or, rather, I’d say “You don’t like us? Then don’t come.” Put up or shut up indeed. This is childish.

    • TO_Ont said:

      “It’s your house, and the people who attend this gathering are the people who attend. ”

      The captain said something too about it being the LWs house, but I keep rereading the letter and not seeing anything where it says or even implies that. What am I missing?

  5. What is that icon? said:

    Does O. have some bad experiences that make interacting with some people traumatic?
    Every single Saturday with the same group of someone else’s friends would be too much for me no matter how much I loved the someone else.

    • Ginger said:

      “Does O. have some bad experiences that make interacting with some people traumatic?” That’s my gut reaction too, not that it makes her behavior any for acceptable really.

      • Ginger said:

        *any more acceptable. (Although, I do thing it changes the interpretation some readers are taking quite a bit, from “O. is controlling V. and refusing to let her socialize alone” to “O. is uncomfortable around men and tolerating them in V.’s social group for her sake but Not Happy about it.”

        • thathat said:

          I feel like if that were the case, that she would have set the same boundary with the men she’d dated as well. That’s part of what makes this read kinda odd to me. It almost makes more sense to me that someone would put up boundaries with a person they have dated than with one they haven’t?

          • Ginger said:

            Quoted from my below comment because it’s relevant: (Although ‘except the ones she’s dated’ puts a bit of a weird twist on that–but not outside the realm of possibility.) –My thought on that was it might be “you’re dangerous until proven otherwise” at play.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yeah, it is possible that she really does feel uncomfortable around men. (Although ‘except the ones she’s dated’ puts a bit of a weird twist on that–but not outside the realm of possibility.)

      But even if that is the case, I don’t think it’s particularly reasonable to say “hey, everyone in X category, I’m going to repeatedly come to events where you are but insist you don’t interact with me.” And that’s before the active insults come into the picture. (Not that you were saying it was, of course.) There are limits to how far people can be expected to go for someone else’s comfort.

      • Ginger said:

        (Although ‘except the ones she’s dated’ puts a bit of a weird twist on that–but not outside the realm of possibility.) –My thought on that was it might be “you’re dangerous until proven otherwise” at play.

        • I get really confused about the sexes of the people involved. O. and V. seem to be a lesbian couple? Are the “masculine” people she has dated butch lesbians, and the ones she hasn’t dated are men?
          Then that would make sense.
          The theory that she knows those she has dated better and therefore isn’t uncomfortable around them also makes sense. But it would really be clearer if LW had stated this more clearly.

          • Leilah said:

            Given the information, it seems like it’s reasonable to assume that O. is bisexual.

          • Blue Meeple said:

            I assumed O is bisexual (or something similar) and so has dated both men and women. The wording is confusing, though.

          • That seems possible, but why then say “masculine person” instead of just “man”? It is of course possible that LW just likes the sound of this word combination, but it seems strange.

            Also this “every x she hasn’t dated” – why not say “three other dudes”? “Everyone” seems like a lot, but it is possible this is just two gamer dudes, and the group is mostly made up of people who are somehow not “masculine”.

            O. just telling the dudes privately that she doesn’t like them seems atypical for a person who really feels uncomfortable (normally, one would tell a friend, first, not talk to the people she doesn’t want to talk to) so I won’t say she’s not potentially trying to isolate V, but it is all very weird.

          • Jingo said:

            I’m assuming O is bi/pan.

          • B. said:

            FWIW, in my head “masculine people” includes men (trans or cis), non-binary masculine trans people (who aren’t necessarily comfortable being addressed as “men”) and masculine-presenting/”butch” people (who may be trans or cis, men, women, non-binary, agender, or any gender identity). The LW uses both “men” and “masculine people” in his letter, but I can’t get a clear reading on whether he’s referring to the same group of people at both times.

          • Nanani said:

            It isn’t really relevant what the genders of everyone in the group is, nor of the subset that dated O. at some point.
            Masculine people might mean a subset of the group that includes one or more masculine-presenting women or agender people as well as cis men, it might mean all men, it might mean one or more genderqueer people, or anything else. None of it changes the advice.

          • Trans men exist. Gender queer masculine-of-center people exist. Both would fall under “masculine people.” O. might be bisexual or O. might be pansexual or O. might only be attracted to women but have dated someone(s) before they transitioned. (shrug-emoji)

          • JenniferP said:

            How would being able to pin down everyone’s gender & orientation affect the advice, exactly? Bisexual people (just for starters) exist.

          • morgansd said:

            Jennifer, if LW is misrepresenting non-binary or butch women as “masculine” because he, as a binary man, perceives them to be masculine, that matters hugely.

            I am agender. I do not identify as male or female. I do not feel masc or femme. These are meaningless concepts to me. However, I am constantly assumed to be masc or femme by binary gendered people, depending on how I’m dressed. Because most people in our culture still conflate the clothes we wear with our gender identities, even though that makes no real sense to do in a world that includes enbies.

            So if LW is claiming that O is refusing to talk to “any masculine people except ones she’s dated”, when the actual fact is that O is avoiding interaction with *all men present*, and is exclusively interacting with women and non-masculine enbies–that is a wildly different situation than the one LW claims is happening.

            Not to mention how it always. Fucking. Matters. When enby identities are being erased into the binary. It is never okay, and should always be called out. And no, it’s not enough to say “bisexuals exist, for example”, because that doesn’t address the existence of trans identities at all, much less enby identities.

            Check your binary privilege, Cap. You’re wrong on this point, and you’re letting defensiveness get in the way of actively listening to enbies who are pointing out that this matters.

            So here’s one more enby telling you: it matters what the gender IDs are in this situation because LW claims that’s the entire basis for this dynamic: that O is a woman who hates men. If there are enbies present who LW is erasing into binary manhood, he is misrepresenting the whole situation (and maybe, just maybe, that’s part of why O is so done with him and the other men in his social circle). If so, your advice is not just misplaced, it is going to enable him in continuing to erase and hurt the non-binary people involved. And O. That really, really fucking matters. No matter how much you want it not to.

          • JenniferP said:

            I stand corrected.

          • kindasorta said:

            @morgansd You make some really excellent points. But I can’t agree with you on this: “it matters what the gender IDs are in this situation because LW claims that’s the entire basis for this dynamic: that O is a woman who hates men” LW didn’t claim that. The LW did not say that O hates men. The LW laid out facts of what O has done and the effects that that has had on the group. It’s us commenters who are concluding from those facts that O hates men. And the Captain’s advice is still good advice regardless of the sexes of the people involved.

            You said: “if LW is misrepresenting non-binary or butch women as “masculine” because he, as a binary man, perceives them to be masculine, that matters hugely” Yes, it does matter. It matters in the world that this happens, and it matters in this instance just because if that’s what’s happening, it’s not ok. But that’s a different problem–as far as we can tell from what’s in the letter–from what’s going on with O. If that’s happening, the LW needs to fix that with himself. But–again, from what’s in the letter–that wouldn’t appear to solve the problem that he wrote in about. You’ve brought up a very important point, but the doesn’t change the fact that the Captain’s advice is good advice for dealing with the problem that LW asked for help with.

          • PintsizeBro said:

            I’m not an expert on enby issues, but the LW signs off with “he/him pronouns are fine.” That doesn’t come off to me like someone who is super invested in a male gender identity.

    • Helen Damnation said:

      Part of me wants to argue this – I have my back up around men, too, but can see how she might still want to attend a gaming group for the gaming/for her wife/for the people whose company she does enjoy even if she wasn’t comfortable. But while I try to avoid more than surface conversation with most men, her behaviour here is appalling. Going around calling everyone creepy to their face pretty much just for being male, sniping behind their backs, sowing discord in the friend group… not cool. If things were actually bad enough to justify this nastiness, she should just stop going. If it’s just her own insecurities talking (which is fine! you can dislike people for illogical reasons, it’s your life!), she should recognise that and not make it other people’s problem.

      • Yeah, if it’s a “being around men makes me feel uncomfortable” thing, the right thing to do is to either not come or let people know what the problem is, not to make each individual man think that he in particular is disliked for some reason (or no reason).

    • “Every single Saturday with the same group of someone else’s friends would be too much for me no matter how much I loved the someone else.” Then…you don’t go. *blink* In what possible context is this acceptable behavior? Literally no one is forcing her to do anything with anyone.

    • Temporary Null said:

      It’s entirely possible that O has some PTS reaction to being around men or masculine people. I had a good 2 years where I was incapable of trusting cis men, which was hugely disruptive to my social life.

      Even if that’s the case, it’s O’s job to deal with this, not LW’s and not V’s. O needs to seek treatment for her trauma, and should dial back on triggering situations by bowing out when she doesn’t have the spoons. Living with trauma sucks, but O’s way of dealing with it helps no one.

      Also, living with trauma and being abusive aren’t mutually exclusive by a long shot.

    • Ms. Pris said:

      “Every single Saturday with the same group of someone else’s friends would be too much for me no matter how much I loved the someone else.”

      Me too, but in that case I would not insist on going to this event. O has the option of spending her Saturday elsewhere. Instead she goes to the gathering and dictates how other people behave.

  6. Turtle Candle said:

    Oooh. Yeah. If it was just you, or just you and one other person, or something, I might say, “Maybe this is a good time to do a little soul-searching, just to make sure you aren’t the Missing Stair of this group,” you know? Not that you necessarily would be, but I’d consider that at least a reasonable thing to suggest.

    But if it’s literally every dude in the group (except the ones she hasn’t dated?), that seems… less likely to be the case. I don’t know what the case is, mind you, but there is something odd going on there–even if she really is legit uncomfortable with like half the group, and isn’t just being manipulative or controlling, I don’t understand why she doesn’t just stop coming and arrange her own events with the people she does like. It’s… weird.

    Because I am occasionally paranoid about this sort of thing, I do think it’s worth saying something to V., because I was in an oddly similar situation where someone in a social group really disliked me, made it plain to me that she did not want to talk to me nor me to her… and then went crying to a close friend of mine that I was so mean because I was giving her the cut direct and humiliating her in front of the group. Fortunately said close friend came to me like, “Dude what’s up?” and I was able to explain that, whoa, I wasn’t talking to her because she had asked me not to, not because I was a meanie meaniepants. If the other people in this thread are right and O is trying to isolate V, that’s a particularly ugly and effective way to do it: privately tell a bunch of people not to talk to her, and then cry into her cheerios that the whole group is just so mean that they won’t even look at her.

    (I also think, for what it’s worth, that it’s an entirely fair boundary to tell someone that they need to at least be civil. Nobody has to interact with anyone if they don’t want to, but I also think that at some point if you’re going to pretend that half the social group is invisible, what you really need to do is not come to those parties. Having the moral right to not interact with people doesn’t give you the social right to be repeatedly rude to their faces and continue to be welcomed back.)

    • thathat said:

      ” privately tell a bunch of people not to talk to her, and then cry into her cheerios that the whole group is just so mean that they won’t even look at her.”

      *shiver*

      Oh yeah, that sounds very plausible.

      • Editrix said:

        The same thing struck me – especially since she’s apparently been secretive enough about her no-contact requests that LW thought he was the only one until he found out it was half the group; that suggests that she’s privately approached potentially quite a number of people with the lethal combination of embarrassment (“You’ve done something so vaguely horrible that I can’t even stand for you to speak to me”), isolation (implying that each is the only one with a problem with her), and reciprocal rudeness. It’s like a predatory animal, scattering a pack to make for easier pickings. I think the group absolutely needs to chat with O and V together, as a group, so there can be no accusations of misinterpretation or misrepresentation, and all of the separate isolating conversations are put on the table together.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      I had a friend who refused to talk to me, and then spoke to a mutual friend who guilted me about how much she missed me and missed talking to me.

      Let’s just say I don’t talk to any of them anymore.

  7. PerfectlyCromulent said:

    Why does O attend these gatherings if she doesn’t enjoy the company? It sounds like they have a power-and-control thing going on here.

    All LW has to say to O is “I’m sorry to hear that the people who will be at my home make you uncomfortable. I completely understand if you’d prefer not to attend our group events in the future.”

    And then follow up with V: “O has made it clear that she’s not comfortable attending our group events on Saturdays. I was saddened to hear that, but I hope we’ll still see you there.”

    • AutumnFire said:

      THIS. Perfectly said.

    • Nineveh_uk said:

      Because it is “every Saturday night” and otherwise she doesn’t get to spend a Saturday night with her wife. Of course, O.should be saying to V. that she doesn’t enjoy these events and she would like V. to cut them down so that some Saturdays they do other stuff, some Saturdays V goes alone, and occasionally O comes along and behaves in a civil manner. But “go to the games night you hate or be a grass widow” are not attractive options.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yeah, it’s certainly possible that the power dynamic is exactly the opposite of what others are assuming, and O really doesn’t want to come, and V is basically saying “okay fine but you can either attend or you can never spend a Saturday night with me ever again, so pick” or something, and O is taking it out on the others in the group.

        Even if that’s the case, though, I don’t think it changes the advice much. It’s fair for O to not want to be there; it’s fair for some undefined but multi-person set of masculine individuals to not want to spend their Saturday nights with someone who ignores them/insults them/tells their partners to break up with them. “Attend, but be unpleasant” isn’t an option that needs to be supported by the group indefinitely, and I like the Captain’s scripts (and alternate hangout suggestions) for addressing it.

      • It doesn’t seem like O has a problem speaking up, so if she has a problem with how much time V spends gaming, that’s a “them” problem and she should speak to V about it. O has no right to make it a group problem.

        My SO games with a group in the few hours a week he’s not working or sleeping. I mentioned that I would like to spend more time with him, and he said, “Oh, ok, I’ll skip next week.”

      • That was my initial impression as well. I was a grass widow for many Saturday nights in my first (very short) marriage and this just may be my own old emotional stuff coming to the surface. If this is an every-Saturday-night standing thing that V does, and I were in a primary relationship with V, I would not be happy at all, especially if I didn’t care for the people there. But the method by which V is trying to sabotage the group is definitely not the way to go.

      • Megsammor said:

        I respectfully disagree. We are talking about hypothetically one 3-hour span out of a week here? That doesn’t make her a grass widow, that makes her a person with an evening to find things for herself to do that make her happy.

        • KPie said:

          Exactly. If O isn’t comfortable with V hanging out without her every Saturday night, then how would she feel if V took up pottery classes on Wednesdays? Decided to take karate lessons? Got into soccer? People are perfectly capable of having hobbies within a partnership that their partner does not share, nor needs to attend with them.

      • That’s what I thought.

    • msnovtue said:

      “Why does O attend these gatherings if she doesn’t enjoy the company? It sounds like they have a power-and-control thing going on here.”

      Either that, or O is a fan of the “look at meeeee, I am a victim!!!” school of thought. She could be fishing for people to fill her ego trough–“oh, you poor dear, life is so cruel!” drama-queen-ism. Again, I’ve known people like this. That, or the “misery loves company” theory–she doesn’t have fun at these events, doesn’t like that V does, so she’s going to be there and do her damnest to make sure no one else has a good time either. (How dare V have fun without her!)

      All variations of a belief that the world revolves around them.

    • babbleon said:

      This is totally the way to go, though I would do it with both of them together to limit the potential for miscommunication, either accidental or purposeful. V gets supportive reinforcement of the friendship, O gets a clear boundary. It leaves the question of V and O’s relationship dynamics *to them*.

      I enjoy the community and commenters on this site, but one thing I really respected was the choice not to diagnose psychiatric conditions. *Why* it’s happening is a thing between V and O. CA excels at scripts to make it stop happening, while still making sure V has friends and support.

      I say this as someone who just had to deal with a close friend and roommate being emotionally abused by their partner / roommate. I had to kick them out because I could not support the relationship anymore, even tacitly. I told my friend, ‘this is abuse. I love and support you, but I can not live with it,’ and then I just kept repeating, ‘you are a great person; I’ve known you 20+ years and know you well, and you are not a bad person.’ CA has *really* really really really helped me deal with that, including not trying to diagnose the abuser, and biting my tongue instead of asking over and over ‘how can you live with being yelled at and called names five nights a week’? I think it’s over now (hope hope hope hope), and we are still friends, and I am deeply grateful to all of you for your wit and restraint.

  8. thathat said:

    If LW has been asked by O not to interact with her, then trying to take her aside and discuss the matter seems a surefire way of making something explode. There are a lot of not-so-nice people who use progressive terminology and concepts to manipulate everyone but them into looking like a bad guy. So she can be all like, “LW doesn’t respect my stated boundaries. He’s abusive!!”

    I think one way around this is to maybe ask someone who *isn’t* on the “You Make Me Uncomfortable” roster to talk with her.

    But really, I don’t see any point in talking to O at all. Full stop. She knows full well what she’s doing, and she’s very much doing it on purpose. Whether that’s because she’s trying to manipulate a situation where V is more isolated from her friends, or just because she’s a spoiled person who wants the world to revolve around her doesn’t matter, but I think at this point, she just can’t be reasoned with.

    Beyond just asking a large number of the people there not to interact with her in any way (in a way that seems preemptive, rather than reactionary at that), she’s publicly being a jerk to those people. There’s absolutely no excuse for that.

    I don’t really know a good solution. Part of me says to take V aside privately and talk to her about it, but that could backfire. Possibly have a discussion with everyone in the group who isn’t O or V–it’s possibly that there can be a sort of group ultimatum of “be nice or leave.”

    I feel like ultimately this is going to end with V having to leave the group at O’s insistence, whatever anyone does.

    • sam said:

      I think it’s a fair point that ‘confronting’ O may only serve to make the situation worse, but at a minimum, if O is publicly disparaging, particularly, say, to the host of that week’s game night, I think it’s perfectly legit for said host to, at that particular moment, respond with something like “you don’t have to like me, but at the very least I expect to not be publicly insulted in my own home by a guest”.

      that’s a specific, targeted reaction to an individual situation. And if V doesn’t realize what else is going on, it may serve to open the door to a bigger conversation.

      • thathat said:

        Yeah, that makes sense–to call out bad behavior right when it happens. Although for that, I feel like the group still has to engage the folks not on her “list,” y’know? Have one of the girls being questioned for “what do you even see in him?” take a stand (especially because if the guy being insulted does, then O could easily turn it into a “see, he speaks over you! He can’t stand to be criticized! What a Horrible Man.”).

        But for all the taking people aside privately thing…there’s just no good way to address that.

      • Martin said:

        This works just as well when she insults guests. “You don’t have to like him, but I will not have you insulting other gusts under my roof.” When a guest consistently insults others in your house, it makes you a poor host.

    • “There are a lot of not-so-nice people who use progressive terminology and concepts to manipulate everyone but them into looking like a bad guy.”

      Good point. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there is a conversation in the nerd/geek community around the idea of progressive values being used to hurt, manipulate, or put down someone else, and yet seems to be kind of ignored or avoided. The mayhem in the Steven Universe fandom seems to demonstrate that there can be bullies among progressives, too.

      • Mmhmm. It’s hard to have the conversation, because it’s hard to phrase ‘I also support these values, really, but I think person X is kind of an asshole/Y behavior is actually very unkind and not in alignment with my values’ when you know the people you’re criticizing are, kinda by definition, jerks who are already very good at weaponizing that language for their own purposes.

        I’ve yet to have it actually blow up in my face as much as I’m braced for, and sometimes pointing out the self-appointed Emperor of Social Justice has no clothes can be a big relief that leads to positive change. But mostly I’ve found trying to initiate that conversation leads to a lot of quiet emphatic nodding and not much else.

        I gather this is a problem in lots of communities, but I still don’t know the best ways to deal with it. Faith communities come to mind as a parallel, where people are brought together by shared aspirational values, where when someone is both hurtful and good at maintaining the right sort of righteous posture, it can be very difficult to call out the disconnect between their image and their actions.

  9. emmett said:

    hmm i’m wary of declaring this an Abusive Monstrous situation. O isn’t isolating V from her friends, she’s isolating HERSELF from SOME of V’s friends – not all of them, mind, just most of the men. as a queer person who’s uncomfortable around gamer dudes, who has dear friends w/ friends i think are gross, i don’t really feel like she’s necessarily being A TERRIBLE PERSON!!!! here
    like, can we also consider another angle where O is like “hey V a lot of your dude friends make me uncomfortable” and V is like “but they’re my friends! this is our friends time where everyone brings their SOs! please keep coming anyway!” and O has taken steps to try and avoid having to interact with the people she doesn’t like while still trying to participate in this thing her wife likes?

    i acknowledge that there’s a possibility that O is doing something shitty but i’m not comfortable with how easily commenters are framing this is “big mean abusive queer woman bullies a group of poor innocent men”z

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m not declaring it one way or another, just identifying that it’s one of the possible dynamics in a situation where V. is forced to choose. The scenario you identify is also very possible, in which case, it’s on V. and O. them to figure out some kind of “every other Saturday is date night and every other Saturday is game times with your friends, from which I might stay home!” compromise that doesn’t drag the wider friend group into that conflict. It’s not cool of V. to drag her wife to Potentially Sexist Gamer Party. If you’re gonna let yourself be dragged or insist on attending Potentially Sexist Gamer Parties 52 out of 52 Saturdays in a year, “I hate you, but I still come to your parties every goddamn week, you make me uncomfortable, never speak to me” isn’t really tenable either. It’s Okay To Hang Out Separately Sometimes If You Don’t Enjoy The Group Stuff. Again, what is O.’s endgame here?

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yes. As I mentioned in a couple of other places, it’s possible she has a good reason for not wanting to talk to them, for calling them assholes, and for asking their partners why they’re dating them. But if that’s the case, I don’t see how it’s in anyone’s best interest, including O’s, to continue socializing with this particular group (as opposed to, say, organizing other events without the guys she considers assholes).

        I’d probably feel differently if it was one or two people and not an entire category of people, admittedly. I think you can have a kind of minimal-interaction detente with one person fairly effectively–it’s the particular social weirdness of telling all the guys not to interact with her and calling all the guys assholes and yet continuing to show up that strikes me as no good for anyone.

    • Twitchy said:

      She also calls them assholes and hassles their SOs. That’s pretty unambiguously shitty, whatever else she’s doing.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yeah, even if the guys in question really are all assholes, and she’s perfectly justified in not wanting to interact with them/calling them out as assholes/etc., I can’t see how this is a situation that should persist. O is spending one night a week with a group of people where she hates at least some of them, and the rest of the group is spending one night a week socializing with/around someone who palpably dislikes them/their partners/their friends. (If I was a member of the group, even if I wasn’t one of the ones she was calling assholes or even one of the SOs being encouraged to leave them, I’d find the whole thing super uncomfortable and stressful.)

        I think that it doesn’t even so much matter who’s at fault here–something has got to change. That might be coming to some kind of civility with O, V attending without O, the group breaking up so it isn’t this one collection of people once a week, it could be a lot of things. But no matter who’s in the wrong (or even if no one’s in the wrong and it’s just an incredible social mismatch), the situation as it stands sounds pretty untenable to me.

      • Jenesis said:

        Apparently the spam filter ate my comment, but I just wanted to say, this! Even if all of the dudefolk in the group have been gross to O in the past (which I find unlikely, given that she only does this to strangers and not the dudefolk she’s dated) hassling their SOs and friends about it at a group event is not the way to work through these badfeels.

    • B. said:

      «i acknowledge that there’s a possibility that O is doing something shitty but i’m not comfortable with how easily commenters are framing this is “big mean abusive queer woman bullies a group of poor innocent men”z»

      I get where you’re coming from. I can’t speak for other commenters, but if it helps, here goes: I’m a queer woman and a survivor of domestic violence, so I’m both hypersensitive to symptoms of abusive and controlling behaviour and have seen toxic dynamics at play in queer, feminist, *and* hetero spaces. I’ve seen abusers frame themselves as victims of the patriarchy more times than I’m comfortable remembering. I feel that if O.’s goals where having an ok time with her wife on these events, she would have handled things differently. I think many commenters may be picking up the same not-ok vibes that I’m picking up.

      There could be rampant misogyny and/or bi- or lesbophobia running amok on this group of friends, but O. wasn’t the one who wrote to us, so we can’t know that. The LW wrote asking what to do about someone who a) is not comfortable spending time with a considerable number of people in a group and b) has no qualms being rude to those people to their faces. I think the Captain’s advice of mixing things up a bit so V. and O. have the option of not going to everything together is a good solution, but based on her past behaviour, O. may not be interested in resolving the conflict.

      • emmych said:

        Yeah, this one!!! We’re missing a really big chunk of this story (O.’s perspective), so it’s really hard to make a call one way or another.

        • notemily said:

          I really wonder what O’s and V’s letters to CA would look like.

    • Jenesis said:

      I definitely agree that there’s some queer lady vs cishet gamer dude weird dynamic going on here, but O’s behavior is shitty. Going out of one’s way to attend a public gathering, making a point of telling 50% of the people there “I will not acknowledge your presence, up to and including basic social courtesies,” and publicly calling them assholes is shitty. At best it’s thoughtless and rude.

      Even if we grant that literally everyone she’s giving this treatment to was abusive toward O in some way (which I find hard to believe, seeing as she’s only doing it to the men she *hasn’t* dated), that’s just paying back shitty behavior with more shitty behavior that leaves V and the other ladyfolk caught in the middle because it’s apparent they value the company of the men in the group more than making O happy. If my friend’s partner had such an intense dislike of my partner, I’d prefer that one or the other not be invited from time to time rather than engineer a situation where someone gets invited and then is made to feel unwelcome after showing up.

      O’s discomfort with all of the dudes there is O’s problem and not LW’s. O needs to address this (possibly with V) on her own instead of (begrudgingly?) showing up to a gathering with people who know she loathes them and spreading the awkward around to everyone, ladyfolk included. If I were one of the lady SOs, *I* would not be comfortable at a social gathering where someone was allowed to freeze out my partner for no apparent reason. And if O is genuinely friends with the non-dudely people present (as opposed to just tagging along with V), then “Change up the routine” is also an avenue available for O if she knows that she prefers girls-only gatherings.

      (How exactly is “never talk to me” supposed to work for games night, anyway? That rules out a significant number of party games right off the bat.)

      • Ariane said:

        I’d like to note that the author and his other gaming friends may not be all cishet males. His terminology is unclear, but he says at the end of the letter “he/him pronouns are fine.” Most cishet guys would just say “he/him pronouns,” the end. And a lot of people have pointed out the “masculine” terminology which may or may not have more flexible meaning. I’m just saying there’s a possibility this isn’t the traditional cishet dudes gaming group, perhaps especially given that they have a longtime lesbian friend as a member of the group.

    • emmych said:

      Honestly I feel this, too. It’s possible it’s abusive, but it’s also possible that V. is the shitty one who causes a big scene if O. doesn’t come to game night with her friends that like to make shitty sexist jokes (an example, not an accusation!) that make O. hella uncomf. It’s possible O. has shared this discomfort and nothing has been done, so now she is taking the path of least resistance (that is, “don’t talk to me and I won’t talk to you and we’ll pretend like everything is fine”) so things can stay smooth at home with V.

      The only way to figure this out is to TALK TO O. Not in a “look we need to make things CIVIL so can you not be a DICK about this pls” way, but in a “yo so what’s this really about?” There’s just too many different versions that this story could take, and it’s super apparent that this is not a black and white, O. is bad or LW and friends or bad conclusion. Some real communication beyond “DON’T TALK 2 ME” needs to happen in this group, and potentially LW needs to take an inventory of how he behaves at game night. Is he doing anything that genuinely would make a woman and/or femme uncomfortable, like using misogynistic slurs, or talking over the women and femmes, etc.? If so, that’s probably worth exploring.

    • K. said:

      As a queer person who’s often uncomfortable around men, I don’t have a free pass to hang out in their homes while insisting they don’t interact with me. And if an SO hangs out with people I don’t like, I can always… not join them.

  10. Flash Bristow said:

    Captain, I’m guessing you have edited the original letter? Because it only says that OP and friends meet up & hang out – yet your response refers to them being in his home.

    This puts a bit of a different spin on it, as joining the group in a public place like a pub would be somewhat different from O inviting herself to a meeting *in OP’s house* and then being rude.

    Have I missed something?

    • JenniferP said:

      I haven’t edited the letter, and “at home” isn’t an absolute statement of everything, it’s a possible version of events. Someone/somewhere is hosting these gatherings that happen every single week?

      • Flash Bristow said:

        Ah, OK. I just think the location does make a difference as to whether people need to be invited / behave nicely, or whether it’s a public place and you can’t really stop them dropping by.
        While I’ve been to small game meet ups in people’s houses (4-5 ppl total), I’ve been to larger ones in pubs and social clubs, so I wasn’t sure on the set up.

        Thanks for the reply.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          I’d second that, the locaton could be key to this.

      • Perhaps O. and V. are hosting. That would explain why O. is there.

        • Carrie said:

          If it’s O’s house, it’s even weirder, because then it’s “A number of people I hate are coming into my home weekly and I’m not taking any steps to address this other than being a jerk at them.” I mean, there’s making accommodations for your spouse’s friends and then there’s hanging out at the weekly party when you could easily go to your own room and shut the door instead.

          If my SO regularly brought in people I don’t like, going to the bedroom and ignoring the whole shebang is exactly what I’d do, as a compromise: “You can have Those People here, but I’m not going to be involved in hosting them.”

          • I would get feeling territorial in her own home, and wanting to be there to, I don’t know, prevent people from stealing the silver spoons, or whatever, while at the same time not wanting to tell her partner she’s not allowed to invite those people.

            If they’re elsewhere, then she seems to feel the need to stay with her partner, which might be a red flag.

          • I live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with thin walls, and you have to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom. There’s no escaping if people are here.

            That said, my partner and I are pretty decent at using our words, so this isn’t really a situation that would arise in our house. But IF this were happening at O and V’s house (which is hypothetical), and O and V are unpracticed at compromising (which seems more likely both from the description of the situation and from the fact that it’s a difficult skill to learn), it’s assuming a lot to say she could just go hide in her room.

  11. fortheloveofcats said:

    I find this overall very strange, as I try to put myself in the shoes of everyone. If I were O, and I felt uncomfortable, I would talk to my partner about it and ask him to address it on my behalf, since it’s his friends and that would be the best course of action with the least impact: “Hey, my wife says she feels uncomfortable at our group game nights because of (thing you do), but she still wants to come! Any chance that can stop?” and everyone moves on.

    Or, if all the guys are all (mostly) insufferable and the game nights drove me nuts, I simply would not go. If my partner begged me to go, even though I didn’t want to, that’s an between us and we should probably work that out and not involve the group.

    I just find it strange that she’s going to people individually and saying very harsh things, and then going to the games night anyway. An adult in a perfect world simply would find something else to do, or resolve this complaint with their partner and find a solution that makes her the most comfortable, ex. talk to the group, make other plans, neither partner go, etc.

  12. dr_silverware said:

    I think you have two powerful tools here.

    One, speaking up directly whenever O. says something nasty, about you or about someone else. She or V. might confront you about this–that you’re interacting with O. when she requested that you don’t–and that’s a great opportunity for the Captain’s direct “sincere strategy” script.

    Also keep in mind that the Captain presented two options for direct scripts: one word scathing answers (“wow”, etc) and a full confession. There is an in-between that works wonders, that doesn’t involve cornering her or speaking to her privately: if she calls someone an asshole in a group conversation, you directly say to her, “please don’t call X an asshole.” “Please don’t (do whatever)” is pretty powerful–it’s calm and controlled, and you can extend it into a conversation if you want, or not. It is scary though.

    Two, sorting out your own priorities and their consequences. Is your priority to keep the group together at all costs? That’s fine, but you need to be realistic that it’s your priority, and that it means just dealing with some of her behavior. Is it to stop seeing her ever? You probably won’t see V. either. Is it to get O. to stop saying mean things? This may come at the expense of some tension and group restructuring.

    But once you have a kind of clear idea of what your priorities are, you can actually make plans about how to deal with this. I think you’re at the beginning of forming these priorities, or seeing your priorities diverge from the groups’, so I think a good beginning strategy would be to try out some small actions to test the waters. (“Please don’t X,” or arrange a small hangout.) Then you can see how you feel about the small consequences that may result.

  13. reminds me of somebody i used to know said:

    I agree with Twitchy. All this conjecture about whether O’s trying to isolate her wife or just uncomfortable around dudelike people aside, O isn’t just “distancing herself from men.” She’s telling them they’re not allowed to address her, and then turning around and interrogating their SOs about it. “LW, please never speak to me. You make me uncomfortable. Go away. Anyway, hey, LW’s GF, why do you even like LW? What do you even SEE in him?!”

    That’s not how you distance yourself from discomfort or fear. It’s the opposite: she’s drawing attention to the fact that she hates LW. It’s not a safety thing anymore, it’s a social domination thing. That’s just being a jerk, and it’s 1000% not ok. This is a real life group hangout, not MySpace in 7th grade. You can’t just block somebody and then spread shit behind their back at the same party. That’s not how this works.

    All the SOs getting harassed by O need to shut it down asap.
    “Hey, LW’s GF, LW sucks, why do you date him?”
    “Hey, O, why would you say that? How would you feel if we asked V the same thing?”

    LW didn’t mention being worried that V is being isolated and controlled by O, he just asked about the situation at hand; and the situation at hand is that O is creating a toxic environment on purpose and it needs to stop.

    New rule: No insulting people who come to the hangout! It’s unnecessary and shitty and babyish!
    New rule: No demanding justification for other people’s relationships! It’s super invasive and none of your business!
    New rule: If you don’t want to come, don’t show up and then complain about it! Just don’t show up at all! It’s ok to go someplace else!
    Punishment for breaking the rules is you get to leave! Sayonara!

    If O won’t stop coming AND won’t change her behavior, it’s time to restructure the hangouts: i.e. who gets invited, where they happen, what y’all do during them, etc. It’s not fair that jerks get to destroy things just because they’re jerks, but it’s reality.

    • Best Turkey said:

      Yeah, I have to strongly agree with this one. Saying to someone “Hey, your SO totally sucks, what on Earth do you see in them?” feels like the sort of thing which requires you to feel arrogant, confident, in control of the situation and willing to be conversationally aggressive. Those are all feels which are basically incompatible with feeling nervous, anxious, sad, or otherwise unhappy around the people you are objecting to.

      Of course, it’s entirely possible that this is a strategy – O goes loud, rude, brash and confrontational to cover for how vulnerable, unsafe, or unhappy O feels. But that’s a pretty horrible coping strategy to inflict on other human beings.

  14. attica said:

    Alternate scenarios, fwiw. That O is presumably ok with the masculine people she’s dated, is it possible that she’s trying awkwardly to ward off Feelings for the remaining dudes?

    Or, maybe she’s just ensuring that she’s always the center of attention. Because ‘pay no mind to the man behind the curtain’ is a really good way to get every body paying mind.

  15. Celeste said:

    O is not happy, but with what? She’s not getting what she wants, but she won’t say what it really is. Maybe she wants more alone time with V, maybe she wants to be at women-only functions. Maybe she wants out of Game Nights. To me it goes back to V. What is she doing when all of this negativity is going down? Can she really be oblivious? It would be worth a lunch with her just to get her read on where she is with O, with the group, and with her own life right now.

  16. MJ said:

    I feel like a lot of important info is missing from this letter. How many people are in this group, and how many have received a No Contact Order from O.? How does O. know the people in the group, and how long has she known them (she’s dated one or more (masculine) people from the group besides her wife)? Did she give any reason that the dudes are making her uncomfortable, or request that they change a behavior?

    From LW’s description, it definitely sounds like O is being an asshole (publicly insulting people is rarely justified), but he does have reason to be biased.

  17. I tend to be a bit more on the side of “nope, not playing in THAT dramatic play” than average and willing to just put someone in my rear-view; I want to acknowledge that up-front here and maybe this isn’t a degree of “okay bye” others are willing to accept.

    But personally, in this circumstance, my approach would be – ONLY WHEN HOSTING – to tell V that O was not invited. “I know this is awkward and I don’t want to put you in the middle of anything, but O has flatly stated to me that she doesn’t want me to speak with or interact with her. That’s fine, and I will respect that and don’t want to make you a part of this, but I also don’t see any reason to have someone in my home who doesn’t want to talk to me or for me to talk to them. You’re free to come without her but I understand if you don’t want to do that.”

    And that would be the end of my participation in that, period, full stop. No V, I am not asking you to explain the situation or excuse it or fix it; O is her own woman and can make her own choices. But I don’t think anyone, Emily Post or Ms Manners included, would claim you have any obligation to open your home to someone who wants to play a game of “let’s pretend you don’t exist.” To have to tell V that her spouse is not welcome is an awkward thing, but O has made that sort of impossible to avoid by choosing to keep going to the home of someone who she wishes would never speak to her.

    There’s no polite way to engage in “is X person coming? Oh, then I’m not.” so you don’t really have a way to avoid her at other people’s homes or out in public, but you can certainly politely and unobtrusively avoid engaging with her. But I think there’s a lot of value in simply reclaiming your own space and not allowing someone to dictate your courteous behavior in your own home.

    • This is an elegant way to handle the situation.

  18. I was V in almost this exact situation once and my O was one of my best friends who was 1. very clingy at the time and 2. totally bought into all the stereotypes of gamers being creepers and losers and people who act like the game is their life because they don’t have a real one.

    He was mostly fine while there but shat on everyone and everything on the drive back to our town.

    His case was more of a combination of wanting to be present in every single area of my life while at the same time disapproving of the D&D part. (Yes. It’s as awkward and judgmental as it sounds.)

    Eventually I had to say to him “You don’t seem to be having any fun here. If you don’t like game nights and don’t wanna come along, I’m not gonna hate you for it.”

    That worked for me. It might not work out so well if this is an isolation tactic like others pointed out it might be. If it’s not just about disliking the game and/or the people, I think there might be some bees creeping in.

  19. Tabitha said:

    I’m trying to come up with reasons why O would be behaving this way that aren’t ones the Captain already suggested. Someone mentioned upthread that maybe O has some trauma relating to men that the guys she’s dated don’t trigger.

    Is it possible there’s some biphobia coming from V? Maybe O put her foot down about the guys she already dated but is preemptively fending off the rest of you because if you never talk to her then there’s no question of her loyalties.

    O is still well out of line if she’s publicly calling people assholes but bearing alternate possibilities in mind might make the conversation with her easier. If you aren’t jumping straight to she’s a terrible person she’s less likely to jump straight to defensiveness.

    • sojournerstrange said:

      Reading this whole post/comment-section makes me want to permahermit, like on a visceral level just… dunno, haven’t got the words. But to be fair, many things make me want to permahermit.

      • Tabitha said:

        I’m sorry. Is there something specific I said that made you feel that way? I don’t want to make people uncomfortable if I can help it.

  20. LilyR said:

    Is there a neutral or less-involved person in the friend group you can ask to mediate? Someone where O doesn’t hate them or their SO, who can find out what her ideal solution is (other than her friends breaking up with all the people she doesn’t like)? I know that adding more people usually doesn’t help, but this is already impacting the whole group and is not an isolated disagreement. I suggest this because she’s asked you to not speak to her, so trying to get more information directly would be provoking, and to not automatically put V in the middle.

    As far as actual solution suggestions:
    1) The people O asked to ignore her do so AND O knocks off the the trash-talking of same people. (Here is where it helps to have a 3rd party set the expectations.) “Ignoring” doesn’t have to be tiptoeing or shunning, just “O and I don’t get along, so we never chat 1-on-1 and gravitate to different ends of the party”
    2) More separate events – sometimes O skips Saturday, sometimes the masculine folks she dislikes organize an alternate event, maybe O and V start hosting more of their own things with just the people O likes.
    3) If the events are sometimes at O and V’s house, I’d ask all the folks O dislikes to seriously consider skipping. Personally, I have strong feelings about my home, and one of them is that I don’t want people I dislike in my space. Ever, even the public spaces. My house, no people I can’t stand. This rule flexes only if I’m not home.
    3.5) This goes both ways – if O were being a jerk to me or my partner, at a bare minimum she would knock it off while in my house, and likely she wouldn’t be welcome.
    4) If the events are not at someone’s home, can they be staggered in start/end time so that O and the menfolk each get some social time without the other present? e.g. if usually people do board games 8-midnight, some of you get dinner before and plan to leave by 10. Or if O and V are always on time, some others plan to be fashionably late

    Of course all of these assume good faith and cooperation, which I realize may not be present 😛 but I wanted to put some best-case-scenario options out.

  21. Sunshine and Lollipops said:

    “She has also publicly said that she thinks each one is an asshole and will ask people who date those men what they see in them anyway.”

    I think once she has said that you can quite comfortably ask her to leave. I get that’s hard to do, and might create drama, but “seriously, that’s not okay, I’d like you to go home” would be completely acceptable.

    It’s sad for O, but you can’t resolve problems in her relationship or make her have better taste. It’s her life and she has to live it.

    • tinyorc said:

      Yup, particularly if she’s doing this in your home/you are the one organising these game nights. If she can’t restrain herself from publicly insulting you and your guests with no provocation, she doesn’t get to hang, end of.

    • tired said:

      fuck yeah. “If you really think that I can’t be trusted with choosing my own partners, then get out of my life.”

    • lisakoby said:

      Yup.

  22. Scrye said:

    The game night dynamic might be being overlooked here. Personally, I have a handful of friends who are darlings EXCEPT when it comes to game night. Then they become single-minded “I need to win!” people, who suddenly are way more intense than what I’m used to.

    Let me be clear, I’m not saying that competiveness is an inheritly bad trait or that this is even the letter writer’s case. What I am saying is that game nights can get intense. When they get intense, people’s sharp edges come out. In my experience, this is especially true for those who have traditionally masculine traits (e.g., makes up her mind quickly and firmly, explains things, on the louder side).

    This is conjecture because we don’t have a lot of information from the LW, but O. might be interpreting certain member’s game night over-competitiveness as abrasive. In other words, what the letter writer calls masculine people are singled out by O. as assholes or jerks simply because they have this competive gaming streak.

    If this is the case–and it’s a big if–then one solution (in addition to CA’s solid given solutions) is to try a cooperative game. Another solution is to play team games. I’ve found both of these can buffer the sensitive-to-loud-noises person (like me) from the bulk of personality clashes with the make-loud-noises people.

    • tawg said:

      Yeah, I joined and friend’s DnD group, and I had met all of the other members before at parties and they seemed alright. But during the game? Wow, they enjoyed saying some really offensive stuff. And there was a strong vibe of “go with it, don’t ruin our fun, we’re just cutting loose you’re not allowed to be offended by this stuff” etc. After one particularly rough night of gaming, I did as my friend as she was driving me home “So… why are you friends with these people again?”

      So when LW said that O “will ask people who date those men what they see in them anyway”, I immediately wondered what happened in the lead up to that? What is going on in the group conversation that leads O to need to check in with someone else that these dudes have any redeeming qualities?

      I think that talking to V might be the way to go. Mention, “hey, O seems really uncomfortable around us. Why does she keep coming? You know, there are options other than her coming along every week and hating every moment.”

      • Kate Monster said:

        Yep, I’m wondering a lot about what typical interactions among the others at the gaming group are. Is there a lot of status competition, “fake” insults, etc.? Offensive (I know that’s subjective) jokes? Do people other than O. use words like “jerk” or “asshole”?

        LW, others seem confused by your dividing the group first into masculine people, then into people O has not dated. Does this mean there are nonbinary or male people she’s ok with, that you’re grouping into not masculine? Are you calling people masculine based on behavior traits (e.g. aggressive)?

        The commentariat do not seem to be piling on the LW, and I do not wish to, either. But I do want to ask if there are certain kinds of jokes or insults or attention that O may want to avoid having directed at her. And please think carefully about the situations in which she has questioned SOs about their partner choices. Is there a common trigger, whether or not you think it’s “reasonable”? (E.g. gloating after winning or sulking after losing; mentioning certain political or religious beliefs; asking/telling the SO something.)

        Personal example of the latter: I was in a not great relationship with a very masculine guy. During a dinner with two of his friends, I smiled about something and he criticized the way my gums showed when I smiled. I immediately deflated and felt hurt (where current me thinks I should have been angry and stood up for myself). One of the friends said, “Hey, X, that was really rude.” She could have just as easily asked me, “Wow, and you are dating X why?” (As it was, her comment gave me perspective and implicitly raised the latter question to me.)

        LW, good luck with this group dynamic. (If O or V were writing in, I’d also ask them to analyze the contexts in which tensions arise. But since you wrote in, you get that advice!) Happy gaming!

    • fgh said:

      If everybody likes to play [european] football, but O keeps coming and insisting to run slower (because she is weaker and tires more easily), but also keeps calling the other players brainless meatheads… then the solution is not to try boardgames instead, but to get rid of O. The football players are doing it because they are enjoying just that particular game. There is actually no rule in the world that would state that everybody should accomodate her needs, instead of arriving to a democratic compromise. It is obvious from the letter that the players are enjoyign what they do.

      Being loud is a morally neutral trait. Do you remember the discourse around black women deserving to be loud, and white people feeling intimidated/oversensitive is their problem and they should make an effort into understanding other cultures, instead of forcing everybody else to turn down their emotional expressivity? The dynamic is different here, but the “other styles of communications are not inherently inferior” principle still holds.

  23. land_planarian said:

    IME abusive partners who are not men pretty much always make a big show of defining abuse as Male Violence, and men as The Gender Who Abuses People.

    This goes way beyond acknowledging men as more *likely* to commit abuse (they are, of course, by a lot), into arguing or implying that *only* men abuse their partners, that abusiveness is a natural facet of male gender identity rather than a set of shitty behaviors anyone can engage in.

    It’s basically a feminist/social justice-friendly version of ‘It’s not abuse when *I* do [obviously terrible thing], because reasons’ and it reaaaallly sounds like O. might be doing this

    • Just nodding in your direction to acknowledge that I’ve noticed this dynamic before. It’s rare, and I have thus not seen it OFTEN (and have more than once suspected a Poe when I’ve seen it online), but it does exist.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Yup. Variants of this have happened a few times in my various overlapping social circles. Twice it took the form of “Men Abuse People and I am a woman therefore nothing I do is abusive EVER”, and once (involving a two-woman couple) it took the form of “I am not white and was born to a lower social class than my girlfriend, who is white, therefore I am More Oppressed and can’t POSSIBLY be abusing her!”

      I wouldn’t say this is a common scenario, and in all of these cases I tried really hard to extend any and all possible benefit of doubt because, well, we all know what the usual patterns are where abuse is concerned. In all the cases something really dramatic and awful happened that eventually made it clear I was wrong. (In one case the “victim” was a housemate and it ended with having to kick her out. That was incredibly not fun.)

      • It is definitely dwarfed in frequency by people abusing those they have structural power over! Just, in instances where the abusive dynamic runs the other direction, or is between two people with similar social status (like the two women here), I feel like this kind of preemptive deflecting is really common.

        TW intensifies a little–

        For reference, I am a queer trans guy-ish-type-person and I was mostly thinking of several other cafab trans people I’ve known who abuse their (mostly women &/or femme-r) partners, but are super aggressive about pointing out that cis men are Super Dangerous! The root of their own (often legit) own trauma! Which they are working through in totally justified ways, like socially isolating or hitting their girlfriends when they’re angry! But that’s not abuse, because they’re not cis men, (or men at all) and abuse is Male Violence! And anyone asking them to stop or distances themselves from someone who acts that way is invalidating their past experiences of trauma or trying to control their healing process or *something*, anything, that means they’re in the right & not responsible for the harm they do to others now.

        I’m glad to have happened to move away from one community that was bad about tolerating this nonsense & to have found a trans community in my new home that seems way healthier. Sorry for the rant.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          This is reminding me of a (truly horrifying) debate that happened in my neopagan circles back in the late 90s, where certain abusive people pushed hard on the idea that partner abuse was a result of patriarchal religion, and therefore, since they worshiped the Goddess what they did with their partners could not possibly be partner abuse. (With a strong side of what you mention re: working through trauma–they were acting through some kind of spiritual trauma and thus their abuse was not really abuse, somehow.) It was awful, but a lot of people swallowed it for a long, long time. *shiver*

        • B. said:

          Once I had the incredible pleasure (not) of hearing a gay cis man passionately defend that trans men & transmasculine people should empower themselves by any means necessary, up to and including misogynistic aggressions and partner abuse. That was not a fun conversation.

  24. Long time reader, I’ve only commented once – I have a friend who came from a very abusive childhood, who is just now (at around 42) practicing setting boundaries. Sometimes the way she does it can seem very rude and almost aggressive. For instance, she will tell you after an interaction that some specific word you used hurt her as she is trying to find a safe space or form her own identity. It can be very confusing, because this is in the course of normal conversation, not using explicitly loaded terms. As an example, I used the word “transition” when discussion mermaid literature, and she asked me to “take it back” because it had caused her pain and she thought it didn’t apply to her.

    That could definitely be seen as controlling and aggressive, but because I know what she’s going through, I just do what she asks – I verbally “take it back” and tell her it doesn’t apply to her, then reaffirm what I do like about our interaction. That resolves the issue, because she’s not telling me that I can’t use that word, she’s telling me that she is trying to figure out how to be in the world, and she needs my help.

    She has done this privately with a few friends, and the way she phrases it, “It hurt me when you said that,” can seem like an accusation. I know she’s trying to set boundaries about how she wants to present herself, but to them, she’s being unnecessarily picky about how other people address and interact with her. I think that this is the only way she’s been able to figure out how to communicate about her boundaries, and that as she gains skills, she’ll communicate more effectively – for example, she’ll say, “I would appreciate it if you would use female pronouns and feminine diminutives for me, because that’s how I identify,” which gives people a concrete action they can take and the reason behind it.

    One way to read O’s interactions is that she has learned at least one way to set boundaries for herself that is effective in preserving her comfort, which is to privately tell people she doesn’t want them to initiate interactions with her. Of course this is extremely rude, but (perhaps) from her perspective this is an effective tactic, among many ineffective tactics. Rather than being manipulative and controlling over V, she may be using the only tool she has to achieve her own feeling of safety. It’s another way to look at it, not necessarily the truth.

    The fact that the effect of her tactics is rude, isolating, and disruptive is definitely something that is not discounted no matter why she is doing it, and she deserves to know about the effect of her tactics. I’m not sure about talking to V about it – if it is a manipulative situation, V will probably feel responsible for O’s behavior. I would be surprised if she were truly ignorant of it, but that may be the case. I agree with the Captain’s analysis that it’s difficult to see O’s endgame here, unless it is “Spending time with V to demonstrate my loyalty and willingness to be uncomfortable for my wife’s sake.”

  25. resili0 said:

    My partner has a friend Gaming dude who geek games with us, Gamingwife is possessive and controlling of him. It became clear that she would always come to sit in on games, make him late to arrive, interrupt and be bratty. She lacks self awareness and is too self involved to have hung onto her old friendships in the group so is reliant on our friend.

    Switching tactics has diffused a lot of this. We game at our place with other friends to take the pressure off our Gamingdude to regularly attend. We plan shorter games with him on a casual basis so he can refuse the invite and is more available to her. If Gamingwife comes over to sit in then we are friendly but leave her to her own devices; she can use our Netflix and eat our food but we aren’t going to entertain her if she isn’t playing. She has started to come over less and let Gamer dude come over alone; success.

    Gamingwife went through a trauma that knocked her confidence and I suspect her tag along power play is a rut she is in. I don’t like how she treats Gamer dude but when we stopped the tug of war of How We Game vs her possessiveness, she interfered less. I wonder if being less interested in why O is being hostile and making more casual flexible gaming plans might reset the situation.

    • lisakoby said:

      I like the deliberate reset of the dynamic. Awesome.

  26. lisakoby said:

    I think the best is to just be polite to her and ignore the ‘don’t talk to me stuff’. I’m sure Miss Manners has something in the lexicon of civil behaviour that would dictate what distant civility looks like without constantly doing the ‘cut direct’. I mean, what if you have to ask her to pass the salt or something? It’s just not tenable in a smaller gathering. There’s some value in figuring out the societal ‘right thing’ and then doing it pending any more involved discussion.

    If she raises it again, then engage in Captain scripts regarding the direct conversations as appropriate.

  27. RSVP said:

    I agree with the posts suggesting that she might be trying to isolate her spouse. Perhaps call her bluff. “Okay, since you don’t want to talk to any of the masculine people here, how about just staying home? After all, nobody will bother you at all if you’re alone.”
    This person is just rude, so I don’t see any reason to tiptoe around her and be gentle and sensitive.

  28. One thing I ‘m having trouble understanding – How exactly would “not talking and interacting with someone” work out in a games group setting?
    I mean – are we talking board games here, or what kind? I mean, when you play board games with someone you kind of have to interact with them – if nothing else to say “I am taking this and this action and I’m invading your city”. Some games (suc as, say, Ultimate Werewolf or The Resistance) require really complex deliberation between the players. Does she mean “don’t make chit-chat with me outside of the game?” Or how else is this supposed to even work?

  29. Morgen Kirby said:

    I think I’m seeing a dynamic, but I’m not sure and would appreciate a double-check.

    I’ve seen letters saying, more or less, “I’m female, my male friend bashes my male romantic interests and tries to get with me.” I’ve also seen letters saying “I’m female, my female friend bashed my boyfriend but then cheated with him or snapped him up after we broke up.” I’m sure this happens regardless of gender of relationship participants, but those are the two types of examples that come to mind for me.

    I honestly don’t know if what I’m seeing on O’s part is predatory behavior instead of or along with controlling/abusive behavior. I don’t know if O is bashing masculine people in an attempt to steal feminine people from relationships, possibly to somehow prove that O Wins At Having A Harem with a large side of See, V, I Don’t Need You And I’m Better Than You.

    I don’t see that it would change anything about how anyone interacts with O regarding her behavior, but it could mean a far messier explosion down the line.

    • B. said:

      Uh. It certainly gives another whole layer of meaning to O.’s asking multiple SOs “what do you see in him anyway?”. I’ve met queer women who make a point to try and «”‘convert'”»* straight women via endless propositioning or sexual harassment*. I don’t know if that’s the case here (as several people have pointed out, there’re a lot of details missing from the letter), but it could be.

      In any case, trying to introduce some variation to the Saturday dynamic as the Captain advised sounds like a good bet. The LW could then observe how people react, especially O. and the people she insulted, and whether things become more or less tense. Maybe that would clear things up.

      * insert massive side-eye here

  30. I want to counter the tendency that some commenters seem to have on the thread to defend the queer woman from the menz and their hurt manfeels by pointing out that she is harassing and sneering at people who date men which is some of the most pervasive bi/pan-phobic bullshit I see from lesbians and makes my hair stand right on end. For that reason alone, she is being outrageously unacceptable, even if her discomfort with men does come from a place of trauma or distrust. And her private messaging of all of the masculine (which I read due to the LW’s ambiguous phrasing to mean cismen, transmen, and transmasc nb folks) definitely sends up red flags as well. At the very least, this person is being hurtful, mean, and is continually inserting herself into a social situation that she admits to hating and makes miserable for everyone else. I really don’t see much defensible in her behavior, regardless of motive.

  31. Raptor said:

    For the most part, I’m agreeing that something really wrong is going on with O, but I did want to double check something that I’ve experienced. I don’t think you’re doing this, LW, so I hope you’re not offended.

    – I’ve encountered a ton of gamers that just spuriously use the word rape all the time. As in the sense, “OMG, I lost soooo badly at League of Legends, I just got raped!” And I’m just sitting there, side-eyeing them, going “Ummm….noooo you weren’t.” No amount of me asking them not to say that has helped, so I’m just not hanging out with them anymore.

    – I also once had to email my Shadowrun group after a session where rape ended up being a plot point. I couldn’t even talk or interact while that scene was going on. When I got home, my email basically said, “Hey, I really like you guys, but don’t use rape in a scene if there’s anything else you could use instead. That shit is too real to me in a way that murder/mayhem/looting/drug-running is not. If you REALLY REALLY realize that a certain story arc needs rape in it, please tell me privately ahead of time, and I will find something else to do. Either my character can be gone for that time, or [really nerdy friend] can play her.” And they were good guys, and somehow NPCs just stopped getting raped in both Shadowrun and D&D. I wish it were that easy in the real world.

    – I also hate the words “pussy” or “gay” to describe someone weak, and will eventually stop associating with gamers who can’t seem to stop using those words. This has led to me cutting people out of my gaming life.

    Gaming while female can be actually pretty terrifying. I follow a bunch of large local gamer meetup groups, even if I rarely, attend, and two women posted that they were drugged at last week’s meetup, and thank god they had enough safe people around them to get home alright.

    So, LW, like I said, this probably isn’t you. If you are sitting there thinking “Oh no, I guess I do say pussy a lot,” or “I thought that rape made my gritty, dark Shadowrun campaign more realistic,” then this is something to think about. But even then, O is free to use her words, just like I’ve had to do. Those things don’t bother all women equally, and don’t bother a few women at all, so you could always check with V to see if you are occasionally being “that male gamer.”

    • MamaCheshire said:

      All VERY good points.

      I never got good at video games because most of them give me really bad vertigo (I WISH I could play Portal, but alas no).

      This is the other reason I never bothered to get good at them.

      I was very lucky in that my college tabletop gaming group was exceptionally unwilling to put up with sexist or homophobic insults basically at all. And the one time rape was a plot point it was the coercive “seduction” of a male character vowed to chastity (and in retrospect VERY poorly handled, but I think the person running that game realized it because none of us ever did that kind of thing again as far as I know).

    • One other point here is that THE PLAYERS ARE NOT THEIR CHARACTERS!! In the last few years I’ve played a chaotic good, M to F trans half-orc who spent years working in a house of ill repute before she decided to take fighter training and go adventuring, a half-orc/half-elf with “issues” who worships either Sauron or Celador depending on the phase of the moon, (he would pass out pro-Sauron Chick tracts printed on human skin) a sexually aggressive, demon-worshipping Drow who got drunk and cried over the husband she’d murdered before finding someone to boff, and a badly repressed lawful good priestess… AND NONE OF THEM ARE ME!! *

      If O is new to gaming, the difference between the person and the character they play might not be apparent.

      Also, the gaming scenarios do not necessarily reflect the character of the people who invent them, and sometimes the decisions made by players force the DM’s hand. For example, if I make the worship of Shub Niggurath a background element in the dark, gritty city where the characters adventure, and a couple lawful good characters abandon the actual plot I’ve laid out and decide to take the Shub Niggurath Cultists down… don’t complain when the results are sexual, Lovecraftian, and very, very dark.

      If O is new to gaming, the difference between the plot/backstory/mileu and the character of the person who put it together may not be apparent to her! This might just be a plot point in the O vs. V issues, and it might be a good idea for someone to ask O about it.

      * I’m very proud of the sexually repressed, lawful good character. Playing her is really a stretch for me, and I feel like I’ve levelled up as a D&D player just because I can bring her to life.

      • Raptor said:

        No, I actually have to disagree with you on this one.

        Not liking a type of fiction, even finding it distasteful or painful IS NOT the same thing as not understanding it.

        If I didn’t want to sit down and watch the Saw movie series with you, would you assume I think it’s a documentary? If we’re watching Game of Thrones together, and Cersei is getting raped and I walk out of the room, would you think I think the actress was being raped?

        I think “No rape in media while I’m around,” is a pretty reasonable boundary. Because it freaks me out. It just does. I fully understand the concept of fiction, and I still just can’t stand to see or hear someone getting raped in a story.

        I’m not stopping anyone from playing rapey roleplaying games or watching rapey movies when I’m not around, and I don’t mind skipping the odd game night to avoid it. If I had to skip an entire campaign and meet up with my group again later (they have serious campaign commitment issues), I would probably actually finish a quilt or have a really clean apartment.

        If it was important to the DM to either have rape in many or most sessions in every campaign or a longer-than-our-usual campaign, or important for them to have free hand to just insert rape unplanned, I would find a new D&D group and see those friends under more light-hearted circumstances..

        If they told me a session was going to be rape-free, and then there was rape, they would also not be my friend anymore.

        As it went, that was the first time in about 2 years that rape had even come up, and no one in the group seemed put out at all that I asked them to find an alternative if possible, and warn me if not. My buddy said it really didn’t occur to him that that can be disturbing on a personal level, and he didn’t really care about including it again, and would rather have me around.

        I think you and I would not be compatible gamers, and that’s okay. Not everyone has to like the same things. I just think it’s condescending to say that people bothered by horror settings or gore or rape don’t understand the idea of make-believe.

        • You’re reading a lot into what I’ve said that I didn’t actually say. What I said was, “If O is new to gaming, the difference between the person and the character they play might not be apparent.” (After a little more thought on the matter, it also occurs to me that if “O” in inexperienced with RPG games, she might not be attuned to when someone is in character and when they are not.)

          I also said, “If O is new to gaming, the difference between the plot/backstory/mileu and the character of the person who put it together may not be apparent to her! This might just be a plot point in the O vs. V issues, and it might be a good idea for someone to ask O about it.”

          I did not say, and I did not mean, and I certainly hope I did not imply that “people bothered by horror settings or gore or rape don’t understand the idea of make-believe,” because I don’t believe that. In fact, think that idea – which you’ve put into my mouth without any help from me – is just plain ridiculous.

          I was – and nothing more or less – addressing the possible edge-case that “O” is new to gaming and might not have caught on to the issue of real people vs. the characters they play. This is not a matter of “gaming rape” apology, so much as to say that RPG characters do lots of stuff that would be really weird out-of-game, like my lawful good priestess who says things like, “I like oppressing people. I think sinners should be oppressed.” Imagine that’s the first thing you hear as you walk through the door with a new boyfriend for your first-ever time observing a Dungeons and Dragons game!

          Notice that this statement has nothing to do with rape. It also has the potential to make people pretty uncomfortable, as does the totally non-rapey necromancer with his pentacles and human skulls, or the undead character (also non-rapey) played by a friend of mine who refers to graveyards as “ghettos for the dead” and touts the benefits of “zombie marriage” or the assassin character – also not a rapist – who says, “I don’t think of the target as human. It just gets in the way.” Or my half-orc character who said things like, “These days I only go to Sauron’s Temple when they have free food. There’s no place else in this city where you can get Gnome-on-a-Stick or Roast Suckling Hobbit… humans just don’t know how to cook!”

          All of this stuff – totally non-rapish, you might note – would be pretty strong stuff for someone who had no experience of role-playing. It’s also a typical gaming night for most of us!

          From the totality of the discussion, I suspect that “O’s” issues have other roots. But I also felt like the idea that “O” is new to gaming and misunderstanding some of what she hears might be worth looking into.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            Or, even milder than that. I had a close friend who was new-ish to gaming and something that caused friction between us was that my character did not like her character for reasons of my character’s backstory (tl;dr my character’s parents had been murdered by people who her character bore a superficial resemblance to).

            Friend Did Not Understand and made it all about “why are you being so standoffish with meeeeeee” thereby pissing off MOST of the more experienced gamers there.

            Meanwhile in a different game I was playing at the same time, another friend and I semi-deliberately made characters that were guaranteed to not get along because they kept canceling out each other’s ability to use special abilities (one needed full sun, the other needed shadow and darkness) until they figured out what was going on in character. And it was so much fun.

      • B. said:

        Gentle reminder that O’s motives don’t excuse the fact that she’s acting like a jerk and that the rest of the group don’t have to put up with that.

        • Absolutely true. However, when you know someone’s true motivations and can fix a problem, it’s very nice… I wish that happened more often.

  32. LurkerInTheLight said:

    If I were in the LW’s shoes, I think I might approach V and ask her something like “V, I have a quandry. O has asked me (and A and B and C) not to interact with her, which I want to respect. At the same time, she has been engaging in [these snide put-downs] which I find hurtful. I see her doing the same thing to A, B, and C, so I know it’s not personal, but I still want to address that behavior. Do you have any suggestions?”

    See where that takes you. V may not know about the private “don’t talk to me” communications. She may want to address it herself. She may tell you to address it in the moment. (I recommend this.) If she just wants to shrug it off with, “That’s just how V is.” or “She had [trauma] in her life.” Well, that’s the same as condoning the behavior. (Also, hurting people because one has been hurt is not okay.) If V does not have any ideas, or doesn’t want to be in the middle, ask if she would stand beside O and be her safe person while you bring it up. (The cynical part of my mind also says that this way O can’t later twist your conversation into something it wasn’t if she talks about it to V.)

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