#1196: “My friend is irrationally jealous of every woman who speaks to her boyfriend and I’m tired of it.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

Short Version: I (she/her) have a friend (she/her) who is irrationally jealous of her boyfriend, and it’s driving all our friends apart. I don’t know whether to try help her, or just to distance myself from our friendship.

Longer explanation: She and I have now been friends for about five years, including during grad school. Overall, she can be a kind, thoughtful, and generous person. However, when it comes to her boyfriend of one year, she transforms into someone I don’t even recognize. Based on what she has said in the past, her relationship is stable and he has never given her cause to doubt his fidelity.

But recently, whenever he talks to another woman, even casual chat at a party, she becomes incredibly jealous. She has made scenes, calling women out in front of everyone, or sending messages that say “stay away from my boyfriend, bitch.” She insists that all the women in the friend group (even married, much younger, much older, etc.) want her boyfriend. I think I’ve escaped her jealousy only because I’m gay. Sometimes after one of her scenes, she apologizes and tries to smooth things over, but more often she remains convinced that someone is a “bitch” and expects everyone to agree with her. But everyone does NOT agree with her, and people are starting to distance themselves.

I’d like to remain friends, but I’m starting to seriously rethink the relationship. I believe that a lot of this is coming from her anxiety/depression, but I can’t stand to hear her reduce all these lovely, smart, funny women to “scheming bitches,” and I can’t let her believe that I’m on her side in this. Nobody else actually wants her boyfriend! I know if I confront her, she might get really angry with me, too, and I don’t do conflict well. We all work in a similar niche field (science-related), so I’d like to somehow maintain friendly relationships with all these people, if it’s even possible now. What do I do?

Thank you!

What a rough situation!

I want to be clear from the beginning that someone who is behaving this way may not take kindly to any attempt to address it, even the most friendly, mild, benefit-of-the-doubt-assuming inquiry might get a pretty harsh backlash and it may not be able to “maintain friendly relations” with her after you bring this up.

However, how “friendly” are the current relations if they mean putting up with this behavior?

One avenue you (and the associated friends) have is interrupting this in the moment where it happens, “Listen, nobody wants your doubtless-one-of-a-kind-godlike boyfriend, you are being really really weird about this, what are you doing?” Given the way she’s behaving, returning the awkwardness to sender in the moment is not out of line. It might lead to another big blow-up, but is that really worse than having all the not-argument-starting people quietly ghost?

If you want to  have a private conversation, maybe start by asking your friend what’s going on. Here’s a script:

“Friend, I keep seeing you snap at almost every woman we know and accuse them of trying to steal your boyfriend whenever we hang out and it’s leaving a bad taste. Where is this coming from? What is this based on? Are you doing okay?”

Listen to what she has to say. What does she think is happening? It might be a skewed perspective but it would be helpful to know where she is coming from.

If her clinical-sort-of anxiety/depression are in a flare that can be a factor here (not an excuse, but a contributing factor). It would be interesting to see if she brings that up.

I’m working on a longer post about how to handle conflict with someone who has disclosed a condition like this to you that’s not quite baked yet, but one hands-down rule is “Do not automatically associate or assume negative behavior is a direct result of another person’s mental health diagnosis, even if you think you know” and another is “You ask people how they’re doing, you do not tell them.” If she’s talked explicitly about her mental health with you before, something she tells you might give you an opening to ask, “Hey, if this is all stressing you out so much, do you have all the MH support you need right now? Is it time to see a counselor/check in with your team and see if there are ways you can feel better?” 

If her boyfriend is cheating on her, has cheated on her, is constantly flirting with or has mentionitis of other women, etc., lots of people aren’t comfortable going after the partner who is causing all their anxiety about a relationship so they blame everyone else. Alternately, there might be history with one of the other members of the group that you’re not fully up on.

Hyper-monitoring a partner for signs of cheating and constantly accusing them of cheating can be an abuse dynamic, (though so can making it seem like a partner is in constant competition with everyone else all the time to keep them off-balance and paranoid). Without knowing these people neither I nor the readers can tell you which is going on (depressingly it might be both), nor is it your job to be the Relationship Detective and get to the bottom of this decisively, especially absent your friend confiding in you. Ergo, your best bet is probably to speak in terms of  behaviors *you* are observing and how that is affecting *you.* 

For example:

From what I can see, nobody wants your boyfriend! Is there some history I’m missing?

See what she says. Follow-up could be:

Ok, but if your boyfriend were to cheat on you, that’s probably a BOYFRIEND-problem, not a every-woman-on-earth problem, right? 

I really look forward to our time with [career-adjacent social group], I generally find it relaxing and supportive, which is rare in our field. Can I count on you to stop calling people out about this when we’re all together? If Women-In-Science Happy Hour becomes Fighting-Over-A-Disappointing-Dude Happy Hour my gay ass is going to have to find a new place to hang, and I would really hate that.

I hope you know that I care about you a lot and I just hate seeing you so unhappy.” 

Key points: You care about her, this behavior is annoying you, you’d like her to stop doing this stuff. You can also ask more questions like “Is there something your friends can do right now?” and/or “What would allow you to relax and feel comfortable again?”

Avoid traps: Keep it focused on your observations, your needs, your friendship with her, do not invoke the feelings of the group (“Everyone agrees with me…” “You’re alienating everyone…”) even if that’s true and you are scared and want the cover of other people. It’s such a tempting thing to do, right? You can lend yourself the authority of the group while you do this scary conflict thing! Unfortunately, as soon as you switch from “I have noticed a thing you are doing” to “Everyone feels the same way” you risk switching the entire discussion away from your friend’s behavior over to “Who is everyone? What exactly did they say? Why are you on their side? See, everyone is against me!

I think that’s the kindest, most direct, most giving-her-room-to-be-her-best-self approach I can generate. It might get you good results, or she might decide to shoot the messenger, she’s shown already that she’s volatile and willing to throw blame everywhere. If that happens it’s not your fault. Sometimes the best kindness we can give someone if they are in the middle of a crisis or emotional flare-up and don’t handle a conversation like this well is the gift of a reset at some later time. It doesn’t mean you have to put up with shitty behavior, it just means that if this is normally a good friendship and the person is behaving out of character, you’re in a better emotional place to make no drastic decisions at this moment. 

Good luck.

Moderation Note: Comments are open, though I meant what I said in the paragraph about the Letter Writer and us not being Relationship Detectives who have to solve the “Who is the asshole?” mystery. Generating worst-case scenarios or placing responsibility on the Letter Writer to somehow solve the relationship dynamics or save the people in the couple from each other is off-limits.

Instead, tell us, have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with a friend about them behaving badly that went well? What worked?

189 thoughts on “#1196: “My friend is irrationally jealous of every woman who speaks to her boyfriend and I’m tired of it.”

  1. this kind of behaviour is also commonly projection done by the person who is actually cheating. they will accuse their SO of cheating out of a guilty conscience of what they know they are doing. LW should keep that in mind.

    1. True. It’s also possible that the boyfriend has cheated but OP isn’t aware if it. Either way, there is no onus on OP to get to the bottom of things.

      1. that’s true, it’s just something to keep in mind when dealing with the friend. when it starts all of a sudden the way the LW describes and not because the partner is acting suspiciously, it’s usually projection on the part of the guilty party. if LW decides to talk to her friend about it, it might be something worth mentioning if it’s problematic behaviour for the friend group (because it’s causing this woman to be crappy to other friends/women).

        1. Oh I agree with you. The projecting thing is especially something that happens —all the time. I think it’s worth keeping in mind though that Friend might have some stuff that OP/other friends doesn’t/don’t know about. Or else massive insecurity issues. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Either way (or any other way) it does create a negative effect for the friend group and if Friend doesn’t knock it off she is going to be left with few if any friends.

          1. Honestly, my FIRST thought would be massive insecurity issues, because this just doesn’t happen in relationships where the jealous person doesn’t have them.

            I’ve seen every possible iteration of this dynamic play out (reasons to be jealous; no reasons to be jealous; partner acted problematic; partner didn’t act problematic, the people around them were the problematic ones, nobody was problematic; jealous partner took it out on other partner, jealous partner took it out on everyone else- mix & match to hearts content) and in every one, no matter the surrounding circumstances, the root of the problem lay in the jealous partners personal issues (which is NOT the same as saying they had a mental illness or psychiatric disorder of any kind, just want to make that perfectly clear!)

            People who do not have issues with security, confidence, and/or self esteem can still be jealous- even irrationally so- or get angry over a partners transgressions, but they generally handle those issues quite differently- talking out issues, getting angry with the poorly acting partner and not everyone else, dealing with any actual problems directly, breaking up if required. Not that it is always smooth and perfect, but they generally don’t accuse innocent partners of hitting on people, imagine that everyone is trying to hit on/flirt with their partner, flip out on everyone else for (real or imaginary) flirting with their partner, flip out on or blame other people for their partners cheating.
            They are secure enough to not worry about a relationship with no problems, and secure enough not to see any problems or need to break up as a reflection on them/their self worth.

    2. Yep- have seen people do this. It’s an extra shitty form of gaslighting.

  2. I have never had a conversation like this that went well in the short term. However, when I kept it to “I feel”, as in “I feel uncomfortable when you drag other women down while I’m there” and “I feel demeaned when you use the word “bitch”, even when talking about other people”, I have seen long-term changes that benefitted me. As CA says you can’t know the dynamic of her relationship let alone fix it, but you can ask her to be more respectful and professional and less antagonistic to and around you.

    She can successfully argue with you about how her boyfriend or these women or your colleagues feel, but she can’t successfully argue with you about your own feelings. You are the expert of you.

    1. If she’s hypersensitive as she appears to be, even saying “I feel [negative emotion] when you [verb]…” may trigger defensive feelings or sound like an accusation. The same aspect of the passive voice that lets one avoid responsibility (“mistakes were made”) in this case can moderate the tone: “I feel uncomfortable hearing other women dragged down…” Just my 2¢.

      1. Lots of things could trigger defensive feelings and sound like an accusation when a person is calling friends/colleagues “bitches” and accusing them of stealing her man, could be “I feel” language, could be “you’re being really weird right now” language. I wouldn’t worry so much about getting the script exactly right, it’s more about keeping it based in your own observations and needs – “I’ve noticed you acting very strangely,” “It is making me feel uncomfortable to hear you call people names be asked to take sides in these conflicts when I can’t observe any attempts by anyone to steal or flirt with your boyfriend”(vs. what is “normal”, what “the group” wants. )

        1. I agree with both of you, but it seems like you’re looking at different angles of the script/conversation. I think Jennifer is focused on LW only speaking for themselves and not universalizing the extent of the offense (essentially, using “I” language), while Glottal stop is focused on LW universalizing the nature of the offense to blunt their friend’s experience of a personal attack (essentially, not overusing “you” language, subbing with “when people do [x thing you just did], I feel y”).

          The degree to which the LW ought to incorporate each piece of advice will still largely depend on their personal communication style and what they know of their friend’s preferences (i.e. someone really turned off by counseling psychology might bristle at “I feel” language, so adjusting to “It seems like…” or “I get worried that x when…” might have better results; or maybe the friend habitually lacks self-awareness such that saying “when people do X” would be too abstract for them to see themselves in the complaint, or just concrete enough where they’d insist themselves to be the rare fair exception, in which case sticking with “you” language would be preferable, etc).

      2. That’s true, but on the plus side, a defensive response is almost certainly not responding to what one actually said when using “I” statements, which allows one to quickly dismiss such reactions by continually focusing on what one actually DID say.

        “Okay, but I didn’t call you a jerk, I said that it makes me uncomfortable when you call women ‘bitch’ around me, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop as a favor to me, even when you have good reason to dislike them,” or, “That sounds really frustrating; I’d still feel more comfortable if you stopped insulting [mutual friends] and blowing up our social time because of Boyfriend’s behavior.”

        That’s the great thing about boundaries: the behavior of third parties really doesn’t matter at all, because they’re all about defining acceptible behavior between the people having the discussion, not others. Just dismiss any attempts to shift the focus of the conversation (agreement is the lowest-conflict way to do so; validation without actual agreement the second-most, and perhaps more honest – it’s my preference), and more the focus back to the boundary in question.

    2. I have a friend/acquaintance who used words like bitch, slut, whore, to describe women (he was a gay male, usually referring to women he thought were undermining him in the workplace), and at one point I and another mutual friend (separately) addressed this with him, basically just saying like you did “I really don’t like those words being used to describe women, and I suspect you’ll find that language makes lots of other women you care about uncomfortable. At the very least, please refrain from using it around me.” I did notice that not only did he stop using such language, but he generally became less uncontrollably angry and irrational when talking about work. It was like that language was fueling his anger and frustration, and when he made a conscious effort to not use it, his anger was able to dissipate a lot faster, which allowed him to be more clearheaded.

      1. It might also be have been a factor that, IME, anytime you’re trying to avoid your ‘default’ word for something, you have to stop and take a second to pick another one. That extra moment of reflection usually results in reframing your emotions and experience.

        I noticed myself doing this when trying to move away from ableist terms. Like (internal monologue): “Nope, it’s not *ableist term to describe something as generically bad*, I decided not to use that word anymore. So what is it? Frustrating? Annoying? Discouraging? Yeah, discouraging. I feel really discouraged about this.” Whereas just throwing out the default term lets you just go “it’s bad” and then move on without any reflection.

        1. Yes, focusing on making your language really precise gives you way more time to focus on what you’re actually feeling/thinking and just by being more in touch with it can calm things down.

        2. I do this same thing with “should”!

          No, it’s not true that I should do my laundry. But it is true that doing my laundry today will mean it’s off my list and my clothes are clean.

          It’s not surprising that it would work with all sorts of negative language.

          Those kinds of slurs or profanities (“shitty” as an adjective, for example) are very indistinct. It’s part of their usefulness, i suppose–but when you refuse to you them, you end up having to be more specific.

          and that specificity is useful!

          1. Funnily enough, this was one way my therapist encouraged me to use my strengths in support of myself. I teach English as a second language, and she suggested that I should look at the grammar of my internal monologue for unhelpful patterns. I noticed that it contained a lot of modals (“should”, “could”, “may”, “might”, “must”) and a lot of imperatives (“do this”, “don’t do that”, “be this”, “don’t be that”). Instead, I try to switch to active verbs in the first-person present, and at all costs stay away from the third conditional (“If I had done that, I wouldn’t have…”)

          2. word geek moment! So in love with the idea that you used the word “modals.” (and the others)

            I found that switching from “should” to “could” made a huge difference on its own.

        3. This is a great point, and something I have also noticed as I work to purge ableist terms from my vocabulary (it’s a slow process, unfortunately, there are so many words and they’re s ingrained, ugh).

      2. Internal language is everything. It might help the OP to think about it in that regard as well. What goes in, eventually comes out. And what we surround ourselves with eventually will affect us. What is going on in her life, no one knows – but that is a TON of negativity spewing out in every single one of her interactions. I would personally expect a ton of emotionally abusive outburst from her if OP confronts her – but it may be what either a) OP needs to move on (At least I tried) or b) shakes her friend out of whatever negative spiral she has found herself in. But either way, for both the OP and the friend’s sake, it is worthwhile to think about and maybe even include it if she chooses to speak to the friend. Like women aren’t enemies might translate into, it ain’t about the women!

  3. Oof. Watching a friend who you know is better than their behavior act in ways like this is really tough. I feel for the LW.

    I have said a very hard thing to my best friend about how she was treating her husband very badly during a legitimate life and mental health crisis on her part. I made her cry and listened to her very hurt feelings and we came out the other side as strong as friends as ever. I don’t think there was any magic to it other than a 20 year shared history of wanting the best for each other and always relying on the other to speak truth into darkness. So she knew when I gently stopped her mid-tirade to essentially say “no, stop. This is wrong, and I think you know it” that I wasn’t doing it to be cruel. She knew from decades of me being her cheerleader to advocate for herself that when I said “I think you’re being unfair to him” that I wasn’t arbitrarily being unsupportive.

    Having a solid foundation of your friendship is probably going to be one of the biggest determining factors in how this plays out. There are no right-enough words to convince someone who doesn’t think you have their best interests in mind, but there is also a lot of imperfect words that can be overlooked if you have that deep abiding trust.

    1. I said once, to my sister, who was talking about phone conversations she’d had with this guy she met in a bar she’d gone to with her friend while their husbands were deployed: “I feel I have an obligation to say something to you here, because I care about you and I want the best for you. . You have invested a lot in your marriage. This activity, and the way you’re talking about it, are something I believe is very damaging to that marriage. Even if you never act on it, the idea of talking about this flirtation to other people damages your marriage as well. It’s up to you want you do, but i want you to know how it looks, and what I fear. And you don’t have to justify anything to me–I’m just giving you info.”

      It went pretty well, actually. I tried to be very matter-of-fact and “observational.” A tone of voice like, “well, if you don’t fix the leaky gutter, you will probably find that you’ve got water damage under the shingles.”

  4. I have been the target of “you’re stealing my boyfriend” and ended up leaving the social group twice. The first time, the accusations (based on catching up in public on news about a company where I’d been laid off but he worked in a different division) morphed into “the reason your ex left you was that you kept cheating” even though I hadn’t, and my friends took the accuser’s side. My ex, who had left the group when we broke up, took the time to tell them that was nonsense but they wouldn’t believe him!

    The second time, a friend’s ex left her for reasons I don’t know, but she blamed me because I talked to him at club meetings. (Very much like LW’s friend.) He talked to lots of people at club meetings because that is why you go to them. Neither of us found the other attractive, we didn’t get together afterwards, but obviously it’s my fault and nothing to do with the things she mentioned doing that were dump-worthy. Both of them showed up intermittently at meetings, and some of her friends believed her, so it was just not comfortable to attend. Either she’d be there angry at me, or he’d be there and people would think I was there to see him. I blocked both of them on social media and when she reached out under a slightly different name* I reported it as spam. *She changed usernames frequently to avoid stalkers or maybe just to get around being blocked. She was kind of a shitty friend even before the breakup: zero boundaries for keeping her sex life private; bait and switch where she’d invite me to “go out for dessert” but when I declined because I had plans, reveal that she was in crisis; and attempts to flatter me with Aspie Supremacy tropes. But I didn’t appreciate being in such an awkward position that I couldn’t figure out how to stay in the group with the other people, the bystanders. (Though it was creepy that two of the regulars were ABA therapists and I’m Autistic…)

    Then I asked for advice online about my apartment manager being hostile to my guests, who are not like the hobos visiting my neighbors. The advice columnist said the only reason higher class people would visit someone in affordable housing is for sex or drugs. So obviously I’m having sex with my best friend’s husband between loads of furniture and moving boxes. He’s not quite young enough to be my son…

    I don’t know why I get named as the homewrecker. I’m not “drawn that way” (single dudes are typically not interested in me) and I don’t think I’m flirting. Maybe I should just stop trying to be friends with men?

    1. Those sound like very painful episodes, I’m sorry that happened to you.

      Also, please dont call people “hobos.” Lots of people who are homeless are wonderful and kind, and even if they arent, using derogatory language like that is pretty cruel. It’s also just as bad when people who aren’t literally homeless but are of a “lower class” than you prefer are labeled in such a mean way, just because you dont like the way they act or dress or whatever else.

      If they literally were couch surfing – I would hope you would have some empathy! There are a thousand reasons in this screwed up country for people to fall on such hard times. You’re lucky if that has never happened to you.

      1. I didn’t think my response was posted and haven’t followed up–haven’t been ignoring this intentionally.

        I apologize for using “hobo” as shorthand for the objectionable people who live in and visit my apartment building. It’s insulting to hobos to associate them with the people terrorizing our neighborhood. The original Great Depression hobos were just ordinary people wandering after they lost everything and would actually do honest work for a good meal in my mom’s hometown instead of robbing people. We typically don’t see the modern equivalent because they stay out of the public eye if possible, even though they outnumber the stereotypical staggering shouting scary unhoused folks. I probably look like the old-school hobos at times because I come and go wearing shabby clothes if I’m going to paint something or work on my car.

        I should have been more accurate. About a dozen of my neighbors in the Housing First program are not adequately supported to help them get out of street life. They’re selling drugs or victimized by dealers (I need to research exactly how many overdose deaths we’ve had here) and many of them are committing crimes to support their habits, often against other tenants. I agree that our policies about drugs and rehab are a failure at anything but putting people of color in jail, but the Housing First provider is SUPPOSED to be helping them get rehab, therapy, etc. They’re not and I could rant for a full Atlantic article’s worth about them. They won’t permit management to impose any consequences on these tenants if they break the rules, because that would screw up their “tenant retention” statistics. So we have about a dozen tenants out of 100 units who are treating our nice new building like an underpass in San Francisco, with no motivation to be good neighbors because there are no consequences to being horrible.

        I have had to couchsurf, but when I did, I didn’t bring in shopping carts full of literal dripping garbage and defecate in the laundry equipment. Nor did I sell drugs, run up and down the hallways hollering in the middle of the night, smoke in a non-smoking building, or go down the hallways looking for unlocked apartments and steal from neighbors. I haven’t assaulted people with a knife in the elevator, set an apartment on fire with lighter fluid, or threatened first responders with an axe. I don’t steal parcels or bicycles.

        All these people are treated more kindly by management than I am or my friends.

        A few of my neighbors are decent people who fell on hard times and lived on the street, and I’m glad they have homes now and are doing better. I absolutely don’t have a problem with them.

        I thought the stories about affordable housing being full of crime were just slander against poor people and/or people of color, but they are true. It is hell living here and I have nowhere else to live except my car, because my friends all have roommates in their spare rooms paying more than I can afford.

        And because of guilt by association, people assume if they see me coming or going (or the working-poor, disabled, or elderly tenants) we are part of the whole meth-fueled crime scene.

    2. Mate, there’s a lot to dig through here and I don’t know where to start. However, please don’t use the word “hobo” – it’s demeaning and gross and makes a whole load of assumptions about people.

        1. I don’t know if your intention is to support or refute Monica (@The Big Meeow)’s point by sharing this, but moderator says: We’re not gonna use the word “hobo” on this site.

    3. That sounds really tough 😦 Do you have a friend you can ask about if you are somehow coming off as flirty in your interactions? That’s where I would start, sometimes we are not aware of something we are doing that is being read completely differently by others without some outside feedback. And to be clear, no matter what, I’m not and you shouldn’t blame yourself, but I know when I find out something I am doing/saying/etc. is causing a misconception, I definitely want to correct it!

      That being said, there are a lot of people in general (not just women) who don’t think men and women can and/or should be friends. I am very much not in that camp, but it is a thing and something to consider.

      Please don’t stop trying to be friends with men, that’s not the answer. i know my life would be much poorer without my guy friends. And holy cow, don’t ever take advice from that advise columnist!

      1. Please don’t ask women to police their behavior to see if they come off as “flirty”.

        This is almost never an issue where a woman is acting in a way that is inappropriate, but much more often a problem of people’s warped perceptions of women’s behavior.

        Trust me, between my more-like-a-male-in-our-culture personality/demeanor, my unconventional looks that many men find off-putting, my super awkward & clumsy non-sexiness, my social disability that makes flirting something that is almost impossible for me to do even if I WANT to, my complete inability to understand why people would even “social flirt” at all (why would you flirt with someone you weren’t actively seeking to date/hook up with? That’s the *whole point* of flirting, right?), and a million other things, I am one of the LEAST ‘flirty’ people (not just women) that you will ever meet.

        Yet I have STILL had the accusation lobbed at me of “flirting with” or trying to “hit on” a man because I was having a friendly and animated conversation with them. Sometimes by bystanders, sometimes by jealous partners (mine or theirs), sometimes by the men themselves.

        I’ve noticed that this ONLY happens when I am talking to cishet men, or men who appear to be cishet to the comment makers (eg I’m talking to a gay man but bystanders don’t know he is gay.) It’s never come about from talking to people of other genders (not saying it CAN’T happen, just that IME, these accusations are overwhelmingly directed at women-who-interact-with-cishet-men.

        That alone tells me that this is NOT the fault of the woman accused of being “too flirty”, it’s the fault of our sexist and misogynistic society- and it NEEDS to be pushed back on every time it comes up.

        It also really fucking annoys me because (while anyone of any gender can commit sexual harassment/assault), it’s not actually WOMEN who are going around making the majority of inappropriate sexual overtures- it’s MEN. But while women acting like normal friendly humans are viewed as someone who is ‘one the prowl’ and trying to hit on everyone and ‘check yourself for flirtiness!’ MEN who overtly make ALL KINDS of inappropriate sexual overtures and engage in everything from harassment to assault have people falling all over themselves to excuse and cover it as normal and harmless male behavior (often with a heavy dose of ‘well what do you EXPECT when all those aggressive flirty hussies {aka normal women just existing} are just asking for it all day long with their incessant hitting on people!’) It’s insidious, and women can’t win unless we all start speaking up every time people pull this shit.

    4. GrumpyMeowth: You ran into a series of shitty people problem..

      The first group was a toxic dumpster fire.

      The second lady actually used your own disability against you.

      It’s not your fault. And don’t stop trying to be friends with men. They’re half the population. Why deprive yourself of billions of potential friends just because some people are stuck in a medieval mindset?

    5. FWIW, “hobo” isn’t a slur in my dialect, it’s a neutral – or even positive – term for a marginally employed, transient person. Frankly, I’m a little disturbed that y’all are insisting it’s a slur, as I’ve known quite a few people who use it as an identifier for themselves (especially those who travel by hopping trains). It doesn’t have an etymology rooted in any sort of overt denigration or hostility. Are those objecting doing so from an informed perspective at all, perhaps personal experience, rather than doing some classist projection where the very concept of not having a permanent home is considered derogatory, so even neutral/positive descriptors are interpreted as denigrating?

      You can, of course, ban the term in your space anyway, if you wish, but I don’t think you’re striking a blow against derogatory language by doing so, I think you’re perpetuating classism.

      1. Ok, Johann, but “hobo” is at least a record-scratch coming in this context. This wasn’t “oh look what jolly working class folks down on their luck.” It was meant as an insult.

        People self-describing as a hobo – probably not a problem.
        Calling someone else a hobo – probably a problem.

        I have mental illness dx’s and sometimes refer to myself as “feeling crazy.” I get to “reclaim” that word for myself.
        Calling someone else crazy = not ok.

        I think that’s probably a good standard.

      2. I think people are objecting because it was clearly used pejoratively–the poster immediately contrasted people she describes as “hobos” with her “higher class” visitors. If anything, she’s the one perpetuating classism.

        1. I apologized at length above. tl;dr version, it was insulting TO HOBOS to use the word to describe the people visiting my building because they were committing actual crimes there, such as vandalism, assault, and drug sales.

    6. You can be friends with men. In both scenarios you described, you behaved reasonably and your thankfully-now-former friends were illogical and uncharitable.
      You don’t need friends like that.

      1. And to get back to the original topic…

        LW, your friend who is being awful to women who aren’t flirting with her boyfriend is making it really awkward for everyone. I sincerely hope she isn’t going to end up targeting a weak link who isn’t actually guilty but people don’t mind piling on as though she is. It isn’t going to help anyone for her accusations to continue–nobody likes being falsely accused and having to decide how to respond, and nobody likes wondering if they’ll be next.

  5. Something that has worked for me in the past is to separate out the ‘trying to figure out what’s wrong’ and the ‘asking her to fix her behavior’ into two separate conversations. One of which is a ‘listening’ conversation, where you try your hardest not to bring any judgement to the table and just find out from her what’s going on and where it’s coming from; the other being a ‘request’ conversation, where you stick to strict statements of facts and then a simple, concrete request for behavior change.
    For example:
    Conversation One: “Hey, I’ve noticed *such and such behavior*, do you want to talk about where you think it’s coming from?” and then just let her go; ask questions to dig into stuff, but don’t challenge any of her behavior or thoughts (in this conversation) just gather as much data as you can/let her vent to you about it.
    Conversation Two is trickier and depends a lot on your friend. Some people respond best if you give them a concrete action you want them to do/not do – ie: “Please give women 3 strikes before you consign them to the ‘bitch’ category”; but some people find that sort of request very patronizing, and would respond better to something like “Hey, we talked about this before, and I totally get where you’re coming from, but our fun group has been a lot less fun lately because of how protective of your boyfriend you are.” Either way though, keep it pretty short – deliver your statement of issue/request for change, and then change the subject so she doesn’t have the opportunity to get defensive, and to re-assure her that you’re still her friend and that it doesn’t have to be that big a deal.
    Approaching them as intentionally separate conversations can help you be able to abort if things start straying into dramatic conflict – in the ‘listening’ conversation you’re not doing the analysis on the spot to then try and convince her to stop being so wildly aggressive, you can stay ‘on her side’ and just let her rant and tell you as much as she wants to, then figure out what solid requests you have for her after that; likewise, in the ‘asking’ conversation, you’re not giving her an opportunity to justify her actions or defend them or anything, you’re just making a request for a concrete behavior change – this is the conversation most likely to be more difficult, but keeping it short and to the point can help with that.

    Additionally – is this a problem that could be mitigated a bit by controlling the environment? Like – could you up the ratio of ‘girls only’ events, so her boyfriend is around less often?

    1. this is really good advice – separating the conversations into “are you doing ok?” and “I need you to stop doing this specific thing”. That’s the question that kept popping up in my head when I read the Captain’s response. It’s hard to be empathetic and kind when what you really want out of a conversation is to say “this is incredibly annoying & frustrating & you need to knock it off or I’ll have to find a different friend group”.
      LW, I’m sending oyu lots of supportive vibes for the conversation(s) with your friend. This is hard, I know. I’m a super conflict-avoidant person myself. However, I’ve found that I have a much harder time letting go of friendships if I feel that something’s still been left hanging. So if nothing else, I think you will feel better having adressed this issue. Even if it goes badly, at least you will know you spoke your mind and that maybe your friendships needs some new boundaries. That will feel better than knowing you just peaced out on this friend. I say that with zero judgement, as I’ve done it in the past, but I wish I’d have had the courage to say, “hey, this is weird, can we talk about what’s going on”.

  6. Sometimes men talk a lot about their partner’s women friends flirting or coming on to them in order to encourage this sort of divisive behavior that leads to isolation.

    1. This. Or they just —for some reason— think they are “all that” and that these women want them.

    2. An observation about straight men: They will see any behaviour by any woman, real or fictional, even female-coded video game avatars, as coming on to them when that’s what they want to see.

      Not hard to imagine that stream of “She totally wants me!” brushing up against relationship insecurity and producing toxic sludge for LWs friend.

    3. This. My ex used to like to talk about all the women that flirted with him, etc. He also took two years to reveal my existence to his ex girlfriend because she was a client of his. I’m not a particularly jealous person, but it did make me more suspicious than I normally am. I didn’t throw anyone under the bus or complain to anyone, but I did get a bit nervous about one new acquaintance until she started dating another friend.

      1. Same, my ex used to tell me that women would just walk up to him on the street and tell him how handsome he was. Sure, buddy, i absolutely believe that’s a real thing that happened.

    4. My ex-husband used to do this to me. In one instance he specifically asked me to talk to our mutual friend because he claimed she was making him uncomfortable, and then when I did so he acted like I was making the whole thing up. It took me years after the divorce to figure out that this was part of his gaslighting routine, and it started in the first couple of months we were dating.

    5. I was coming here to say something similar. If this is completely new behavior, then it does sound like someone is being gas-lit and it is driving her to her ends. No excuse for losing such control, but I do know that if my ex compared me to his long time friend one more time, I was going to lose it. And I think we have all been in situations where we put the blame outside the person just because it was easier to deal with all the anxiety paranoia at the time.

      1. Sometimes I just don’t know what to think when I read stuff like this.

        I’ve dealt with these kinds of assholes too- the abusers, the gaslighted, the garden variety assholes- that get an ego stroke from making their partners jealous, being flirty with everyone, dividing women, or saying everyone and their grandmother has been hitting on them, whatever… and my immediate instinct has never, and I mean NEVER been to blame a woman/women. I have ALWAYS put the blame 100% on the dude who was acting like a jackass. If I got angry and lost my temper, the only person that got flipped out on was HIM. (And if they didn’t stop they got fucking DUMPED.)

        It really bothers me because it seems like this isn’t just some kind of mental coping mechanism to deal with an abusive/gaslighting/jealous partner, but a reaction that is based in the kind of societal misogyny that is so deeply entrenched that EVERYONE has a hard time seeing it.

        Why do I say this? Well, above I made a comment where I said I’ve seen these jealousy dynamics play out every kind of way possible- and that is true. And I’ve seen them enough, and often enough, to recognize the two most common iterations:
        Male partner is chronically jealous of female partner who has done wrong other than exist in public & have male friends ( or men want to talk to or hit on her simply because she is a female with a pulse.) Man blames woman for “attracting male attention” or “leading men on”, man directs anger at woman ( I’m racking my brain and don’t get think I’ve seen a single situation where a chronically jealous male partner did not direct most or all of his blame & anger at his female partner, no matter WHAT the actual situation was – even if she was innocent and being stalked & harassed.)

        Female partner is chronically jealous of male partner who does LOTS of things to deserve it- cheats, encourages jealousy, flirts incessantly, etc. Woman blames WOMEN for “going after her man”, woman directs anger at women that should actually be directed at the male partner.

        What is wrong with this picture? Why is the WOMAN/WOMEN in each scenario always to blame even when they have done nothing wrong? Why are women always assumed to be the shameless hussies and home wreckers that are either always cheating on their men or always trying to get men to cheat?


      2. “No excuse for losing such control, but I do know that if my ex compared me to his long time friend one more time, I was going to lose it.”

        But WHO would you have lost it at?

        Your ex, who is completely at fault here and would totally deserve that anger? (That would be fine, IMO)

        Or the long time friend, who did …absolutely nothing?

        I understand being ANGRY, I understand getting SO ANGRY that you lose it, I understand getting SO FUCKING ANGRY that you completely blow your top and cause the worlds biggest scene- but what I DON’T understand is taking out that anger on someone other than the person who is at fault- the crummy, jealousy inducing BF.

        I’ve been there. I’m speaking from experience, I’ve dated guys that have tried to pull that shit, and it doesn’t even compute to me that anyone other than the guy who is cheating, flirting, stoking jealousy or whatever would or even COULD be to blame. Those people aren’t involved in my relationship, they have nothing to do with it, they aren’t the ones who transgressed, they do not get the blame!

  7. I’ve known two women like this, including someone I care about quite a lot. Sadly, in both cases I don’t think there was anything I or anyone else could say to stop the aggression against other women. Their view was not amenable to reason – instead, each of them seemed to be determined to act out the role of the Virtuous Woman as against the rest of us old slappers. One of the women I knew specialized in that awful, tight angry smile, and sugary-acid tone of voice; the other one just deafened you with a wall of noise. This play-acting seems like a way to keep all other people at arms’ length.
    The sad thing was that in both cases, I don’t think these women actually cared all that much about their partners as people; they just wanted a “trophy man” as a sign of social success.

  8. Oh my gosh… I have had a very similar issue within my friend group. A Wife was constantly stating that everyone was trying to steal her Husband, was drooling over him, was secretly in love with him… it never stopped.

    The reality was that neither the ‘other women’ nor Husband, in this case, were interested in each other. At all. Ever. No flirting took place in my sight, and given that a) this was a small friend group and b), like the OP, we all worked in a small, close-knit professional field, I would have known if any true untoward behaviours took place. They didn’t.

    Over time, however, Husband, who was clueless to Wife’s demeanour around the womenfolk in their midst, recognised how uncomfortable he was with Wife. The controlling behaviour extended to every part of their lives. He could not do anything right, and she started to confront him directly about cheating that never took place. In fact, she accused me of ‘being’ with him when we were literally in aforementioned professional meetings when there were 3-4 OTHER PEOPLE in the room the whole time.

    The worst part was that she repeated these accusations about me and 3 other women to others in our professional circle. It was all secrets and whispers. I actually had to have my lawyer file a cease-and-desist letter to stop her. The good news is that they are in the process of getting a divorce.

    I hope the OP speaks up. She’s in a good position, being gay, to actually have a kind conversation with her friend. I hope Friend is able to see the forest for the trees.

    PS OP: For all of the women who are NOT INTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE’S HUSBANDS but have no way of convincing Wives because We Have Breasts And Therefore Are Hussies, I thank you for being a stand-up kinda gal, even for just writing in and sharing your experience.

    1. If Friend is really…unhinged(?), I wouldn’t be at all surprised for her to accuse OP of wanting her husband too. “Homosexuality be damned all women want my man!!!”

      1. I had a jealous ex who accused me of sleeping with all of my straight male friends, all of my GAY male friends, all of my (straight) female friends, my brother, and my dogs.

        Irrationally jealous jerks really know no bounds.

    2. I know what you mean, Lisa, about women who need to make it clear all the time that they are the Wife.
      It seems to happen especially to single women. If someone is insecure in her relationship, or secretly doesn’t want to be partnered/married, seeing another woman who is doing just fine outside the heteronormative hierarchy can be rather threatening, so the Wife will concoct any old nonsense to try and make out that you are a Hussy. It’s a bit like the way that parents (let’s face it, mostly mothers) who secretly resent parenthood will make a point of offloading judgement and criticism on child-free women.

      1. Planegirl, cosign! I love being Happily Single and Childfree, and I absolutely think it’s a trigger for this particular Wife.

        1. Hi Lisa – yep, another happily single and childfree woman here, and I am constantly surprised at how many other people seem to have a problem with me just doing me.
          With one of my “Wife” friends, the accusations about her husband are constant, and have gone into surreal territory – she accused him of living with me for years, even though I live the other side of the country from them.

  9. I would love these on a t-shirt: “Do not automatically associate or assume negative behavior is a direct result of another person’s mental health diagnosis, even if you think you know” and another is “You ask people how they’re doing, you do not tell them.”

  10. Re: the post about how to handle conflict with someone who has disclosed a condition to you…could you include a part about how to opt out of such a friendship kindly if you’re not prepared to deal with the condition or its symptoms? A lot of my friends just…stopped talking to me entirely, would never respond to texts or e-mails, when a short note saying, “I’m in over my head, so how about we reconnect when you’re doing better?” would have been so, so much easier on me. (Some of my friends did do this, and I really appreciated it, and told them so.) Silence is a response in and of itself; it’s not neutral or harmless.

    1. I second this request. I have also been on the receiving end of silence due to my mental health (nothing was disclosed but my issues at the time were… obvious). I understand people don’t have to have that in their lives but hearing even “woah this is too much for me, gotta nope out of here” (with an ideal “hey there are campus health services and I’m just going to mention that once and not feel like I have to check up on you but I will imply that I do care about you as a person and not just a fountain of issues”), would have been better than silence.

      1. I want to push back on this a little bit: mental health issues are rough yes, but people don’t owe this conversation if they don’t feel safe or happy in the friendship. As someone who’s been on both sides of a “mental health issues are too heavy to lift” dynamic, I don’t begrudge the friends who ghosted. They were taking care of themselves in the face of some really needy behavior from me, and if aquaintanceship is all they could manage, there’s no shame in that. On the flip side, I try to let people know if I can’t handle their situation anymore, but sometimes you know it would just create a spiral that doesn’t end, and you have to disengage. It’s one of those painful-but-unavoidable parts of social experience.

        1. I think this is a good perspective to have. People are allowed to leave a relationship at any time, kindly or unkindly, with notice or without. Of course it’s upsetting and disappointing to lose a friend, but you can’t hold other people accountable for your well-being.

        2. I kind of agree with you… ghosting can be cruel but outright attempts to directly end friendships often are perceived as similarly harsh. I’ve never been able to make either approach work and in fact that is what attracted me to this column in the first place— I love how the captain addresses ending adult friendships.

          I’ve slow-ghosted a few intensely (and inappropriately) clingy friends, all while feeling a combination of guilt and relief. But I’ve also honestly told people their behavior wasn’t ok and I needed space and was met with intense distress and resistance. I think it’s generally a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of thing. And always very situationally dependent.

        3. Of course not. But this is for the people who might not realize that saying something like that was even an option, or who didn’t have a good script for it.

          1. Times I have bailed on people who were having rough experiences, I did not consciously decide to do so. I have thought, I should really call/email, but I don’t have the energy to be sensitive and supportive and walk all the fine lines; maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow turns into next week turns into how-many-months-has-it been, and I feel guilty, but I never did call. It has mostly to do with my own running low on cope.

            So it’s not that I didn’t know that saying something like that was an option, it’s that only in retrospect do I realize that I have, in fact, bailed.

          2. I ended up telling someone that I needed to focus on my own XYZ complicated situation, including expanding my craft business, and that after then I simply wouldn’t have time to help her. I don’t know how helpful that script would be for others, but it seemed to work.

            This was the ex-friend who basically just wanted someone to tell her to do what she wanted and ignore professional advice that I thought was perfectly sound. She kept getting into the logical consequences of ignoring that advice and wanted reassurance that it was everyone else’s fault but hers.

            The good news is, part of the problem was her bad living situation. After she moved, this reset the game board and when I returned something I’d been holding till after her move, she said things were much better. But this was the person who also just made stuff up all the time and I am not interested in rekindling the friendship.

          3. Zelda Stoa- when I was going through a long period of rough mental and physical health I took it upon myself to ghost from people because I was so afraid of being that overbearing, draining friend. I knew what I was dealing with was not only beyond their pay grade, they all had their own serious troubles at the time. I survived and so did my friendships. I didn’t and don’t blame anyone who could not deal with my issues on top of their own.
            Life is hard for everyone and we get through it it the best we can.

        4. I do not feel owed, I did not indicate that I felt owed, I used words like “would have been better [unspoken:for me] than” and “ideal” and somehow that pings to you as being entitled to it. All I was trying to say is that completely leaving my life without a word does hurt and that scripts from a person who is great about boundaries and will presumably come across as not forcing people into using these scripts seems to me to be good, given my personal history.

          I know that I probably sound angry. I should have replied to my comment right after to add even more clarity because I knew this would happen.

          1. Dia, I thought your suggestion was a good one, and well made. People still have the option to not use such a script, but it would be a useful thing for people who want it.

  11. I’ve had long-term success with calling out (which the in-the-moment “nobody wants your boyfriend” script feels more like) and more immediate success with calling in (which the one-on-one scripts seem more like).

    I find these conversations most effective when I approach them from a place of misunderstanding–even if I’m sure I understand what’s going on perfectly well. “I’m having a hard time understanding x, can you give me a little background?” followed by some deep listening. Especially if the “From my perspective, z” comes fairly deep into the conversation. It leaves time to build a sense of intimacy, trust, and understanding. And I DO often end up learning things that, while they might not change my opinion any, provide a lot of insight not only into why the person is feeling and behaving the way they are, but also what kind of response is most likely to hit home for them.

    It took a really long time to get better at this. I realize now that a ton of arguments I had in the past could have simply been discussions with even better outcomes. (Though it was extremely gratifying the time I ran into a guy in the woods in North Carolina who I’d chewed out for being sexist years before IN ANOTHER COUNTRY and he immediately offered me a sincere and unsolicited apology and thanks.)

    1. (Updating because I literally used this method today with a well-meaning dude coworker who was promoting an extremely tone-deaf fundraiser ostensibly to get men involved in raising awareness about violence against women. I asked several questions before making any statements, and let him talk for awhile about how the org decided on that fundraiser, why the org has no info about services for LGBTQ folks on their website, and whether any LGBTQ people had been involved in planning [no]. I could basically see him figuring out what was wrong in real time, so that by the time I got around to saying, “So here’s the thing…” he was extremely receptive and ended up inviting me to have a meeting with the org’s Executive Director to figure out an alternative fundraiser for next year, and how the org can do better outreach.)

  12. One of my least favorite surprises in a friendship is finding out someone who is a decent friend to me behaves totally differently in the context of their romantic relationships. The intimacy of those relationships seems to activate all sorts of jerk brain responses that might not ever rear their heads at work or with friends, but they are an undeniable facet of that person nonetheless. Like the Captain said, there can be all sorts of motivations behind your friends behavior, but the bottom line is that her hostility towards women is affecting your friendship (I’m sure being treated as sort of exception claus for being gay is also pretty uncomfortable!). Whether you mentioning it serves as a wakeup call, or your friend thinks you are just another agent of the jezebels, I second focusing on how it affects you. I’d also add that in case this is part of an abusive or toxic pattern that your friend eventually decides to escape, for peace of mind you could specify that your door is always open to to conversations that don’t involve misogynistic slurs or hostility.

    1. I feel this.
      Lost a very close friend to this pattern and things could never go back to the way they were.

      Whether its internalised misogyny, mental health, abuse dynamics, or anything else driving the change, sometimes you just can’t with this friend anymore and that’s not a failing on your part.

      1. I’ve learned that someone exhibiting ANY kind of chronic jealousy in their relationships is a great big red flag. HUGE.

        Even if that partner is a complete asshole who deserves that jealousy and is encouraging it every step of the way, the answer is not to take out your jealousy on the people around you, or even on your partner. Your partner is a cheating piece of crap, you basically have three choices. 1. Accept it 2. Find an alternative solution 3. Break up

        People who choose to stay and either be angry at their shitty partner & treat them like crap OR treat everyone else like crap because they are jealous of them are acting in a dysfunctional manner. IME these are not one off, short term, acting out of character because of a bad/abusive relationship dynamics, they will be repeated in future relationships, and they are indicative of other dysfunctional behaviors that will eventually bleed into your friendship and destroy it.
        It’s happened to me in every friendship I’ve had with a woman who subscribed to the “my boyfriend is amazing (no he’s not) but I hate all the women that won’t stop hitting on him/making him cheat!” school of thought. I’ve had to walk away from all of them- and sometimes RUN.

        I have had shitloads of male friends/acquaintances ever since I was a kid and can’t think of ANY who have held this kind of denial/blame the other person/whole gender mindset- men tend to ALWAYS blame the female partner and think she is at fault, and assign her blame, or believe it’s “her duty to stop it” (by being less attractive, not going out in public etc) even if/when they blame men too (and even if/when the woman is 0% at fault. Yes I know NOT ALL MEN, I’m talking about the general unfortunate trends I’ve seen in 52 years of life/experience. I don’t hang around jealous men, period.)

        I’ve had too much bad experience around both people who live in really deep denial about some sort of serious dysfunction in their life, and both women & seemingly ‘good’ men who hold very ugly & deeply internalized misogynistic beliefs to ever believe that either type is a good or safe or healthy fit in my life, and my current default mode for either is AVOID.

    2. ‘One of my least favorite surprises in a friendship is finding out someone who is a decent friend to me behaves totally differently in the context of their romantic relationships. The intimacy of those relationships seems to activate all sorts of jerk brain responses that might not ever rear their heads at work or with friends, but they are an undeniable facet of that person nonetheless. ‘

      This is so true it hurts. I have no idea what to do with loyal, loving friends who cheat on or otherwise mistreat their spouse (stopping short of abuse).

  13. Since the group appears to be career-related, LW may wish to approach the jealous friend from that point of view. In other words, LW can point out to Friend that calling people names and accusing them of wanting her boyfriend is unprofessional and looks very, very bad. It can also play into the worst misogynistic tropes, so that may be enough of an incentive for Friend to knock it off.

    If the group isn’t career-related, this doesn’t apply, obviously.

  14. I’ve had to do this a couple of times with friends! They’ve all since become Small Doses friends, which makes sense, but the relationships have survived. Captain is right: direct is best.

    With a very needy friend who increasingly resorted to some unhealthy tactics to get the reaction she preferred, I just reached my limit and told her: I’m feeling manipulated right now and I need some space. It stopped her cold. Now, I could’ve invoked the friend group who was drifting away from her or gifted her the African violet (it was very close) – I’m so glad I didn’t! I could tell friend was shocked, but she listened to me and expressed her POV which actually gave ME some clarity.

    I know it can feel overwhelming, but stopping and calling out the specific behavior in the moment is probably the most effective. I’d also suggest validating the emotions that you can (“I get why you feel scared about getting cheated on when it’s happened before”) because it goes a looooooong way. Good luck!

    1. See, to me “I get why you feel scared about getting cheated on when it’s happened before” is a good, logical answer if the problem is that Friend is being jealous AT HER PARTNER.

      It doesn’t work or even make any sense if Friend is being jealous at All The Women Around Her Partner because she is afraid that her partner will cheat with them.
      If her partner won’t stop cheating/flirting/doing suspicious stuff, or she can’t figure out how to learn to trust a partner who is NOT doing any of that, the solution is to break up (and possibly get some counseling), not police who their partner hangs out with, or accuse others of going after their BF just because they belong to a gender that their partner is attracted to. If they REALLY think the partner is so weak or lacking in agency that they will fall into bed with the first shameless hussy that bats their eyes at them, they need to not only break up, but get some serious fucking counseling. I don’t care how shitty your partner is or what they are doing to upset you, that is straight up DENIAL. And yes, I HAVE heard a woman (now-ex) friend express EXACTLY that opinion about her horrible cheating BF. Honestly, I’ve heard it ALL when it comes to “Why my wonderful boyfriend/husband is not at fault for his cheating/drinking/drugging/gambling/other horrible behavior; it’s ALL THOSE AWFUL WOMEN WHO WON’T STOP CHASING HIM” and why it’s totally ok that they are jealous and weird (he cheated before! with X person I am jealous of! he always runs off and gets high with Y!) and none of it’s understandable in any way, shape, or form to me at all. Even IF the partner actually was that weak and had so little agency, the solution is BREAK UP, not HATE OTHER WOMEN.
      I know I probably just sound like a jerk but I’m actually worn the fuck out from so many years of trying to be supportive and encouraging to women who thought like this. Their issues are deep, usually have to do with a complete lack of self esteem and confidence (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that every woman I’ve known that held this kind of mindset had been through some sort of serious abuse growing up) and way, WAY beyond my pay grade to deal with.

      I actually GET the *emotions* behind their actions and how it can leave you feeling absolutely crazy. I’ve had the shitty, abusive boyfriends, I’ve had the cheaters, the gaslighters, the drug abusers & alcoholics, the fuckheads of every stripe. Irrational anger and rage? JUST LET ME TELL YOU about the time 19 yr old me, in a drunken FURY after my (all around) abusive BF spent an evening trying to stoke jealousy, chased that asshole around our apartment with his 22 rifle not to shoot him but because I was going to BEAT HIM TO A PULP with it if I had caught him. SCREAMING FIGHTS with other BFs over their bullshit maneuvers. I understand ALL OF THAT, intimately, but never ONCE did it ever OCCUR to me to direct my blame or anger at anyone but the MEN who were directly responsible for it (and all were unceremoniously DUMPED sooner rather than later.)

      I have ZERO tolerance for cheating, so when I’ve found out it was grounds for immediate dumping, and occasionally I’ve found out I was cheated on after I dumped someone. In neither case was I ever angry at the other person- I wasn’t in a relationship with THEM. (No, not even the time I found out an ex had cheated on me with someone I knew! Drugs/alcohol and manipulation were involved in getting her consent, I actually felt really bad for her when I found out. Him, well, he’s just REALLY LUCKY I didn’t run into him again for many years…)

      Seriously, women at large and in general! The solution to this is DON’T DATE JERKS. If you are dating a man who will not honor the boundaries of your relationship- who flirts or ogles incessantly or encourages flirting; who cheats, or purposely does things to make you think he might; who tries to make you jealous, pits women against each other, or “can’t choose” – BREAK UP. DUMP HIM IMMEDIATELY. And STOP blaming other women for the actions of a hateful jerk.
      The chances he will get any better are infinitesimal, you will live in misery waiting for it to happen, and you will learn to view other women as “enemies” when your REAL enemy is the POS dude at the epicenter of this shitquake.

  15. There is the approach CA already discussed, of a general “When you X, I feel Y” conversation that focuses on what you see and experience of her behaviour, without making assumptions about their behind-closed-doors relationship dynamic. Yeah, this could be totally her, or she could be reacting badly in a dynamic that he’s feeding in different ways.

    Another related option is calling it out in the moment. The “scene” is already being made, after all. I have a friend with many good qualities, but who has her own mental health struggles and she sometimes goes pretty hard on her roommate/best friend. The good news is, she’s gotten healthier over time and he seems to be more assertive and willing to push back than he once was, so overall, from what I can tell this dynamic has gotten much better. But occasionally she’ll still say something I perceive as out of line, especially if she’s drinking.

    From experience, she hasn’t always responded well to global “I’m concerned about how you treat Roommate” conversations. What she has responded much better to, is me or someone else going, essentially, “Dude, not cool” in the moment she’s doing something unreasonable. When I or others have done that, you can see it register on her face. And at least once she made a lasting behaviour change and specifically attributed it to me getting annoyed and calling her out over a certain incident. (A big aspect of how I’ve been able to maintain a friendship with her, despite some… challenging behaviour on her part.)

    Another friend and his bf are occasionally prone to rather public arguments, and the bf in particular has tried to get me to weigh in in the past. I say point-blank that I’m not getting involved, and occasionally make a “nobody wants to be hearing this” type comment, and get them to at least knock it off in front of me (there are aspects of that relationship I’m… not so crazy about. But as always, you can only do do much from the sidelines).

    Thus, LW, one approach you can take is making your own reaction clear when she starts going off in public. This could just be some version of “…dude!” in the moment, or it can be a more polished, “I don’t like the way you’re handling this/the words you’re using”. “This is not how to solve this problem”. “This is not the time or place to be doing what you’re doing”. Again, this doesn’t leave you making assumptions about their overall relationship or whether her outbursts might be a justified-but-bad reaction to a Real Thing or not (she is likely certain that her behaviour is justified, regardless). It’s about you not wanting to be forced to witness the public airing of grievances when you just want to sip wine and talk shop.

    The hardest thing about friends and dysfunctional/abusive relationships (and I’ve been involved in more than my share myself), is threading that needle between trying to be supportive, versus subjecting yourself to the stress and drama. The best way to situate yourself is to maintain a presence if you can, call out specific incidents when possible… but not playing referee or therapist. Your friend and her bf are adults making decisions here, you’re unlikely to change whatever is going on between them, and trying to manage or control their (or her) conflicts will likely just stress you out and pour gasoline on the fire. What you can do is draw your own boundaries about what you’re comfortable seeing or hearing. That’s the part you have control over (and if your friend is in a place where she can examine herself or her relationship, that kind of stated boundary can create quite an impact in itself).

  16. Similar to Charlene and mazzie, I have found in a similar situation that the person confronted got mad at me (and others) in the short term, but actually did change in the long term.

    In my case, this friend wasn’t using sexist language and lashing out at women, but had gotten into making angry anti-sjw “jokes” and racist microaggressions, to pick fights. We are both white, ftr, and this seemed unusual for them. (They’re genderqueer and we’ve known each other since our teens). It seemed like they had their own mental health issues and had met friends (online and off) who reinforced these kinds of jokes and that anti-sjw rants were acceptable outlets for their anger (which, in truth, stemmed from many personal things). They also had this thing about wanting people to accept them “no matter what,” since their original family didn’t.

    What happened was, I (and others at different times) explained why these kinds of jokes / microaggressions / rants are not okay, and set boundaries around hanging out with them if they kept it up. Also refferred them to therapists or other mental health services I’ve personally used, since we had that kind of close relationship.

    For a while, this friend just cut us all off, but later they reignited friendship with me and a few others. They genuinely changed, didn’t do those things anymore, and is still in therapy. Also, their other “friends” turned out to not accept them “no matter what” either, since when my friend tried to stop using weed and drinking, the anti-sjw friends all dumped them and accused them of being judgemental.

    To be fair, this friend does still make “offensive” jokes and go on angry rants, but now they’re part of antifa, their angry rants are about white supremecy and capitalism, and their jokes are gore-laden or surrealist descriptions of what they want to do to to Nazis. So like, angry and provocative are probably just part of their personality.

    Also, they are a lot better at reigning it in and maintining professional conversation when it’s called for now. Possibly at least in part due to being on real meds rather than self-medicating with weed and alcohol.

    Not in any way trying to diagnose lw’s friend with substance use disorder. Only mentioning it because I couldn’t change my friend, I could only set boundaries until they decided to change / get professional help on their own.

  17. Maintaining a positive, genuinely curious intonation and tone is likely going to be the key to getting her to listen. If she does get defensive, keep calm and say something along the lines of “I feel like this conversation is getting tense. Why don’t we call it quits early today, and touch base later this week?” That way you’re not saying she’s the one getting defensive, and you’re letting her know that she can reach out to you if she needs to.

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a conversation like this! Good luck.

  18. You know this woman and this group better than I do, but my instinct is that being really blunt will actually lower the stakes of this conversation. If you sit her down and gently ask about it, it’s going to feel like Big Deal An Intervention. I remember a story (from CA?) about an office where some dude was clipping his nails during meetings and everyone was too horrified to say something until a new person just recoiled in horror and asked what the hell he was doing. He promptly stopped.

    It might work better to just roll your eyes and say, “what are you even talking about? Nobody is trying to steal your boyfriend. Also, are you seriously calling women bitches right now? Gross. (repeat eye roll).”

    Honestly, nothing makes me feel better about my irrational fears than someone (usually my big sister) making fun of them. By not taking them seriously, it helps invalidate the worry in my mind. I could definitely see this approach not working for everyone, but that’s what I’d want my friends to do. I think it would get me to snap out of it, or think about why I was so worried about it.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you that casual bluntness sometimes comes off as much much much gentler than a ‘careful’ heart-to-heart. Depends on people and situation, as always, but I know that for me that’s true more often than not. Humour, when possible, can also help.

      1. Yeah, what’s definitely NOT worked for me in the past in difficult situations with friends is the gentle heart to heart. I think it puts the other person on the defensive because (intentionally or not) you’re positioning yourself as the “reasonable one.” I also think it gets everything out in the open faster so the other person’s anxiety has less time to build. Even when my bluntness has been clumsy or a little hurtful to the other person, it’s gotten me way better results than any well-rehearsed sitdown I’ve tried and the relationship has recovered faster.

        1. I think another reason the gentle heart-to-heart sometimes puts people on the defensive is because it makes the issue feel like a much bigger deal than it is to some people. Some people, especially people with brainweasels, never actually confront someone they like about a problem unless it’s a complete dealbreaker that they can’t ignore any longer. My abusive family taught me to keep my problems and emotions very, very well concealed, so when someone explicitly comes to talk to me about a problem, what that suggests to me is that IT IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM, otherwise they would have just gone on quietly being annoyed at me like a normal person (brainweasels talking). All discussions look like breakups to me.

          My wife’s the same way. If the issue is something she’s doing socially, it works better to call it out in a funny, kind of harsh way in the moment – “Hey, you’re being an ass again, can you not?” – than to talk to her about it personally. If I wait and bring it up when we’re alone, she feels much more on-the-spot and defensive. I’ve tried to draw a distinction between “you’re behaving like an ass at this moment” and “this moment is the final data point I need to build the case that you have an ass for a soul”, and having a sit-down conversation with people sometimes makes them feel as if you’re having an issue with who they ARE, rather than what they’re CURRENTLY DOING. It’s important to highlight that difference for insecure people, because we’re bad at seeing it, and it can help cut down on the defensive pushback.

          1. I love this comment and this discussion about “just directly address it quick” and “sit down and talk to them” styles and the effects, and I’m going to expand on it in its own post. Thank you!

    2. I would agree with the first part, bluntness can make a conversation a lot less terrifying.
      Not the latter, that would just make me feel I´m being mocked and that the other person would use any vulnerability against me. Depending on the friends mental state, this might mean she doubles down because it´s now not safe to give ground.

      1. Yeah, have to agree that “lol your fear is stupid” is…. really not the best approach for everyone.

    3. “Honestly, nothing makes me feel better about my irrational fears than someone (usually my big sister) making fun of them. By not taking them seriously, it helps invalidate the worry in my mind.”

      See also: little kids being dropped off at a new daycare. If mommy stays with you because you’re scared, she must think you have a point, right? And that it IS scary?

      If she laughs are you, points out the trucks and the plastic food, and leaves, she must think this is an OK place to leave you.

      Of course, in both these scenarious, Mommy and Big Sister are trustworthy.

      1. Considering how much the LWs friend distrusts all other women, I suspect this wouldn´t apply here and would do more harm than good.
        I will admit laughing at anyone´s fears ever unless they explicitly asked you too, the way Thistledown seems to prefer it, makes my shoulders go up around my ears. Adults laughing at my fears just taught me those adults wouldn´t help me when something bad happened. But that´s getting off topic.

        1. that’s actually something I covered. it only works when the person who is amused by your fears is someone you ALREADY absolutely trust to take you seriously when those fears are well grounded.

  19. I know you’re ideally looking for a way to tell your friend to cut this out without her responding with anger or getting defensive. Unfortunately, I suspect there is no way to do that–mostly because her reaction is hers to choose, not yours, so whether or not she gets upset isn’t really within your control. Of course, if you say it like “Oh my god, shut up about your boyfriend, no one else wants him, you’re delusional,” that might cause extra conflict! But I suspect you were already planning on being reasonably kind.

    Beyond basic kindness, the one thing I would really suggest is hearing your friend out. I don’t mean ‘let her say whatever she wants and you can’t disagree at all’ here. I mean more like “I’ve noticed that you’re really on edge about women talking to Dave lately. Is something going on?” Maybe you’ll find that he does have a history of cheating on her, or that she’s dealing with some other sort of struggle that helps explain her behavior. If what she’s saying seems out of line with reality (e.g. “those women are tempting him to stray!”), you can prompt her to think things through a bit more (e.g. “Do you really think Sarah would do that?” or “Isn’t it ultimately up to him to choose his own behavior?” or “Do you think it’s possible for men and women to be friends without any romance/sex involved?” or “I think you deserve better than a partner you don’t trust to choose you every time.”).

    But ultimately it’s up to your friend to decide 1) whether to get angry at you for bringing the topic up, 2) whether to listen to what you’re saying, and 3) whether to ultimately change her approach. You don’t control that. And if you’re not up for the potential conflict, that’s okay too–it’s not your job to fix this. She’s the one in charge of managing her relationships with the rest of your group, not you. If she keeps this up, it might mean that a point comes where she’s no longer welcome in the group, but you can always keep going and then hang out with her separately.

  20. “Listen to what she has to say. What does she think is happening? It might be a skewed perspective but it would be helpful to know where she is coming from.”

    This is something I have actually had success with in not-totally-dissimilar situations. I’m especially thinking of a time when there was a guy in my friend group who had gradually developed a habit of slighting and putting down others and their interests, and then when they got upset he’d act like they were being unreasonable and say behind their backs that they were assholes/bitches.

    I tried talking to him about it in a few different ways… I tried hinting, I tried being blunt, I tried intervening in the moment. Sometimes it would get better for a while and then get worse again.

    Eventually I tried something akin to the script CA suggested. Something like, “Hey, I’ve been noticing for a while that it seems you’re getting angry at others very easily, even people you used to get along well with. Are you doing okay? You can tell me if there’s something you want to talk about.”

    At first he seemed surprised that I thought he was angry all the time(!) but then admitted that he was stressed because he didn’t like his job. So we talked about that a bit. He also mentioned some things people did that frustrated him, but without the name-calling, so I just listened. (As CA alluded to, I do think his perspectives on some things were skewed, but I was at least getting a non-aggressive reaction for once!)

    The big conclusion didn’t happen right away, but not too long after we had that conversation, he approached me again and said he’d realized that he had lost interest in some of our usual friend group activities (tabletop gaming being the big one), so he was going to stop doing them for a while. Since then he’s partially drifted out of the group and seems to have made other friends, but when I do see him he’s a lot more pleasant to be around. I can’t take credit for him changing his behavior but I suspect that asking him if he was doing okay led him to have thoughts of “wait, *am* I okay? why do my friends piss me off so much?” and that in turn led to changes. I also can’t say this will work for everyone but it did work in that case.

    1. “wait, *am* I okay?”

      an important think to think about sometimes!
      And a lot of us (ahem) will not admit it to ourselves, that we aren’t. Especially if it’s low-level.

  21. Over the years, I’ve had a few conversations with friends where I’ve asked them to stop harmful behavior. I’ve tried a lot of different approaches. I’d say about eighty percent of the time, they escalated their behavior, took what I said as an attack, and attacked in return. Twenty percent of the time, they listened and changed. There was no difference in my approach that reliably lead to good results. It really just seemed to be a function of how much the other person respected my opinion, how much they valued our friendship, and how open they were to the idea that they might ever need to change.

    So I think my advice to the LW is, it doesn’t sound like you’re super close to this person, and it definitely doesn’t sound like she respects you. Because of this, I don’t think you’re going to make any headway with her, no matter how you address the matter. And you don’t like conflict, so you aren’t someone who will feel better about sharing your truth even if all you get for it is yelled at and called a bitch. So just ghost her. Treat her as a colleague when you have to work with her as a colleague. Treat her as an empty space in the room when you have to see her socially. Avoid her as much as possible. Most people are not looking for reasons to change.

  22. Is it possible to shift the relationship so that you mostly see Friend without Studly McGodface, LW? I am thinking more one-on-one coffee dates or partnerless trips to the movies, and fewer parties where her boyfriend is present.

    You can also just leave parties where she makes a scene, and follow it up with a “I’m not interested in being involved in this” or “This isn’t how I enjoy spending time with my friends”. Though I kind of want you to say “I signed up for a party, not a drama class” 😛

    Does she talk about this with you one-on-one? I recently had a difficult conversation with a friend that went really well, and I think it was because she actually brought up the subject, which gave me an opportunity to get in and talk from my perspective. I don’t think she even realised that I was confronting her.

  23. That sounds so uncomfortable! I wonder if a conversational strategy like this might help:

    Jealous Friend: “Oh my God, do you see that chick eyeing my boyfriend? What a bitch. I’m going to go break that shit up.”

    LW: “Oh, you mean Joanna? I see her making conversational eye contact.”

    JF: “No way, she is totally hitting on him.”

    LW: “I really don’t see that at all.”

    JF: “Why are you on her side”

    LW: “I see two people having small talk. I’m sorry it’s troubling you. I don’t feel comfortable talking about this anymore. How’s your cat?”

    Then possibly walk away if she won’t stop talking about it. Which would be difficult, but also a relief. If you take an active role in the conversation and disagree, then a boundary will be established, and you won’t have to listen to truckloads of distorted thoughts. But she may turn the heat on you, which is painful. But then you can end the conversation knowing you did your best to redirect! Good luck, this sounds challenging. You can do it!

  24. I was once in a situation that’s somewhat analagous that worked out really well, eventually, although it’s not quite the same. In my siutation, a long time good friend, “Lee,” who has always had anxiety that sometimes manifested as anger and dark / provocative / sarcastic / rant-y jokes, got much more extreme about five years ago. They also stopped being able to tone down the biting banter when it wasn’t appropriate.

    I’ve known Lee since our teenage years, and at this time we were part of a college/post-college friend group that was largely LGBT. (They’re nonbinary and gay). Things slowly started getting more intense with them.

    They started picking fights and joking about things they knew were offensive to people in our friend group (racist stuff or anti-sjw stuff, etc, although not anti-gay stuff) as if they were almost trying to pick a fight on purpose. Then when someone called them on it, they’s say, “obviously I was joking,” or “friends should accept each other no matter what.” Or, the argument would escalate into actual yelling and dramatic scenes. While this isn’t the same as LW’s friend making accusations about her fellow women trying to steal her man, the weird energy and emotional intenseity seem to be about the same.

    What ultimately happened was, first off, our friend group fell apart for various reasons. But, different people told Lee that what they’re saying is wrong, and I’m just not going to hang out with you if you talk like this around me. I did as well. Also, multiple people gave them specific phone numbers for mental health services.

    Initially, Lee super freaked out. They wrote a facebook post about how we’re all fake, judgemental, we don’t accept them as their worst, and their only real friends are the people Lee smokes weed and drinks with. Then they “disowned” us and cut us all off, blocked most of us on social media.

    Fast forward two years. Lee texts me, we meet up. We initally small talk about high school, mutual friends etc. We still live in the same town. Lee basically apologized, and is doing sort-of a DIY AA-recovery thing, plus going to therapy. One interesting thing they said in the conversation is that his weed-and-drinking friends (who, go figure, went from being anti-sjw ironic racists to, y’know, an actual white pride group) didn’t “accept them no matter what” when they decided to quit drinking. They also said they felt they had no control over their anger, like subconciously they wanted to drive all their friends away so they could say, “everyone leaves me, my life has no purpose,” which was a good excuse to drink and avoid trying to fix their problems.

    Lee and I are really close friends again now; they’ve also channeled their anger into anti-fa and anti-capitalist energy, which is neat. My point is this though: nobody was able to change Lee’s behavior just by talking to them. The best we could do was set boundaries, which meant for a while Lee just wasn’t in our lives. For some people, that relationship ended forever.

    Lee changed when they were ready to change. We couldn’t force them to. Hopefully, if enough people set bundaries to LW’s friend’s actions, that can spur some introspection, which can ultimately lead to therapy or other choices.

    Good luck.

  25. As the sometimes “challenging” friend that everyone is describing in the comments, I can say I have had the most success *receiving* this type of conversation when it’s an in-the-moment reaction. It still definitely triggers a lot of self-hate and shame-spiraling for me, BUT I think the benefit of the immediate reaction is that I’m so shell-shocked that I don’t have time to overanalyze it. I think it definitely goes easier when it’s someone I either have a strong relationship with, or someone new that I’m trying to impress.

    Good luck with this, OP. I know this sucks.

    1. I wonder if one of the things that makes it effective if it’s more “drive-by.” If the person saying, “Dude, not cool” (one of my favorite phrases) or “This is not a conversation I want to be in,” then just doesn’t continue, doesn’t press for a response, doesn’t expect you to apologize, or say that you’ve seen the light, etc.

      They just state their objection, and they walk away. So you don’t really have an opportunity to defend yourself (which is an instinctive reaction but also “irons in the wrinkle”). And later, you can do the analyzing when there’s no one around to watch you and make you self-conscious.

      Also, I remember a thing in the Dragonriders of Pern book, where someone is told to write a song that will provide a clue far in the future. “Make it troubling, make it eerie, make it the kind of thing that preys on someone’s mind,” he is told.
      So the more sort of shocking it is, the more upsetting it is (though of course, meanness won’t work), the more likely you are to mull it over later, and for the truth behind it to come forward.

      Pleasant platitudes (“oh, I’m sure she didn’t mean that”) will probably not register.

      1. Always love seeing a Pern reference! And that’s a very good analogy, about shocking (or even just unusual) things being more memorable. When I need to trigger myself to do something important later, I’ll do something bizarre like hang my shoe over a doorknob – not related to what I need to do, but forces me to stop in my tracks and go ‘Wait what? Oh yeah, I have to do The Thing.’

  26. Did your friend ever act like this in past relationships? If this is new and out-of-character behavior for her, part of me wonders if there actually is something going on that’s motivating it. I don’t mean that all these women actually are secretly trying to steal her boyfriend–it sounds like you know them well enough that you’d be able to tell if anything that blatant was going on. But her boyfriend might well have cheated on her and she didn’t tell you. Or he might be telling her that other women are flirting with him to make her jealous or manipulate her. Or she might be having some kind of health issues going on that are making her more on edge or more paranoid than she usually is. Or she might be feeling really insecure and lashing out because she doesn’t know how else to handle it.

    If you have the kind of relationship where you talk about deeply personal things, and you’re up for getting involved, it might be worth taking some time one-on-one to genuinely ask her what’s going on. “I’ve noticed you’re really concerned about women talking to Boyfriend lately. Is something wrong?” is a good place to start, probably. Don’t be accusatory in this talk, and don’t jump straight to telling her to stop it; hear her out first. Depending on what the problem is, you might be able to help her figure out resources for handling it better, or she might even talk herself into a more realistic mindset. BUT–if you’re not up for this, that’s ok, just let it be. Giving this kind of support is time- and energy-consuming, and if you aren’t actually able and willing to do it, then you should respect your own limits.

    If you don’t have that kind of relationship, or you don’t have the space/time/energy to walk her through the process of navigating whatever’s going on right now, then it’s ok to briefly call her out and move on, or to just not get involved. It’s not actually your job to manage her feelings or her relationships with the rest of your mutual friend group. I doubt any of the others are expecting that of you. And it’s not really within your control, either–you can’t make her stop acting like this, she has to choose for herself how to behave. Don’t burden yourself with responsibility for things you can’t actually control.

  27. Just to throw another option into the mix – I have had good outcomes with this kind of ‘when you X, I feel Y’ using email rather than conversation. The trick here is to keep it short and clear – anything that sounds like justification beyond how it makes you feel will backfire (this is not a Thesis on how They Are A Bad Person).

    I have two examples: 1) a dear and beloved friend whose behaviour was making me feel unvalued, and the outcome was not necessarily a complete change in her behaviour, but enough of a change to address my core concern, and also to help me distinguish between things that felt disrespectful but which were not in any way intended, so I was able to manage my own reactions by getting some clarity.

    2) calling out some sexist behaviour by a friend and colleague; using email here was extra good because it gave the guy a chance to have his own reaction and then call me when he was ready. This was very quick (phew) but it meant I only had to deal with the apology and promise to never do it again portion of the response.

    Both times it took careful composing and not sending in the heat of the moment, but I was really happy with the outcome each time. It cleared the air and helped us navigate a conflict quickly and focus on what mattered (luckily, in each case, it was our relationship that mattered most).

    Sending an email can feel like a cop out, but it can also be a way to be kind, clear, succinct and give the gift of letting the recipient have their first reaction in private. And the captain’s scripts still work in email form.

    1. I’m somebody who responds really well to being called out by email, for exactly the reason you gave. I can have my this-isn’t-my-fault-and-everyone-is-mean-to-me-temper-tantrum in my own time before calming down and really thinking about what was said, and engaging with the other person. I’m never going to react great in the moment when I get criticism, but I’ll often come around later when the initial defensiveness has worn off.

  28. I think one of the important things to do is to call it out when it happens instead of after. You don’t discipline dogs for chewing up your shoes a day AFTER it happens, cause they’re gonna forget.

    Kinda the same with people. We tend to forget or gloss over things that happen in the past, so you have to do it when she does go after angirl.

  29. Kind of wondering how the boyfriend reacts when this is all going down.

    Anyway, I feel like ‘how does a person treat their ex friends’ can be a bar for how they treat you in future, can’t bank on every connection lasting forever.

  30. I would direct the conversation to address the hostility towards women (“it’s totally not okay to call women bitches”), and, more importantly, that if there are issues with her relationship, its a boyfriend-problem — my go-to script here is “you know that boyfriends aren’t property and therefore cannot be stolen, right?”
    Saying “nobody wants him” (though I believe you nobody does) may lead to a discussion on who percieves those women’s behaviour correctly, but it has little relevance, if boyfriend doesn’t want them, they can pine after him all their lives — and that still doesn’t make them “bitches”.

  31. I’ve had some success in pointing out some problems to my friends, but the behaviours were never that extreme and my friends are otherwise very reasonable people who just behaved stupidly due to exterior issues (most of the conflicts/behaviours coincided with personal problems or academic stress). It depends on the friendship, but usually sitting with a friend and telling them “You know I love you, but I have to tell you something… Lately I saw that you said X to Y. That wasn’t very nice. Do you wanna talk about it?” works. Sometimes they got defensive, but usually pointing out shitty behaviours works and sooner or later they thanked me. Though somehow I doubt this strategy won’t work in this case.

    I also had an intervention backfiring, which over time resulted with me slightly fading out the close undergrad friendship into a civil, unattatched professional acquaintance: I once told an ex-friend to stop being a paternalistic dickhead to some people (I think they were all women) in our class. In reply I got that “I won’t get a boyfriend unless I learn to be nicer to men”. WHICH WAS SO NOT THE POINT! At the time I thought he was joking and laughed it off, but unfortunately after few more such instances I realised that it was in earnest. Now I just hear from him when his kid is sick (my mum’s a pediatrician).

    As for the “boyfriend/husband” stealing — I never realized it was a thing outside of melodramas until my own grandma and one of my best friend’s grandma accused me of trying to steal my friend’s boyfriend (now husband). It was so weird. I was single at the time and my friend (whom I’ve known all my life) and I were going to Paris where her bf worked. I was telling my grandma how excited I am for the trip and how I lie the bf (since I was not a fan of her exes). Everything was fine until my grandma asked if I’m planning to “steal him” (apparently rooting for me?????). It was so bizarre! First I was dumbfounded, then I laughed out loud. When I told my friend that, she also laughed and said that her grandma asked if SHE was sure that I was not trying to steal her bf! Our grandmas have been friends since the 1950s and apparently there was much more drama in their (now octogenarian) circle of friends than we thought! Long story short: I did not steal the bf, but I was maid of honour at their wedding.

    1. My grandma, God rest her soul, used to say things like this as well – and in her case too it was also meant as a compliment! Bizarre!
      These kinds of women are the same types who refer to themselves as “a man’s woman” – apparently meaning that they get on better with men than with women, and get on better with men than other women do. Just can’t help themselves…
      Me, I’m just a “person’s person”. I don’t care if someone is male, female or anything else, as long as they are a good person.

    2. When my mom was sliding into dementia, she stopped liking a friend of mine for no real reason, once took issue with her over something trivial.

      She angrily shouted that my friend had been “making after” my husband (in reality they could barely tolerate each other.)

      My husband, my friend and I all burst into gales of laughter, and my mom got SO MAD because we laughed…but honestly, what else could we have done? 😆

  32. For me, the most disturbing thing in this letter isn’t how little this woman thinks of her female acquaintances, it’s how little she thinks of her boyfriend. She doesn’t seem to believe he has any agency at all. He’s a prize who has as little ability to make a decision as a diamond necklace has ability to decide which museum case it will be held in. I haven’t been in this situation so I haven’t tried it, but I wonder how it might go if, when this woman is railing about a man stealer, to say calmly “it doesn’t sound like you trust your boyfriend very much.”

      1. Thanks. I’ve reread the original letter where it says the friend makes scenes in front of everyone. “Everyone”, I have to guess, means the boyfriend sees them too, and that, I have to guess, means he’s okay with them. Maybe he even likes them. So my idea (thinking out loud here) of asking him if he knows what’s going on and if he likes being treated like something as dumb as a diamond necklace, isn’t going to work. But really, he’s the one who’s being abused. He’s the one I’d want to reach out to. Imagine if the genders were reversed. Jealous boyfriend flies into a rage every time his girlfriend so much as talks to a man in a social setting? We’d all be making sure she had the number of a domestic violence shelter and a place to run to if she needed it.

        1. This comment right here cuts through all the bullshit. Thank you for sharing your thoughts because daaaaamn, I didn’t see it from this angle, yet we all should have.

          1. Thanks. But now that I’ve reread my own post, I see a problem with it. I suggested that perhaps the boyfriend likes his girlfriend’s jealous rages. That’s a huge and horrible assumption on my part. It doesn’t go together with the last half of my post where I said if the genders were reversed, we’d see him as the victim of domestic violence. Thanks for giving me the chance to think this through while I type, but I don’t have it all worked out.

          2. For what its worth I have read that jealousy can seem flattering at first (they think I’m so attractive that other people can’t hold a conversation with me without wanting to date me) but is a sigh that the other person either does not trust you or thinks you lack agency. Mostly on explanations for abuse red flags.

          3. Clarry, I don’t think it has to be either-or. Whether the boyfriend likes jealous behavior or not, it’s not acceptable. Again, switch the genders and imagine a guy saying, “But she provokes me! That’s why I abuse her!” It doesn’t matter. It might explain why she’s behaving the way she is, but it doesn’t excuse it. The only good option is for her to stop. The only difference his behavior makes is in terms of whether she should simply stop the jealous rages, or stop and DTMFA as well.

        2. That’s the first thing that entered my mind too, what does BF think of all this? Whether he gets off on it or stands there like a lump, he’s messing with her or she’s controlling him, or one or the other is/was/will be cheating, it does not sound like a healthy relationship.

        3. I’ve only encountered situations like this where the boyfriend was gaslighting the girlfriend. He wasn’t the victim.

          That is, he told the girlfriend that her friends were coming on to him. They weren’t.

          1. I have to say that I am somewhat disturbed by comments like this. I get that this is your experience and you have every right to share it. But again, imagine if the genders were reversed and someone said “Oh maybe he’s being abusive” and then half the comments replied with something to effect of “I bet she’s telling him about all the men who are hitting on her – he’s probably the real victim here.” You’d probably think they were from a men’s rights activist! There’s absolutely no evidence that the guy is manipulating the girlfriend here. Now I get that you are just speaking about your experience, and it could be the case that that is what’s happening. But I also think that we don’t have a shred of evidence of that. And while it is less common for women to abuse men it absolutely does happen.

            There is an enormous stigma against men who are abused by their girlfriends and I think comments like this do contribute to that stigma, even though I’m sure that wasn’t your intent at all. And again I don’t think you should withhold stating your personal experience just to combat that stigma but I think in a situation like this, where there is absolutely no evidence to support the girlfriend being the victim and the boyfriend being the abuser, it’s worth pointing out that “I’ve seen situations where the guy was saying X, but we haven’t seen evidence of that and if he isn’t, then this does sound abusive” or something like that.

          2. And even if that is the case, for her to react by blaming OTHER WOMEN (instead going off on the shitty, jealous making BF) is an irrational and misogynistic reaction.

            It is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to blame men’s sexual transgressions on women NO MATTER WHAT THE MAN HAS DONE and that’s EXACTLY what this kind of reaction is doing.

            Let’s flip the genders again: let’s say a man has a girlfriend that purposely makes him jealous- cheats, flirts with other men’s, talks about how all his buddies “want her”. If that man reacted by flipping out on and starting fights with every man who looked at or talked to her, and saying all men were horny scumbag pigdogs that wouldn’t stop hitting on her, NO ONE would be acting like it was ok, or a normal/reasonable reaction by ANY stretch of the imagination. NO ONE. The guy would be criticized right, left, center, up, down, and sideways, told to pull his head out of his ass, and encouraged to dump his shitty GF.

            So I REALLY don’t understand the number of people here that seem to be saying that OF COURSE it’s perfectly normal/reasonable for her to hate on other women because her boyfriend is being a cheating gaslighting creep!

            NO IT’S FUCKING NOT and I think if I read one more person saying it is I’m going have to start screaming and breaking shit. THAT’S how fucking much this fucked up piece of socially accepted misogyny is getting to me. It’s NOT OK to be abusive to other women because your boyfriend is an asshole, and I seriously don’t know how anyone here can act like this is acceptable.

            FWIW – I have BEEN THERE and the ONLY person I was ever angry at was THE ASSHOLE THAT WAS CAUSING ME PAIN. I GET that- I DON’T get that hating on other women.

          3. No one has said that her behavior is reasonable. It’s not. What I said is that when I’ve encountered women who acted this way those women have been abused and gas-lit by their male partners.

            As it happens, the men I’ve met who acted this way weren’t partnered with abusive, gas-lighting women.

            So, in my experience, which is not universal, the causes of similar awful behavior aren’t identical.

        4. I’m replying here because it doesn’t give me the reply button to your answer down below.

          It was the second part of your comment, the ‘reverse the genders’ part, that stopped me in my tracks and made me really think. Really excellent point.

    1. I think this is a good insight, Clarry, and I really like the script “It sounds like you don’t trust your boyfriend very much.”

      People who are recognizing toxic/abuse dynamics here are not wrong! We can tell that the friend’s behavior is upsetting, out of character, not okay, hostile, strange. I definitely mentioned in the OP that these kinds of behaviors can be signs of abuse, but the Letter Writer maybe does not have standing (or the kind of relationship with the friend or boyfriend) to say “Ya know, this is an abusive dynamic!” without knowing more. It puts the Letter Writer in the position of not just calling out the behavior, but trying to convince someone what they are doing is abuse, so now the argument is about that – “You think I’m an abuser?” vs. “Can you stop this behavior, please.”

      The Letter Writer possibly has an inroad with that person, to say, “hey don’t act like this, especially in work/group spaces” please, and also to say “Hey you’re acting up lately, what is going on?” Start there.

  33. I agree that LW can’t be Relationship Detective, but I wonder if she can ask her friend what the boyfriend has ever done to make her suspect him of cheating? The answer might be illuminating.

    1. It doesn’t actually matter if the guy has given her reasons to be jealous. The rational solution is to be angry at the GUY, and/or dump him.

      To be angry at an entire gender when it’s YOUR PARTNER committing the transgression against you makes no sense whatsoever. It’s irrational and misogynistic. It’s absolving the man of all blame. It’s putting the onus for a man’s sexual misconduct on women- and not even one real life woman who might actually have had a dalliance with the guy (STILL HIS FAULT), but ALL WOMEN, ever.

      Rooting this attitude out of the friend is way above LWs pay grade.

  34. These dynamics can be so tough! My heart goes out to you. I am still friends with a woman who was, well, fired from a friend group. She said and did a lot of things that made each of them angry and/or hurt their feelings, and the group had finally had enough and stopped inviting her to things. She asked me why. I had not participated in any of the conversations about Friend, but heard all of them. I had a choice to say “I don’t know” or to tell her what she had done. I picked to tell her what had been said because the group had already pushed her out. It was so difficult for me! I tried to use neutral terms and to not attack her, but it was awful for me. Her response? “Well, that’s ridiculous. They’re wrong!” The next time she brought it up, I said that I had said everything I had to say on the topic and would not engage. If her response to their feelings was “they’re wrong,” there is nothing I can add. I hope your conversation (should you choose to have it) goes better than mine. And since your group is still intact, at least you won’t have to send messages for others, just yourself. Good luck!

  35. I had a similar conversation with a friend once – while she was never openly hostile to other women around her bf in the moment, she would later trash-talk them, and seemed genuinely convinced that all women were out to steal her man. She even told me that I needed to “police” my own relationship better. At which point I asked her what was going on, and if she truly believed that every woman ever was attracted to her boyfriend. It was a super awkward conversation that revealed two things. 1) Her bf definitely got off on her jealousy a little bit. I think he liked her belief that every woman wanted him, which was super messed up. 2) She had some really antiquated views about men, re: their ability to control themselves and women ‘leading them on, even without meaning to’. It took years, but she has slowly come around to a healthier view on relationships and on men. LW, all you can do is ask your friend questions and make it obvious you’re there to listen, and just trying to make sure that she’s okay. Don’t expect an overnight fix in her behavior, but it won’t happen at all if you and maybe some of her other friends don’t speak up.

  36. I would like to vote in favor of the how are you script. Husband was very unpleasant the other week, I know it could be mental health or it could be he talked to his parents or job stress or… So I asked without any mental health assumptions. is everything ok, you seemed off this week? Which then led to him talking and coming to the conclusion he thinks his meds need adjusted. People with mental health issues know they have them. We don’t need to ask when checking in. Just listen like you would for anyone

  37. In my experience with a similar woman/situation…she’ll get around to you once she’s alienated her “straight” friends. And it will probably come with a painful side of homophobia– like casting her boyfriend as the only man who could ~possibly kindle~ your ~latent heterocurious desires~.

    She’s not worth it. She’s DEFINITELY not worth the aggressive response that’s coming when she’s called out. In your shoes I would do a slow fade while you can still make friendly small talk at conferences and send “congrats on the new position” messages on LinkedIn.

    1. I agree with ALL of this.

      I’ve known similar women with similar situations and no longer have friendships with ANY of them. Not because I’ve ever been accused of anything, but because they ended up being extremely dysfunctional in all their relationships, not just the one with their boyfriend.

      And I’m talking about situations where the boyfriend actually was a jerk and the woman did have reason to be jealous. The ones who’s anger or jealousy was directed at OTHER WOMEN instead of their male partner were all people who ended up having serious issues that blew up our friendships. They were not emotionally safe or healthy people for me to be around.
      This is not the case with women I’ve known who have had jerk boyfriends/husbands who directed their anger or jealousy *at the jerk himself*.
      (I can only think of two instances where a woman was jealous of a male partner that didn’t do anything to deserve it- in one case the woman was a drug addict, in the other the woman was actually the cheater AND had mental illness issues. Both of them were assholes that I stopped hanging around.)
      That kind of behavior is now a Big Red Flag and hardline NO for me.

  38. Ugh. I have so much sympathy, LW. I am gearing up for pretty much this exact conversation with a friend. She keeps posting truly ridiculous memes and things on social media about how, if a woman speaks to “your man,” you need to get angry at said man as it’s a sign of disrespect, and if “your man” doesn’t respect you enough to cut out all other women from his life, then you need to rethink your relationship and a whole bunch of related garbage. I’ve been trying to address it light-heartedly so far (“Wow! What are bisexuals supposed to do when they get into relationships? Become hermits?”) but I’m starting to suspect I may have to actually sit her down and try to explain that expecting someone to cut off everyone of a certain gender from being their friend is NOT HEALTHY. I mean, I understand that her ex cheated on her so she may have a lot of trust issues, but…. gah!

    She’s living under the assumption that people live such hyper-sexualized lives that they cannot interact with a member of their preferred sex without being in MORTAL PERIL of sleeping with them. I mean… that sounds pathological.

    Not to mention exhausting.

    No words of advice, LW, just solidarity.

  39. LW, you mentioned you would like to maintain friendly relationships with these people, if possible. No rational person would blame you for your friend’s actions. I’m guessing your facial expressions and body language when you witness your friend behave this way show you are horrified. I think as long as you yourself are friendly, courteous, respectful, etc. toward everyone in the group, you have nothing to worry about.

    What you can’t do, and shouldn’t try to do, is maintain friendly relationships with the group on your friend’s behalf. Her friendships with these people — or lack thereof — are her responsibility. Please don’t take up the burden of trying to fix relationships she is breaking.

    If anyone asks you about your friend’s behaviour, I would reply neutrally and/or in a way that keeps the focus on yourself. “I don’t know what’s going on with her.” “I don’t know why she does this, but I wish she wouldn’t.” Give a slight shrug and shake your head. Don’t try to explain or hypothesize about her behaviour.

    Surely at some point your friend will stop being invited to these parties? I can’t imagine anyone will want to socialize with her given her outbursts. Keep accepting invitations yourself and go without her. Let these friendships flourish.

    1. It depends. If a person came up to me and started a public scene or sent me nasty slur-filled messages for no reason while their friends stood by and watched, I would be rapidly backing away from all involved. If they do nothing or do not openly try to assert that what she did was wrong while continuing to socialize with her, I have no reason to assume that they are safe people either.

      I don’t blame people for the actions of their friends, but if they don’t express any form of disapproval then assuming that they are fine with how their friend treats others is not a big leap to make.

      The benefit of being prepared to speak up at the moment and re-direct your friend away from the other woman is that it not only communicates to your friend that they are out of line but to other people that you will speak up for them too.

      1. That’s a great point, but I’ve seen confrontations/public scenes that took me so firmly by surprise that I didn’t react in the moment to call out the behavior because I was just too damn shocked. I have after such a scene reached out to a party more directly involved to ask what the hell was up and/or are they okay, as applicable.

        Especially if you are the one on the receiving end of the aggressive behavior, I can understand assuming that observers who didn’t call the behavior out in the moment didn’t disagree, since that may be your safest option, but I wouldn’t assume that across the board. Some people freeze in a confrontational moment, and may not know what to say later, which is on them, not you, but I still think it may not be true that they agree with the behavior.

        1. I agree with both of you but I think the difference here is the pattern of behavior. You can be shocked and freeze up when something happns out of the blue, but with this woman it seems like her behavior is pretty predictable. So if I’m a new person and the mean friend acts out at me and everyone else is just like, yeah she’s like that… ? Not a group I’d want to see again.

  40. I saw this happen in the wild once & it still gives me sad flashbacks. Came around a corner in the store & I’ll never forget the woman’s terrified, vigilant face. She was staring directly at her BF, who didn’t flinch at all. He made no indication that I was even near them because he was so well trained by then. (it was SEARS! of all places)

    To go back in time, I’d want to ask either of them if all the effort was worth it. Do you constantly monitor him/yourselves this way? Isn’t that tiring? When can you ever let your guard down? Why torture yourselves.

    In the past, if I had jealous feelings, it meant I was insecure over my place in our situation, or the general new relationship where is this going thoughts. I needed to ask the other person what’s going on for them, & make my own decision about my feelings. Was I into this. If nothing changes am I ok with that, because just I like being here with this person now. No one can know the future, so worrying about what might happen to the relationship is just taking me out of it in the current day.

  41. My good friend from college was like this during our undergrad years. She was irrationally jealous of a number of women who were “inappropriately” flirting with her now husband, and from her perspective, he wasn’t doing enough to shut them down and she suspected he liked the attention, even if she didn’t think he would cheat. It was definitely uncomfortable for me to listen to her talk about her confronting these women (even if it happened years in the past, she was obsessed with the dynamic). What it came down to, after having several opportunities to talk about this, was that she didn’t feel like he made her a priority. This was mostly related to his band, because she felt that it took up too much of his time- and she did not/does not care for the lead singer, his “BFF.” BFF would schedule tours at the last minute, and my friend was deeply frustrated that she didn’t feel like she could make any plans with her SO.

    There was a lot of insecurity that I picked up on in regards to where she felt she stood in his life (the perception that all of his friends and family saw her as a nuisance and wanted them to break up), and I don’t know if she truly was able to move past this (or if she feels her husband has stepped up his support), but it doesn’t come up in conversation anymore. In fairness, I’ve met a handful of his friends and family, and most of them aren’t exactly gems in terms of the respect they show for other people.

    My friend is a warm, caring, charming person when she is at her best, and is delightful company. Her husband is also very generous and warm, and my hot take is they are two people who love each other very much and are doing their best, but aren’t always able to recognize each other’s needs or advocate for them in a healthy way.

  42. I don’t have advice per se, but I will say that I was this friend at one point – not the LW, but the angry-yelling-at-other-women friend. Maybe not to that extreme, but I’m sure my friend group thought that I was pretty bananas at one point. And it *was* because my GF at the time was cheating on me, gaslighting me about it, and generally being all around emotionally abusive. I share that to say – I am so grateful that my friend group stood by me, recognized my behavior as being totally out of character for me, and while no one said anything to me directly, were there when I came out the other side. If angry-friend is not generally like this, I think it’s highly possible that *something* is going (either with BF or someone else). I agree 100% that it’s generally so much easier to lash out at people that seem lower risk (ie, female friends/acquaintances in the friend group) than it is to address head-on the real source of anxiety/frustration/hurt/anger.

    1. “I agree 100% that it’s generally so much easier to lash out at people that seem lower risk (ie, female friends/acquaintances in the friend group) than it is to address head-on the real source of anxiety/frustration/hurt/anger.”

      See, to me this attitude to makes no sense. If someone is causing me anxiety/frustration/hurt/anger, then THAT is the person I am going to be angry at. That is literally the easiest action I could possibly take. I don’t even know what kind of mental effort I’d have to go to to blame/be angry at Person/s B because Person A hurt me.
      I’m not trying to be snarky but I’d love if someone could explain this to me because it really just does not compute.

      I’ve also all the same kinds of horrible experiences with BFs as everyone else- all types of abuse, rape, gaslighting, cheating, promoting jealousy, lying, slut shaming, crime, drug abuse, stealing from me, sabotaging my job- I could go on. Many, MANY times I suspected “something” was going on (cheating, drugs, crime, lying, etc) even when I couldn’t figure it out (and I was ALWAYS right, but of course they said I was “crazy”), sometimes it was obvious, sometimes I found out while we were together (INSTANT dump, no second chance, so no more trust issues, lol), sometimes not til after we broke up. But no matter what- no matter how angry I was, how irrational I was acting, or how crazy jealous I could get- it never even occurred to me to blame or get angry at ANYONE other than the guy who lied, cheated, gaslighted, etc.
      Not when I had an ex that flirted in front of me (I publicly screamed at HIM), not when even when a woman I knew confessed to me she had fucked another BF when we were together (I had already dumped him, alcohol/drugs & manipulation were involved so I honestly just felt sorry for her, and was baffled why she thought I should be angry at her because he was JUST THAT MUCH OF AN ASSHOLE.

      I didn’t grow up in a household/family with stereotypical or gender essentialist views on men’s & women’s behavior or sexuality, or one where men’s bad behavior was given a pass. Nobody in my family thought it was ok to blame a man’s sexual transgressions on women- every man (every human, really) was 100% responsible for his own actions. Maybe that’s why I don’t get it. Or maybe my neurodivergency just makes it more difficult for my brain to process stuff in the way it would need to to go “BOYFRIEND CHEATS- BLAME WOMEN”

  43. LW – the captain is totally right on all counts, as per usual. I just want to underline the fact that you also have the choice to back away slowly (with optional reset later). Your desire and willingness to help a friend apparently in crisis is admirable and worthy, but it’s not mandatory. You don’t owe her a deeper involvement or discussion of this. The captain’s scripts are great and, if that’s the route you take, follow them. But given that this friendship is also of a professional nature, please do be careful and pay attention to the power dynamics at play. It certainly sounds like your cohort is in agreement with you, but could this woman make your life difficult beyond the immediate awkwardness if she decides to shoot the messenger? Be safe and well!

  44. I think asking her ‘what’s going on’ is VERY helpful. There may be a dynamic you’re not aware of, and no one wants to accidentally help gaslight someone.

    1. I agree with your approach, Morgan. There can be more to this than meets the eye.
      With one of my “Wife” friends, the last time I saw her she did react very oddly to me – as soon as she clapped eyes on me she was like “I have nothing to say to you!” as if we were already in the middle of an argument. But all the stuff about her believing every woman is after her husband – I didn’t see any evidence of that. The only source I have for that are the things her husband has told me. This is bitterly ironic as I love her, not him.
      I have never known my friend to be jealous of me or other women before. In fact, she always seemed more comfortable with other women than with men, and her husband was the one who got huffy and upset if she spent too much time with her friends. I wonder if this thing of hers about driving other women away is happening so that she won’t find herself in a situation where her husband is upset with her for spending time with female friends.
      I think my friend has a mental illness – or, more accurately, a mental injury. She is in total denial about it, which means her husband and daughter are dealing with the fall-out every day. I have only just re-connected with her after about 30 years, so I feel a bit helpless to do anything for her.

        1. I think this is sad for everyone concerned – my friend most of all. She has shut herself off from everyone who cares about her.
          Going back to the OP’s issue, that might be the case with her friend as well – “the lady doth protest too much”. Either she doesn’t really want to be in that relationship, as I suggested above, or her boyfriend is gaslighting her, as others have suggested.

  45. I dated the male-version of this gal, and I didn’t understand, at the time, what appropriate social/dating boundaries were… cuz I grew up in dysfunction, so I dated dysfunction – and thought him accusing me of cheating all the time was totally normal dating behaviour. Something… isn’t right with her behaviour and calling it out in the moment will lead to JADE-ing – Justifying, Arguing, Defending, and Explaining. Make sure you are not alone with this gal if you do decide to confront her, because her rage might focus on you next! Best of luck, this man-child is an no-contact-ex for exactly the behaviours in your letter.

  46. I am glad that you have compassion for your friend in this scenario but that you are also seeing how not ok this behavior is.
    I really feel for the women she is attacking and name calling. It can’t be easy for them to have someone openly and publically go off on them at a club or networking event followed up with that person sending them nasty messages. Being on the receiving end of this behavior is very upsetting and triggering. It may also impact their reputations is she is calling them slurs to third parties who don’t know the full circumstance.

    I have had this scenario happen to me, and I ended up not only avoiding that person but their close friends as a well. The fact that this person’s friends continued to spend time with the bully even though they openly attacked me and others told me that they were people who were comfortable turning a blind eye to that behavior. I think addressing it at the moment it happens not only helps your friend, but it helps their victims know that it was not actually their fault.

    It shows your mutual acquaintances and larger social network that you will stand up for them even if it is contrary to your friend. Your friend may have some very sad reasons for why she acts the way she does, but that does not make it ok for her to attack and smear other women attempting to socialize and network. They are fully justified in pulling back from her and anyone who tolerates her treatment of other people.

  47. LW, where the heck is the BF when this “friend” blows up in public? Why is this your problem? I mean, I know she’s your friend and all, but the person who really has a stake in this is the BF.

    All I can do is wish you luck.

    1. I wondered about this, too. If this is happening in public, the BF knows that any girl he chats with is going to be on the receiving end of this person’s wrath. Either he likes the feeling of someone fighting over him, or he’s downplaying the issue, or this may have some elements of an abuse dynamic where even he is afraid of confronting her. It’s not a good situation in any case.

  48. As far as what has worked for me in difficult conversations is much of what the Captain has said in sticking to my feelings and the effect on me. The other thing is to really listen and show empathy to the person so they know they’ve been heard. Empathy is great for a lot of reasons, but one that I always remind myself is I can put myself in someone else’s shoes and try and see from their perspective and express to them that I am doing so “That sounds really hard!, etc.” without having to agree with them.

    With my kids, I can show empathy when they want me to buy them a toy at the store or stay up late on a school night or eat more candy, but I can also still stand firm on whatever I’ve already told them on those things (no toy, go to bed, no more candy). It makes a huge difference, especially in the long run, because they know you are listening even if you don’t agree. That being said, even if you craft the most empathetic response, this friend may very well start yelling/blaming/whatever you. I think in this case it is worth it to speak up since it sounds like the alternative may be leaving the group and maybe still losing your friend to ghosting anyway. Maybe you stay friends, maybe she gets pissed and leaves the group, maybe she does that and then cools off and you can be friends in the future, no way to know, but I think I would say something in your shoes.

  49. Yes, I had a a difficult conversation with a friend about them behaving badly that went well!

    In the not-too-distant past, my friend first was late to meet me and then forgot entirely about our next friend-date, when I’d bought tickets to join me at a show. It was the last time we had plans before my friend moved away. The advice I got from another friend was patterned on Brene Brown (amazing, everyone should read, can’t believe I haven’t seen her mentioned here): “The last couple of times we had plans to get together, they fell apart. I feel hurt and abandoned by my friend. Is that what’s happening, a story I’m telling myself, or is there more information you could share with me.” This did not at all feel “right” — I was pretty convinced my story about not being important to her was true, but I figured there wasn’t much to lose and other approaches I had used before without success also would not help here.

    In response, my friend said the move had been really stressful and had caused bad life management, plus pointed to a few unique aspects of how things usually worked that didn’t happen for the show. Also said right after she bailed she called her mom and cried to tell her she’d really screwed up. This sounded right because there’d been another event we often went to together that normally happens on, say, Thursday, but this time was on a Wednesday, and she’d called me several times Thursday to try to go to it with me.

    Now she has moved away, which is sad, but we are in touch by Real Paper Letters and occasionally phone, and it went really well!

  50. Hey LW, these conversations are never easy and my recommendation is to think about where you want it to happen (if you are planning it vs calling it out at the time).
    If you are planning it, try and pick somewhere that a) you can leave easily if you have to and b) you two won’t be relying on each other for transport. So rather than sitting down for dinner, grab coffee and go to the park. Don’t spring this conversation on before the movie starts or right in the middle of an art gallery, just because you don’t want to feel trapped into staying when you want to go (I say this with experience!). It just gives you the freedom of knowing that you can go if needed.

  51. I’ve been on the receiving end of some instances where friends and acquaintances have gotten aggressively territorial over guys. It’s deeply uncomfortable.

    In these cases, the person either got herself together and the behavior tapered off within a few months or the friendship ended. This woman is going to lose all of her female friends if she keeps this up much longer. Most people have very low tolerances for hostility, particularly within social situations that are supposed to be relaxing.

    If the LW is uncomfortable going with the intervention-style conversation the Captain mentioned, I’d recommend making a one-time, fairly blunt statement like, “It’s not okay to accuse every woman who chats with your husband of trying to steal him. You may want to dial this back.” and then not really engaging with her when she responds – just shrug or nod and don’t fan the flames. And then the LW could back off for a while and check back in with her in a few months when she’s hopefully sorted out whatever she’s going through.

  52. I’ve been on the receiving end of one of these talks. I think it’s worth having, even if her reaction isn’t ideal in the moment. My friends sat me down and I was a defensive jerk about it. But, it was the first crack in the rose colored window I was using to look at my situation. It took a while, but once it was there it started to spread until the whole window shattered and I could finally see things for what they were and get the hell out.

    In my head I could maintain the fiction that because no one had said anything, nothing was wrong. Once you shatter that myth for her, she might be upset, but at least she’ll have to face that something about her behavior, and perhaps her relationship, is not okay. Today I am very grateful (and apologetic) to those friends.

    1. I thought I was clear that it could be an abusive dynamic, but what is a person’s work-friend supposed to DO about that? The Letter Writer doesn’t have the standing to fix that, doesn’t mention being close to the boyfriend or having a direct line to him, so I suggested strategies for action that were about what the Letter Writer can control: Checking in with the friend to see what is going on and where it’s coming from (is this brand-new behavior, is the friend abusing boyfriend with excessive jealousy, is boyfriend messing with friend by encouraging this), and stopping the behavior in the shared spaces. The Letter Writer doesn’t mention being particularly close to the dude and asked for ways to talk to the friend about it. That’s where the Letter Writer has influence, where someone might listen.

      Alternate strategies, like charging in there with a “you’re abusing him, you know” without actually knowing what’s up changes the conversation – now the LW would have to get the friend to agree that it’s abuse and see themselves as an abuser, that puts the LW in a terrible position. You can be right about something but need to find another way to get someone to listen to you.

  53. Hmm, I tend to have the sort of friends where this approach works: “Hey, you’ve been [problem behavior] a lot lately; that’s fucked up, you need to cut that shit out yesterday.” Probably not appropriate/helpful for all friend groups?

    I’ve never seen good short-term resolutions to this problem, though I’ve seen people who react badly to having their crappy behavior challenged eventually come around (sometimes only after they’re no longer dating the man in queation – with my friends, 100% of this has been cases of women being hostile to other women, but I’m sure it happens with all kinds of genders and sexualities). It’s only ever been with casual friends in my case, where I’m not a target of abuse (being male), so I’ve not had to deal with it directly. As far as I’ve seen, CA’s approach has as much chance for a good outcome as anything, but do keep the shoot-the-messenger possibility in mind. The behavior isn’t rational (no matter who’s at fault – if Dude is at fault and prompting this by constantly, stealthily flirting, the rational response is to dump him), so the response to an attempt to intervene may not be, either; be ready to be accused of trying to steal him even if you’re gay-as-can-be-with-a-capital-GAY-gay.

    I vote for intervention anyway – worst case you burn one bridge rather than a dozen by sticking by someone from whom.everyone else is distancing themselves.

    1. “The behavior isn’t rational (no matter who’s at fault – if Dude is at fault and prompting this by constantly, stealthily flirting, the rational response is to dump him)”


      SO MANY people have posted statements here that are like “Well OF COURSE if the guy is [at fault for encouraging the jealousy in whatever way] she is going to react by flipping out on and abusing other women!” that I am seriously fucking disturbed.

      There is nothing “of course!” about this attitude- all it is is yet another form of blaming women for men’s sexual misconduct.

      1. Hi there Ms. Mildew, sorry, the spam folder caught a bunch of your comments last night (it happens), but I can also see there is a LOT of text there and a lot of it repeats the same points. Extreme jealousy is a red flag, I agree with you on almost all of it, but that’s why the OP says “Ask your friend what they think is going on” and “If her boyfriend is cheating on her, has cheated on her, is constantly flirting with or has mentionitis of other women, etc., lots of people aren’t comfortable going after the partner who is causing all their anxiety about a relationship so they blame everyone else.”

        1. “If her boyfriend is cheating on her, has cheated on her, is constantly flirting with or has mentionitis of other women, etc., lots of people aren’t comfortable going after the partner who is causing all their anxiety about a relationship so they blame everyone else.”

          This is a sticking point for me because I just cannot fathom it. The person causing me all the anxiety in a relationship is the person who I am going to go after. Going after someone else won’t have ANY effect on the anxiety my partner is causing me. If I blame it on someone else, and try to make someone else fix it, I have ZERO chance of bringing an end to that anxiety. This seems BLATANTLY OBVIOUS to me.

          It’s also just so, SO gendered, and so misogynistic- all it is is YET ANOTHER depressing incidence of women being blamed and held responsible for men’s sexual transgressions.

          In another type of space I could see people not getting it and repeating the socially sanctioned status quo. In THIS space, which is progressive, liberal, and feminist, it’s INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING that people aren’t recognizing this reaction for the deeply internalized misogyny it actually is.

          I’m going to take a time out here because it actually is extremely frustrating to see it repeated over & over like some indisputable fact. We can CHOOSE not to think of other women that way, NO MATTER WHAT.

          1. Hi there, sorry to disappoint, you are a valued community member and I don’t necessarily disagree with you about anything, but I was actually just about to put the Moderator Hat on and comment to ask you to take a break from commenting in this thread, you’ve written enough to make blog posts of your own here and the site policies do ask people to be mindful when something might better be posted as its own essay and linked back. Obviously this resonated with you, let me know if you do end up writing your own response somewhere.

            I think where we (and some other commenters) are disagreeing is a matter of scope:

            Is it the Letter Writer’s job to stop/call out the behavior specifically as “unfeminist” or “abusive”, and identify it as such in the conversation? You and many others seem to be arguing: Yes! Obviously!

            I don’t disagree with anyone that blaming & accusing other women of trying to steal one’s boyfriend are manifestations of misogyny (internalized misogyny is misogyny), I think that’s 99.95% the case. I also don’t doubt that the relationship could be abusive in some way.

            But my approach was to try to arm the Letter Writer for a productive conversation that might get the bad behavior to stop (the Letter Writer’s main goal),rather than focusing on diagnosing a work-friend’s relationship troubles or delivering education about internalized misogyny. I also suggested that the Letter Writer check in on that friend’s general well-being, which might open the door to further conversations.

            In my experience, when someone is in meltdown mode, the task of convincing them about feminism or convincing them that they are possibly being abusive is maybe a task for another day, and not something the Letter Writer is obligated to take on at this time, if ever. Sometimes there’s stuff that needs to be said right now, sometimes there’s value in making sure the other person is in a good place to listen first. I’m not sure I accept a test of “If an interpersonal conflict has aspects that are rooted in misogyny, that should be the primary basis or even an obligatory basis for addressing it with the other person.” Do we need someone who is doing something sexist to understand and agree that they’re being sexist, or do we need them to knock whatever it is off right now and then circle back some other time? I think it’s very context-dependent. I also think that once you throw out words like “sexist” or “abusive” to people who are being aggressive, they shift the discussion to debate tactics about what “sexism” or “abuse” even are and conveniently away from their own behavior. I’ve also written a jillion things about sexism in interpersonal communications, do I have to do a review session of all of how it works in every post? I’m not sure I accept that standard, either, though thanks for providing one. 😉

            It’s okay if we disagree, that’s what comments are for and your POV is amply represented throughout the discussion if the Letter Writer is interested in another take. There is no need to reply to this. I do sincerely hope you will come back another day, another thread, but it’s officially time to stop posting in this one. Thank you.

  54. Ah. This takes me back. Unfortunately.

    I was incredibly jealous and insecure with my first real boyfriend (18-24) and partially it was undiagnosed depression and anxiety, but it was also partly him. He insisted on maintaining relationships with all previous girlfriends (including several who were actively trying to get back with him but he gaslit me for filth about this,) and there was a lot of pressure on me to be the ‘cool girl’ and ‘cool’ with everything he was doing (dates with ex girlfriends! Dates!) but my inner voice was yelling at me that it was not ok, and that manifested in wild swings from cool to jealous.

    I’m not proud of how I behaved at the time, but I’ve been in a stable relationship for the past 9 years and I know that my relationship with my Ex was not stable and it wasn’t me bringing the instability. I was reacting to the instability.

    All that to say… time and perspective helps. I would say also that true irrational jealous is rare. Your friend is being triggered by something and for some reason she feels safer lashing out at the women than having a conversation with her boyfriend (possibly because it feels more risky to talk to him and chance it at him finishing things with her, than to attack other people and keep them at arm’s length.) Not right or ok, but a fairly common defensive behaviour.

    You can and should draw boundaries about what you feel good about hearing. “Jane, I would please like you to stop calling Sarah a bitch. I like Sarah and I like you. I wouldn’t tolerate hearing someone badmouth you, and I don’t want to hear you badmouth another of my friends.”

    Your friend’s reaction next is up to her, but it is up to you to state your boundary and be ok with whatever her reaction is. If she’s offended, you can’t help that. If she realises your boundary is reasonable, that’s great but it’s out of your influence also. The only control you have is stating your boundary and holding it, it’s up to your friend how she reacts.

    1. True irrational jealousy is rare?

      As a woman who dates men, imma hafta push back against that one REAL HARD. Men are QUITE OFTEN irrationally jealous of their female partners. That’s like, Patriarchal society 101, not to mention the basis of a HUGE amount of abuse/DV.

      Not that it cannot happen with partners of any gender but it’s just SO PREVALENT in cishet relationships I don’t know how anyone can say it’s “rare”.

  55. I’ve been on the receiving end of a conversation that was “Hey, we like /you/ and we care about you, but your behaviour when you’ve been drinking is getting difficult.” And yeah, the friend who told me this invoked the “everybody feels this way” thing, and it was a message out of the blue without any preamble, and I was really sad for a while.

    Luckily, we live a fair distance away from each other; I was put-together enough to realise after a short while that this wasn’t a judgement on me as a whole. and that my friend was actually doing me a kindness by pointing out how I was affecting them. But it took me a long time of keeping my distance and feeling mortified and defensive before things got back to normal. I was able to work through my feelings without getting to the point of reacting AT my friends.

    All this to say: if I was in a different place, mentally and emotionally, I don’t think I would have been able to take that on. I had to decide what was important to me: drinking or hanging with my friends. There is no guarantee that LW’s friend will behave the same way. If you feel like you need to say something, you will be doing your friend a kindness, whether she realises it or not. But from that point, what happens next is on her.

  56. I’m not sure whether LW’s friend has a trust issue, a boyfriend issue or some combination, but she is choosing to respond by punishing other women for talking to men.

    1. Yes, this! Maybe she is abusive toards the bf, of maybe the bf is abusive towards her – I don’t know. What I do know is that she IS abusive towards other women. And that’s no okay, even if you yourself are a victim that does not make it okay to victimize others.

      I think it’s only a matter of time before the friend becomes agressive towards the LW – after all the straight ladies are out of the picture, she will have to channel her agression somewhere.

  57. Dear captain, thanks for the reminder “Do not automatically associate or assume negative behavior is a direct result of another person’s mental health diagnosis, even if you think you know” and another is “You ask people how they’re doing, you do not tell them.”

    I was recently diagnosed with C-PTSD, and it’s one of those situations where, now that I know about it, I’m seeing it EVERYWHERE in SO MANY of my friends and acquaintances. In just a couple of situations, where I knew a person was having some trouble and had said so publicly, and I felt comfortable enough sharing with the person, I’ve given them info about C-PTSD to peruse if they wanted to, just in case. But you’re absolutely right, and I should try more to ASK people how they’re doing rather than starting in with, “Hey! i think you might have this thing. let me give you info.”

    Thanks for being a light of rationality and good relationships! I needed a good reminder. ❤

  58. One time I had a difficult conversation with a friend and I was very, very careful to use “I” statements and I was extremely disappointed that it didn’t automatically make the conversation go smoothly.

    I don’t really have constructive advice, except that in person is almost always better than email/text.

  59. Hi LW, along the lines of what the Captain said, talking with her about it is a gift to her, if you feel up to giving it. Since you are otherwise considering distancing yourself from this friendship, you don’t have a lot to lose in the long-term. In the short-term, confronting the behavior is uncomfortable and may lead to more definitive break in the friendship. But people and situations do change, so if there is a break, it need not be forever (e.g., she contacts you years later, admits she was a jerk, and apologizes). Good luck, LW!

  60. Oof awkward.

    You say you’re not confrontational, but actually not many people are. I’ve had to teach myself to speak up about things, and at first it was really difficult. I still sometimes don’t. The problem you have is you can’t see a way to address this that doesn’t involve confrontation or dropping this friend, and it might be because there isn’t one.

    If you’re looking for motivation for speaking up, remember that other women are coming to these slightly work related events, and having a very bad time when this lady blows up at them for nothing. That’s got to be very un-fun and I’d kind of hope my friends would have my back if that happened. If she does this in front of you you could certainly just go straight to “woah, that’s not cool, what the hell?!”

    I’ve discovered over the years that just letting my displeasure and negative feelings show in the moment can be a powerful way of shutting things down. It’s kind of one of the major messages of this blog. Instead of smiling/laughing nervously when someone does something rude or offensive you can actually react to it openly and honestly. Return the awkward to sender, as the Captain has said. I’ve also discovered that it’s usually not fatal to social relationships to do so. Things might be awkward for a while, but they do usually recover. Doing it briefly in the moment rather than having an excruciating heart to heart actually gives people room to back down and reconsider too. People get defensive when you pull them aside for criticism, but social rejection in the moment is a different situation.

    As an example from my job – recently one of my team mates has been really hostile and aggressive about a topic that we all care about but want to be collaborative about. He’s been really rude to our managers especially, and it’s making it difficult for the rest of us to negotiate an important issue. The other day, he started on a rant, and one of my other, usually quiet, teammates turned to him and said something like “Hey man you need to dial it down a notch, you’re being really toxic in the team about this.” And then went back to his work. And the guy did stop. He went away muttering darkly, and it remains to be seen if his long term behaviour changes, but the world didn’t end and the message was delivered that he’s kind of out on a limb and upsetting people. The awkward silence of the rest of the team probably reinforced the message – usually no one in this group is shy about giving their opinion.

    It’s easy to think you need to really talk things out and have a lengthy heart to heart, but sometimes a sentence in the moment from the right person is all it takes. That person might be you, because she’s decided you’re not a threat to her relationship so you’re a neutral third party.

  61. This conversation is a huge reminder to me that I only ever put this much energy (at least now that I’m in my 40’s) into friends I don’t want to let go, so if someone tells me, with obvious care, that I’m messing up, I should try very hard not to feel hurt. It’s actually a sign that they think too highly of me and our connection to let me go without submitting themselves to awkwardness and possible anger. But damn it would be hard to learn a friend has this serious an issue with me, you know? Good luck, and you’re a good friend, LW.

    1. That is an excellent point, also for the “teller” — you do it because the relationship/person is so important to you.

  62. I don’t know that I’d have the willingness to stay actual friends-friends with this woman. She seems like a good candidate for the situational friendship, and not necessarily the “go out to social events in mixed company” friendship.

  63. I had some friends in college. Brandi and Becky. Brandi met a dude and liked him as a friend and introduced him to Becky. He and Becky started dating. He and Brandi remained friendly and they would all hang out together. One time, Becky was out of town and Brandi and the dude went to a movie together. As friends. They were never more than friends. When Becky found out she assumed the worst and threw a huge fit and called Brandi all kinds of names. Brandi and I are still friends. Becky, not so much. Sometimes you just have to leave people behind.

    You can still be cordial but why try to hang on to this friendship? What is in it for you? Other people are distancing themselves, so you’re not swimming against the tide by maintaining human decency standards. Did my friend Becky have some kind of mental health condition? Maybe, but really who cares? She acted like an asshole. I don’t lose anything by keeping people like that out of my life.

    Raise your standards.

  64. LW- I am sorry you have to deal with or be around this. No matter who is doing it or their reasons, that kind of open & chronic jealousy is an ugly thing.

    I’ve experienced it before, I’ve known women who had these kinds of views, and honestly, I’ve found it doesn’t actually matter if the BF is innocent, or actively & openly stoking the jealous behavior.
    The solution in that case is to BREAK UP with the asshole, not blame his sexual transgressions on every single other woman that exists while giving him pass after pass. It’s a completely irrational reaction based in insecurity and deeply entrenched internal misogyny.
    The people I’ve known who have this kind of jealousy ended up blowing up our friendships (and friendships with others, too)- because their insecurity, deep down misogyny, and tendency to take irrational actions in emotional situations meant they couldn’t actually deal with ANY relationship in a healthy manner.

    Whether or not you want to delve into your friends reasoning here, mostly for your own satisfaction (because trust me, almost all of this shit is above a layman’s paygrade to deal with- other than possibly “don’t blame other women for your cheating BF, blame the cheater, then dump him” – and you will be VERY LUCKY if even that doesn’t fall on deaf ears – I haven’t had any luck no matter how gentle I’ve been) there’s really only two other things I think you can possibly do:

    Call her shit out EVERY TIME she does it. Most people don’t like conflict and don’t want to deal with it (I’m ornery- I don’t LIKE conflict but I will jump right in if it’s important and my dander is up) and that’s fine- you do not have to make a big deal or a huge scene- just say SOMETHING. I don’t know if I’m the best person here for scripts – I’d most likely impulsively blurt out either WTAF?! or some off the cuff, funny/snarky but pointed comment- but even a Whoa there! Not cool! Hey, easy now! would get the point across that what she’s doing is NOT ok.
    I, personally, would rinse & repeat until it just became too ANNOYING for her to attack other women in my presence, but YMMV.

    The other thing I would SERIOUSLY consider is slow fading on her until she is among your very small dose friends, and keeping her there unless she gets to a point where she not only STOPS DOING IT, but to where she can understand exactly why blaming women for men’s faults (especially as an automatic knee jerk reaction to those faults) is so toxic, unhealthy, and wrong.

  65. 2 experiences I have had:

    1) A friend couple I was getting to know suddenly lost it on me one day. I had seen some red flags (they had complained about another woman trying to “steal her man,” but it was before I met them) so I was not 100% surprised. The wife accused me (and him) of cheating along other things and “hoped we would be happy together.” We had literally never hung out without her, btw. She extrapolated the cheating from a “flirty comment” I had made at the last party. I was hurt, but I knew it had nothing to do with me, so I just cut them off and moved on. Also for the record, they were swingers, which is the main reason I was surprised at the accusations.

    2) My sister. I am starting to see that she really dislikes women in general and likely has some internalized misogyny. She is constantly flirting with all the guys around her, including coworkers, and then gets mad at the “jealous bitches” who tell their men to stop talking to her. Then she started dating a married man with an 11 year old son (the wife knows, it is a strange situation).

    But so like, how can you not see that this kind of thing is what the “jealous bitches” were worried about? You are the kind of person to “steal” a man!

    When I tried to warn her just to be careful (she also works with this guy at a small company and he had a history of “pouting” (her words)), she lost her mind at me. I mistakenly pushed a few times because I was worried about her, but she just gets super defensive and angry. So now I just say, “I’m glad you’re happy” (and I am), but I have disengaged because if this blows up, it’s not my fault and it doesn’t affect me. She is going to make her own choices. And her mojo is that she wants what she wants and fuck you if you get in her way.

    So there may be no safe path through this, LW. It depends on how far into their own world they are as to how receptive they will be. How you phrase things may make no difference (I was super careful with my sister using traditional Captain Awkward scripts, but my sister was determined to be upset).

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