#1207: “I moved away from a roommate who treated me like her on-call therapist, but she won’t let go. How can I tell her ‘nicely’ that I don’t want to be friends anymore?”

This is going to be the first of a two-part series on how people who can’t hear the word ‘no’ are not your friends.

Hey Captain!

I (she/her) just moved out of a group house. I lived with five other people in the house, including a couple (Elsie and Jenna). Elsie (she/her) and I are pretty good friends and have known each other for a few years. I met Jenna (she/her) through Elsie when they started dating. before we lived together, I would have said we were low-key friends and that I thought she was cool, but I had never hung out with her without Elsie and we only ever saw each other in group contexts.

Elsie and Jenna’s fairly stable, two year long relationship became super rocky during the year we all lived together due to a lot of factors. During this period, both Elsie and Jenna, but especially Jenna, deeply relied on me for a lot of comfort/help/emotional processing. I like helping people and I think of myself as a comforting person, and I don’t mind helping, but this got out of hand incredibly quickly and soon I was spending all my free time processing Jenna’s emotions. This only got worse when they eventually broke up and Elsie moved out. Jenna would wait for me to get home and immediately come to my room to process for hours. I work two jobs that both require a lot of emotional labor and was struggling with depression and did not have the bandwidth for this. It made my living situation a personal nightmare for me, and I dreaded coming home. I attempted to set up boundaries (telling her I wasn’t interested in talking about it anymore! saying I was tired! locking my door!) but she was pushy and I didn’t stick to my guns enough. She also did a lot of unrelated things that made me uncomfortable in the breakup aftermath, such as trying to date a bunch of my friends/literally anyone I brought to the house to hang out, which made my friends uncomfortable so I felt like i couldn’t have friends over (a whole separate weird issue). Eventually, I just moved out of the house because I couldn’t take it anymore. I now live in a much better situation and feel much happier.

Since my move Jenna has reached out to me constantly about hanging out/spending time together. Three times in the last week, she has asked me to attend an event I was already attending with other friends, invited herself, and then brought a date along and made a HUGE deal about the fact that she was bringing a date (which is a part of her whole weird “I’m single and horny” thing she’s doing right now). She talks constantly about how much she misses me and is always asking to spend time together. I suspect part of this is because I’m a connection to Elsie (every time we hang she asks me about Elsie/talks about Elsie and I try to shut it down, but she just does it the next time anyway), and the other half is because she wants to keep using me as free therapy. I want out! I need space! We are not actually friends, she just uses me as therapy. I thought it would stop when I moved, but it hasn’t.

How do I nicely express to this girl that:

A. I refuse to process this breakup with her anymore
B. I wish she wouldn’t invite herself to plans I already made with other people
C. Its weird and unnecessary to bring dates to every interaction we have
D. I need her to hang out with her actual friends and give me some fucking space already

Thanks!!

Sincerely,

I’m not your personal live in breakup therapist

Hi there,

I can’t help you with telling her “nicely.” If nice worked, it would have worked from the start. You tried nice. You tried locking your door. You fled to a different address. Jenna now crashes your plans with your friends and brings a date along. She did not get the message. She uses your desire to be nice to manipulate you. Time to put an end to this whole thing, which includes throwing “nice” out the window.

What would be the worst thing that could happen if you CLAIMED space from Jenna with tactics such as:

  • Filtering your social media feeds so that Jenna cannot see anything you’re up to.
  • Slowing down your replies to texts/emails from her – waiting a day or so before you even respond – and then reply to specific invitations to hang out with “No thanks” or “That won’t work for me, have a great time” or “No again” or “Nope” or “I prefer not to” or “Count me out” and ignore anything that says “I miss you” or “Can we talk?” Don’t reply to feelings stuff at all. Only RSVP to direct, specific invitations, always with some version of “No.”
  • NEVER OFFER REASONS WHY YOU CAN’T GO. Reasons suggest that there is an alternative time where you would like to go. There isn’t.
  • When she suggests inviting herself to things you were already going to, try saying, “Oh, I already have my own plans to go to that, so, no thank you.” “Oh, I’d rather just do that with my friends like I already planned. No thanks.” 
  • Telling her: “Jenna, you’ve invited me to three things in a single week. I don’t like anyone that much. Give me space!” 
  • Telling her: “Jenna, you can leave me out of your love life – I’m happy for you but I’m not interested in the updates or being on the actual dates, please stop!”  
  • Telling her: “Jenna, I am done processing your breakup with you. I’m Elsie’s long-time friend, I’m not going to discuss her with her ex anymore.”
  • Telling her: “Jenna, my practice officially closed when I moved out, you’re going to have to find a real therapist now.”
  • Telling her: “Jenna, STOP.” 
  • Telling her: “Jenna, I’ve tried to stay friendly, like I would with any former housemate, but this isn’t working for me. I hoped that moving out would do the trick to give me some space from you, but it’s obviously not working, so let me be clear:  I wish you well, but I don’t want to hang out with you anymore. Please stop asking.” 
  • When she balks at this, giving examples of how you listened in the past so how was she supposed to know, trying to tempt you into apologizing or comforting her, try saying “I tried so many times to make it clear, but you never listened. So I moved out. But that still isn’t working. So I need you to listen now: Whatever you thought our friendship was like in the past, I don’t want to be friends anymore, starting now. Stop contacting me.” 
  • Blocking her on social media and blocking her phone number.
  • Telling people who know both of you, “Oh, Jenna and I aren’t friends anymore. She’s being kind of weird about it, so I appreciate if you wouldn’t discuss me with her or vice versa.” (Sounds like your friends would be largely relieved to not have to deal with her anymore).
  • Once you tell her to stop contacting you, never replying to anything she sends ever again.The more you reply and argue and remind someone to leave you alone, the more they take it as a hint that the whole thing is still negotiable. You gotta go Full Ignore.
  • Expect an ‘extinction burst’ where she ramps up contact and suddenly has crises and emergencies that require your attention and sympathy and ride it out without caving, if you ignore her 99 times and answer the 100th text, it just confirms that it takes 100 texts to get to you. IGNORE.
  • When she shows up at stuff or tried to crash your social circle, give her a wide berth. If she approaches you, ask her to leave you alone. If she won’t listen, be ready to leave the event and ask friends to be buffers and not leave you alone with her. She might try to use your fear of offending other people or making a scene to get you to engage with her, so you might have to let a big old scene happen. “JENNA. WE TALKED ABOUT THIS. GO AWAY.” 

What’s the worst thing that happens? She feels bad? Bad enough to…leave you alone? In other words, you get what you want, which is freedom from her, which you would have been happy to have in a pleasant, face-saving way ages ago if she’d showed the tiniest shred of restraint?

Edited to Clarify: My honest first suggestion would be to take out your phone right now and send a text that says “Jenna, stop asking me to hang out, I don’t want to stay friends” and then block her everywhere starting now. Do it without preamble, justification, or explanation, (since there is no “why” she would accept). You get to end it today if you want to! I included a wide variety of possible options that you could choose depending on your comfort level and how much Jenna is escalating her behavior, you can start with any step you are comfortable with, including “bye forever,” and do not have to check off the “attempt slow fade” before you cut contact. I hope the variety in the list might be useful for checking in with yourself about where does it start to feel “not nice” to you, like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that, that’s a bridge too far.” Where does your own personal discomfort with enforcing boundaries start to kick in, where does it feel like her feelings are more important than your feelings of dread and claustrophobia, where does the word “nope!” feel like something you’re “not allowed” to say and expect it to be respected?

Does a lot of it sound like the advice I’d give to someone who is dealing with a stalker, especially the last bit? Yeah. I had a roommate who was so clingy and in my business (and eventually threatening and terrifying) that I found another apartment without telling her and waited until she was out of the country for three weeks to secretly move out. Did she still try to find me so we could hang out after that? Yes. Did I block her ass forever? Yes. Did that hurt her feelings? I guess. Do I care? Not anymore! The time for caring about her feelings was long done, she should have taken the first 9,000 hints and direct requests to step the fuck back.

People who can’t hear the word ‘no’ can’t be friends with you. Jenna has never once respected a single boundary you’ve set, she is immune to hints, there is no ‘nice’ way to get this done. I know you don’t want to “hurt her feelings” or “be mean,” but she is never, ever, ever going to leave you alone unless you say the words “Jenna, leave me alone” and then put consequences behind it. You fled to a different building to get away from her, it’s past time to be worried that a little cold shoulder action is being too harsh. Let her not like you, let her think you are a mean selfish fake friend who is never truly there for her, let her write the story with you as the villain, let her do and think and feel whatever she wants, as long as she leaves you alone.

Good friends don’t take ‘no’ as a letdown or an invitation to steamroll you, so in your other relationships, practice your ‘no.’ Say it early, say it often, it’s a beautiful word.

Hold onto your hats, readers, the next question is about a pushy “mom-friend” who…spoiler…is not actually a parent to the Letter Writer or any human creature.

 

93 comments
  1. oh, her said:

    Amazing how many of my problems began solving themselves once I let go of my need to be perceived as “nice.” (Also, Blackamazon has often pointed out the distinction between “nice” and “kind” so I try to keep that in mind, too.)

    I hope this letter writer takes your excellent advice to heart and understands that nice left the building the first time Jenna refused to hear “no.” The kind thing to do now, for all parties, is keep enforcing those boundaries.

    • Thistledown said:

      I absolutely believe being nice is a scam. I think it implies putting everyone’s needs ahead of your own, which isn’t actually good for the nice people or the people they’re being nice to.

      LW- you’re not doing your friend any favors by letting this behavior to continue. It’s bad for you. It’s bad for her. It’s bad for everyone who’s around the weirdness. Shutting it down is the kindest thing you can do for her. (Not that you couldn’t do this if it wasn’t good for her too, but it might help to frame it this way.)

      • Dude, I had a lightbulb moment about this when I was hanging out with two friends, and I mentioned about how I was excited because I had finally gotten settled in my new apartment and it started feeling like home. Friend A said something like, “wait, why’d you move there? Isn’t that a bad neighborhood?” and Friend B said, “well, it’s not a nice neighborhood, but it’s a good neighborhood. It’s got spirit!”

        And I laughed and I was like, yes! It does have spirit! It has a lot of immigrants, grad students, and disabled people (me, hi). It’s kinda dumpy-looking on the outside. It’s across the street from a factory that manufactures rock-drilling machines, so sometimes there are random screaming noises when the drills are being tested. It’s got a lot of trees growing into weird shapes. It’s quirky! But it’s also got a low crime rate, I can actually have conversations with my neighbors, nobody’s afraid to let their kids run around outside, and in a situation where I was really stressed and missing the bus put me over the edge and I cried, two different neighbors stopped and asked if I needed help.

        It’s a good neighborhood with good people in it. Who cares if it’s not “nice”?

        • I am glad that you are happy in your new place and that your neighbors a lovely.

        • Thistledown said:

          Ha! I love it. It sounds like a great neighborhood. Fuck nice.

          • Ermintrude said:

            ‘FUCK NICE.’ needs to be on mugs and soft cases and carry-bags everywhere.
            LW’s actual friends will get what a nutbag Jenna is.

          • Ran out of nesting.

            The My Favorite Murder girls at one point had tees that said “Fuck politeness.” I haven’t checked the merch recently, but they still may.

        • Crane89 said:

          A lot of trees growing into weird shapes is not a problem, at all.

          • Oh, for sure. I think neighborhoods with identical skinny trees evenly spaced look kind of strange actually; I’m not sure how the suburban tree lawn thing became default for stereotypically “nice” neighborhoods. To me it’s weird because it’s so obviously unnatural, but I guess a lot of people like the more organized look.

            More lumpy trees growing into each other for me, then! 😁

          • Nanani said:

            Replying to Igmerriman, out of nesting:

            The look of “nice” neighbourhoods is mostly rooted in hardcore classism. “Nice” is a euphemism for “wealthy enough to buy a big lawn and pay people to manicure it”. There exist aspiring versions where the lawns are a bit smaller and the inhabitants do the lawn care themselves, but it’s still rooted in that wealth-based classism.

            And yeah racism and xenophobia are definitely co-mingled in there.

          • goddessoftransitory said:

            Unless the shapes include long, twiggy hands reaching down towards you and your soul….

        • Also, one of your friends gave you a kind reply. The other was neither nice nor kind.

          • Yeah, I never know what to say to that kind of thing in the moment. Like my instinct was to say, “that’s racist,” (or, more accurately, xenophobic) but then it would definitely become an argument about whether or not assuming that a predominantly immigrant neighborhood is “bad” is racist, and I feel like I wouldn’t win that one.

            Ugh. Probably should have said something though. To clarify, “Friend A” is more of a friendly acquaintance than a friend. Casual xenophobia: not nice, good, *or* kind.

          • Shad said:

            Nesting cap: to Igmerrima.
            It’s also classist—the other major factor that makes it a “not nice” neighborhood to people who see it that way are their assumptions about what lower cost housing and the people who live there (and why they live there) are like.

        • Ermintrude said:

          Also, I recently moved from a ‘spirited’ suburb with something of a bad reputation but a great vibe. I’d move back to that area in a heartbeat if I could.

          • EALLEN said:

            I just moved out of a “spirited” area of a local town to a “nice” “quiet” suburb, and I could just CRY. I’m SPIRITED. I’m Quirky. I’m not suburban green lawns no one DOING anything “nice”.

      • As Sondheim would put it, “‘nice’ is different than ‘good.'”

        • Charliesmum said:

          Yes, when I first heard ‘nice is different than good’ it sort of changed my life. And that was reinforced by Terry Pratchett several times. Esp. Granny Weatherwax ‘Good ain’t nice’.

          • Granny Weatherwax ‘Good ain’t nice’.

            #gnuterrypratchett

      • Saskia said:

        Jenna is most definitely NOT LW’s friend.

        There is no reason to be ‘nice’ to Jenna. Jenna doesn’t care about LW’s feelings or wellbeing or she would have changed her behaviours by now. She isn’t one of the people that LW wants as part of her friendship circle.

      • canadakate said:

        I feel the same way about “taking the high road”. It’s just blame/bully-speak for letting other people shit on you with no consequences.

    • I'm A Little Teapot said:

      I try to be kind. I am NOT nice.

      • Mimi Me said:

        I literally tell people all the time that I am not a nice person and that it would be unwise to believe that I was. People here at work are all about the “nice girl” image where you suffer without doing anything about the problem. You know the type – they’ll complain loud and long to co-workers but heaven forbid they say something to anyone with power to change things. That’s just not nice. Screw nice! You can be kind, friendly, honest, hardworking, positive, and a good person without being nice.

    • Obamamama said:

      Agreed. I have finally let go of being “nice” and it is such a relief. One suggestion: I thought my boundaries were really clear and firmly communicated to a specific person, but it wasn’t until I let my mom read some emails I wrote to him that I realized I put a lot of qualifiers in my communications—emojis, xoxo, etc . It seems really harsh to use the scripts that the Captain has above. However, it wasn’t until my mom stripped out everything extraneous besides “no, that doesn’t work for me “ that he really got the message. They were not nice messages, but they left nothing for him to hold on to. I strongly suggest you use Captain’s scripts and/or have a no-nonsense friend check your texts before you reply.

      • Karyn said:

        Yay for helping Mom!

    • Lazy Sock said:

      Any chance you could link blackamazon’s distinction? Tried to Google it but wasn’t successful 😦

      • JenniferP said:

        It’s somewhere in her Twitter feed and she says it a lot as a passing comment? It’s not an essay.

        • oh, her said:

          Thanks & exactly (I forget not everyone starts their day with BA. But they should!).

          Lazy Sock, here’s one example I could turn up. Note that it’s in reply to Karnythia, who is also distinguishing between “nice” and various other behavioral adjectives e.g. honest, ethical, and yeah, kind. CW: The context is a serial killer’s victims, so be warned.

          • Britpoptarts said:

            Just wanted to co-sign that Sydette/@BlackAmazon writes some of the BEST tweets. Very good account!

          • Jericka said:

            These two are among my favorite follows on Twitter. I still have work to do unpacking my “nice girl” upbringing, and they are very useful to my efforts.

            I have always admired the people who did what was needed, and I’m working on approaching that. Turns out it’s a skill and gets better as you practice.*

            *I try to think about learning drawing and ceramics, where where my early attempts were horrible, and forgive myself more.

      • viva said:

        Blackamazon is new to me but when I read Dear Coquette’s distinction I sat there floored. What a revelation!

        “Kind is a matter of altruism. Good is a matter of morality. Nice is a matter of etiquette.”

        She wrote this to illustrate that perfectly ‘nice’ people are not necessarily good or kind people. After all, many serial killers are notoriously perfectly nice and polite to their neighbours, etc. Ted Bundy is a famous example. (“But he was so nice!!”).

    • Zenith or Quasar said:

      When I was in grad school many years ago, a student on some sort of class project or something approached me and asked, “Are you a nice person?” with a big smile, clearly assuming I’d feel compelled to answer affirmatively. I have always assumed he expected to proceed with some sort of mind game like, “If you’re a nice person, you must think/feel/believe/buy XYZ!” When I said, “No, I’m not a *nice* person”, he was dumbfounded. We actually talked about that for a few minutes, but I got out of hearing whatever spiel what originally headed my way.

      I had learned early on that having boundaries meant I was not nice, and the boundaries were far more important to me than public opinion.

    • canadakate said:

      Yep! I so wish I’d known this when getting divorced. I would have gotten some money out of my cheating ex. Live and learn…

  2. Amy said:

    OP, Jenna is relying on your good nature and desire not to make a fuss to protect her from the negative consequences of her own actions. She knows you don’t want to say something mean. She knows you don’t want to make a fuss in public at an event. She knows that if she continues pushing in a way where those are the only options left to ask her to stop, you won’t want to do it, and she’ll get what she wants. She knows this because you’re a decent, kind, supportive person who generally doesn’t like doing those things, and specifically because you’ve let her take advantage of you in these ways in the past.

    Stop giving her that leeway. Stop responding to her overtures to hang out (I don’t even like CA’s advice to tell her no; that’s better than being vague, but unless you need to maintain a relationship with Jenna in some form, I don’t see why you should respond at all). Block her from your social media and stuff, so she can’t see what events you’re going to. If you happen to run into her in public, act like you would with an acquaintance from many years ago that you didn’t much like–be civil, do some small talk in a group setting, find an excuse to move on as soon as possible. If she pushes, say what you mean: “I don’t want to talk about your breakup with my friend anymore, please leave me alone” will leave any bystanders in absolutely no doubt that you’re in the right here.

    Jenna might not like that you do these things. But first of all, I suspect she’ll be less hurt than you’re imagining; you guys don’t have a real friendship, you just happen to be her designated Emotional Support Source for the moment, and I suspect she’ll find someone to replace you as soon as she realizes you’re not cooperating anymore. And second of all–her feelings about this aren’t the point. Even if she’s deeply hurt, she could have avoided the whole thing by respecting your clear boundaries (there is no clearer ‘leave me alone’ than a locked door, she definitely knows she’s pushing). People not wanting to hang out with you anymore is the natural consequence of being a jerk to them, and it’s not on you to protect her from that.

    • lkeke35 said:

      And LW: keep in mind that, so far, the only person benefitting from this “relationship”, is Jenna. She’s the only person getting anything out of all this, as you continue to grow more, and more, unhappy.

  3. Jenna has already been mean to you! Very mean! She will continue to be mean for the foreseeable future! It’s okay to be ‘mean’ back to reclaim your own dang life.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      Hello I am also a crystallographer (sort of) and am delighted by your username!

      (also 100% agree with your actual comment)

    • Green Door said:

      Yes! Someone who doesn’t respect your wishes or your boundaries is not a nice person. You are under zero obligation to be nice to someone who has shown repeatedly that they don’t care about being nice to you. People like Jenna are uses. She’s using you as therapy and she’s using you as a window into what her ex is doing now. People like her will not stop being a user until the other person gets forceful about shutting it down.

  4. L.E. said:

    I cannot overstate the blessings of the block button once someone is this far over your boundaries! Not as a first step, maybe, but at some point definitely.
    I parted ways with my sister last year, after some years of not knowing how to assert boundaries. In the end the final straw was nothing she did in particular, it was that she was unknowingly far enough over all of my boundaries that I needed to go zero contact to begin to recover.
    She texted me three times that year, once with a birthday wish and twice to start an argument. Every time, it left a black mark on the day and sent me into a lengthy consideration of how to respond without making anything worse. Finally blocking her suddenly meant that she couldn’t alter the course of my day so easily. It’s been great! I’m almost, maybe, at the point where I might make some sort of peace offering, if I was sure she wouldn’t take it too far!

    • Pam Ruatto said:

      L.E. yes, when someone who is hard on you keeps connecting it leaves a mark every time. I have finally, I believe, been mean enough to get an old neighbor “friend” to let me be. Of course the last time I thought that, she dropped by, again. And I again thought boy I was so rude THIS time I’d never hear from her, but then she dropped by a couple weeks later, at which point I thought SURELY I had been mean enough. Then I went out of town for the winter, got a b’day card, followed by a text, both of which I ignored. Haven’t heard from her in 3 months. I am hoping NOT to need to confront her because of neighborhood drama with her in the past—in which my closest friends were drawn in—but I will tell her if she forces the issue. And then try to stave off the drama with other friends/neighbors by saying, as I do now, “Nope, haven’t seen her in awhile,” and not telling them that I know why. I had two years where she straight up shunned me that started out big drama and finally ended with her being an acquaintance who didn’t expect anything. My other neighbors and I got to have our old lives back, easiness we had before her moving in a block away. Heavy sigh of relief, and then out of f’ing nowhere she started coming around again like our old pre-shunning me friendship was intact in her mind. I was blown away. She was all of a sudden in a mood I will never be in with her again. Hopefully she will not force me to tell her that.

    • Amy said:

      Blocking can absolutely be a first step! If you know you don’t want a person in your life, then revoking access is ideal–you don’t owe them a second chance. You don’t owe anyone access to anything you’re not willing to share with them, whether it’s your home or your facebook posts.

  5. egl said:

    I think the LW might want to keep an eye out for Jenna turning into an actual stalker when she inevitably cuts off contact. This woman seems rather invested in keeping the LW in her life, and it’s raising some red flags for me.

    • I have a similar concern.

      Be kind to yourself, LW. You’ve been nice enough to Jenna. The Captain’s advice is excellent.

  6. Esme said:

    “‘Jenna, stop asking me to hang out, I don’t want to stay friends’ and then block her everywhere starting now.”

    I think this has a real, straightforward beauty to it.

    • Britpoptarts said:

      It’s actually really kind to be blunt in this situation. You’ve tried hinting and being “nice” about it. Time to start trying being real, which can include kindness, and often also includes being blunt and straightforward.

      • purps said:

        I have a personal bias and want to offer an addendum, but take it or leave it, everybody: I think cuts down on exactly one half of one percent of the potential drama (no more) to offer a prompting event: either attach this text to a specific invitation or say “I’ve been thinking” first.

        Here is the one half of one percent that it may potentially cut down on: giving it a tiny smidgen of context cuts down on how interesting this exchange will be to 3rd parties when Jenna screenshots it and shows it to people. It will save you from zero percent of Jenna’s bullshit and zero percent of the bullshit of anyone who’s really determine to drama monger, but it gives people with good intent an opportunity to go “well, Jenna, it sounds like she thought about it and she doesn’t want to stay friends” and hand the phone back.

        There’s really nothing you can do to promise yourself that Jenna herself won’t be dramatic.

        • Emma9 said:

          Along similar lines, if I were the one delivering the GO AWAY script, I’d probably say something like ‘Most of our friendship was based around Elsie and living in the same house. We no longer have those things in common, and I don’t feel we have anything else in common, so I don’t think we need to communicate anymore.’

          • Britpoptarts said:

            “I also dislike how you make your aggressive pushiness about grilling me about your ex-GF into me treating you badly somehow when I politely say “no” to multiple invitations from you, or refuse to discuss your ex with you.”

          • Purps said:

            Yes. I hear the Captain about how reasons are for reasonable people, but I’m personally wary of how much A Big Mystery engages everyone’s curiosity. There’s a huge difference between the “but WHYYYY” that someone of ill intent does when you’ve told them why and they don’t like it, and the seagulling WHY WHY WHY we all do when we’re trying to make sense of something. Again, I don’t think giving a reason would affect Jenna’s reaction, but it does make it less interesting for people in general, which could help. And the shred of Jenna that already knows that she’s way over the line will receive your explanation, even if the rest of Jenna will launch into defending herself against this being true (block her).

  7. Years ago, there was a dude who was trying to date me and frustrated by my total lack of interest in him (he was an asshole. Invited himself to my house and tried to sneak alcohol into my iced tea after I told him I did not want any. Scary dude).

    This dude, after a year of following me around at school and being told NO repeatedly, told me that I needed to learn how to be *nice*. Because as long as I was not giving him what he wanted, that meant that I wasn’t being *nice*.

    Fuck *nice*.

    Op, you sound like a kind and thoughtful person and a caring friend. This does not obligate you to make nice and avoid making things awkward for this person who is stomping all over your boundaries. I am really glad that you are looking out for your safety and health by cutting this person off. The not-niceness here is all coming from the boundary trampler, not from you. You do not need to worry about how nice you are as you defend yourself.

    • Angle-a said:

      Oh lord, that’s so scary Salymander. I’m glad you survived that situation.

      As a desperate people pleaser it has taken me years to learn the art of no & living with the discomfort that initially causes.
      I also took up boxing to empower myself. Learning how to deliberately hurt someone was the most frightening but important lesson I took away from my time in the ring.
      As an analogy to life, when someone steps in the ring, they’ve given permission to hurt & be hurt. I think when someone tramples boundaries they are giving you permission to act as required to stop their behaviour. It feels neither nice nor comfortable, but it becomes a needs must situation. I DO NOT advocate violence as a solution, however.
      I guess it’s about reframing from “how do I deal with this nicely?”, to actually allowing yourself to acknowledge the behaviour is outside norms & therefore your reaction is allowed to reflect that.

      Good luck! NO VIOLENCE!! 😊

      • I took up boxing also! *Jedi fist bump*

        It really helped with my self confidence. Not in a violent, shouty way either. I think I am actually more mellow and slower to tears/anger because of it. You know that chokey, throat-closing-up feeling where you can’t say anything but you really really need to because things are just fucked up? Not as much of a problem as it was. It is easier to think things through in the moment. Not always, but it is easier.

      • Mf said:

        “As an analogy to life, when someone steps in the ring, they’ve given permission to hurt & be hurt. I think when someone tramples boundaries they are giving you permission to act as required to stop their behavior.”

        YES. This is a great reframing of enforcing boundaries.

    • Clarry said:

      This leads into my advice. Find it hard to be “mean” to a “nice” roommate, someone who seemed at first to be a cool woman you were sharing a house with? Then imagine those same behaviors in a man who was stalking you. Imagine the same behaviors coming from a different character. The image of a man pushing his way into your bedroom to talk about himself for hours doesn’t do it? Try on the image of scary animal with fangs or whatever it takes to make you imagine something that couldn’t possibly look nice. Imagine the fire breathing or screeching noises as the beast tries to date your friends or invites itself to your outings. See yourself going no-contact and block all social media on the animal. It might help.

    • AMEN. I’ve discovered that the people who whine I’m not being “nice” are always the ones who are trying to get something from me, or who have had their racism/homophobia/misogyny & other bs called out.

      It’s wonderfully freeing to damn the torpedoes & full-speed-ahead trample those “nice” whiners.

      • MsMildew said:

        Yup, this!

        The only time I’ve ever been admonished to be “nice” is either by people or in reference to people I have zero actual reason or desire to be “nice” to at all.

      • Jers said:

        A couple times I’ve been brave (and annoyed) enough to answer: exactly. I’m not nice. So save yourself and run. Far far away (paraphrasing as I don’t recall). I’ve seen Cap say something similar. When someone calls you *bad name* agree with them, say that’s what works for you, then turn away. Also block. I HATE blocking people and I don’t know why i agonize over it so much, because after the blocking, i feel so relieved not to see them, they can’t contact me, and peace ensues. I don’t know why I still struggle with the basic human right to CHOOSE who I let into my sphere. For any reason or no reason. It’s one reason I love Cap’s blog, it’s full of good reminders.

        • Once upon a time, I thought I could handle Twitter without any blocking. I was so very mistaken.

    • MsMildew said:

      Holy shit! What an asshole! Did you chuck the iced tea at him and then throw him out of your house?

      I’ve also had the accusation lobbed at me that I need to learn to be nice/r- strangely enough, it’s always by people/in reference to people who I have no desire to be nice (or polite or kind or etc) to AT ALL.

      • I hustled him out of my house and told everyone I knew what happened. I tried to tell parents (I was only 15), but no adults seemed to take it seriously. I did tell the other girls at my school. No one would be alone with him after that (he did/said other unsafe things, too). He eventually switched schools. I hope he changed his behavior, but I doubt it.

        People who tell me to be nice are always people who want something from me. Often something they know I don’t want to give.

        Nice isn’t the opposite of mean. Nice is just behavior that shows that you “know your place”

        Fuck nice

        • TinLizi said:

          I’m glad you got away from him okay. There was a guy like this who worked at my college library. At the front desk, so I had to pass him every time I entered the library. He would always corner me, once he even took me outside to lecture me on being “nice” to him. I eventually stopped going to the library.

          • That is really scary and super fucked up that he did that. I am so sorry you had to deal with such a horrible situation!

            And (just like my own Creepy Iced Tea Dude) by “nice” I think he meant “know your place, and do/be what I want, or else.” NOPE

            Fuck nice!

        • Ariaflame said:

          Well, you could always ask them ‘Do you mean I should be more precise?’ since that’s what ‘nice’ originally meant?

          • Karyn said:

            I would totally love a discussion like this, because I am an amateur word nerd! My concern is that in this context, it would prolong contact with a person Our Hero does not want contact with.

      • Nanani said:

        I have too.
        This is highly dependent on many variables but I have gotten good results with
        “I actually don’t.” Full stop, move on to whatever I was doing before.

        Don’t explain, just nope out and let them confront the shocking revelation that sometimes, someone might not care about being thought of as nice.

  8. So I had a couple friends, I would hang out with them weekly, they got weirdly clingy, they also kept expecting me to basically change things about my personality but when I asked them to stop doing harmful behaviour to me it’d be a big long discussion and nothing would really change. I got to the point where I dreaded hanging out with my two best friends, felt like I was tying myself up in knots contoring myself to be around them and never getting anything from them. I finally reached a breaking point and did something I should have done much sooner and sent them an email “you are obviously never going to accept me for who I am. It’s time to end this. I’m done” Is the basic gist. And that was it.

    It felt like a weight had been lifted, I got out of a toxic situation and never looked back. I’ve been much healthier after that.

    You need to take Captain’s advice.

    Your roommate treated you like a stressball, and they want to squeeze you for the rest of your/their life. You owe this person nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Further I’m going to let you in on a little secret: blunt doesn’t mean not being nice. You may not use the language associated with being nice but sometimes telling someone something straight out with no embellishment and being clear is the nicest thing you can do. It is far nicer to cause that moment of hurt feelings than to drag it out until it sinks in on the other person’s part that you’re miserable and they’re never getting what they want out of the relationship. It just aint gonna happen. You didn’t lead them on, you didn’t make both of you miserable you made it perfectly clear.

  9. Ixolite said:

    Oof I used to have a Jenna. When her boyfriend dumped her because she was manipulative and terrifying, she started manipulating me into getting him to talk to her through sheer emotional blackmail. He was filtering her calls, so what she would do was wait till she had friends over, call me, put me on speakerphone and tell me (while profusely sobbing) that if I didn’t call her ex for her she would enter a depressive episode and it would be my fault. I was much younger back then and that particular strategy was a powerful one, because I not only didn’t want to hurt her, I also didn’t want other people to witness my “cruelty”.

    I was too scared to end things directly with her so I ghosted the crap out of her when I moved to another town.

    Anyway as always Cap nails it with her boundary-setting advice. “Nice” is for people who listen to your needs and respect them. People who ignore boundaries forfeit their right to niceness.

    At least that’s how I’ve been functioning and so far results have been good!

  10. I had a Jenna. She was my boss. The whole situation was horrific, especially when she started drinking on the job and telling us what we should do in the event of her suicide.

  11. polly etymology said:

    Good Lord, when did an invitation become ‘reaching out about hanging out’?

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t know, but making fun of people’s wording or spelling or grammar (especially without contributing anything to the discussion of the Letter Writer’s situation) has been against the site policies here since 2011.

    • Tbh, an invitation means something completely different to me than reaching out about hanging out.

      An invitation: “Do you want to hang out/do x thing on y date?”

      Reaching out about hanging out: “I’d like to see you. Do you have any free time in the next few weeks to hang out?”

      One is concrete, with a yes or no answer, the other is open-ended/the beginning of a negotiatoin

  12. Sabina said:

    I understood perfectly what “reaching out about hanging out” meant and I’m hella old. Also, the Captain’s advice is perfect, though I would probably go directly to the “go away, I’m blocking you” step (as I interpret it), ’cause, like I said, I’m old and out of time and patience. Good luck OP.

  13. Persia said:

    YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OP. please save every one of Jenna’s texts, social media messages, e-mails, etc. in case she escalates the stalking. Also, get a new number and keep the old one so Jenna can howl into the void. Only check the old number when you feel like it. It also helps in gathering evidence. Do the same thing with your e-mail address. Only give your new contact info to those are not Jenna’s friends.

    This advice was taken from the Gift of Fear. Get this book ASAP. It has great advice for staying safe.(Of course, skip the chapter on domestic violence, because it blames the victim. However, that is not relevant here.)

  14. Talia said:

    …eep! If it helps to hear it from someone who’s usually the friend who needs help with emotional processing: this is way over the line and it is perfectly fine to cut off contact. I also agree with everyone else that she’s probably not going to stop until you cut off contact. (I have a friend who used to be a roommate who does a lot of emotional processing for me. We are *very careful* about his boundaries and how much he has energy for and when he doesn’t have energy for it. If I ever acted the way Jenna is acting I would be cut off because enforcing healthy boundaries; it is okay for you to cut off Jenna here. She’s gone well beyond what’s reasonable or rational and she’s very much ignoring your attempts at setting boundaries which is Very Bad– and again, I say that as someone who often needs a lot of emotional processing from friends.)

  15. Normally I’d be in favor of a warning shot. Something along the lines of, “If you keep talking about this with me, I can’t hang out with you anymore.” Sadly, it sounds like you’re way beyond that. If she can’t hear a straightforward “I don’t want to hear about this anymore,” she doesn’t deserve the courtesy of a warning shot anyway.

    It sucks when people break the social contract. It sucks even more when they do it in a way that requires you to seemingly break the social contract in response.

    • B. said:

      Yes. If you suspect that the warning shot you’re doing as a courtesy to the boundary-trampler is only going to get you a lecture about your being mean or take up a lot of your time and energy, you’re allowed to quietly disengage for your own well-being.

    • Emma9 said:

      More to the point, even if Jenna completely shaped up this instant, the OP might not want to be friends with her anymore (I know I personally would not, because I’d always be tensed waiting for her to have a bad breakup or whatnot and return to inflicting shitty behavior on me).

      This is why I don’t agree with giving reasons when you break up with a romantic partner. “So if I change X, or stop doing Y, we won’t be broken up anymore, right?” No.

      Warning shots and ultimatums aren’t always a courtesy. Asking for specific things is for relationships you want to salvage. I would not use most of the Captain’s slow-fade strategies above for the same reason, though I can understand that they’ve been presented in the interest of completeness.

      • Every time I hear someone say “warning shot” in any context, I am reminded of the time in a D&D game where a friend said “I said fire a warning shot. I didn’t say it had to miss.”

        The social contract is already broken, by Jenna. Whatever happens after is a result of what Jenna did, not anything the LW does to protect themself.

  16. anonforthis said:

    I just want to say that the Captain’s advice about enforcing boundaries really does work in all sorts of situations. I’m the point person for a group at my church, and someone else in the group wanted to have a vague, pointless meeting. I’m fine with them meeting without me, so I just didn’t respond to the group emails about it. The former point person, who is kind of pushy, sent a separate email to me and the priest asking which dates worked for us. I replied that I wouldn’t be there but could reserve the room. She proceeded to reply to a question from the priest saying that I “hadn’t committed to a date yet” and then later asked again if the date would work for me. As requested, I sent a message to the group asking if they wanted me to reserve the room and also casually saying I wouldn’t be at the meeting. The same person told me again, in a group email, that she thought it was important for me to be there. I replied all that I wasn’t going to be there and would step down if necessary. She finally got the message but it is now clear to me that we are not friends.

  17. TyphoidMary said:

    LW, I want to tell you that I did exactly what the Captain is suggesting with a friend I had been close to since we were 10 years old. Our lives were fairly intertwined, despite living several states apart. I helped her through some messy times, knew her family background, and felt very close to her. But I eventually had to send her an email saying that I wasn’t comfortable with how she treated me, and that my subtle hints hadn’t worked so far. I wasn’t cruel, and I didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I was very clear that we were Done. It felt awful to send, and reading her reply hurt; I didn’t respond, and that was our last interaction.

    A few years out of the decision I can honestly say it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t easy, and I felt terrible knowing that, to her, it probably seemed like it was coming out of the blue. But the way she treated me wasn’t healthy (for either of us) or respectful, and at the end of the day, people have to deal with the consequences of their behavior.

  18. Mimi Me said:

    Honestly it took having kids to realize that No was a complete sentence. And it was a friend who pointed it out. My then three year old asked for something and I said no. She asked why and I said “because I said no”. My daughter took this as an answer and walked away and my friend asked me “Why doesn’t that ever work with adults?” We actually spent six months just saying no to stuff with no reason given and yeah, it actually does work with most, reasonable adults. Apparently those school years are spent trying not to piss people off so we created elaborate reasons for why we can’t / won’t do something so they’d still like us and that shit stuck.
    LW, I think CA is right on the money here. Jenna doesn’t care about your feelings or else she would have respected the boundaries you tried to put in place. Block her. She will be upset but eventually she’ll move on.

  19. Wow. Flashbacks to the neighbor who decided she was going to be my BFF—even after I’d moved away. Calling up to ask a favor. Cap’s advice is spot on, as usual.

  20. I’m also someone who likes to help others. This has sometimes led to some unhealthy situations on both sides, and there’s a few rules of thumb that I’ve put into place that might be helpful to you too.

    I kind of imagine people in three ‘buckets’. There’s people who I mostly go to for support—e.g. parents (if you’re lucky) and mentors. I try to be careful not to dump too much on any one person in that group, but I’ve had many mentors who have helped me a lot.

    Then, there’s peers—people who I can support and who can support me in a roughly even ratio. This is where most friends should be. (Obviously sometimes a friend will need more help and sometimes you’ll need more help, but over time, a balanced friendship should involve both sides giving and receiving support.)

    Finally, there’s people I mentor—people who need my help more than I need their help. It’s important to me to provide this support. But I’ve found that it helps me to have a few ‘rules’ for those sorts of relationships.

    First, can I actually help this person? If what they most need is a qualified therapist or medication, I probably can’t help them! I can be sympathetic, I can listen, but the help they need most is going to need to come from somewhere else. I tend to focus on helping people whose big problem comes down to “My job is a dumpster fire and I need a new job.”

    Second, does this person have other support besides me? This one has been really important for me. If I’m the *only* support a person has—that’s probably a problem. No one person can be the sole support for any other person.

    And third, does this person actually want my advice/help? In a mentor relationship, I generally look for people I can help. (It’s fine if someone isn’t ready to be helped, but generally, I’m not going to sign up to mentor someone who isn’t. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.) If someone thinks they want advice but consistently ignore my advice/explain why it doesn’t work, then I’m obviously not the right fit for that person.

  21. Britpoptarts said:

    I lived through a similar situation last year. The Captain is offering very good advice. Sometimes “nice” is over-rated. Sometimes a person can do things that you might not mind so much if they hadn’t already burned their bridges with you and made the idea of continuing a friendship (or promoting acquaintanceship to a real friendship) totally unpalatable.

    A very kind friend offered to rent me a room for less than market value. I was struggling after multiple financial blows hitting me all at once and emptying out ALL of my savings, and I appreciated the assistance. I also treated this exactly as what was offered: a rented room. I did my best not to interrupt the existing flow of the household. I strove to make it like I was not even there, cleaning up after myself and keeping my designated room and bathroom tidy, and I’d contribute in ways that were to be little bonuses in addition to the rent, usually by buying food for the household or passing on freebies from my workplace. Her expectations included far more social interactions than I would have signed up for, which was not going to happen while I was dealing with physical and emotional challenges.

    EXAMPLE: Kindness turned into “I expect you to read my mind about all of the things” and nitpicking over precisely how and when chores would be done when, previously, the how and the when were perfectly acceptable and didn’t require, say, a specific brand of something (rather than the exact product, but store brand or generic). I fully admit I am the person who MIGHT wash the baseboards down once a year, if I put my glasses on and see they need it. I am tidy and clean, but I am not *surgically* clean, and dust might get ignored for a month if I’m having a rough time caring about carrying on with living, much less a little dust. Dishes might sit overnight on occasion. She was the kind of person who would scrub three floors of baseboards down weekly, and she had no job, so she had plenty of time to get really picky about housekeeping. I’d be happy to help, but I’m not going to just KNOW that the baseboards get washed weekly without being told that, and since I did work 40+ hours a week, complaining about baseboards the minute I walk in the door after a 10-hour work day is probably not awesome. (It helped a bit to be told what a flippin’ baseboard even was, actually.) The anal-retentive behavior ramped up so there would be an excuse to command my attention for an hour or two to yell about how I had, with clearly evil intent, folded cardboard for the recycling bin into fours rather than threes, and had taken it out to the curb on my way to work rather than at bedtime the night prior, or something similar.

    This was not OK.

    The solution was to leave, which was mutually agreed-upon, by finding and moving to an apartment that was Not There, and to block all social media connections (when she kept being horrible because talking about hurt feelings and feeling abandoned (when this wasn’t used as an excuse to yell and be mean) was a lot more difficult than being a screeching asshat and ignoring WHY I was going to bed early (in serious “cannot bend over” pain) or avoiding social activities outside the house (severe depression combined with perimenopausal hormonal and irregular menstrual HELL, and changing medications to deal with same) and being horrible 24/7).

    Sometimes the solution is to leave, or to make yourself difficult or impossible to find.

    Knowing that she behaved that way because she was lonely for more friend social time, but unable to not act like a jackhole about this when her feelings were hurt, thus making me less eager to hang out, especially when I was in a depressive funk or my back had gone out again, well, sure, I still have empathy for this, but I didn’t have to continue to be on call for 2 AM tantrums or deal with stomping, shouting at her pets, and door slamming downstairs when she drank herself into a self-pitying anger-funk of rage. Knowing she’d been just as terrible to a prior tenant ( a mutual friend) also helped. Sometimes it’s not 100% YOU.

    You can have some empathy for her hurt feelings over her ex, but that doesn’t behoove you to continue being recruited as a free therapist.

    I am now very happy living alone, and my pets (especially the non-deaf one who had stress-baldness, likely from all the screaming and door-slamming ) are also happier. I take out my recycling and trash when I damn well feel like it. I go to bed at 7 PM if my back hurts. I watch what I want to on the TV, or nothing at all if I don’t want the TV noise, and my home is pretty peaceful and quiet. I’m still dealing with pain and depression issues, but I am managing to hold down a full-time job, deal with an ancient and unreliable car, pet issues, and more, so that’s a win in my book for now. With greater abilities in the future will come greater achievements.

    I suspect that shutting Jenna down, firmly, once and for all, might offer you similar relief.

    Best of luck, dear LW.

    • Icentremembermyusername said:

      This pulled my heart strings. For both of you. I have husbands family who are incredibly judgemental of me sort of in the same ways you’ve described. Life gets so hard as we get older. Glad you’re in a good place now 🙂

      • Britpoptarts said:

        Thank you. ❤

  22. BigDogLittleCat said:

    “Let her not like you, let her think you are a mean selfish fake friend who is never truly there for her, let her write the story with you as the villain, let her do and think and feel whatever she wants, as long as she leaves you alone.”

    Also, replace “let her” with “let everyone else.” When I went NC with toxic family member, TFM’s flying monkeys began to show up. I told each of them – once – that I didn’t care what my family member thought of me, why in fuck would I care what their friends thought?

  23. zipzap said:

    Really agree with the Captain’s and others advice that the time for niceness (I’m thinking you really mean politeness) is long gone. If someone came up to you at a restaurant and decided to dump your food on the floor and then walked off, would you feel you had to be polite? You’re ex-roommate hasn’t done that, but she has walked all over your boundaries and ignored your repeated requests give you space. Tell her once, only once, that you do not want to be friends anymore and then block the hell out of her every way possible. I agree with the Captain that you need to give your friends a head’s up about this so they don’t inadvertently pass along info about where you’ll be.
    You can still consider yourself a nice person if you do these things. You’ll be a nice person who stands up for themselves and enforces healthy boundaries.

  24. Icentremembermyusername said:

    Hi there. Ooh yowza that Jenna must have been tiring. I get everything you have said about how the contact made you feel, and wanting some space seems totally justified. Can I just ask though (and I hope that I would never ever behave in this way, or have this happen to me) does Jenna know and realise what she’s doing? Way back before it got full on?

    In the mix of the relationship drama, and going through rejection I guess, does Jenna understand the flaw in her actions? How her leaning on LW made LW feel? Would she have been mortified and backed right off. If she had it spelled out to her -x amount of time together is the limit etc.. does she have poor registering or misreading social skills. I realise that the letter writer is way past that stage and has had enough. I suppose I’m coming from a place of social anxiety, I hope I’m a nice friend and have had several long terms friends and do still. Some other friendships have faded as they do, but I always wonder was I supposed to do more? Was there something stopping the connection?

    As a mum I find it so hard to connect with anyone and build a friendship (lots of my long terms friends have moved away to other cities due to affordability). I have an autistic child and I deeply worry them doing this to someone or vice Versa as autistic people have struggles in the area the LW talks about. That horrible ‘what’s wrong with me’ thought. Thanks

  25. FrolickingElf said:

    Excellent advice, I’d add on a note to filter your email. I made an “Ugh” email folder after cutting off my toxic sibling, and ensured that she had no other access to me – other than email, which was filtered and marked unread so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at the (1) by the folder.

    Sure enough… there was an explosive and projective feelingsmail waiting for me. Even after I saw it there, I let it sit for a good month before I even opened it, and by then… I read a few lines and went “meh… nothing in here for me” and then archived it without even reading it.

    In the past, I would have poured over every line, and sent a heated retort – exchanging the same vitriolic energy that she threw at me. This time, I chose to just stop engaging. There was nothing for me in this relationship… dear LW, do you… get anything from your relationship with Jenna?

    The best revenge, is living free from Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. No more FOG about it – that girl won’t get ever get your hints… some people just need a face-jab with a two-by-four-of-truth, followed by being held to strict boundaries/consequences for their scummy behaviour.

  26. taterbear said:

    I don’t know if this is allowed, but does the same advice apply to co-workers?

    One of my coworkers suddenly lost her mother a few weeks ago. Having been there myself, I did a lot to provide her support. I even cooked for the memorial service because they weren’t going to have food and I’m too southern for that.

    Cut to now. I’ve tried to talk to her a little about what the grief journey looks like and I’m very explicit about the fact that these have just been MY experiences. But she comes in my office and wants me to explain why she hasn’t heard from her mom yet. Or why she feels so much anger and guilt about certain things. Or, why she keeps smelling “death.”

    It’s further complicated by the fact that she claims that she gets messages from my mom and she asks me questions about scars that have healed and I have no desire to reopen those wounds (like a previous suicide attempt).

    I feel for her, but this is more emotional labor than I can handle. I don’t mind talking with grieving people, but this is a lot. How do I set appropriate boundaries?

    • JenniferP said:

      Whoa Nelly!

      I think it’s time to stop talking to this coworker about grief or personal stuff, at all. You can say it very nicely – “[Name], I am so sorry for the loss of your mom and I can relate so strongly to the grief you are going through, but I’m finding our conversations about it at work are bringing back up a lot of stuff for me. It’s so hard to walk something like this back, but I need to set a boundary for myself – so that work is a place I can focus and not be overwhelmed with feelings about MY mom – and ask your help in taking our conversations back to professional topics and lighter matters. Do you have someone like a friend or counselor or family member you can talk to outside of work?”

      If your company has an EAP line you could offer it if she asks. You should also prepare for her to have a weird reaction but maybe don’t read too much into it at first, nobody likes hearing this, she’s grieving. Give it a little while to settle down.

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