Dear Captain Awkward,
My male friend is engaged to a (female) Darth Vader. She (the Darth) literally sucks all of the fun out of everything. She is ALWAYS embroiled in drama, whether that be with my friend (he/him), at her workplace, with her family, with her neighbors … literally, with EVERYBODY. They have been together for four years, they just moved in together last month, and their wedding is scheduled for next year.
My predicament: my social group (co-ed) is very close. The women of the group (of which I am one of them) also do side-hangs that are female-only. The men do too, but that’s less about having a mens-only space vs choosing to do an activity that none of the women are interested in, vs our hangs (female-only) that are purely out of wanting a female-only space. These are usually camping weekends, pool/beach days, occasional happy hours. Maybe 3x a year.
Anyways, we (the women) all cannot stand Darth. (The men can’t either, but they tolerate her better since she usually wants to hang onto us at events) She drains our energy, she’s ALWAYS complaining about our friend (who has been in the group for 10+ years, vs her four), she doesn’t respect our boundaries about topics we’re willing to talk about (such as our friend – we’ve tried to make her stop), we catch her in constant lies/flip-flops that are baffling (who wanted to get married, how the proposal went, who wanted to move in first, whether they were moving into a new house or she was moving in with him, whether her mom likes him, whether her friends like him, etc), she has a terrible habit of getting very drunk and cornering one person to unload all her anguish onto (at a WEDDING she once cornered the GROOM to tell him how she couldn’t wait to be pregnant and that she and our friend would have to quit our friend group and find Parent Friends to hang out with) … it’s just a lot. So: we would like to exclude Darth from our female-only hangs. Is that okay? I think it would really hurt her feelings (but EVERYTHING hurts her feelings) and I think it would bother my friend, but we did do a group check-in a while ago to express our groups concerns about Darth to him and he said he was happy and thanked us for our concern but wants to keep dating her.
I hate that I feel icky about excluding her, but I frankly can’t stand her either.
Thanks for any advice you can give.
Hello! Thank you for this question about Geek Social Fallacies gone wild.
As a start, I think you should go ahead and plan the next all-woman friend hang without this person you don’t like. You’re allowed to just do it!
For best results:
- Pick something low-key that doesn’t need a long lead time. (Fewer moving parts, less planning back-and-forth, and much less time for someone to spill the beans. Keep it simple!)
- Don’t use the normal, All-Group channels that are visible to either Darth, your friend, and the menfolk. Call or text the women directly to invite them.
- Actively take the lead in planning, and emphasize the “I” over the “We” in any written invitations and logistical stuff you send out. “I’d like to see some of my favorite ladies for [activity] on [date], can you join me?” (This will be important later.)
- Do not put Darth’s name or anything about her in writing. If necessary, use the phone or face-to-face conversations to tell invitees you’re experimenting with planning “more intimate” events, so you’d appreciate it if this specific event remained invite-only and off of social media. I predict most of your compatriots will pick up what you’re putting down fairly immediately, but if you need to be more specific, try “I want to try hanging out with just us, no Darth this time, but I don’t want it to be A Whole Thing, so use a little discretion, thanks.”
- Organize/attend the actual thing and have a great time!
- While you’re all together, resist the temptation to bash Darth in absentia, even though I realize that you are only human and there is a lot of material/catharsis. You can’t control what people will do or say, but still, I beg you, try your best to redirect the conversation so this lady doesn’t ruin a party she isn’t even at. “”If we talk about Darth the whole time, it kind of ruins the part where she’s not here.” “I don’t think she’s technically a Candyman, but shhhhhhhhh, let’s not risk summoning her by accident!” “Someday I’m probably going to have to look Friend and Darth in the eye and say that we didn’t plan this whole thing just to exclude and bash her, so help me out!”
If everything goes smoothly, congratulations, you’ve enjoyed a Darth-free friend hang and established a new normal where including a person you loathe is not mandatory for seeing friends you like. By just going ahead and planning it, you will have pre-empted a massive group melt-down over whether this is even possible. In future, other women in the group can either piggy-back on your success and enjoy more Darth-free hangs, or they can default back to the old way out of guilt and obligation or the off-chance one of them actually likes her. Either way, you can keep planning Darth-free events when it’s your turn to organize stuff, because you don’t actually need permission or consensus! (Consider that it is actually way less mean to host a party for just the people you like without trying to convince a whole group to share your exact feelings or create social bylaws about who is allowed to exclude whom.)
Remember when I said that owning all of this as your decision would be important later? When you’re hosting an event, you get to make the guest list, and if someone tries to argue with you about that, you can say, my party, my rules, next time, when you organize something, invite whomever you like! This goes for the other women in the group AND the men. “You’re free to invite her on your hobby weekends if you care so much!” “She doesn’t like hobby!” “Okay then! Since it’s not your problem, then you’ll forgive me if I find my own solutions.” “It’s only a couple of times a year, why make a big deal about it?” “Exactly, it’s only a couple of times a year, so why is she making such a big deal about it? I don’t recall marrying anybody!” Keep using ‘I’ language and embrace being The Difficult One for a change. The second you try to invoke the Reasonable “We,” you’re fucked, because then it IS actually a “We all got together and decided we don’t like you ” Group Grievance, also known as The Drama-Monger’s Banquet.
Now, let’s be honest, I don’t think that you are going to be able to avoid any and all awkward confrontations about this forever. Especially as their wedding approaches, everything will probably escalate as Seating Chart Theatre gets underway, so there’s that to look forward to. Eventually, Darth is going to find out that she’s been excluded from stuff she used to be grudgingly included in, and she’s going to be loud and weird about it. She might be loud and weird directly at you, but my prediction is that she’s going to cause enough stink that her betrothed and the other menfolk in the group are going to try to outsource all of that to you and the other women to handle like you’ve been handling it up until now… by ruining every single all-girl vacation for the last four years for the concept of group harmony. (Seems harmonious!)
Again, speaking for yourself and only yourself is going to come in handy. I didn’t say it would be easy, comfortable, or smooth, but it will be handy.
If Darth comes direct? Be direct in return. “Darthname, I can see you are upset, but I’m not going to argue with you about this. I invited the exact people I felt like hanging out with that day, and I’m allowed to make plans without you and without consulting you.”
Say your thing and leave/mute the conversation as soon as you can. Don’t text back and forth (or at all), don’t invest time into indulging her grievance, and don’t fake-reassure her. I feel like it is a HUGE part of socialization of women and girls, especially white, neurotypical women and girls, that Everyone Must Pretend To Like Each Other All The Time, and that The World Will End if someone you actively dislike gets the accurate impression that you do not in fact adore them. I do not know who this is supposed to be FOR. It sucks to be pressured into acting like you like people you don’t. It super sucks to sense you are disliked but then have people fake-reassure you that they like you and then pull the rug out when the pressure to fake-like you gets to be so much and they explode, and now it’s not just that they don’t like you, it’s that they think they have to have an airtight list of reasons that you objectively suck because “eh, so-and-so kinda irks me” isn’t enough to justify all the faking. Whatever the fakers are worried will happen if they drop the act, the reality is almost always worse, for everyone.
Which, this is where are are now. It doesn’t feel good to reject someone to their face, but you’ve tried faking this shit for FOUR YEARS. It sucks that your friend’s fiancée is under the impression that she inherited this close-knit knitting circle, but you have also told your actual friend straight up that you don’t like her and he’s been like “Okay, but I love her” and continued inflicting her on everyone. So it’s decision time. Are you going to fake-invite this lady you hate to everything you do forever, even though she does not even actually seem to want to be your friend (so much as to be the Bull in the China Shop Of Your Social Occasions) or are you going to risk some truthful bad feels and maybe set yourself free in the process?
She’s going to be shitty no matter what you do, so you might as well do at least some of what you want. And look, even if you liked her, dating your friend doesn’t automagically make someone your bestie or give her administrator privileges over who you hang out with and when. So if Darth keeps pushing you, or your friend gets manipulated into pushing you on her behalf, some things are going to come to a head, and one of those things might well be, “Friend, I know she’s very important to you, and I’ve bent over backwards to include her in stuff for your sake, but it’s time to accept that not everyone is destined to be close. There’s a difference between being pleasant and kind and looking for the best in her because she’s your partner, and inviting her on every girl’s trip I take for the rest of time, when you’re not even there to be a buffer. She and I are simply not compatible enough for that, so I’m going to need you/everyone to drop this expectation and this subject.”
Will it harm your friendship to set a boundary? Hard to say. If you have this argument out loud, you may end up seeing this friend less, both because he wants to be loyal to Darth and because she insists on it. If she’s actually abusive vs. just unpleasant, she might use this as an excuse to isolate him from you and others, but you can’t prevent that by faking it or putting up with bad behavior forever. Abusers will find a way. Anticipating their every move at the expense of your own well-being is not your job!
Again, I think the key throughout is to own it as your personal decision/need/quirk, and not try to invoke or convince anybody else to feel the same way as you. If your 95 Theses About Why The Love Of His Life Actually Sucks didn’t get through to your friend, you can freely embrace euphemisms from now on. “Oh, X and I just rub each other the wrong way.” “Oh, X and I just didn’t gel like everyone hoped we would, it happens.” “Oh, you know what, after four years I think it’s clear that X and I will just enjoy each other more if we stop trying so hard to make fetch happen.” “Yeah, sometimes it just doesn’t work out, not everyone is meant to be close friends.” “What matters is that *you* love her! I’m just along for the ‘I want my friend to be happy’ ride.”
Gonna leave everyone with four wishes:
- May this lady make or seek out her own friends who actually like her.
- May your friend reckon with his beloved’s bad behavior instead of outsourcing it to all of you to keep the peace and pretend things are fine, and may he figure some things out before the wedding.
- May you release yourself from the pretense that this lady’s behavior and feelings are your fault or your problem.
- May your future vacations include only people you like.