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.
44 thoughts on “#1383 “Is it okay for my female friends to exclude my male friend’s awful fiancée, even if that means she’s the only woman left out?””
My go-to phrase is “She’s not my cup of tea.” Neutral, simple, can’t be argued with. Waddya gonna do? I’m not in charge of the social committee.
What a wonderful, kind way of putting things, Captain! I’ve raised my children to be tolerant, kind & forthright & always pushed back against the school expectation “we all get along”. Because we don’t & that’s okay & we keep it courteous & stand out boundaries & that’s life! Great post to wake up to. Thanks 🙏🏼
I feel like this should be required reading for every 4th grader. You don’t have to hang out with everyone. And it’s crappy to be excluded but it’s probably super crappy to be included only to be bitched about and not-so-secretly detested.
My greatest mistake as a teacher was accidentally becoming the Friend-Break Up Expert for my students, but I just couldn’t let it pass when the first (and second, and 10th) student came to me with a similar issue.
It’s not actually kind to hang with someone you dislike.
Or let them take you to the prom.
Or pretend to support their LGBTQ+ identity when you “secretly” judge them.
Or otherwise let someone you don’t like take up an excessive amount of your time pretending otherwise.
I don’t regret helping individual students but…damn, that is NOT what I wanted to be the Yoda of.
I feel like this was a way that some adults in my childhood really failed me and my classmates. There was one boy who, I now realize in retrospect, had some pretty considerable emotional/developmental needs that were not being met, and these manifested in ways that were pretty frightening to me and my friends. We weren’t cruel to him or anything, but we wanted to play pretend at recess instead of reenacting Army training (with a kid who was a fair sight bigger than us, and who had poor concepts of personal space). The adults sat us down and shamed us for not wanting to be this kid’s friends, and didn’t, as far as we could tell, help a child who was struggling in school and at home. We were not equipped to handle this in third grade and I don’t think it helped us to be told that we had to sacrifice our comfort on some sort of nebulous altar of Everyone Is Friends Always. Like, should you be polite? In most circumstances, yes. Should you, say, bring enough snacks for the whole class at parties? Sure. But do you have to force yourself to give everyone the relationship they personally want from you? Hell no! I wish we would tell kids this; I feel like it’d save a lot of grief in the years to come.
I think that was pretty common in previous generations–the schools I attended (and the parents of students) definitely had the attitude of “everyone here is friends all the time” and would not countenance “this kid punches people and is incredibly verbally cruel, keep him away or get him some help.”
This is pretty fucking great. I’ve been dealing with similar issues (partner’s best friend’s wife is very rude to me, but Geek Social Fallacies demand that I forgive her, but I don’t want to keep getting hurt) off and on for a while, and I will probably refer back to this the next time they arise.
I like Cap’n’s scripts – especially that you are glad that your friend is happy with Darth – but you and Darth just don’t mesh as well.
To me “my female friends must include my girlfriend in female-only group outings” feels like a bigger stretch. Doubly so when the same female friends were involved in an intervention -like conversation about how problematic Darth’s behavior is.
I have a very good friend who has historically had a very bad romantic picker. (I don’t say this to be disparaging – I have also historically had a very bad picker, and not only for romantic relationships.) I have almost never liked one of her partners. But there was a period of time, quite a few years ago now, when I literally *despised* one of her partners. I’m not exaggerating, and am in fact being very literal, when I call him an abusive monster. (Their relationship began after months of coercion from both him and *her own mother* wherein she eventually gave in and agreed to date him so he would stop ENTERING HER ROOM WHILE SHE SLEPT SO HE COULD HARASS HER ABOUT DATING HIM AS SOON AS SHE WOKE UP. Yeah.)
I was there for the entire mess of that horrendous relationship. In the past I was often sort-of lukewarm about her potential romantic prospects and was in the habit of making vaguely supportive noises at her rather than being mean about someone she was into, but when she started talking about this guy I found myself in a bind. I’ve struggled all my life with being a massive people-pleaser, and I don’t like confronting my friends about like, anything, if I don’t have to. But in this case, I really did have to, and I was eventually very direct. “I don’t like him. He sounds manipulative and scary. I really don’t think you should date him.” But she did anyway and there was nothing I could do about it so I was just resigned to being there for her and trying to avoid him as much as possible.
But then I threw a birthday party. I very rarely throw myself parties, and even more rarely throw birthday parties, but it was a milestone year and I wanted to spend it surrounded by friends. She is a very good friend. I very much wanted to invite her. But I also didn’t want that jerk in my house – honestly, I didn’t even want him to know where I lived. So, as terrible as it felt to me, I was again very direct. “You are invited to my birthday party. [Jerkface] is not. I’ve told you how I feel about him, and I hope you’ll understand why I’m making that decision. Please do come. Please do not bring him.”
And y’know what? The world didn’t end. She wasn’t even *mad*. She came. He didn’t. We had a great time. She isn’t dating him anymore. We are still good friends. We both have developed better pickers. Solid friendships can often survive things you worry they can’t. You’re friends with your friend, not necessarily their partner. And that’s ok.
Just a quick comment: The “secretly” anti-LGBTQ+ students were the MOST depressing to deal with. I seriously wrestled more than once with whether I owed it to OTHER students to say, “X is not your friend, they are only pretending to be supportive” — reading my comment pre-moderation left m worried I had not been clear.
Darth sounds EXACTLY like my ex. Like every detail. The perpetual drama, the attempts to “inherit” my friends who didn’t like her, the insistence on bringing up inappropriate topics, the compulsive and seemingly pointless lies, the oblivious complaints about people who had been around much longer than her and were actually liked… The only big difference is that I often was present at hangouts and would end up being her handler and trying (fruitlessly) to redirect her away from bad behavior.
It was my best friend who eventually put her foot down and told me she would not socialize with my partner anymore or go to any events where she would be. I completely understood why that was, and the fact that I understood it gave me an important perspective on how disruptive my partner’s behavior really was. My partner’s furious, vitriolic, over-the-top reactions when she realized my BFF had set this boundary also gave me important information about what kind of a person my partner was. It was so clear to me that my BFF had given my partner every chance in the world to change and had bent over backwards to try to make nice with her for my sake, while my partner really only cared about getting her own way, other people’s feelings and boundaries be damned.
All this to say, I agree that setting boundaries for yourself while respecting your friend’s agency to be with Darth is the way to go. I was so impressed when my BFF did that, and it really showed me that I wanted more people like my BFF in my life, and fewer people like my then-partner (actually, I wanted zero people like my then-partner).
I think it’s really important to try to find the difference between “I don’t like this” and “this is objectively bad”. I’ve noticed in my own social circle that often when I don’t like a certain person, I feel like I need an airtight case on Why This Person Is Bad, or I’m actually the bad person for not liking them. And then I need to spend a ton of time going through every single interaction to collect enough data to support my argument. It’s exhausting! I’m trying to unlearn this habit, but it’s really hard to give myself permission just to not like someone or something, even if it’s not Objectivelly And Universally Bad.
Captain, you are positively amazing. You are so clear-eyed and forthright. I love your advice to just BE BRAVE and be The Difficult One and own it.
Captain, I am so glad comments are open because it lets me yell that this advice is BRILLIANT.
Also, “Seating Chart Theater” made me laugh out loud.
Me too! That and “The Drama-Monger’s Banquet” – LOL!
I’m also seconding the brilliance of the Captain’s advice. This dynamic can really poison a friend group, and owning that you just don’t particularly like someone and dropping the pretense of being besties (while still being cordial and kind when you do encounter them) is exactly the right approach.
I think the only caveat here is that this girlfriend may also organize events without you, and you have to try to be cool with that. After all, you’re expecting/hoping that she’ll be cool with being left out this time, right? If the GF had written in, I would have suggested she try reaching out to the one or two girls in this group she seems like click with best and trying a private hang. You will not make that cut. That’s okay! Also, I think these types of friend groups often up breaking up a bit over time as people enter different stages of life and it’s really hard to get Everyone to Travel Together time. Usually new partners/kids/priorities/moving are precipitating factors, so this might be the beginning of that era, and it’s not really all on this one person’s head. Maybe it’ll be easier to plan some smaller hangs with group subsets and everybody might have to swallow a little FOMO.
This is a great point.
I very much doubt this will happen. If Darth had the confidence and charisma to pull off hosting select women from the group on her own, they wouldn’t dislike her in the first place.
Oh, same, but if it actually happens? Letter Writer, IGNORE/ENCOURAGE IT. “I hope it was a great time!”
Oof, that section about being the unliked friend and then being invited to things out of obligation is too close to home.
Growing up with ADHD, and being undiagnosed for a long time, I never understood why I couldn’t stop talking. I didn’t want to interrupt, but my attention span was completely absent. I knew my enthusiasm and lack of social skills could be irritating, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to stop.
I totally respected if people did a slow fade or made other friends. I never started drama, I wasn’t a Darth, I never asked my friends why I wasn’t invited to things or made it weird. It wasn’t until months or sometimes even years later that I would find out that multiple people annoyed or hurt by my actions were nice to my face and then had long venting sessions about me when I was gone. For years. To have the past rewritten like that is a bit traumatizing!
The kindest thing is to tell a person at least once when they are having a negative impact on others, to give them the chance to apologize and stop doing that thing in the future. If that’s too awkward, at least set that person free or slow-fade/gray rock so they can make other friends who genuinely like their company. The worst thing to do is to insist that nothing is wrong when it is, and then keep someone around just to talk bad about them behind their back.
And like Cap mentioned, avoid giving that long list of years-old unmentioned major drama, lol. If the truth is they’re just annoying and you’d rather see other people, please just say that. Mentioning that everyone has hated you for years and just lied to your face, even if it’s true… is unnecessary, to put it kindly.
I have a different “take” on how to handle this, which is this: just apply the advice that this coulumn has been providing for well over a decade to people who are being brow-beaten by crappy family members. First, just tell your “Friend” that his fiance’s behavior does have consequences. If she does not change, then you will not stick around at [event]. Why is everyone acting like such a bunch of cowardly, two-faced, pussy-footers? (Is this the “Buddy” version of “buuut we’re faaaaaamily”?) Second: just call her on her $h!t whenever she does things that you do not like. Let her know that her behavior has consequences. Sure, she will not like it. Sure, she will escalate right back atcha. But so what? You are not happy anyway. Why not take actions that at least show that you have the guts and gumption to stand up for yourself. In the future, just say, right to her face, as often as necessary: “your stories do not make sense or add up – either get it straight before you open your mouth, or shut up”. OR “No, we already said that we are not discussing [whatever] – if you do not stop, then I will be leaving” OR “We told you we that do not want to discuss [whatever] again. Just drop the subject, or I will be leaving.” and then stick to it. And then demonstrate to everyone around you what it means to live in integrity. And don’t go saying that this wil ruin the group. This group is already ruined. But she did not cause its ruin. You did, when you allowed her to walk all over you, time and time again, with her bone-headed, self-centered behavior.
Another suggestion– Don’t treat her not being invited to something like it’s a big deal. Don’t keep it secret that you went on an excursion without her. Adults go on excursions in smaller groups all the time and it shouldn’t be a big deal. What is a big deal is when everyone is super secretive about it and makes it clear that you were specifically not invited and they feel guilty about it and someone tells you anyway. That’s a thousand times worse than knowing people went on some thing without you, because people go on things without everyone all the time without intentionally excluding people.
This is very true.
Also, being excluded can suck, but it is a Thing That Happens. No Big deal, ultimately. Not everyone gets invited to everything, and if people don’t make a Big deal it isn’t one.
Being excluded and having it be really clear that everyone involved is talking about you a lot and expecting that you will be really upset and angry and hurt and super super emotional about it because Excluding You Is A Big Deal would really suck.
Keeping everything lie key and no Biggie like the Captain suggested, so that it is just a thing and not a THING is the best way.
Hard agree. And it’s possible that to facilitate this culture change among the group, LW could try making smaller-group/1:1 outings a thing in general. That way it becomes less fraught with meaning if some people are hanging out without everyone being invited. Since the group already seems to naturally divide itself along lines of interest, LW can suss out which hobbies/interests people have that maybe have heretofore been kinda left by the wayside because not everybody liked them. Is there a vegetarian? Take her out to check out a new veggie restaurant. Maybe there’s a friend who likes to go watch 4 films in a row on one day when there’s a film festival in town (definitely a hard sell invite to most folks– ask me how I know!) If LW thinks of (and sells) this as an opportunity to forge new, more intimate friendships with people within the group, I think that could go a long way towards helping people adjust to the idea that the sky is not actually being propped up on pillars of perfect group cohesion.
I teach girls 7-15yrs, in groups of 10-20, and we always tell them “You don’t have to all be friends – in fact it would be a bit weird if you *all* were – but you can be friend-ly.” by which we mean courteous, respectful and basically kind. That’s all.
We (the adults) have actively discussed *not* supporting the fallacy that Everyone Must Be Friends, because in a room full of roiling hormones that never works, and anyway I never knew an adult who was friends with *everyone* they worked with, or *everyone* at their church/temple/oak grove, or even *everyone* in their own extended family.
Very much in favour of letting this one die.
When I was in college, lo so many years ago, I hung out with a long time friend and a group of mostly her co workers. We went out a lot of weekends together and there were other people like me who were non work friends. Overall it was a nice group except one girl, J, who I always got a bad vibe from. Turns out she was cheating with my good friend’s boyfriend. Cue pressure for everyone to ‘forgive’ and accept ex and J’s relationship. I was having none of it. J and ex had made a really awful choice and I didn’t think they deserved to escape the awkwardness of that choice. To his credit, ex never expected me to be more than civil and it wouldn’t have happened regardless. J, on the other hand, would whinge to mutuals about how hurt she was that I didn’t like her. It made her feel unwelcome and uncomfortable hanging out with the group. To be clear, I was never nasty, but I also didn’t pretend like we were friends. I limited my contact with both of them as much as possible and kept all interactions brief and cursory. J would try to buddy up to me, attempt to join conversations I was having and invite herself to plans where she knew I would be. After some time of her not getting the hint, a mutual approached me and said “You have to be nice to J. She thinks you don’t like her.” My response was, “No, I don’t and she’s right. If she is uncomfortable being around me because of that, she can leave. She hurt my friend and I will never like her because of her choices.”
I now have teenagers and I have talked with them about this situation to illustrate the fact that you don’t have to get along with everyone that your friends hang out with. There doesn’t have to be nastiness, but you also don’t have to be fake. There’s a whole gray area in between. If someone takes issue with the fact that you don’t get along with someone in the group, as long as you aren’t making it a whole thing, that is their issue to work out.
I have this exact problem but with my future sister in law so we get the added stress of “but faaaaamily”. I’m so sick of her and they’re not even married yet. Ugh.
I think it may actually be a good thing if some shit hits the fan *before* Darth and Partner get married. It sounds like a falling-out between Darth and the friend group is likely to happen at some point, and if Partner has been ignoring tensions so far, the two of them are going to need to figure out how they are going to manage things.
I have been the girlfriend of a guy who had close friendships with people he’d known since kindergarten – some of whom he had lived with and dated.
I would have loved to have been their friend, too, but they had all of these inside jokes and traditions that just kept reminding me that I was an outsider. After a while, I was not my best self at their parties. “You’re a grown adult with a spouse, a career, hobbies, children, and life experiences, but by all means let’s reminisce about that funny thing that happened in the sixth grade. I’ve only heard the story six or seven times now.”
I guess I sympathize a little with the awful fiancée who is dreaming of getting a little space from his tribe, some freedom to plan private vacations, and some mutual friends instead of HIS friends.
“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”
My least-favorite thing about a space where I otherwise truly love hanging out is this culture that no one can ever criticize anyone ever. It ratchets my anxiety way up, because my worst nightmare is that people secretly hate me but are too polite to say so. I am considering going to one of the denizens of this space and begging for the very great favor of some occasional constructive criticism.
This is really great.
My husband has a close friend I do not like. There’s nothing objectively wrong with her; on paper we should be friends, but she irritates the hell out of me. My life got so much easier when I stopped trying & just accepted it. My husband can invite her when he plans things; when I plan things I invite the people I want.
This caused some friction between us for a while but he’s gotten over it.
One of the things I’ve struggled with the most in my life is accepting that I WILL hurt people’s feelings. It feels sucky to exclude someone because we know how much it sucks to feel excluded. But you can’t let someone suck the life out of all the fun things!
But if Darth is a reasonable person, she might feel hurt but not Make it Weird. If she’s not reasonable, well … it’s not your job to navigate the weirdness with her. Your only obligation is to treat Darth with respect when you do see her, try to put a stop to the back-biting about her when she is excluded from things and treat her like an adult.
And, yes, as an adult, Darth can AND should have her own friends she does stuff with. When I got with my husband, I never assumed I was marrying into a group of friends who had to include me. In fact, a lot of the time, when his friends did invite me to stuff, I had other stuff going on with MY friends. Darth should NOT be relying on you all socially. If she is, that’s her problem to figure out.
This is going to be an Extrovert Take, but it will make it easier to plan a party where you’re not inviting somebody who is manifestly and unavoidably a part of The Friend Group if you redefine the boundaries of your social circle to be centered on yourself, and then plan accordingly.
basically, if you invite people from outside this one friend group, it will cover for the fact that you are excluding somebody who might think she ought to have been invited. now the invite list is Your Close Friends, not The Group, and she’s in one of those circles, but not the other.
this may involve some awkwardness because you’ll need to introduce your close group friends to say, your cool coworker you’d like to hang out with outside of work, but like, meeting new people is fun!
I’m also speaking as somebody who is often a bit much, and has been thrust awkwardly into social circles by mutual friends and datemates where I was not made to feel welcome ever, at all, (because I’m a jolly extrovert and they were not) that giving the presumptive Madame Darth permission to hang out with people who actually like her, and not her boyfriend’s friends who hate her, despite how much he’s probably going “oh but the girls like you! they’re just a bit shy!” is a kindness.
for perspective, one of my exes who wanted me to hang out with his friend group who all actively hated me, was, in retrospect, an emotional abuser. trying to talk to them about my relationship was a dead end, and over time dating him I got quieter and sadder, but I somehow never managed to be quiet and small and sad enough for any of them to find me remotely tolerable.
so, I feel for OP’s nemesis here, because my shitty ex would shove me into social situations with his friends who hated me, while digging his heels in over letting me be around my actual friends who liked me, and still like me, when I’m loud and boisterous and fun, because he didn’t like who I was when I was happy. forcing me to socialize with his friends exclusively was how he wanted to isolate me from my support network, and the fact that they all hated me so much that they eventually made a stink about it, while painful in the moment because, Abusive Relationship Reasons, meant that I was able to reach out to my actual support network and escape.
so, it’s not an unkind thing to do to make sure Madame Darth has time for her actual friends.
Thank you for articulating the Weird Social Contract of Fake Liking. I’ve been on both sides of it, and it’s grim. I never really understood why we had to keep inviting this one person who was boring, manipulative and actively unpleasant, or why friends would constantly talk about how they actually hated a person, then pretend to be friends with them. I never understood why someone who obviously disliked me kept pretending they didn’t, (to the point of inviting me to one on one hangs).
I also appreciate the comment about the List of Reasons; I’ve definitely noticed that. People think they can’t just say “Jane rubs me the wrong way”; she has to be toxic, problematic, to have something fundamentally and objectively wrong with her, because otherwise you would be the bad person for not liking her.
The pressure to cater to everyone else’s needs starts early, and I think it contributes to the passive-aggressive-to-explosive pipeline later. If you’re conditioned to never exclude or disappoint other people (no matter how badly they treat you), if “eh, don’t wanna” is never a good enough reason to not like someone, it builds up and up and up and up until it explodes until everybody’s eating crackers.
My best friend’s “girlfriend?” is a total Darth and I tried for a year to make peace with her and it just…didn’t happen. Setting myself free from that obligation was wonderful, though frankly we’re talking about a sufficient Darth that the real prize would be a breakup (Not to get into details but she’s capital-A Abusive and I worry about him, though doing my best to keep that to an appropriate level). Like, nope, not gonna spend time with you, don’t wanna be brought down. While I do see him less, I can’t even really say it’s because of my strategy of Darth avoidance and not Darth doing Darth things. I was scared it’d torpedo the friendship but it didn’t, and I think even as I was agonizing, I was aware that if he wants to cut me off over this, there’s not much I can do about it and I’ll have to make peace. I roundly second the advice here because the relief is a good thing.
Thank you for opening the comments again, dear Captain! I learn as much from the commentariat as I do from your brilliant advice.
A few months ago I binge-read every post again, including the comments sections, over a period of about two weeks. And wow, there is AWESOME stuff in the archives from both the Captain and the commenters. I’ve benefited hugely from re-reading the archives. Many times you sort of ‘know’ things but the reinforcement makes it all coalesce and stick.
Thank you everyone for sharing your wisdom and experiences.
A possible side effect of this strategy is that Darth will no longer have a larger captive audience for her drama, and without all that supply at hand, she may grow less enthusiastic about being together with Male Friend.
As the Captain says, this might result in your Male Friend becoming isolated from the larger friends group, but all you can do is be positive and supportive and to him without trash-talking Darth while emphasizing that you’re making the best choices for you.
It’s startling to me that so many people remember pressure to “all be friends” as school children. I remember kids feeling extremely free to openly declare dislike and act on it. I also remember being pressured by socially dominant kids to dislike a particular kid—I remember a first-grade girl (Amy) actually spearheading a campaign with a sign-up sheet called “Let’s Hate Sarah” for no particular reason, or at least not one she expressed to the rest of us. I don’t remember any pressure to be nice to everyone that the kids actually took seriously. It’s interesting how experiences differ.
For me the pressure to “all be friends” went hand in hand with the bullying. Kids *forced* to be nice when teacher was looking taking it out on me when we were no longer observed. Me being the problem if I complained about being bullied, me being the problem if someone wanted to be friends with me and I didn’t want to be friends back. The illusion that everyone is friends here, not actually being friends.
I think this is actually where the Geek Social Fallacies game from– Geeks were bullied and excluded and when they found their own kind, they (we) felt that we had to be nice, even to people who were obviously missing stairs. My Gen X experiences and my mom’s Boomer experiences were definitely Lord of the Flies “no supervision/no tattling” style, whereas my (Zoomer) kids have much more “we’re all friends” and actual supervision. I do think my kids’ experiences are much healthier and I suspect they will be able to avoid missing stairs in the future and to hang out with who they want to hang out simply because they haven’t ever been in Sarah’s position.
I love those four wishes! Thank you so much for this.
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