Did I make a fair request, or was I committing 'emotional terrorism'?
August 22, 2009 4:50 PM   Subscribe

My uncle John has a new buddy who I don't like. I asked John to please not invite me around when his buddy was over. John was initially fine with it but is now not ok with it.

All I want is to just not be around when his buddy is. I have good reasons not to like his buddy, which I told John months ago when I asked that I not be invited over when his buddy was around, and then never brought up again.

Everything has gone fine for a number of months- John hasn't invited me over when his buddy has been there, and we've still managed to hang out a lot, but now John has decided I was making an ultimatum.

As he puts it, "I would never allow anyone I know to say, 'I don't want to come over if Stewiethegreat is there', so why should I put up with it from you?" He further said that his buddy would be present at Thanksgiving, to which I calmly replied, "That's fine, I'll spend Thanksgiving with my parents."

He has now decided this is a form of emotional terrorism, and is putting a great deal of pressure on me to withdraw my request and make friends with his buddy.

Here's the question: Is it fair of me to ask my uncle not to invite me over when he has his buddy over? I'm ok with the consequences (e.g., possibly never spending holidays with my uncle) but want to make that my request is not tantamount to emotional blackmail, which is NOT how I intended it.
posted by stewiethegreat to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. Absolutely fair. Your uncle is being a manipulative jerk.
posted by Aquaman at 4:52 PM on August 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

You can't control the behavior of others. You can only control your own, usually.

Your uncle can invite you over whenever he wants. You just may choose to only attend when his friend is not there.
posted by 517 at 4:53 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's definitely 100% okay. You have every right to decide who you want to hang out with. It's actually a pretty simple request; I have friends who don't really like hanging together so I never invite both of them over.

If you don't want to completely severe ties with your uncle you could consider not bringing it up anymore, but before going over to his house asking him who will be there, and then deciding whether to go or make up an excuse.

Again, he's the one in the wrong here, you shouldn't have to hang out with people you don't want to. Don't let him pressure you into it.
posted by kylej at 4:55 PM on August 22, 2009

It's fair of you to ask this, totally. What I would be curious to know is why is he so bent in cramming this buddy of his down your throat???
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:55 PM on August 22, 2009

I think your uncle is probably being unreasonable, but "buddy" isn't code for "lover" or anything is it? In which case, he's still being unreasonable, but his motivations become a little clearer.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Once upon a time, there was this good friend of my ex who was cool, but a bit of a social troublemaker.... I would take great care not to invite troublemaker to events in my home when folks who might not be able to handle troublemaker would be attending.

Check out Emily Post, or a vintage copy of the Vogue Book of Etiquette, or any other book pertaining to same. Your Uncle is acting in the role of "host" when you visit his home. As such, it is his job to make sure his "guests" i.e. - YOU, are comfortable when visiting. Otherwise, it is OK for you not to visit. Acceptable. In fact, sanctioned!

The rest of the drama you described is some sort of control-issue-mental-illness crap on the part of your uncle. We can't comment on this without more data.

If your uncle wants to take it as far as he has (via your description) go ahead and politely decline ALL requests for visits, under the assumption the friend is visiting too. Don't ask about the guest list, just decline. Invite your uncle to do things with you (ball game, bowling, dinner) outside of his home. In other words, don't lose your relationship with you uncle, just change the dynamics.

posted by jbenben at 5:08 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sound like uncle's the one holding an ultimatum- "Either hang with my friend and me, or don't come over at all."
There is nothing wrong with your polite request. He's the one who's being a jerk about it.
posted by Acacia at 5:08 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is it manipulative?
We can't tell. I can imagine he thinks it's manipulative if he sees your "I don't like Buddy" as being a part of a larger campaign to change Uncle's behavior. For example, if you want Uncle to quit smoking, and he smokes with Buddy and that's why you don't want to be around them together, I could see Uncle thinking that you're using this as further pressure on him about the smoking issue. (Substitute whatever other behavior he might think you're against - maybe they're engaging in bad habits, maybe the friend is religious and you don't like that, maybe the friend is gay and you don't like that, whatever.) So, it's not crazy for him to think you might be commenting on something about his own behavior, by disapproving of his friend. Sometimes our best intentions for our friends and family do lead us to be manipulative.

Is it ok anyway?
Yes, you're well within your rights to say, I don't like the guy/his behavior, and I'm not going to be around him. And it's less dramatic to say "look, if I show up and he's there, I will just leave, so it's easier on everybody if we just don't visit you at the same time."
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:09 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

His response only comes close to making sense if the "buddy" is a relationship-partner whom he wants considered as family. In that case, your choosing not to associate with the buddy would acquire all sorts of echoes and connotations not necessarily intended by you.

On preview, what Diagonalize said.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:17 PM on August 22, 2009

As long as your uncle tells you that his buddy is over and then asks you to come over you can always decline. If he lies to you about the buddy being over, or you're over and then he invites the buddy, then that's shitty. If you and your uncle start hanging out less because he's hanging out with the buddy, then that's another issue and you might have to come to terms with their friendship and realize that if you could tolerate the buddy you'd get to hang out with your uncle more. But for now it's totally OK to now come over when the buddy is there, as long as you don't bitchily say "oh, well now I won't come over because buddy is over" - just say "no, some other time."
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2009

Assuming your dislike of his new friend wasn't a spontaneous or cavalier judgment, you're more than just being fair. You're honest, and he's disrespecting that. You don't ask him to chew on tin foil, he doesn't ask you to hang out with friendy. Not too hard to grasp.

Sometimes when you make a new friend, you really want them to get along with old friends.
Sometimes that happens, rarely is it made to happen by coercion.

Not that you need corroboration at all, have your parents met friendy, or is there anyone else whose opinion you can poll about them?
posted by Busithoth at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2009

This question just makes me really curious about why he doesn't want to concede to your request. I'm also wondering if 'buddy' isn't code for something else.

Make it clear to your uncle once again that your request was not to invite you, not that he needs to make a choice between the two of you. Point out that it has nothing to do with the two of them being friends, you can see they have a lot in common (if this is at all true), but you and the friend don't mesh well.
posted by variella at 5:22 PM on August 22, 2009

You are, of course, welcome to avoid anyone you want, but -- and especially if this is more than a "buddy" -- the reasons have to be very good to be so obstinate. Either or both of you might be in the wrong: more details would be useful.
posted by jeather at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2009

> You are, of course, welcome to avoid anyone you want, but -- and especially if this is more than a "buddy" -- the reasons have to be very good to be so obstinate.

That's ridiculous. The only "reason" he needs is that he doesn't like the guy's company. He does not owe it to his uncle to dance attendance whenever the uncle summons him.

To the poster: I agree with virtually everyone here; you are right, your uncle is not only wrong but acting like a jerk.
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on August 22, 2009

Upon preview, what variella said.

Is "buddy" code for something else?
posted by jbenben at 5:32 PM on August 22, 2009

I would assume the problem for your uncle is that it has become inconvenient to him to accommodate your request. He wants to hang out with his friend, but has to clear him out when there is even the possibility of you coming around. This would clearly be an uncomfortable situation for him. Furthermore, he clearly likes the guy, and by you requesting that you don't even have contact with him, you are saying you will never like the guy, which is a signal to your uncle that he shouldn't like him.

Saying that it is a "simple request" that you have no contact with one of your uncle's best friends is ignoring human relations.
posted by smackfu at 5:34 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's just not enough information here for you to get useful answers. Why don't you like this person?
posted by kmennie at 5:36 PM on August 22, 2009

Response by poster: 'buddy' isn't a boyfriend, girlfriend, or new relationship partner. Uncle met buddy 1.5 years ago during a period of personal turmoil (spouse seriously ill) and since then has essentially cut off all of his close friends of 20-40 years to spend time with buddy. There is a dynamic between them that makes me feel intensely uncomfortable to be around it.

Buddy has also stalked me in minor ways online, ferreting out various things about me and finding various communities of which I'm a member to try to contact me via. Again, told Uncle about it months ago and uncle said it was all playful, and in fun, so I just chose to not be there, since it made me uncomfortable.

(For the record, this is a friend of Stewie's using his account, so I am no relation other than geographical to stewiethegreat's profile)
posted by stewiethegreat at 5:51 PM on August 22, 2009

Stalkerish behavior, minor or otherwise, is a red flag of large and blazing proportions. Absolutely continue doing what you're doing.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:01 PM on August 22, 2009

That's ridiculous. The only "reason" he needs is that he doesn't like the guy's company. He does not owe it to his uncle to dance attendance whenever the uncle summons him.
The impression I got was that he wanted to see his uncle, but not the buddy. This is fine, but depending on who the buddy is and what the reasons are, it may or may not be actually reasonable.

Reading the further details -- well, I'm still suspicious that buddy isn't some kind of partner, to be honest -- but it's reasonable to avoid this buddy, though I personally would possibly make exceptions for milestone events and large groups. I have no strong opinion if Thanksgiving is one of those days, but since you'd be stuck at a table with the guy, I'd guess not.

I'd also, perhaps, be a little worried that buddy is isolating the uncle in worrisome ways (stalkery history is a bad thing), so if there is that kind of vibe, again I might see uncle + buddy briefly more regularly, just to keep an eye on things.
posted by jeather at 6:05 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

This sounds like he is being abusively isolated...sorry you're going through this
posted by kathrineg at 6:34 PM on August 22, 2009

There's a big difference between:

"Well, you better not invite so-and-so, or else I won't show up."


"Invite whoever you want, but please let me know if one of them is so-and-so, so I don't have to show up."

You're doing the latter, which is definitely fair, but your uncle is perceiving the former, which is not. Make clear you're not making any judgments, and that you're not trying to stop him from inviting whoever he wants. Then I think you've done all you need to do.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:43 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

When a social-dynamic AskMe gets a lot of replies to the effect of, "You're totally right, and X is being a jerk!!", it's sometimes helpful to consider that you framed the question that is being answered. It's obvious from your question (and follow-up) that you have chosen to omit many, many details. That's cool and all—I'm a fan of limiting AskMe to "relevant facts"; don't feel pressured into telling more of the story than you want to—but just be aware of how it can skew the answers you get.
posted by cribcage at 7:05 PM on August 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, maybe you should go visit Uncle and Buddy ONCE whereupon you tell Buddy to leave you the heck alone online, offline, and all points in between.

Does the rest of your family associate with buddy at all???
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:36 PM on August 22, 2009

I wonder, judging from your reply, if Buddy has been inappropriate in his interactions with you (well, obviously he has, but I mean in person as well)? I assumed from your username that you're a dude (always a risky assumption, sure) and this was just clashing personalities, but your reply indicates maybe there's a creepier dynamic here, like Buddy is a lech and has intimated that he'd love to get to "know" you better.

You're in the right in either case--no one should feel obligated to hang out with people they dislike--but you definitely don't need to put up with creepy shit--and your uncle should know about it and (hopefully) recognize that's not cool.
posted by maxwelton at 12:49 AM on August 23, 2009

Buddy has also stalked me in minor ways online, ferreting out various things about me and finding various communities of which I'm a member to try to contact me via.

Whoa! Trust your gut on this one - you are absolutely within your rights to demand that you never see this buddy again. Your uncle may have a twisted relationship with this guy - but it's completely unfair (and pretty unhealthy) to put you through this for his own sake.

I highly recommend that you give your uncle an ultimatum - you don't want to see this buddy again and you don't want him to contact you. If he's there when you go to your uncle's - leave immediately and don't feel bad about it. If your uncle refuses to take your wishes into account and have his buddy be elsewhere when you come over, then tell him that you will not be visiting him again until that changes. This is not good behavior and could be dangerous - don't let your uncle's hurt feelings put you in danger!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:09 AM on August 23, 2009

I think the problem here is that there are three relationships - yours with your uncle, yours with buddy and your uncle's with his buddy.

Your relationship with buddy is non-existent, other than an awareness of each other, because you dislike him. On the other hand, your uncle is close to this guy, and sees some redeeming features. Your uncle has a view of buddy that is skewed towards his interactions with him, just like you have a view that is skewed towards your interactions with buddy.

The problem lies with the fact that your uncle can't seem to grasp that because he likes buddy, that you don't like buddy too. he's looking at buddy, and can't see the same problems that you see. That's why he's trying to force you guys together. Or maybe buddy has made a comment that he never sees you, which seems likely given that he's stalking you online.

Your uncle is absolutely wrong to use emotional blackmail to try to force you guys together. Forcing people into situations they don't want to be in, especially when you've been told that the other person is uncomfortable in that situation, is completely wrong and offensive behaviour. You haven't done a thing wrong - your uncle absolutely has.

If I were in your situation, I'd think twice about visiting this uncle at all. Whose to say that he won't invite you round when buddy is there one day?
posted by Solomon at 2:05 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think Jeather hit it. If you don't want to hang out in a group of three, no problem. If you are avoiding stuff like a family Thanksgiving, that might be taking it a little far. It's kind of rude to make him choose between family and good friends for an event like that.

If he is a big enough of an ass, though, that you can't avoid or tolerate distasteful behavior at that point, you have to just suck it up and accept if your uncle won't be on your side and not go.

I can't think of any good way to convince him to disinvite his friend, without knowing the details. If he helped him, somehow, through a serious issue like a sickness in the family, he is going to be loyal. It doesn't matter that you think the interaction is counterproductive, he disagrees on a very emotionaly packed subject.

If it was me, I would just tolerate buddy no matter how much of a dick, but I kind of have a natural ability to ignore shit like that and am probably over-cautious about not getting involved.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:14 AM on August 23, 2009

There's a big difference between not wanting to hang out with someone when there's just one other person present (your uncle) and not wanting to be in the same physical space as another when you'll have every opportunity to talk with others. That said, if you feel it's in the best interest of those others (to avoid fighting, for example) then you're good.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:21 AM on August 23, 2009

I'm going to chime in with Uncle's possible position, and I agree that you need to take a closer look at how you phrased this request to him. I've been in the position previously where I was told "Sorry, I don't like being around so-and-so but I really want to come to your party-reunion-whatever. Can you please not invite him/her? Just this time? Just for me?" I understand that you don't want to be left out of the socializing, but sweetie, it's MY house and I get to invite whoever I want. I hate to admit it, but I have in the past invited the unwanted guest just in order to make a point that it's MY house, MY life, MY food, etc, and I really don't appreciate someone else trying to tell me how to live it. My husband and I call it "living in junior high" and I have quite a few friends and family that never quite made the transition.

I know that's not how you perceive the situation, but that's the first thing that came to my mind when reading it. I'm just saying that maybe you need to take a closer look at Uncle's motivation here.
posted by raisingsand at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2009

Your Uncle lost his spouse and this person helped him through it--so he is entitled to his legitimate feelings for the buddy. You are also entitled to your feelings of dislike for the person. The fact that your Uncle has given up many of his former friends is not all that unusual..as we go through life our companions change as our circumstances change.

I will agree with your Uncle that I wouldn't like someone so much younger than me telling me that they "disapprove" of an important friend...and it would definitely feel like an "ultimatum" to me if my young relative demanded to never be in the presence of my friend.

You must look at the big picture and how much you value your relationship with your Uncle. Is the buddy's presence really a deal-breaker? Is this possibly just turning into a pissing war where both you and your Uncle are very invested in "being right"? Are your feelings about the buddy so major that you would give up your relationship with your Uncle over it? If not, you might set up a face to face meeting with your Uncle and have a heart to heart over the issue. Your Uncle is probably thinking thoughts like "I don't need to change what I do to accommodate others!--this is my home!" If you were to express your respect for your Uncle together with a brief explanation that you're not crazy about buddy..you can salvage your relationship. Otherwise..this has all the earmarks of becoming an estrangement. You'd be smart to concede something---like that your Uncle has navigated a long life without having to ask your permission about anything in the past, that you are aware of that....and that you just want to avoid buddy, if possible.

Buddy has not be courteous to you and you have concerns about it..but almost all of us have in-laws and friends of friends whom we despise. We put up with it all because we love the person who loves the douchebag. That's life.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:16 AM on August 23, 2009

Buddy has not be courteous to you

I think the online stalking is a bit more serious than "not courteous."

Maybe the best way to socialize with your uncle is to invite him out to lunch, etc.? That way, he'll get the message that you still value your relationship with him, but that you also prefer not coming to his house and encountering Buddy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

I agree with Sidhedevil, that's the perfect compromise.
posted by empyrean at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2009

Your uncle is trying to emotionally blackmail you into spending time around someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe even threatened. You've made it clear to your uncle that you want nothing to do with this man, and he is refusing to respect your feelings on the issue.

I will disagree with some previous posters that you should just go to Thanksgiving dinner because it's "not fair" to make Uncle choose between friends and family. You know what's not fair? Making a cherished relative skip out on Thanksgiving dinner because he'd rather invite his creepy stalker friend.

Don't give him an inch and don't let anybody make you feel guilty for protecting yourself. Uncle is way out of line; it sounds like he's in some kind of fucked up relationship with this guy and his behavior has become toxic. Not your fault.

It's not your job to be friends with someone just because someone else thinks you should. Expectation does not equal obligation.
posted by balls at 5:07 PM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

What cribcage said. Are people condeming "online stalking," genuinely wrong stuff, or "online stalking," Buddy found out you were on Facebook and a member of the same Ex Holiday Inn Desk Clerks Unite!!! group he is and he sent you a note mentioning that, trying to make peace?

As far as the original question, a dynamic that makes you uncomfortable is not something I would hoist this particular petard over.
posted by kmennie at 11:14 PM on August 23, 2009

As far as the original question, a dynamic that makes you uncomfortable is not something I would hoist this particular petard over.

I'm going to disagree on this one - when it comes to interpersonal relationships dynamics and comfort are incredibly important - in fact, they are the basis of all good human relationships. Gut feelings about people play a vital part in this, and I have NEVER been in error when following my gut in deciding who/who not to associate with. I've seen many people give folks the "benefit of the doubt" against their gut feelings and regret it. The poster deserves the right to choose the people he associates with and to expect to have his feelings respected.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:47 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

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