How can I salvage a friendship when I can't be around her boyfriend?
December 5, 2009 5:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I salvage a friendship in an awkward situation?

I live in a house with many people. One of our former housemates, my friend, let's call her P, came back to visit with her boyfriend, who she now lives with in another country.

While they were here, P's boyfriend did something that really upset another person living here, call her M. Without going into too many details, M has some mental health struggles that have made her difficult to live with. The boyfriend, while drunk, confronted M about how she has been really difficult, and he really violated her boundaries. Because M is struggling with issues from past trauma, she freaked out.

M's reaction might not be how another person would have reacted, but the boyfriend acknowledged that he crossed the line. He has done other things to make people uncomfortable in the past, always while drunk.

Because of this, mostly at my urging because I feared that I could not trust P's boyfriend when he drinks, which is often, we decided that P's boyfriend should not be allowed in our house again. M no longer lives here, she is elsewhere sorting herself out.

We communicated to P's boyfriend in an email that I did not write. I meant to write to P at the same time and tell her that this isn't about her and I still value her friendship. But because my work was so hectic this week I forgot to do that.

Now P has written an email to all of us in the house, and it's clear she's upset. I feel bad because I don't think I did a good job as her friend communicating with her.

So what do I do now to make amends and try to salvage my friendship with P, especially given that if they ever come to visit again, her boyfriend can't stay here? Even if it's not possible for her to want to be my friend in this situation, I want to do my best to be kind to her and make her feel welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Dear P, I really value our friendship and would like to continue to spend time you and, and even your boyfriend if he would like to come along, however due to the situation between M and your boyfriend, he is no longer welcome into our home. I apologize for not reaching out to you earlier, but I was unsure how to broach the subject. I hope to see you soon."

Be simple, be honest, be direct.
posted by banannafish at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Do you not think she'll believe you when you all say it isn't about her, just about the always-prevalent issues that arise when her boyfriend drinks? I guess I'm not seeing why writing a group email (or possibly individual emails would be better in this case) explaining to her the situations he's put them in has warranted this decision and that it, by no means, means that she is not allowed over.
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:39 PM on December 5, 2009

I'd really suggest getting away from using email for emotional situations. Email (and SMS) is great for certain things but not this - it ends up being too clumsy and (to my mind) feels cowardly.

Someone needs to speak to the girlfriend on the phone or ideally face to face and explain why you don't want her boyfriend in the house anymore.
posted by selton at 5:44 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]

Be warm and loving to your friend. In your conversation focus less on the boyfriend's assholery than on how much you value *her* friendship. In the near future, she might be the one suffering from his drunken tirades, and if you care about her the way you seem to, you don't want her to be afraid you'll gloat if she comes to you.
posted by fullofragerie at 6:02 PM on December 5, 2009

Call her. Tell her the truth.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:30 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

You made a serious mistake by going straight to the boyfriend, and by not talking to her about it. What should have happened is you told her he can't come over, explained your reasons and how it's not about her, and she would broach it with him herself. Basically, you invaded her boundaries (which I find ironic given the reason for kicking him out). I would be very offended if this was me.

The best you can do is apologize. Not for deciding he can't come back, but for how you handled it badly. From there it's up to her.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

she would broach it with him herself

Wow, I could not agree less. I think taking the issue of the inappropriate drunken tirade up with the drunk tirader directly was the mature thing to do. He's a person, not an appendage of the friend; as an adult, he's responsible for his own actions.

That said, I think that banannafish is right that apologizing for not reaching out to the friend as well is the right thing to do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think P is going to have a hard time understanding this, since M doesn't live there anymore. You can't make it about M's hurt feelings, because they're irrelevant. You have to explain what your problem is with the boyfriend directly to her, otherwise, it just sounds like you're choosing M over P.

You cannot make P feel welcome, because she patently isn't. Even if she were to visit without her boyfriend, she's not going to want to go to or stay at a place where everyone hates him. You might still exchange pleasantries, but when you sent that e-mail you effectively chose to end the friendship, at least for the duration of their relationship.
posted by spaltavian at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think P is going to have a hard time understanding this, since M doesn't live there anymore.

Really? Because I think "We {remaining roommates} don't want houseguests who abuse our hospitality by delivering inappropriate drunken tirades to members of the household" is pretty easy to follow.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:27 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Call her and talk to her. Tell her that she is welcome in your home. It may take more than 1 call or email to get this right with her.

Then try to be very observant of her situation. I'd be concerned if one of my friends was dating someone who becomes abusive when he drinks, especially if he drinks a lot.
posted by 26.2 at 8:23 PM on December 5, 2009

Just to clarify, in rereading I realized P is a former, not current roommate. My answer would be different, but it was still handled badly. If he's not invited, he can't show up, right? So no need for direct confrontation. Just don't invite him. And if P asks to stop by, you can make clear to her that you don't want her boyfriend around then. In this, I disagree with Sidhevil. If someone is only tagging along based on another person's invitation, then yes they're not the point of contact for confrontation.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2009

Seconding selton, JohnnyGunn et al: Call her and be honest. And try not to expect a particular response.
posted by Paris Elk at 9:59 PM on December 5, 2009

I think it's a bit silly to try and say this isn't about her. She's in an intimate relationship with a guy that you voted off the island - the question of why she is in a relationship with someone that obnoxious comes up automatically after that.

What's really interesting is that you staged a trial and read a verdict -- reading the message in the medium, doesn't this mean that you were trying to let him know that what he had done was basically, kinda-sorta criminal? There are more tactful ways of getting him to stop coming around, so clearly you were trying to also trying to send this other message: he is a criminal in your eyes, undeserving of a tactful approach given the nature of his crime - tit for tat.

The way I see it, there are two options: if sending this kind of message was justified, then you should have no regrets about your friend P - in fact, the proper, admittedly brutal response to her is "Aren't you yourself partly responsible for exposing us to this man?" Maybe you can get her to accept that, but it seems unlikely. Or, it wasn't really justified and your friend is right to be angry. Either way, the friendship is probably not salvageable.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:02 AM on December 6, 2009

Email, phonecall, whatever you do, the first thing you should make clear is "Hey, I'm really sorry I didn't tell you personally about the house's decision about your boyfriend. I have been slammed at work, and while that's not really an excuse, I know I should have been more direct with you, and I'm really sorry about that. I dropped the ball, totally."

Because even if I was dating the worst person ever, I would expect a friend to at least TELL me that the person I was dating was not welcome in her house. And if they didn't even acknowledge that they should have told me, then my butthurt feelings of "B-b-b-b-but, he's my boyfriend and he's not drunk all the time, why can't he come around" would be TOTALLY mixed up with "Geeeez, I thought we were friends. Couldn't you call me and tell me this, or send me an email, or something? It really felt like you didn't want to talk to ME because of something that happened with HIM."

Own up to your noncommunicativeness and see if that makes it easier to talk about the other issue dealing with her boyfriend's behavior.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:08 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

What 23skidoo said. And no more emails. That's a wimpy way to do it and exacerbates drama and hurt feelings.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:31 AM on December 6, 2009

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