After previewing, sorry for this being so long!
April 7, 2010 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Am I cursed with "bad friends" or am I the bad friend? Looooong explanation inside

So I'm still a little worried somebody could probably figure out who this is by the situations I'm about to describe, but I've been feeling really bad about myself and I wanted to get some second opinions.

Basically, I'm worried that whenever I stand up for myself, everybody gets mad at me and in some cases stops being my friend. I feel like nobody else ever gets themselves in these situations and I wonder if it's just me being too stubborn.

Over the last few years I've had a series of big blowups that I feel like have something to do with this. Some of them involve my spouse's friends, others involve my own. We both have our own and mutual friends outside of these friends, but we both have a hard time making friends so it feels like we lose half of our friends every time a fight like this happens.

Anyway, here are the examples:

I had a friend in college who started speaking with a person who was stalking me (the threatening, frightening kind of stalking - we used to date). I asked my friend to stop speaking with that person. My friend, who had just started speaking with this person (never met in person, just a few conversations online) said that they could be friends with whomever they wanted. My friend then continued to speak with my stalker and even visited in person on multiple occasions, even updating my stalker about new information about where I was, what I was doing, and about my (soon to be) spouse. I eventually put up an ultimatum that my friend needed to stop speaking with my stalker or we couldn't be friends. We stopped speaking after that.

Another situation involved my future spouse (we were engaged but not yet married) and our mutual friends. My spouse and two of our friends lived in one apartment, another one of our friends lived in a different, smaller apartment. One day, my spouse came home and the 3 friends told my spouse that they had been talking and decided that they would like to switch the living arrangements - the three friends would live in the apartment my spouse lived in currently with the two and my spouse would move into the other apartment. (I should mention I basically lived there as well, but so did the friend's significant other who lived in the smaller apartment, so it would be one couple trading apartments with the other couple.) There would not be any change of names on the leases (this was in college, the new arrangement was to be for the second semester) and the apartment that my spouse was to move into was smaller and more expensive (since there would not be any roomates to share rent costs with). My spouse didn't want to go along with their plan and eventually refused. We both were very angry but I feel like I was more confrontational and outwardly upset at them (I felt like they were taking advantage of my spouse's generous nature and tried to use peer pressure to get him to agree). We stayed friends, but the relationships cooled after that.

Lastly, my spouse and I got into a huge fight recently that made me want to ask this question to askmefi. My spouse and I plan a yearly weekend vacation to get together with friends from my spouse's hometown (this is a separate group of friends from the previous example). In previous years, one of this group of friends (friend A), has been unable to attend for various reasons. Friend A was roommates with my spouse when we first started dating in college (and before the previous example who were my spouses next roommates). Friend A always disliked me and treated me poorly. Friend A made light of my personal appearance, religious beliefs, and gender. Obviously Friend A and my spouse no longer speak because of this. However, the other friends of this hometown group are still friends - they have never seen how poorly Friend A treats me. My spouse and I have never requested that the rest of the group stop being friends with Friend A and we had just avoided seeing Friend A up until this point. This year, when I realized he would be able to be invited, I stood up for myself and requested that Friend A absolutely not be invited for the reasons I listed before. I wanted to have a good time and if Friend A was there, I would not have been able to. (I believe Friend A has no interest in making peace with me.) The entire group of friends said I was being unreasonable. Things escalated very quickly, and I was accused of ruining the vacation because I wouldn't invite friend A. One of the friends even suggested that Friend A's attitude may have been "constructive criticism", "correct about some things", and that I had "changed" my spouse so he would turn on the group. The rest of the group rallied behind this particular friend's opinion (Friend B). They also stated that my spouse was not standing up for our marriage and only for me because he did not automatically side with them (The argument was based on Friend B's statement that my spouse is allowed to have different thoughts and feelings than me because we're two different individuals and my spouse should never forget this "friendly reminder"). At this time, the trip is canceled until I explain what Friend A did to me that makes me feel the way I feel or I apologize for being exclusionary. They have made it totally clear we are no longer welcome and they are planning their own trip including Friend A. Friend A has not even spoken to either of us directly - everything has been relayed through Friend B, which is why we doubt that if there was an apology that it would be genuinely from Friend A. My spouse is infuriated with these friends (the group were friends since grade school) and we've both agreed that we're standing our ground.

So that's where I am right now...does this happen to other people? Am I just unlucky in picking friends? Typing it all out I realize that maybe it has more to do with living with friends (most of the time a bad idea)? Or in the case of the third one, single vs. married (all but one of the group is single and the only other married friend in the group agrees with my spouse and I)?

More than anything I just want to know if there's something I'm doing that's causing all this. I've always been self-conscious and a worrier - help me figure it out askmefi!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you think you deserve to "stand up for yourself".

I have always tried to make my friends 100 percent happy, and they do the same.
posted by lakerk at 9:34 PM on April 7, 2010

Example 1: your friend was a jerk
Example 2: his friends were jerks
Example 3: a little murkier, but quite possibly a single v. married thing.
posted by jacalata at 9:35 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

None of these people sound like they care about or like you guys. Except in the third example - the school friends sound like they like your husband, only.

Have any of those people given other indications of not caring that much about you guys before these blatant incidents? (Wanting favors and not reciprocating, flaking out on things, etc.) Is it possible that they have and you didn't think it meant much? Is it possible that you noticed things in the past and decided to overlook them because of feeling like you don't have that many friends anyway? If so, I think the best thing to do is not waste any time trying to make people come around. If they don't like you, stop associating with them.

Although you sound very, very nice and normal in this post, I think there's also a chance that there's something off-putting that you guys do. Do you know why the friends in the second example wanted your husband to leave the apartment? (Possible that he wasn't cleaning up, was playing loud music, being otherwise inconsiderate?) In the third example, what was the person talking about when he said Friend A was "correct about some things?"
posted by Ashley801 at 9:43 PM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you've had three conflicts over a period of many years. That's not a lot. People have conflicts with other people. It's normal. It's doesn't mean anyone is a jerk (except maybe the friend who palled around with your stalker- that's incredibly wrong of him/her)
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:45 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm ignoring the first two scenarios, since you said it was the third one precipitating this question.

You made a request that was denied, and then you threw a fit about it. You said Friend A would ruin the trip, and by insisting on the factual nature of this prediction you in fact ruined the trip. That's a classic self-fulfilling prophecy situation. From your perspective it looks like Friend A ruined the vacation before it even started, and if he had come it was ruined too, right? But from your friends' perspectives all they see is you, predicting and precipitating ruin.

From an outsider's perspective:
Was your request reasonable? Perhaps. (I'm of the Ask side of Ask/Guess Culture.)
Was their denial reasonable? Absolutely.
Was your reaction reasonable? No.

What should you have done instead? Well, I can't fault you for making the request. Vacation fun is important. So is standing up for yourself. But I would have stood up differently, using my own words and actions in the context of the vacation instead of relying on the acquiescence of my friends. Which means, I guess, being the bigger person, or ignoring Friend A the whole trip, or finding some other solution to keep distance and avoid conflict without imposing restrictions on everyone else.
posted by carsonb at 9:46 PM on April 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

1 & 2, definitely jerks, although the ultimatum to your friend in 1 might have gotten her back up more than a different approach could have done.

3 is trickier. You are allowed to be uncomfortable about A, but giving an ultimatum to a group of people who are all friends, and only friends-in-law to you at that, is imo overstepping your bounds. They can invite their friend, even if this friend is an asshole to some of their friend's friends. Reverse the situation - imagine you having a weekend with old friends, and someone's husband demanding that friend X be uninvited because they don't get on - likely you'd respond that the husband doesn't have to be there, but you want to see your friend, right?
In a situation like this, frankly speaking, you can choose to abstain (your husband can go on his own) or go along and make the best of it, avoiding A where possible and making the best of the non-A time.
It's a weekend - you can live with a jerk nearby for two days. Plus, if you and A were there together the rest could see for themselves what a jerk A is to you, and you'd be vindicated - except now, by forcing an ultimatum, A will unfortunately be seen to have some justification for jerkiness, alas.

Summary: you've had some real jerks as friends, and that shit just happens. But trying to control other people through ultimatums can get their backs up, and you might find yourself occasionally on the jerk side of the line because of that. That said, EVERYONE is on the jerk side of the line sometimes, so don't take it too hard.
posted by Billegible at 9:50 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is standing up for yourself, and there is dropping an ultimatum like an atom bomb.

The second scenario, as described, wasn't really about you and I'll ignore it. The first scenario, assuming you asked instead of demanded, just reflects poorly on that other person, and no longer talking to them is the right thing to do (what kind of friend gives a stalker updates about you?)

However, for the third one, you told a group of people who had no experience whatsoever with the bad behavior of that other person that they had to exclude that person. The right thing to do in that circumstance would have been to let the person doing the invites know you have bad blood with that person, and you understand and support them if they want to invite the other person -- but if so, to let you know, as you and your husband will respectfully bow out with no hard feelings. That's what a tactful, reasonable person would have done.

So -- keep standing up for yourself, but when you think about dropping an ultimatum, make sure it happens after a reasonable attempt to assume the best intentions of everyone involved, and consider just removing yourself from the situation instead.
posted by davejay at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2010 [13 favorites]

Actually, all three examples sound like cases where it was quite possibly "not what you said, but the way that you said it". But without a lot more info that we're never going to get short of first-hand knowledge, it's impossible to say for sure.

Are you the sort of person that lets issues slide by until they become 'problems'? Do you tend to then suddenly make a stand rather than explain your position? Are you the sort of person who, rather than engaging* with an issue, just decrees that 'I want it this way; it will be so!".

Have you tried asking your friends about this? They're the ones who are going to know.

(* God I hate that term; too often people use to to mean you should moderate yourself, try to understand an opposing point of view, and other similar sorts of touchy-feely crap. In this case, I mean more that your opinions, reasoning, and decisions aren't worth any more than anyone else's, so you've got to deal with that rather than - from their point of view - just suddenly jumping up and going "I'm finished with this, la la la I can't hear you"…)
posted by Pinback at 9:57 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and: if you feel things are becoming "big blowups", you would do well to learn a bit more patience and perspective. Not because you should tolerate more crap, but because it will help you weather the crap better, and deal with the crap more tactfully.
posted by davejay at 9:58 PM on April 7, 2010

no no no --you can't go around orchestrating who can be places and who can be friends with who. Even if you were wronged--these are your experiences not everyone else's experiences. What you are engaging in is demandingness. People seldom like being TOLD what to do. It makes them defensive. Think about the last time a contemporary of yours threw down some kind of ultimatum --how did you react? It is normal to resist demandingness. Don't insist on anything with your friends. That's what makes people friends--the fact that you TRUST them to do the right things. If they don't you quietly let them go. What you view as "sticking up for yourself" is coming across as grandiose.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:58 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are drawing lines and defining what you want for your life and what you expect for your friends. I think in general that's a good thing. (I certainly often use a bit more of it)

If you want less incidents like you describe, it may help to remind yourself (whether or not it's true) that it's quite rare that people are actually intentional jerks. Give them more benefit of the doubt. Try not to be confrontational when you address issues that bother you.

On preview: What everyone else said.
posted by ropeladder at 10:00 PM on April 7, 2010

*That should read: (I could often use a bit more of it.)
posted by ropeladder at 10:01 PM on April 7, 2010

Check out Nicomachean ethics Ethics by Aristotle-- Parts 8 & 9 (incisive description of the levels and responsibilities of friendship)

And Michel de Montaigne's essay "On Friendship" (sometimes translated as "Of Friendship"
posted by cotesdurhone at 10:04 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tried to reply to your question, but I wasted a lot of time replying to details that don't really matter. In the end, everything I typed just brought me back to one basic conclusion. You have very low self esteem, which explains why petty stuff matters so much to you and why you find yourself surrounded by crappy people.

Let the petty stuff go.

Work on your self esteem. Seek therapy if you have to. Self esteem really matters. Your lack of it is dragging you down.

A much better and happier life awaits once you learn to have confidence in yourself. Until then, you'll fret over stuff that doesn't matter and you'll find yourself surrounded by crappy people who treat you poorly.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:06 PM on April 7, 2010 [7 favorites]

Sometimes there are group dynamics involved, and when these are disturbed, trouble results. For example: are you, generally speaking, a beta dog around people? If yes, some member of the group may be tempted to treat you poorly. And when you rebel, the rest of the group is surprised because it comes from a beta - and betas are not supposed to rebel - so they enforce your social beta position and side with the tormentor. It's really funny to see (though perhaps not always experience) - it really is like watching a troop of baboons... people are such apes!

So, the disconnect comes from presentation. If you are naturally fluid, not a total low status creature on the lowest social rung in the pecking order (to get away from the apes for a second, we'll go for birds, ha!), but present lower than you are, trouble will result.

I love watching social interaction dynamics, it's a bit of a hobby. My advice: be firm, but know what to give. For example, an alpha doesn't simply stamp his/her foot and demand respect - rather, s/he must give something - be witty, amusing, have people laugh with you etc., or have a lot of initiative about social activities ("let's do X, go to Y, see Z etc.). When you first enter a social group that already has a certain hierarchy, you must tread carefully - suss out the situation first. Those first few moments mean a lot - people are sizing you up - some may challenge you to see how you react (they do it subconsciously!)... and we're back to apes! First impressions are important. Usually, upbeat, but down to earth is the safe thing. See who the leader is, and what kind of a leader - are they insecure, do they have to establish dominance etc. When you enter with someone who already is in the group (like your spouse), it's also important what position your spouse holds. If your spouse is low on the rung - chances are you'll be assigned a low perch too. It really is like watching apes - sorry!

Bottom line, look at the situation more holistically - not necessarily from the point of view "who is right and who is wrong to have said/done this one specific thing". It's not about objective "right or wrong" - it's about social dynamic of the group, which is a primate thing, not a logic thing.
posted by VikingSword at 10:08 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think davejay probably nailed it with respect to situation three. There is an (ex-) friend A in my life and the mutual friends make an effort to keep us apart at group weddings and the like because they know A and I don't get on at all. There would be no question of going on a group vacation that included both of us.

When I've reached my limit with people in the past for whatever reason, I make it clear I've reached my limit and walked away. I've withdrawn from vacations and events and missed special occasions in the past rather than make a fuss. I let the As of my life make the drama because as a matter of strategy, it works better for me in the long run.
posted by immlass at 10:26 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be the best person you know and all of this will melt away.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:45 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Excluding situating 1 because that just seems obvious-

But the other situations: there is no way that we or even you can decide if you, your spouse, or your friends are the problem. There are so many pieces of this that we are missing.

I’m going to reply to just give you another point of view anony, but only you can decide if this may or may not apply.

For situation 2, for example, I am going to nth Ashley’s comment. How do you know they weren’t trying to get away from your spouse? Or how do you know they weren’t trying to get away from you? There could be an infinite number of reasons from whether you helped cleaning to perhaps there was a bit of drama each week. We aren't seeing what may have led up to situation 2, thogh.

For situation 2 you also mention that there would be more cost for renting the place and that it was smaller. Those are the only variables you mention, so is this what you concluded their motivation factors were? Which then led to you being “confrontational and outwardly upset at them (I felt like they were taking advantage of my spouse's generous nature and tried to use peer pressure to get him to agree).”

This is the part we don’t know:

Was there a real conversation with these friends? Did you tell them….”this is how I see this desire that you have…you would like the larger apartment and a greater cost to us. Is that how this should be interpreted or is there another reason or motive that you have for this?” That would have allowed the other people to give you an infinite number of other reasons that they had for doing this. It may have been that the 2 people just wanted to be together no matter what and their passion/love/lust at the time was the main motivating factor. Or, there may have been a bit of your interpretation as a motivating factor, but if there was no conversation to assess the motivations of everyone…and based on this you were then confrontation.

My other concern is “confrontational” can mean anything. Did you say, “I am offended and do not want to move out” or did you scream expletives at them at the top of your lungs and say “you are cheap bastards and you are selfish” (and then make motivational accusations that may or may not have been true).

I guess my points are
1) are these real conversations? Lets say their motivation was $, if there was an open conversation about it perhaps they would have offered to still move yet subsidize your rent, or offer the other place, who knows

2) How confrontational are you? If you are explosive and yelling – I hate to say it, I probably would disappear if I were a friend, or I wouldn’t put up with it more than once.

You have to assess and see if these things are applicable or not. Neither may apply, but just be aware that it could be a factor confusing where the source of the problem is -

Also, although I do have several long term friends (from a few years to 20 years), I do view friendships like passengers on a train. You may get to ride together for a while and have fun for that time. Eventually though, interests may change/the way they act may change/or their goals may change leading them or you in another direction. So it is time for a person or your friend to just change trains. Remember the time that you had that was fun together. Don't feel guilty, let your friend(s) ride away on the other train. So maybe your friends have changed...if this is the case it is also okay to let one or some of them go.
posted by Wolfster at 10:45 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

With the first two, the people sound like jerks. I wouldn't read too much into it and it doesn't seem to be a pattern.
As for the third conflict...I have to ask, did this all go down over e-mail? I can't see people having that conversation or saying those things in person, or even over the phone. If that is the case, that may be why things deteriorated so fast. And having some in-person contact and conversation might both help this issue and avoid others in the future.
posted by janerica at 10:47 PM on April 7, 2010

Another option was for YOU to not go this time. Your husband could have gone and enjoyed time with his hometown friends. Your husband is now excluded from his friends - not just A but the others too.

Asking everyone to turn on an old pal was a recipe to make people angry at you. Particularly since people don't know why you're so adamant. Essentially you said "Ditch A, a friend who you've all known longer than you've known me. Ditch him because I say so." Kudos for your husband for standing up for you. But understand, you're now The Problem. You're Yoko. You're the one who broke up the band.

You overreacted. Sometimes you put up with people because they are important to your spouse. It's the reason people put up with annoying in-laws. Had you simply ignored him, Friend A was not threat to you. This was a very small hill to die on.
posted by 26.2 at 11:12 PM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Situation 1, I would've just said "I'm sorry, I feel both uncomfortable and unsafe being in the social vicinity of my stalker, and that means I need to restrict contact with you as well." I've had similar situations, and you've just got to make it clear to those people that, no, you cannot let yourself be in that position with regards to someone who committed a crime against you, and you really do have to be more cautious than most people about it lest previous unpleasantries start up all over again...

...but it has to be about you, and not "You have to stop being friends with my stalker or else." Other adults don't have to do anything that you tell them to, regardless of your relationship to them; it's, in the end, up to you to protect yourself from renewed contact with your stalker (with an assist from law enforcement and the courts if it becomes necessary). You can't design boundaries for other people, you can only enforce your own.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:15 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

While your former friends have acted badly in some cases, I think much of the problem does have to do with you. You don't get to decide who your friends hang out with*. You are going beyond "standing up for yourself" and attempting to control your friends. Most people aren't going to like that.

* I'd probably cut someone off who was passing info on me to a stalker, but I don't think demanding (and yes, any ultimatum is a demand) that they stop speaking to anyone altogether is in my power. And if you felt the need to not have contact with anyone who has contact with your stalker whatsoever, fairytale of los angeles has a better way of dealing with it.
posted by grouse at 11:24 PM on April 7, 2010

When someone lays an ultimatum on me, I balk like a stubborn horse. Even if I was feeling sympathetic towards that person 4 seconds ago, as soon as that ultimatum comes down I have to fight a hellacious internal battle to not go out and do the exact opposite.

Someone could say to me, "You'd better not shave your head, dye your skin green, or commute to work on a pogo stick today, OR ELSE," and I'd be bouncing down the highway like a hairless streak of green lightning before my common sense kicked in and I realized that that was probably not what I wanted to be doing after all.

Point is, it sounds like for the most part you've had reasonable requests that you've turned into ultimatums and that has rubbed people the wrong way. There are ways to draw reasonable boundaries without constantly drawing lines in the sand.
posted by colfax at 11:47 PM on April 7, 2010 [11 favorites]

--Nothing good comes of being completely honest about your dislike of mutual friends. Next time a situation like the vacation happens, simply bow out. I know it is frustrating, but it's not worth it to make them pick sides. It is an implied criticism of their friend-choosing skills and people get defensive of their friend if they don't see them as in the wrong. They then feel like you're being aggressive and rocking the boat. I have an intense issue with a few people and it has led to me being isolated from other people I care about and for what--so everyone knows that I don't like that person? It was already kinda obvious but then they had to choose sides and potentially alienate other friends. I would have liked for them to choose me but the reality is that I was not as popular and the other person wasn't the one making them pick, so I ended up looking like I had a chip on my shoulder. Now I am making nice with the person who drives me nuts, meaning making an effort to be pleasant to him in front of friends and trying to mend things. I feel good about it and my pride has taken a small hit, but c'est la vie. Complain about him to your husband, who understands, but use a little social strategy and tact to make your life easier.

--The first situation is obnoxious and not your fault.

--Cooling friendships aren't that big of a deal. Everyone's friendships cool sometimes. No one has to be bad people for it to happen.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:33 AM on April 8, 2010

Regarding your first scenario, I am left wondering if you simply told your friend "Hey, stop talking to him, we used to date," or did you actually sit your friend down and explain that he was stalking you in a very frightening manner and explain the danger to yourself if she gave him details about you? Obviously this is rhetorical since you're anonymous, but it's something you can ask yourself.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:53 AM on April 8, 2010

I don't know if this is projection, or from nuances of words on the page here but you have a lot of 'politics' in your representations of friendships: factions, teams, allegiances. The stalker-talker friend was wrong. Accept that you know your best interests here, and her behaviour is a very bad fit for your needs. In the second situation, sure, you visited your man's home but his name was on the lease, and these were his friends and his stuff to negotiate. You didn't need to get involved. [Believe me that's hard to write as I am known to get huffy/soapboxy on other people's account at the drop of a hat.]

If both you and your husband don't get along with Friend A because of a difficult history - it should be a no-brainer that you don't go on vacation with them. Nothing is going to be achieved by constructing sides and teams about this. If you had avoided ultimatums I am sure the long term association amongst you all would be much better preserved. Perhaps this is what the friends find difficult - most friendships want to cruise along without drama. In the nicest possible way, maybe they would like it if you were a bit more easy going. Just because you had conflict with A in the past maybe the trip could have helped you change the association with A, find meaningful connection, mend fences etc. You don't have to 'win' and have the last word by co-opting others into a conflict. I have had this experience in the past and decided to try to be peaceful with difficult people. This trip might have been an opportunity to be a bigger person. [I like stuck on an island's Moral High Ground game in this post]
posted by honey-barbara at 1:04 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's little left to say here except to nth others' ideas, but that seems worth doing.

Conflict is inevitable. Learn to deal with it maturely instead of making war when it's not necessary.

You are not entitled to permanent friendship. Sometimes ending or backing away from a relationship is the only way conflicts are resolved. Hopefully you and the other party both try to meet in the middle, but sometimes that doesn't work. Your unwillingness to adopt someone else's point of view does not obligate them to adopt yours.

You are entitled to set boundaries and limits in pursuit of your own interests. You should exercise control over your life by shaping YOUR OWN behavior, not other people's. It's just fine to say, "You know, I'm not comfortable with the idea of spending my vacation in A's company, so I'm going to sit out this year." But you don't get to say "You all are not allowed to invite A" except at great cost to your relationships. You absolutely do not get to control other people's choices for your own comfort.
posted by jon1270 at 4:53 AM on April 8, 2010

Ultimatums in any kind of relationship - friendship, business, love - are never a good thing. Ultimatums implicitly contain the seeds of destruction. They turn everything they touch into a competition of winners and losers - and worse, winner takes all. Never make an ultimatum unless you are happy to be rejected, and even then, simply rejecting is typically the better path to take for everybody.
posted by smoke at 6:09 AM on April 8, 2010

Agreeing with everyone who basically said that you can't decide for others who they should or shouldn't be friends with. You can only decide who YOU want to be friends with. And that includes not making demands on your spouse about who your spouse can be friends with.

Situation 1: Unless your friend had some good reason to not believe you about being stalked, that person didn't have your interests at heart. Demanding they not tell the stalker anything at all about you is reasonable and if they refused you should end the friendship. It sounds to me, though, that this person might have been fed up with you telling him/her what to do... I'm reading that into the story, I realize, but I'm just offering that up as a possibility.

Situation 2: Not enough info, really, to know what was going on except to say that your (future) spouse should have been the one to object or not object, not you since you didn't live there.

Situation 3: I'm saying this as a single person with a huge group of friends from childhood that regularly gets together and most of them are married with children. You didn't have any right to insist that Person A not be invited. You could have simply said that if they were attending, you wouldn't. NOT as a threat to try to get them to not invite the person, however. Just as a fact. And let your spouse go alone if they wanted to without giving them hell about it. It's once a year. How big is the group? You could have just ignored that person. Or, it's even possible that if the group SAW Person A being really mean to you, they would have stood up for you. That certainly won't happen now.

Everyone has friends who have *other* friends that they dislike. It's just life. You may have to interact with the friends-of-friends you dislike. Just be civil. You'll end up looking much better for it.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 6:20 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Fights with friends suck.

You seem to have a general ethos that it's okay to tell friends who they can hang out with. This will continue to cause you problems if you keep doing it. Even if person X treated you terribly, you need to stop asking your friends to avoid him. That's not your place.

I know, I know: it's horrible when a friend likes someone who treated you badly. Yes, in a perfect world, your friends would stay away from people who have been mean to you. But that's no how the real world works. Stop expecting it. You have a right to order friends to stay away from people, but that won't lead to what you want. Sorry, the world is unfair that way. It will lead to friends being angry at you, because they will feel you're trying to control their social lives.

Here's how you stand up for yourself:

1) You can, if you wish, tell your friends that X was mean to you, stalked you, etc. And you can certainly ask -- and expect -- your friends to not pass on information about you to X. But you can't expect your friends to quit their friendship with X. Just give them the info about what X did and then allow them to be adults and make their own choices.

Friendships are like romances. The heart wants what it wants. Have you ever told someone, "you need to stop having a crush on that guy, because he's an asshole"? Did it work? I doubt it. People will befriend who the want to befriend, and though it may suck for you if your friends like someone you hate, that's life.

This will become more and more of an issue for you as your friends start marrying and getting in long-term relationships. What if your friend Fred marries Sally, and then Sally betrays you somehow. Are you going to order Fred to divorce Sally and then get mad at him when he doesn't? Adults tolerate (and are polite to) their friend's spouses and friends, or...

2) You have a right "stand up for yourself" by opting out. You can't (and shouldn't) stop your friends from hanging out with their friends, but if their friends offend you, you have the right to stay home instead of hanging out with the group.

I know you want to hang you with your friends without hanging out with THEIR friends, but that's not an option. So either bite the bullet and hang out with everyone (ONLY do this if you can do it politely -- you don't get to be cold or pick fights) or stay home. Sorry, those are the only two grownup options.

I've used the words "grownup" and "adult" a few times. It doesn't sound to me like you have grownup friendships. I don't think this is just your fault. It sounds like, in general, your social group isn't very mature and doesn't have very mature expectations about friendships.

I have some friendship rules. The major one is "no schoolyard behavior." That means that my friends (including me) are not allowed to call each other names; we are not allowed to give each other the cold shoulder; we're not allowed to unfriend each other on Facebook and then, three weeks later, say, "Sorry. I was mad at you"; we're not allowed to be impolite to each other's spouses; we're not allowed to give unsolicited advice.

It's not like I give a list of this stuff to my friends. Rather, I don't befriend people who aren't generally polite and respectful. If a friend violated one of those rules, I'd probably cut him some slack. But if he showed a general pattern of disrespect, then he and I are not a good match.

My way is not The Right Way. I know people who seem to thrive in stormy relationships. They have big blowups with their friends, quit speaking for months, and then come back together in a blaze of passionate camaraderie. I guess they lead more exciting lives than me. If you want (or need) to live this way, that's fine. But then you have to expect the occasional tidal wave.

If you'd rather have respectful friendships but are unable to have them (because you don't seem to be able to attract mature people or because you can't control your anger), then you should seek professional help. Let me be really clear and say that there's nothing wrong with being stormy. That's a type of personality. I'm not saying you should see a shrink because you're different from me. I'm saying you should see one IF you don't like the patterns you fall into (if you don't like stormy friendships) and want to live a different way. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is really good for this sort of problem -- one that involves patterns of behavior.

You know that old parent/child argument?

Child: it's not FAIR!
Adult: life's not fair.

It's a cliche, but there's a lot of truth to it. You can demand that things be fair, and that's find if you know what the fallout will be. Or you can realize that people are going to act certain ways, fair or not, and you're not going to change them. You can vent if it makes you feel better. You can proclaim that people are being unfair to you. You can leave. What you can't do is change people. If you expect them to change for you, you will be upset over and over. Because they won't. Think of people-not-changing-for-you as a force of nature. It's not fair that it rains on your picnic. Well, the weather doesn't care about what's fair.

If you read that paragraph and think, "But I have a right to expect my friends to...", you don't get it. YES, you have a right to expect. You have a right to be pissed when people are unfair to you. You have all kinds of right. However, people are not going to change to suit you -- even if they should. It's not going to happen. It's a brick wall. That's life.

I'll close by saying that even in my polite, tea-party world, there is (of course) friction. I sometimes get really mad at friends and feel like they treat me unfairly. Here's how I deal with it: I value friendship above all else. So if there's a problem in one of my friendships, my main goal is to save the friendship. That's more important to me than being right or standing up for myself. Note that if you put standing up for yourself first, you must accept some ruined or damaged friendships. Standing up for yourself isn't wrong. It -- like everything else in life -- is a choice. And all choices have consequences. Standing up for yourself means protecting your feelings, even if that risks hurting someone else's. Sometimes you have to do that. Just note the potential risks and live with them.

Of course there are limits. If a friend tells me I'm an asshole, I'm not just going to take it. But this doesn't happen, because I never tell friends THEY are assholes. I am generally respectful. I don't pry; I don't order; and so I attract people who are similar.
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just have one thing to add on the third situation that hasn't been said explicitly. (The first one you were right, regardless of whether you dealt with it in the best possible way; the second one is the kind of messy thing that happens in school with roommates and is annoying, but whatever, it's in the past.)

As you become an adult, you will have friends with other friends you don't like. You will have friends -- even very good friends -- with spouses you don't like. You will have coworkers who make you want to scream. Your friends will have spouses who can't stand you. As a normal, mature, functioning member of society, YOU WILL HAVE PERSONALITY CONFLICTS. The key point here is: Your conflicts are NOT other people's problems, and if you make them other people's problems, you will be left on the outside.

For example, a woman in my friend-group recently said some things about other people's children that I found pretty reprehensible, to the point where I'm not really comfortable socializing with her. However, none of our OTHER friends heard her say those things, they'd only have my word on it (and really, that's just gossip), and our other friends like her and many of them know her better than I do and have more history with her, that would put her statements into some kind of different perspective, or as one small bad thing in a long history good things. Even if they did hear her say those things, they might feel differently than I did. So instead of demanding she be excluded from things, I decided about MY attendance. If I know we'll have to interact closely all night, I may find something else to do; if it's a large event or I'll only see her in passing, I go and am polite but generally try to avoid her. It's not our OTHER friends' problem. If I issued an ultimatum -- it's her or me -- you can bet they'd mostly invite her, as the drama-free member of the fight.

You can only control your behavior and your friendships. Is Person A so unkind, so reprehensible, that you think NO ONE should be friends with him, and mere friendship with Person A is enough to cut off friendship with you? There are some people like that in the world, and if Person A is one of them, that's fine. Or is Person A just mean TO YOU, which is not very nice, but someone other people can legitimately be friends with? If that's the case, you have to find a way to navigate your avoidance of Person A without cutting off your other friends, and the traditional way to do that is for YOU to politely decline invitations where you'd run into Person A.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:43 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the first scenario, you did nothing wrong. Though, from your description, it sounds like you may not have fully explained that the man was actually stalking and threatening you. Did you calmly tell her everything that happened? Or did you get very emotional, confrontational and demanding? The question is if she's a horrible person, or just a jerk who wrote you off as overreacting.

In the second scenario, it sounds like they were tired of you being over all the time withuot paying rent, and it sounds like they rather they live together and you could share other place with your fiancee. They didn't agree to live with you, and probably figured this was the most equitable arrangement. It does, however, sound like they went about it in unfair and hostile way.

In the third scenario, you're in the wrong. Not because you didn't want to go on a trip with Person A. That's perfectly understandable. However, you can't tell other people who they can and cannot invite, unless you're the host (meaning the trip is to your vacation home or something). All you can do is say that if Person A goes, you and/or your husband will not.
posted by spaltavian at 7:56 AM on April 8, 2010

The only proper answer to the third scenario is "Oh no, something's come up; we can't go this year. Hope you all have a good time without us." Then go and do something else for vacation.
posted by kindall at 8:15 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You probably have one or two great friends in your life, including your spouse. The rest of these people are just aquaintences. You will have many aquaintences throughout your life, they will come and go. Put effort into your real friends. Shakespeare said it best:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!"
posted by Goodgrief at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2010

I think you should try learn to make friends AND acquaintances. Acquaintances can be almost anyone, but can also be people that you just don't feel close to, and/or don't trust. You don't share personal stories with them, and are always extremely polite and patient with them.

If you can learn to "acquaintance" people who will be terrible friends, then life becomes a lot easier, and you will run into far fewer conflicts.
posted by meepmeow at 9:31 AM on April 8, 2010

It seems to me that you got caught up into some tricky dynamics and didn't take an optimal approach the navigating through them.

No one likes to be given ultimatums. They're the hydrogen bomb of negotiation. You basically asked a bunch of friends to take sides and take a up or down vote. Group dynamics are far more subtle than that unless you're in prison or bi-partisan politics.

I would have spoken directly to friend A about maturely moving past our differences and / or politely declined the invitation.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2010

This happens to me too, but I think I have come to realize that *I* don't bounce back very quickly when I stand up for myself. It's something I've only recently started doing and I always expect a poor response, so I withdraw a bit and lose trust in the other person. Then the relationship naturally cools.

Could this be happening in your case?
posted by mintchip at 12:23 PM on April 8, 2010

In the stalker situation. You don't get to tell your friends who to spend time with. You can say
- Did you know S behaved [describe behavior] this way?
- It makes me really worried when you spend time with S. I care about your safety.
- I feel betrayed because you gave my personal info to S. I don't feel comfortable being is a situation where info about me will get back to S.
- I'm not going to be able to spend time with you because I have safety issues regarding S. I'll miss you.

Apartment scenario. Your sweetie declined to do a swap that didn't meet sweetie's needs. Not your issue, no need for drama.

Vacation scenario is kind of tl;dr, confusing.
My spouse and I have never requested that the rest of the group stop being friends with Friend A and we had just avoided seeing Friend A up until this point.
You don't get to control who other people befriend.

This year, when I realized he would be able to be invited, I stood up for myself and requested that Friend A absolutely not be invited for the reasons I listed before. I wanted to have a good time and if Friend A was there, I would not have been able to. (I believe Friend A has no interest in making peace with me.) The entire group of friends said I was being unreasonable.
You assert that A has behaved badly. Others prefer to see for themselves.

[Lots of drama]They have made it totally clear we are no longer welcome and they are planning their own trip including Friend A. Friend A has not even spoken to either of us directly - everything has been relayed through Friend B, which is why we doubt that if there was an apology that it would be genuinely from Friend A. My spouse is infuriated with these friends (the group were friends since grade school) and we've both agreed that we're standing our ground.
A behaved in a way you did not like and found hurtful.
Friends find that you behave in a way they do not wish to accept, and have expressed this by preferring not to spend time with you.

Your question is all about who's right and who's wrong. We only know your perspective. Here's a different approach: Think about what you want to have happen to you, and how you want people to behave to you and how you want to behave to people. If someone is unkind to you, you can politely tell them that their words are hurtful. You can turn away or leave. If you host a party, you get to decide who's invited. If there's a group event, and person A will be there, you decide whether or not you want to participate.

If A did something truly heinous, killed your dog, murdered your Mom, stole Grammy Tilda's pearls that were left you you in her will, likes Blenn Geck(heh, I keed), etc.; something public and monstrous, then you may publicly reject that person, and expect your friends to do the same. Friend A made light of my personal appearance, religious beliefs, and gender. If A made stupid, sexist, anti-semitic/ mormon/ sufi jokes, made fun of your Mom jeans, and was generally an ass, you may want to remind A that it's time to grow up. You might avoid spending time with A at group events.

There's an awful lot of drama in your post. I've been learning to stand up for myself. It helps to assume good will on the part of others. You'll be wrong some of the time, but it's kind of disarming. Ask more questions and try to discover what people really mean. A, you know I'm male and Hindu, right? Any special reason you needed to tell me a male-bashing joke about Hindus?

I think you'll be happier and more effective if you give up on controlling others, and work on listening and looking for the best in others, not the worst. good luck.
posted by theora55 at 2:02 PM on April 8, 2010

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