I have a friend who has a boyfriend who despises me. What should I do?
March 7, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I have an online friend who has a boyfriend who despises me. What should I do?

I met a lovely girl online last year who I've become great friends with. This isn't a typical online friendship. We're close enough that we'd enjoy meeting in person in the near future. I realize that online friendships usually don't go very far, but I'm quite confident that we like each other enough to meet as we certain relate to each other very well and have stimulating (and sometimes totally nonsensical and trivial but fun) conversations.

Everything was fine between us until she met a guy online who she fell in love with. They just met each other in person. This guy happens to despise me and for no good reason. He dislikes me solely because he doesn't like the fact that she's fond of me and seems to be jealous thinking that I'll "steal" her from him when I certainly wouldn't do such a thing. I've never done any harm towards this guy and have clearly stated that I'm simply friends with her, but he never stops making very harsh threats towards me (I won't go into details here on MetaFilter . . . let's just say that they're undeserved). He also never stops saying spiteful things to her about me on a daily basis which bothers her, but she always forgives him.

What never ceases to piss me off about this whole situation is the fact that I'm the reason why they speak to each other. I've known this guy for much longer (though I haven't talked to him much) than I've known her and invited him to a site that she's a member of. If I never would have invited him to this site, he would have never met her. I keep telling myself "If only I would have never invited him to that site . . ." only to quickly remind myself that I can't predict possible future outcomes.

Both her and I are upset with the way he's acting, but she continues to love him and always excuses his irrational behavior telling me that his threats aren't serious and tries to convince me that he's a great person. I don't doubt that he's nice to her, but she definitely shouldn't excuse the way he's treating me and I definitely don't buy how she says that he "isn't being serious". She sometimes tells me that she's very disappointed with him over his threats, only to excuse his behavior the next day. I constantly tell her that the way he's acting is wrong and that I don't deserve to receive these threats from him.

So I've had enough of the stress this has been causing me and have been contemplating cutting off contact with her. I used to tell myself that I shouldn't let him spoil our friendship, but I don't know how to avoid this BS. Perhaps I should avoid contacting her until until she splits (if she splits) with this guy? I dunno . . . I'm starting to feel like I should just move on with my life and try to forget about her, but I'd hate to lose contact with her. I still think she's a great person, but I feel like I can no longer deal with this harassment from her boyfriend and her constantly trying to ensure me that he's "great" despite acting highly irrational towards me and backing him up when he means ill towards me.

Anyway, I hope to get responses soon. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it possible you could get the mods to update your question to clarify what your gender is? Because I suspect that people's answers will depend greatly on whether you're a guy or a girl.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on March 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's nothing you can get out of this friendship now but hurt. Cut off contact, get on with your life, and let her contact you again in the future when she's done with this guy. There's nothing in this for you right now, and there's nothing you can do for her either.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:42 AM on March 7, 2011 [12 favorites]

I don't quit understand. How do you know he's making threats? If it's to you directly, call the police. If she's telling you what he says.... to what end would she do that?
posted by taff at 6:44 AM on March 7, 2011

I used to tell myself that I shouldn't let him spoil our friendship

But you aren't doing that. She is doing that. He's misbehaving. You'd rather blame him entirely, because you like her, but the reason he's continuing with this behavior is that she's allowing him to.
posted by jon1270 at 6:45 AM on March 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Answer this question truthfully to yourself - not here.

If given the opportunity, and without her being in a relationship, would you have ever tried to kiss this girl? If the answer is yes - he's based in reality and I'd reccomend taking a few steps back from your mutual friend.

Repeat the same question for her. If she was given the opportunity, regardless of being in a relationship, would she ever find herself in a situation where she would encourage you to kiss her? If the answer is yes - he's based in reality and his problem isn't with you, its with her. Regardless, man up and take a step back from your mutual friend.

Now, if neither of those are the case - and I mean - not even remotely the case - take a step back anyway, he's not secure enough in their relationship yet to share. Let him know that you think that she's a good friend, and because you think that about her - you'd like to make sure that the two of you can be good friends... and when he's ready for that - have a man-date (I assume you are both guys), and work on your friendship before you go back to being buddies with your mutual friend.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:47 AM on March 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

My initial response in my head was to not back down as why should you ever back down from an unreasonable bully, but the truth of the matter is, you do not have the ability to control him or her reaction to his actions. She is giving you a clear signal to like it or lump it. I say to slow down your interaction with this gal until you know she has broken off with this cad or you are prepared to deal with his crapola.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to assume that there's at least some distance involved between your friend and her boyfriend, given that they only recently met in person.

Long-distance relationships make people very insecure, and that insecurity can make them nasty and irrational in a way that they wouldn't normally be. It sounds like that's what's going on here, and if my hunch that you're a guy is true, that's probably only exacerbating the situation.

Take a quiet hiatus from these people before any of you say something that can't be taken back. Either your friends relationship will settle into something less stressfuly tenuous, in which case the boyfriend will probably calm down, or they'll break up and all of this will be a moot point.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:56 AM on March 7, 2011

Either cut her off or make him completely off limits in conversation.

Glad she's in love, but jealous or not, threats = bullying jackass. No need to subject yourself.

There's a chance that she might feed off of this drama...at the very least limit your conversations so he never comes up. You shouldn't be wasting your time listening to her defend him.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:58 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dude, if she really cared about you as a friend, she'd be telling her boyfriend to tone that shit down.

As it is, right now she's sending you the message that you're cool, just not cool enough for her to tell him to chill out. Right now, by blaming him for the behavior, instead of admitting that she needs to confront him, she gets to maintain emotional favors from both of you. Good times! Worst case scenario, she's knowing or unknowingly being passive because she likes the idea of two people "fighting" over her.

Now, I imagine if you confront her about this, it will result in a giant dramabomb, which is how these internet things go and possibly what she's subconsciously looking for anyway.

If you want to be mature, instead of Dramafeeder 9000, then you'll tell her "Look, I'm uncomfortable with your boyfriend's behavior and hurt that you keep defending him in light of our friendship. I'll be stepping back a bit until things calm down." Put the ball in her court where it belongs.

That said, what the other posters say about "If you would kiss her if you could, then he's got kind of a right to be jealous" is true.
posted by schroedinger at 7:02 AM on March 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

If this is a problem now, it will probably be worse once you meet her in person. Tell her that you think it's wise of you to back off for a while and let her sort out her developing relationship with what's-his-face.

She'll probably be like "noooooo..!" but honestly, as fun as it may be to have lots of attention from lots of guys, it's up to her to manage the situation maturely and keep everybody from tripping over each other. If she's such a good friend, she'll circle back around when the waters are a little calmer. In the meantime, step away from the drama.
posted by hermitosis at 7:04 AM on March 7, 2011

You shouldn't be wasting your time listening to her defend him.

Exactly, all this means is that she's either not listening to you or not being honest with herself. Or both!
posted by hermitosis at 7:05 AM on March 7, 2011

If she's telling you all this threat-y stuff, ask her not to. She may feel conflicted about it, guilty, in the middle, etc, and be trying to resolve it by being totally transparent with both of you--which is a mistake! We will never like all our friends' partners, and our partners will never like all our friends; the thing to do is to keep quiet about it (absent violence, etc). Tell your friend that you want her to be happy with Mr. Threaty but you don't want to feel caught in the middle, so you don't really want to talk about what he says about you.

It doesn't really matter if either of you had little crushy feelings. We all have little crushy feelings all the time. They're often reciprocated; crushes are fun. We don't in general date all the people we have crushes on, and it's silly to pretend that if you have/had a crush on someone you can't be friends. (Most friendships IME have some element of the romantic or erotic, regardless of the genders involved--even in friendships where you would never in a million, billion years want sleep with the person, you can have for example kind of chivalrous, protective "romantic" feelings.)

The thing to avoid with crushes is bitterness, the "why isn't she with me" feeling. And too much intensity--if you have a little crush and it's fun, and you meet and you think "oh, she's so cute!" great; if you're in the infatuated state where you'd drive ten hours overnight to take this girl to her doctor's, or buy her a new computer just 'cause, then you need to manage your feelings a little better, step back, find something else to feel strongly about, etc.

If the boyfriend is making threats on the internet, you need to get the mods involved or find new boards, preferably the former. That's really jerky and immature of him.
posted by Frowner at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Mr. Threaty will probably simmer down. He probably feels like he's 'expected' on some level to make threats (I mean, if they're the dumb, internet-guy kind of threat - the "if he tries to kiss you I'll [moderate violence]" kind.) Like it's a way to prove that he's a serious manly man--I dated a guy like that once who was basically a sweet person and who would never ever have clocked anyone, never asked me to avoid my exes, etc, but who had learned this "I must show that I hate all her male friends and ex-boyfriends!" routine from his family. He chilled out about it. We stayed friends after we broke up, too.
posted by Frowner at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2011

I really think you should be setting boundaries for maladjusted-boyfriend-guy. "Stop threatening me", etc. This ought to come from you. Or rather, it *could*. Direct communication and clear boundaries.
posted by krilli at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2011

OK so like, some dude on the internet is threatening to kill you or whatever, but he's like what.... several hundred miles away, or something? You get that he can't actually reach out and touch you, right? And that he only has access to you online because you grant it, yes?

Block him on IM, send his emails to trash, moderate all comments on your blog, de-friend him on Facebook, block him on Twitter, and mute him on your forum. Don't tell him or her you're doing this; just quietly solve your own problem without theatrics.

Seriously, if you back down all you're doing is sacrificing a friendship you value and rewarding him for being a bully. So don't do that. But at the same time, please seriously back off and consider why you are entertaining this drama in the first place. It's probably because it even further enmeshes you in this girl's life, which you probably value because you're crushing on her. She in turn probably secretly likes the drama because, you know, that whole Insane Love Triangle thing is compelling between the ages of 13 and 27.

If you want to take control of that situation, you need to also draw firm lines with the girl in question and stop talking about the boyfriend with her. Break the triangle and live a happier life.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:22 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

He also never stops saying spiteful things to her about me on a daily basis which bothers her, but she always forgives him.

So...they're having private conversations in which he tells her spiteful things about you, which she then proceeds to recount to you, telling you that it bothers her but that she's going to forgive him? I think there is more than one person in this situation that you need to start moving carefully away from. The guy is obviously way out of bounds by making threats, but she's deliberately stirring you up as well, if I interpreted that correctly.
posted by frobozz at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2011 [11 favorites]

Are you sure this isn't just one person with two online IDs trolling you?
posted by Melismata at 7:42 AM on March 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

I have two questions:

1. What do you mean, he threatens you? What is he threatening to do?
2. How are you finding out that he says spiteful things to her every day?
posted by tel3path at 7:52 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, if I were you, I would just cut them both out.

I think it's kind of strange that she is taking private conversations between herself and her boyfriend and tell you everything that was said. I'm guessing maybe she is someone who doesn't mind drama (in which case, that's why I would cut her out as well).

I see that you probably don't want to cut her out entirely because you are great friends Maybe you want more. Do you?
If the boyfriend can see that through various words/emails that she has probably shown him or he has probably read, that's probably why he is jealous/scared/angry/insecure.

In any case, I would tell her you prefer not to hear stories about this guy regarding yourself. It's causing you stress and ruining your friendship. Block him from everything.

She may feel it necessary to make a choice between you and him - given the insecurities her boyfriend has which may or may not go away. My current boyfriend was very insecure for the first 6 months we were together and I decided keeping in contact with exes and random guys from the internet wasn't worth watching him have panic attacks and listening to him stress out about it.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2011

You're all about 16, yes? I was the girl here when I was 16 and I didn't understand that I could tell my internet boyfriend to stop being an insecure dick about my other internet friends. I'm sure I tried to convince some of them he was great while he was a dick about them to me and others, too. Some combination of loyalty to him and actually thinking he was great, to me at least.

If she's like I was, she won't want to, or want to but won't be able to, do anything about him until she grows up a little. All you can do is back off out of the drama, and I guess let her know she has your email and you're there if she needs you.

I lost a bunch of internet friends when I was 16 thanks to that boyfriend, some of whom I really liked and would have liked to meet up and hang out with, and I regret the manner of it sometimes, but so it goes. It sucks, I'm sorry.
posted by corvine at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2011

May I also suggest maybe giving all of this internet friend/love drama a break and hanging out with your friends and maybe working on a hobby to get away from everything for a while. ?
posted by KogeLiz at 8:09 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is it too trite to cite this xkcd strip?

Remember everything looks bigger and scarier on the internet. Take a step back from it all, refresh your perspective by spending time IRL and away from all the drama, and then enjoy the view from the moral high ground when/if you decide to approach things again in future.
posted by greenish at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is he trying to separate her from *all* her friends, thus isolating her and making her a better target for abuse in general?
posted by brainwane at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2011

"I'm starting to feel like I should just move on with my life and try to forget about her, but I'd hate to lose contact with her. I still think she's a great person, but I feel like I can no longer deal with this harassment from her boyfriend and her constantly trying to ensure me that he's "great" despite acting highly irrational towards me and backing him up when he means ill towards me."

There's your solution right there. Stop with the drama, move on.
posted by Xoebe at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2011

I realize that online friendships usually don't go very far, but I'm quite confident that we like each other enough to meet as we certain relate to each other very well and have stimulating (and sometimes totally nonsensical and trivial but fun) conversations.

This guy happens to despise me and for no good reason.

Here's my opinion: Quote 1 and quote 2 are at complete odds with one another. You're communicating with her to such a degree that the boyfriend knows about it, and when you communicate with her, you have stimulating conversations. And you are fairly certain you're going to upgrade the friendship at some point from "online friend" to "friends in real life".

Dude doesn't have "no good reason" to despise you, he has like a bajillion good reasons. I mean, even from just reading YOUR side of the story, my take is that you like her, she likes you, and that you are a total threat to the boyfriend.

What should you do? Well, first things first, quit lying to yourself and trying to make yourself believe that the boyfriend has nothing to worry about and that he's the Obvious Bad Guy and that you are the Obvious Good Guy in this situation. Second, tell the girl to stop telling you about the threats. And if that doesn't work, then just cut off the friendship.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't specify what the threats are, but I'm assuming some kind of violence. Aside from illegality of such threats, this sounds a lot like the beginning stages of an abusive relationship in which the victim apologizes for the abuser in the process of trying to isolate her. Is he this way with her other friends, female or male?

I'd not necessarily back away from the friendship, but when she conveys threats or dislike, I'd display disinterest (e.g., tell her you're not interested in his drama) and change the topic away from the boyfriend.
posted by Hylas at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible you could get the mods to update your question to clarify what your gender is? Because I suspect that people's answers will depend greatly on whether you're a guy or a girl.

Posting questions anonymously pretty much guarantees that you're going to leave out essential information.
posted by neuron at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2011

Hylas makes a very important point.

I don't agree that the fact that you're friends online and could become friends IRL is a threat to the boyfriend. Unless he regards all her male friends as a threat, which is a pretty bad sign in itself.

You're under no obligation to put yourself in the path of such abuse or toxicity, but I think the strategy of staying friends while blanking all drama/discussion of the boyfriend would be a very supportive thing to do.

That's assuming that he's in no position to carry out any of the threats, of course.
posted by tel3path at 11:46 AM on March 7, 2011

She's not your friend.

This guy "never stops making very harsh threats" to you and "never stops saying spiteful things" about you. You say she's upset and disappointed, but she's not so upset that she'll insist that he stops, and she's not so disappointed that she'll dump him for being a massive toolbox to you.

This guy is not a great person. He's an asshole with some serious issues re: jealousy and relationships, and his girlfriend refuses even to acknowledge that. He attacks and threatens you to the point where it's fucking up your quality of life, and despite being in a unique position to influence his behaviour, his girlfriend is doing absolutely nothing about this.

Friends defend each other. Friends step up. She is not your friend. This douchebag didn't spoil your friendship; his girlfriend did. He may have created opposing sides in this, but his girlfriend picked one, and it wasn't yours. It's time to move on. I'm sorry.

And as to Anon's gender and the role romantic rivalry may or may not play in this scenario—it's irrelevant. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of sustained campaign of harassment. My partner had a lot of charming, good-looking, talented friends when we met, some of whom she'd dated, some of whom wouldn't have minded dating her. And somehow I managed to keep from turning into a fucking psycho about it, and now I have a lot of charming, good-looking, talented friends. This guy? This guy just sucks.
posted by Zozo at 12:20 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

There seems to be a lot of information missing here. A note to one of the mods answering some of these questions would be incredibly helpful. Some things you may want to elaborate on are: Can you be more specific about these threats? Is he saying them to you or to her, and then you're hearing about it? Do you actually talk to him at all, ever? Are you responding to these threats in any way? Has he actually said he's concerned you're going to steal her?

Anyway. I was all prepared to say that maybe you need to set some boundaries with her but screw that, here is what I actually think:

Cut her off. Tell her: look, you've got a boyfriend who hates me and isn't going to be dissuaded and he's making threats and I do not need that. If you choose not to stand up for me to him, that's fine, but your constant defense of him is incredibly tiring and suggests you're not enough of an adult to just have friendships with people who don't get along with each other. I don't hate you and I'd love to hear from you someday if you ever figure this shit out but this is not behavior I can handle in someone who's any more than a friendly acquaintance, so for the foreseeable future that is what we are. Best of luck.

And there you go. But all of these are reasons and explanations and they don't address the real problem which is that this is a huge drama powderkeg and she's enjoying the drama caused by it. It doesn't matter who's involved when it blows up as long as it blows up - that is all she cares about, and probably him as well because he sounds like a goddamn baby. Get the hell out of there now and leave them to it. They're playing games, and if you're involved at all, you've already lost.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:50 PM on March 7, 2011

I've fought variations of this stupid fight dozens of times... and I've always lost. The insecure/controlling playbook is widely used because it works -- eliminate a person's support system by chasing off a "threat" or two, send a subtle "shut up or you're next" message to all their other friends, and you have enough control to get away with all sorts of outrageous/abusive behavior.

Doing "right" by the friend never helps, and the only reason I still bother is a personal need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say I tried to help. If you can stomach it, I'd recommend just skipping past all that drama and telling your friend that you'll be there if they really need you, but other than that you are out.

FYI, many of "those" friends have indeed reconnected post break-up... though almost all of those friends just end up repeating the cycle. I've some friends whom I've endured this cycle with 3-4 times. Good luck whatever you decide to do!
posted by Pufferish at 2:54 PM on March 7, 2011

It really sounds to me like he has some cause to be jealous or feel threatened - you're not "just internet friends" with his girlfriend.

Still, threats of violence are NOT COOL. She shouldn't be putting up with that, but that's her problem (although it may say something about how she feels about you).

You also and independently shouldn't be putting up with that. Tell her you enjoy her friendship but don't want to put up with this bullshit and you'll talk to her again if it stops (or something).
posted by J. Wilson at 4:03 PM on March 7, 2011

nthing she is not your friend. I suspect she's enjoying this a lot more than she's letting on...perhaps more than she is willing to acknowledge even to herself.

Eject yourself from this nonsense and go be awesome somewhere else.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2011

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