Discretion Vs. Lying?
April 12, 2012 3:16 AM   Subscribe

A newish friend recently showed profound misjudgment in their personal life. I truly love this friend. I am sad. Please help me think this through.

I'm trying to keep identifiers out of this, but still retain the heart of the issue (not that I'm sure what that is, yet!) Sock puppet so I can answer questions in thread.

I've known this friend for about a year. They've had some sudden and traumatic issues come up with their family, and relatedly, finances.

Friend mentioned a "friend of the family" who is involved in the mess.

When this person eventually turned on my friend, it was revealed to me that this "friend of the family" had a criminal conviction (think: predator) from 18 years ago, and had also said and done some inappropriate things recently towards my friend. The problem is that 4 weeks ago, when my friend finally told me about all of her problems, she vociferously defended this "friend of the family" and his involvement in the situation to me when I asked questions. She pretty much berated me for even questioning his involvement in the issue, or his loyalty towards her.

She looked me in the eye and willfully defended the character of an individual she knew to be completely and totally unsavory. I think she did this just because he pretended to be on her side for a while and she was feeling supremely desperate. Still, at the time, she defended him despite recent and direct experience on her part that would make most people exceedingly wary. (Again, I only heard about his recent actions towards her much later.) She showed colossally Bad Judgement, and I can't quite explain it away.

I don't know what to think. I'm stuck in a feedback loop. Help.

I know things have changed between us. I'm OK with this. It's sad, but I accept it. Even if the verdict is that the friendship has ended, really, that's OK. I'm a little in shock for the past week and I'm surprised I still can't organize my next move.

The problem is that (a) she's awesome otherwise, but the level of secret keeping around her family and their dealings is highly disturbing and unfortunately throws the rest of her decision making into question for me, and (b) I don't know how to deal with irrational denial that concerns the well-being of myself or others.

I don't know if I should voice my concerns here or STFU and let the whole thing (including the friendship) go.

I know my friend is struggling, she is having her eyes opened in a traumatic fashion, and is (supposedly?) working towards fundamentally changing her life.

I'm stuck between wanting to support her self-work (Yay!), and judging her significant choices (the secret keeping, triangulating with an unsavory individual to help solve her family/family financial issues) which tell me to pull the fuck a way from this mess.

Sorry if I rambled.

Please tell me what to think here, and what to do. She is someone I run into regularly, I care deeply for her, yet I'm not sure how to be supportive of someone so unconsciously dedicated to dysfunctionality. She's not the main perpetrator, and she may or may not be digging herself out and improving herself.

I need a read on what is going on here and how to be most helpful.

posted by SockyMcSockyPants to Human Relations (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'm not sure what your question is, but you haven't been brought up to trust him. She has.

He recently turned on her. Presumably she has had a lifetime of being brought up to trust him and see him as a good person, *with* his criminal conviction. It's difficult to just flip a switch and toss out all the values you were brought up with, which is that this guy is a Friend deserving of Loyalty.

When you're being preyed upon, the world will let you know that you have a Moral Duty to Stand Up For Yourself, but simultaneously, any move you make to protect yourself will be met with high levels of anxiety that you might not be treating your attacker with enough kindness or giving them enough benefit of the doubt.

The only way (that I've found) of figuring out what to do is to ignore what everyone else thinks I should do and follow my own judgement. There are costs to this - not least the cost of being looked upon as evil or harsh. If her whole family is going to turn on her unless she complies, I imagine she's at real risk of further loss.

Anyway, that's what sense I can make out of it from what you've written. I speculate that a lot of judgement and pressure must be weighing on her right now, and I can't tell whether it will or will not help to let her know you condemn her actions? Complicity? Whatever it is.
posted by tel3path at 3:38 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or to put it another way. You know she's a bad person, why are you conflicted enough to even ask this question? Why are you supporting her wrongdoing by your own omission? Why haven't you cut her off?
posted by tel3path at 3:42 AM on April 12, 2012

I find it nearly impossible not to cry reading this comment by Nattie, but it's one of the most insightful things I've ever read.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 AM on April 12, 2012 [21 favorites]

Wait, is the misjudgment trusting this guy (the family friend)? Or is she also one of the parties who is guilty of wrongdoing (other than that)? It's hard to give a read on what's going on when you're stripping information from the question and are yourself unsure what's going on.

Given that you're conflicted, can't you back off and give it some time to let things play out? Why do you have to decide immediately whether you should support her or stop being friends?
posted by J. Wilson at 4:04 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

J. Wilson -

She knew Creep was a total creeper when she defended him to me. The link A Terrible Llama provided really explains it.

She's so misguided.

When I was at her stage, lots of people who fit my current description rejected me - that's how I eventually wised up.

I hate to think of her as a "Bad Person."

I kinda hate to add to her drama, but geez. I want NO part of this.

My move here is to be distant-but-pleasant, isn't it? Or just cut the whole thing off??

I'm sad my friend is not who she stated she was.
posted by SockyMcSockyPants at 4:32 AM on April 12, 2012

I see no reason why you can't be friends with someone who has made mistakes about who to trust. We all do that. We're all irrational. Thinking you'd know better is a psychological defense against the chaos and cruelty of the universe. It's a form of the just world fallacy.

Sorry if that's not what you're talking about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:34 AM on April 12, 2012 [32 favorites]

I too am having some trouble making sense of what you've written. I won't parse it out, but it sounds like this is where the friendship rubber meets the road, and you are maybe not each other's style of friend. "She looked me in the eye and willfully defended the character ..." I dunno, hard to tell from your post, but OK. You've heard of denial? Compartmentalization? Adapting to survive? Who knows!

She's at a critical moment, and you are watching/judging her. That's probably not what she needs right now. Especially from a "newish" friend. I think you are need to offer tangible support ("I'll stop by and feed the cat") but drop out of analyst's mode. Or step away all together.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:45 AM on April 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I'm with young rope-rider. I think you are overreacting. All she did was make a mistake about who to trust, and as tel3path points out, there are reasons for that. This doesn't make her a "Bad Person" -- all she did was defend someone who apparently is a jerk when it's easy to tell as an outsider (which she is not) that he is a jerk. It seems pretty clear that she's not a creep. This doesn't translate into her not being who she said she was or a bad person, it just means she is a normal person who has some kind of blind spot, as we all do.

On the other hand, you do sound awfully judgmental and sick of her. That type of relationship isn't good for you, and it's not good for her. So maybe you should just stop hanging out with her.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:47 AM on April 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

Your friend is in a tough spot and instead of being there for her and helping her come to terms, in her own time, with Creeper's real character, you are holding her at arm's length and being Judgmental Judgy-Pants. You're not being a friend, so there's no friendship here to save or to ditch.
posted by parrot_person at 4:59 AM on April 12, 2012 [14 favorites]

Yeah I don't understand if she wants you to be supportive or if she's asking you to trust this guy or otherwise have anything to do with this? This just seems like a "Hey my husband who cheated on me before has now cheated on me again and I'm superduper upset about it" and you're asking how to deal with the fact that she's allowed herself to get snookered by the same guy who lied to her before? More details might be helpful. Otherwise it just looks like yes, if you're at a place where you feel that you can't be supportive of what's going on in her life right now, for whatever reason, you probably should pull back and let her know that this is too much drama for you and that she maybe needs to get her shit in order including getting her head straight about this person.

We all get messed up with the wrong peopel from time to time and many of us are fortunate enough to get that sort of thing mostly over with when we're younger and it's more forgivable. I really don't understand your question very well though I understand it's something very important to you, so I hope this general advice is helpful or please use the umbrella of anonymity here and explain to us what really happened.
posted by jessamyn at 5:03 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is really one of those questions where fuzzying up the details makes it harder to answer.

If one of your friends revealed she was being physically abused by her partner - but she still loved him and refused to leave - would you end the friendship because of your friend's "colossally bad judgment"? That's kind of what this is sounding like.

People who can avoid any and all emotional entanglement with harmful or unethical people, or who have the opportunity to cut them off when they show up, are in a very, very fortunate position. We don't always get to choose who's involved in our lives, and often by the time we realize someone's bad for us, we're already emotionally involved. This goes double if it's family or a family friend, especially someone we've seen since childhood.

Maybe what this guy did is so indefensible that you just can't be near anyone who doesn't react to him with revulsion, and if that's the case you should end the friendship or just hang back for a while. But she doesn't need judgment, she needs support while she's digging out. It's possible to love and care for a friend and still disapprove of their decisions. Supporting your friend doesn't mean you're secondhandedly supporting this other guy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:07 AM on April 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm sad my friend is not who she stated she was.

She's a human being going through a really tough time and when you go through a tough time, you will often cling to anything, even things part of you knows aren't true. It's a kind of cognitive dissonance that she knows on one level that this person has done a really bad thing, but also, for her own protection, has to believe so deeply that this person is a saint.

Which all seems to indicate some severe trauma. Something really really messed up happened and you're focusing on the WRONG THING. You're fixated for some reason on the lie and thinking that she's involved in a Nixonian coverup when, more likely, she's just really messed up and confused.

Now being her friend doesn't mean participating in the charade she's constructed. You know what you know. Being supportive doesn't mean you have to agree with her view of the situation. It does mean you love her and you are there for her when she needs you.

Love, don't judge. She's your friend, for crying out loud.
posted by inturnaround at 5:29 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Why are you evaluating her in this way at all? Does it affect you? Do you have to deal with this person who did something 18 years ago? You're mad at her for not being mad at someone else?

I don't know what you want here; but it seems like the problem is that you're judging someone who is not interested in being judged.
posted by spaltavian at 5:29 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You say you want no part of any of this, but how involved do you have to be in her family drama, in the interest of just being there for your friend? Maybe it's the constraints of your framing, but I don't hear any empathy at all for your friend's awful situation. Her poor judgement (if that's what going on here, and not out right victimisation) is not the sum of her worth as a friend, right?

The way you describe things :"it was revealed to me that this "friend of the family" had a criminal conviction (think: predator) from 18 years ago, and had also said and done some inappropriate things recently towards my friend", suggests that other people (her family?) told you about this, and not the friend? And then you brought it up to her in a way that made her defensive? Yes, she lied to your face, but if she was the victim of a trusted family friend's predation--no matter how mild, it was probably traumatic--, especially after she turned to him when feeling "supremely desperate" she was likely terrified and ashamed and trying to deny the whole thing to herself as well as anyone who confronted her about it.

Nattie's comment from the link above is great, and should help you realize that you might be approaching this whole thing from a place of privilege, maybe having grown up in a more stable and secure environment than your friend. You say she's a great person, well then make her feel that way, instead of ashamed. Don't talk about the family stuff with her if you can't handle it, but don't dismiss what she's going through. Just listen, and just be her friend. I can tell you that your support and affirmation of what's good about her is worth much much more than your approval.
posted by sundaydriver at 5:44 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was at her stage, lots of people who fit my current description rejected me - that's how I eventually wised up.

So there's some similarity between what she's going through and something you went through? Is her circumstances a sort of trigger for you, causing you refreshed discomfort over your own history or a fear of going through it all again? Or are you really thinking that rejecting her might help her somehow?
posted by jon1270 at 5:44 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I fail to understand why her family business is any of your concern at all. I'm friends with a lot of people whose family shit is completely off my radar, and I'd suggest you just don't discuss family matters with her anymore.

If you can't do that, then the kindest thing you could do for her is distance yourself, because it sounds like you're using information she told you in confidence against her in your own mind, and that's not fair.
posted by xingcat at 5:44 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is kind of confusing, but from what I understand your friend is having issues with her family and finances, and until recently this friend of the family was on her side. Then he turned on her. You're upset that she trusted him in the first place. Is that right?

She showed colossally Bad Judgement, and I can't quite explain it away. - She's human. That explains it. Also, it's been nearly two decades since this guy's conviction, and it sounds like a lot of important people in her life taught her to trust him.

the level of secret keeping around her family and their dealings is highly disturbing and unfortunately throws the rest of her decision making into question for me - If she's a "newish" friend in a traumatic situation, would you honestly expect her to let you in on everything she's going through? There's a difference between being dishonest and simply not letting everyone in on your business. It sounds like your friend was just keeping some things private.

I don't know how to deal with irrational denial that concerns the well-being of myself or others. - What is she doing or asking you to do that would affect your well-being?

When I was at her stage, lots of people who fit my current description rejected me - that's how I eventually wised up. - Sounds like you've been in a similar situation, and you think you know what she should do. But the thing is, no matter how similar your situations are, you haven't lived her life. You can't expect her to be able to do what you've done. You do not know what's best for her.

I'm sad my friend is not who she stated she was. - Seriously? She discloses this mess with her family and your reaction is, "You're handling this badly, your judgment is horrible, and why didn't you tell me sooner?"

I hate to think of her as a "Bad Person."
- Then don't. She's not. She's just different than you.

If she's asking you to really participate somehow, then you should distance yourself. But if all she's doing is asking you to listen, then maybe you could do that. It's not that hard.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:47 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

"it was revealed to me that this "friend of the family" had a criminal conviction (think: predator) from 18 years ago, and had also said and done some inappropriate things recently towards my friend",

Without more about this, it's pretty much impossible to tell.

Does this mean "eighteen years ago when he was twenty he dated a 16-year-old, and now he's hitting on my friend even though he's older and it seems a bit skeevy to me" or does it mean "eighteen years ago he was convicted of sexual assault, has shown no signs of changing and now has made threatening remarks to my friend"?

I do not think that a conviction - even for something very unsavory - eighteen years ago means that someone is a terrible person forever, if they do not repeat the offense and do not continue being a terrible person. Moreover, someone could have committed a crime eighteen years ago, have changed a lot and still say some asshole things anyway.

Here's a thing: was the initial conviction for something that you have unusually strong feelings about? Or were you a victim of a similar crime? It would be pretty upsetting to anyone if a friend was defending someone who had done the same terrible thing that had been done to you. And that might be the end of the friendship, but the end of the friendship would be because of your experience and what you need to do to keep yourself feeling okay.
posted by Frowner at 6:01 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I can't say what would be most helpful to your friend but I have to ask you:

Do you tend to make attachments with people where you mostly listen to their troubles, offer advice, listen some more, give more advice? They generally don't take your advice but seem to thrive on the attention? Then, when the crisis has passed, they lose touch with you?

It sounds like you should listen to your gut and re-evauluate your own expectations here. Avoid getting dragged into anything.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:07 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's what I do when a friend of mine shows bad judgement. I say, "Wow, buddy. That was some spectacularly bad judgement back there, huh? Wanna come over and watch movies, or go out for drinks?" I had a roommate once who was consistently getting into relationships with people who were unable to be fully emotionally present -- constant travel, married, alcoholic, etc. We supported her as best we could, told her these guys were not the kind of guys she should be with, and tried to set her up with healthier relationships. You know, friend stuff.

I suppose if you think this person is making the kind of mistakes that are going to endanger her life or her health, then you could sit her down and have a talk about your worries and your fears about her current decisions, but if she doesn't want to change there is nothing you can do about that. In that case, you can either compartmentalize your friendship with this person a little ("Sorry, pal, but you know I can't stand hearing about your family drama, can we talk about something else?") or you can cut them out of your life. But that seems pretty obvious to me, so maybe there is something that I am missing due to your vagueness in the question?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:09 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

So you've known someone a year, and you've discovered that they're not who you thought they were, and you're feeling conflicted and sad, and maybe a little defensive.

You're her, without the long history of a relationship that she has with creepy guy. Keep in mind that family stuff makes people all kinds of...well, you know how *you* can make fun of your family's quirks or excuse (to yourself) their less-than-ideal behavior, but if someone outside that family says "Man, your brother's an asshole," you get all "Shut up about my brother! You don't know anything!"

That's what's going on. I think. It's hard to tell, exactly, from what you've written.

If you don't want to be in the drama then don't be in it. You can still be kind to her without getting up in all the business.
posted by rtha at 6:12 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Any chance that whatever the creeper did eighteen years ago, to your friend, your friend's reaction to either, or your friend's current financial/family issues are triggery to you or echo something awful from your personal history? It just seems like your reactions are a little out of proportion and it might be worth looking at why.
posted by carmicha at 6:26 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you can't be her friend, then cut off the friendship. I am having trouble seeing how you have any right to judge her, or why she owes you 100% disclosure on anything (particularly if she's in the middle of a stressful and difficult situation where her own mind may not even be sure), but I also don't think you're going to get over this without keeping it in the back of your mind.

I don't believe that you "truly love" your friend as she is - maybe you feel you love an idea of her, or what she has the potential to be if she "improves" to a point where you feel she's not bad or misguided. I think if you let her go and remain distant/pleasant then you would both be the better for it.

I don't think we have enough information to say if you should voice your concerns or not. If you feel like you should, then I would suggest trying to do so in a way that would minimize her defensiveness. I would suggest keeping judgment out of it, and I'd go to extremes on that - nothing about general bad or unsavory qualities. Keep it matter of fact, and if you need to use examples make them specific and use neutral language.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:40 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

You have been in her life for 1 year - the creep has been there for decades.
It is not so easy to break deep, long relationships -
and if her personality is to be loyal, she may be that way even towards the wrong people.
posted by Flood at 6:54 AM on April 12, 2012

Also, you cited A Terrible Llama's link to Nattie's brilliant comment, which is pleading for compassion by offering great insight into women who display certain kinds of Bad Judgment. I urge you to read it again. I'm not sure you're getting it.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:06 AM on April 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

"I'm sad my friend is not who she stated she was."

This sentence doesn't follow from the rest of your account, unless "who she stated she was" is a person who never shows bad judgment or has inaccurate perceptions of people.

Assuming that you are correct in your judgment of [Creep] and she is incorrect, then the takeaway lesson for you is that your friend isn't always a great judge of character. Of all the flaws that a friend could have, that hardly seems like one of the worst.

Just because a friend has flaws, that doesn't mean you have to stop loving them or spending time with them. It just means that you make any necessary realistic adjustments to your interactions with them to avoid problems.

If I have a good friend who I know has a history of cheating on his girlfriends, I won't set him up on dates or recommend to my female friends that they consider him romantically.

If I have a good friend who is bad with money, I won't lend them cash unless I'm okay with never being paid back.

If I have a good friend who flakes out on long-term projects, I won't start a business project with them.

If I have a good friend with terrible fashion sense, I won't take their advice on clothes shopping.

If I have a good friend who ferociously defends her friends even when the friend in question is of questionable character and undeserving of the defense, then I will take that into account and make my own judgments rather than trusting her descriptions.

(Note - some of the scenarios above describe actual friends of mine.)
posted by tdismukes at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

People in dysfunctional or abusive relationships often exhibit loyalties that make no sense to outsiders. That's what makes these patterns and relationships so hard to crack.

How do you explain the woman I knew who followed her boyfriend to California despite the fact that he'd cheated on her repeatedly, got another woman pregnant, and physically abused her? They didn't even move from the East Coast to California. She followed him there because she wanted to be with him so much.

Stories like this are all too common.

Can you still be her friend? It depends. You can be her friend if you can stay out of the drama yourself. Enjoy your time together. Love her and appreciate her. But don't let yourself get confused or tangled up in her dysfunction. Accept the fact that it doesn't make sense, that is unhealthy, that there will be small or large ways you can support her, but that it's not a matter of simply talking her out of it.
posted by alms at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm having a hard time following mostly because the issue doesn't seem to have anything to do with you, so I'm not really sure why you're reacting as you are. I'm guessing that it's perhaps part of the context you left out. It sounds like you don't really want to be friends with her anymore, but you don't want to abandon her during a period of potential personal growth either, but without context it's impossible for anyone to tell you how you might be supportive of her generally without being an enabler. You are not obligated to be her friend and you don't sound like you know how to be one to this person, anyway.
posted by sm1tten at 7:53 AM on April 12, 2012

Is this friend someone you are/were dating or hoping to date?

Either way, I would say it is okay for you to move on if you want to.
posted by cairdeas at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Emotions are complex, messy things. Your friend defended a creepster one time. That doesn't constitute a moral stand or a referendum on your friend's character. It constitutes a thing your friend did one time.

The situation seems cut and dried to you because you're not involved in it - you aren't part of the mess and have no entanglements. I'm also getting the sense that you may be someone who engages in black-and-white thinking a lot of the time. That's something you kind of need to chuck out the window when dealing with people. There are no RPG-esque rules to determine how a person will or should act in situations like these. There are only emotions and entanglements.

If something like this happened in my life, my thinking on it would be that my friend is going through a lot at the moment and emotions are running high and in a heightened state like that, unpredictable feelings escape in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times, and I'd try to be compassionate to a friend who's going through something without trying to solve the situation for them.

Right now it sounds like the worst thing your friend has done was defend someone who's done things wrong. That doesn't mean your friend isn't who she says she is.

That said:

You're omitting a lot of details so I have no idea what you mean by this:

triangulating with an unsavory individual to help solve her family/family financial issues

Could you please explain this in the plainest terms possible? This jumped out at me. A lot of what you're saying here is kind of vague, and it's hard to get a read on the situation. This line made me think there might be more going on than your initial post conveyed. Knowing what you mean by this would make it easier for me to come up with a good next step.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:13 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The salient term in your question seems to me to be "bad person".

I don't find that concept useful.
posted by ead at 8:35 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Certainly you comprehend why she is defending the creep. After all, it seems like you are on the cusp of defending your friend, whom you love dearly, even though you know she's also not quite right. (I am in no way equating her actions to be on par as that of the creep.)

If you can divorce yourself from the emotional attachment, consider, what would you tell a friend if they were in your exact situation?
posted by jabberjaw at 9:50 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been in an abusive relationship before, and I've been in really dangerous, traumatic situations that I dawdled through because I didn't see it. There were the friends who disapproved of my life path and condescended to me at every chance they got. There were other friends who wouldn't comment, but couldn't keep the disdain from their voices whenever they spoke to me. It seems that you're falling into this second category. It was this second category of friends that I raged at and eventually cut off after I got better, because as soon as I broke up with my boyfriend and school started again they were blowing up my phone like I was "acceptable" to be around. That isn't real friendship. If you aren't willing to be there for someone even when they mess up, even when they're messed up...leave.

My closest friends - the ones who I deeply love and would sacrifice for - were the ones who didn't always interfere, but when I fell on my ass, hit rock bottom and looked for support getting back up, they were there. They could call me on my bull bud didn't judge me, as they were just happy to see me alive and lucid enough to seek help. That is friendship.

She needs a genuine friend. You are not a genuine friend to her. Do both of yourselves a favor and back away, and find someone else who falls better into your framework of respectability. It is clear that you don't respect her.
posted by Ashen at 10:01 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Ashen at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2012

She showed colossally Bad Judgement, and I can't quite explain it away.

Respectfully, to a stranger across the internet, you sound incredibly judgmental and painfully unempathetic. If a friend I'd known for a year started making accusations about a family friend I'd know forever, I'd defend that family friend, because I'd think it a bit rude that the new friend would be so presumptious as to think she can just start making accusations about someone she doesn't even know. If you think defending her family friend is such a Horrible Thing that it deserves to called out with Capital Letters, then please leave this person alone 100%. Your friendship style seems ill-suited to helping her put distance between herself and her family friend, and more suited to just making her feel bad about herself.

Leave her alone.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can you fill in some of the blanks here, about the nature of the family friend's offense, his involvement with your friend's situation and his turning on her, and the connection between what he did 18 years ago and what's happening here?

The read I'm getting is that Creep's role in the situation was to do something over-the-line coercive to assist your friend.

That's just a guess, but I see so much being left out here as to make the responses you're getting here potentially unreliable.
posted by alphanerd at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have a dog in this fight? What I mean is, your tension with your friend is related to the decisions making that affect her, and she's not trying to persuade you to hire this guy, right?

So you disapprove of her decisions, but you're not directly affected by them.

I totally get that this can be really upsetting, but I don't think what she's doing is very unusual. There are piles of situations where people argue, against piles of evidence, that "Bob just couldn't have done that!" because they know Bob. It's like a glitch in our wiring.

There's also another factor - have you ever criticized a family member to a friend, and then had someone else repeat your criticism to you, and felt yourself bristle in defense? I can complain about my Mom all day but let anyone else say a word against her and GRRRR! This is another pretty common human feature. A good rule of thumb I've learned from my own reaction here is to listen when people complain about friends and family but never to join those complaints. Remember that you may see this more clearly than she does but she has a much more complicated and longstanding emotional investment.

It's hard to say without knowing more. But maybe your role is to keep being a friend until she's ready to realize for herself that she needs to leave this situation behind. You can't help her do that if you've written her off.

If she's really showing poor character - beyond misguided loyalty - you might have to walk away. If it's just misguided loyalty, maybe you can bring yourself to smooth things over and be friendly again. You might have negotiate some boundaries. Definitely limit your involvement with and knowledge of Teh Drama.
posted by bunderful at 11:48 AM on April 12, 2012

Yeah, I can definitely see how scrubbing all of the identifiers from the question has spoiled the thread. Sorry!

Even so, there are a lot of fair points up there. I am being really judgmental. I think there is a good reason, though.

First of all, "family friend" has really only been on the scene about 4 months, when he started dating my friend's mother. Prior to this he was someone they either knew in their community or through business contacts? I'm unclear on that, along with lots of other details, actually. I think he was not a complete stranger, at any rate.

About a week or two after I was told about the giant mess going on, the "friend of the family" sent some text messages to my friend that blatantly stated he was no longer on her side (although I suspect he wasn't on her side from the beginning), and that he was now in "direct control" of her opposing family members interests concerning this situation. I was there when this happened. My friend was freaked out and angry, and that's why she finally told me the truth about this guy. And then perhaps she told some untruths? I don't know.

In the heat of anger, my friend finally revealed that it was discovered a few months ago that this guy is on the sex offender registry for inappropriate relations (according to him, no one followed up with the court record) with his then-teenage former step-daughter. He was in his late 30's early 40's at the time of the conviction.

This was all related to me in a, "He doesn't know who he's up against!" type way. Very drama-y and over the top. I also found it inappropriate, since it is very likely this man is behind the entire debacle within my friend's family. There wasn't an overt conflict until he started dating her mom a few months ago, and it really seems like he has been pitting them against each other while positioning himself to take over their family business.

Here's where I wanted to tap out: Within an hour of the text messages and the disclosure that this guy is a slimy creepster (the conviction, weird stuff he's done & said recently), my friend suddenly jumped to, "And OMG, he might have murdered his recently deceased wife!"

Murder? What??

I don't live in a soap opera world. It's clear my friend is in way over her head. She refuses to get a lawyer, or deal with this in any sort of sane manner. It's just all craziness.

The murder accusation was not made ironically, as a joke, or as hyperbole. Whether friend is blowing things out of proportion, or this convicted molester is capable of taking a life -- wow.

She went on about the murder thing for a while, so I'm not mistaking her comments or suspicions. My brain popped out of my head at that point, and I've been feeling off-balance ever since.

On the one hand, I can explain away some of my friend's choices and reactions as shock about family betrayal. Yet, I find the criminal/possible murderer part to be bizarre and pretty much inexcusable. She was well OK to hide or overlook this man's crap when she thought he was on her side and was going to solve her problems. Her attitude about this person has me stumped. I don't see any lulz in this. The whole thing seems very risky and unsafe.

Right from the beginning, my friend's situation required that she lawyer up. She defensively refused to even consider an attorney, preferring to let creepy svengali-guy handle things. Now that that tactic has blown up in her face, maybe she's heading towards some saner choices. I hope so.

I wish I did not know about any of this. It's been pretty strange and awful.

I'm not involved in this drama, or in the position of giving advice, or anything like that. I just haven't felt my feet under me since the whole molester/murderer text message drama moment. I can't believe that moment took place at all. I don't know what reaction I should have. I'm not sure if what I witnessed was out of character or not for my friend. Honestly? It does seem like she hides a lot of stuff, so maybe I need to walk away.

Hope that filled in some of the gaps. I can't thread-sit, but I'll be back to update later.

Thanks to everyone for reading this. I needed a safe place to get this out.
posted by SockyMcSockyPants at 1:13 PM on April 12, 2012

On the one hand, I can explain away some of my friend's choices and reactions as shock about family betrayal. Yet, I find the criminal/possible murderer part to be bizarre and pretty much inexcusable. She was well OK to hide or overlook this man's crap when she thought he was on her side and was going to solve her problems. Her attitude about this person has me stumped. I don't see any lulz in this. The whole thing seems very risky and unsafe.

I don't know, that all seems pretty reasonable to me. He is dating her Mom, so it is in her interest to think the best of him she can. He also appeared to be backing her up in some kind of family business dispute, so that would also lead her to think perhaps the guy has changed his ways. So she defends him. Now his treachery is revealed, along with more serious allegations that she presumably just discovered (?) and so she is now strongly opposed to him.

To be honest, it sounds to me like you are looking for permission to break off your friendship with this person because you are uncomfortable with the level of drama in their life. That's OK. Some people can handle being tangentially involved in drama (heck, some people seem to relish it), and others can't. I give you permission to bow out of this person's life, if you want to. Just be up front and honest about it. Tell them you think it might be better if they get back in touch with you once all of this has blown over, since you are not used to this kind of craziness. Don't just block their number and start ignoring them.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:36 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there a chance you're equating staying friends with her with condoning her decisions? My friends make crazy decisions all the time. You are not her. Her decisions don't reflect on you. I think it's perfectly okay to say "I think you're crazy not to call the cops, but hey- want to get a pizza and watch TV on Friday?"

You can even tell her not to talk about this guy if it stresses you out. Seriously- that's okay. It doesn't make you a bad friend, it only makes you someone who knows herself well enough to what you can and can't have renting space in your brain without fucking you up.

If you really think the kids are in danger, call CPS. The rest of it isn't your job.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:43 PM on April 12, 2012


Her family is splintering over...something. Still no clearer on what that is, but apparently it's something huge. Some asshole is sending her text messages - someone she trusted until recently - that say he's in control of members of her family (what the fuck, by the way). The asshole in question is someone she has known for a while and who's been dating her mom so it's someone she has trusted. Her compass is kind of spinning right now, you know? When she said these things to you, she said them in a situation where someone had just pushed her buttons in a calculated way over a huge issue. No, she's not going to make complete sense. She's not going to have measured, rational emotional responses. No one would.

You're removed from the situation emotionally so, from the outside, you can keep a cool head. She can't. Shit's falling apart for her. She cannot see her actions and emotions the way you do.

The dramatic reaction and accusation of murder - these things were ways of trying to reassert a sense of control over the situation for her. Yes, they sound crazy when relayed calmly by someone outside the situation.

Again: Shit is exploding for her right now. She needs a friend. Her turbulent situation means that she is very likely to continue falling short of your particular expectations, so I'm getting the sense that you may be uniquely unsuited to handle being the kind of friend she needs in this situation, and there's no shame in that. Some people are just different and they handle things differently.

You don't need to walk completely away but I'd say maybe start thinking about keeping her at arm's length if that'd be more comfortable for you. If you'd rather walk away, then do that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is speculative, since it's going through several layers of impressions of events, but is it possible that the murder thing was a dot she just connected (however erroneously) in the moment, when she found out about the betrayal, because the betrayal was something that made her current situation suddenly appear to her to resemble the circumstances surrounding his wife's death?

On that reading, she wouldn't have been accepting of the most serious accusation on the table against him for very long.

(Of course, maybe you've already taken this reading of events into account.)

Also, are your friend and her mother are on opposing sides in this dispute, and was your friend working with Creepy Guy behind her mother's back while he was dating her? That's what I'm getting from this:

it really seems like he has been pitting them against each other
posted by alphanerd at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

People like this - as in, the kind of people who send text messages saying they are in control of your enemies/allies/etc and theirs is an evil laugh -

People like this are very very good at looking like they're not evil, just misunderstood. You only meet the monster through its acts.

Saying he could be a murderer, I would see mostly as her expressing that she now thinks he could be capable of anything - which he probably could, since he doesn't sound burdened with an over abundance of conscience. It's not even particularly exotic for an abusive person to murder a spouse, so although speculating about that may be extreme, I wouldn't class it as an "inexcusable" flight of imagination on her part. It's actually quite rational for her to be questioning whether there's more to every story she's been told, much as that might come out in ways that seem like paranoia to you.

I think that what she needs most of all right now could be a reality check and some faith in her judgement, and it's okay if you're not in a position to provide either.
posted by tel3path at 3:39 PM on April 12, 2012

I think a lot of this boils down to the question of what you want your role to be, and what role she might play for you. You don't want to pretend to go along with beliefs that disturb you. You don't want to be just a sounding board, without contributing your honest opinions. You're afraid her judgment in general might be incompatible with your own. I think I'd be concerned about those things if I were in your position.

You could decide to develop a positive role for yourself. She's at what may be a huge turning point, and you could support her as she moves forward and works on the part of her that's separate from her family. You could be someone she can trust and not keep secrets from. Just a couple of examples that come to mind. Can you tell her that you feel uncomfortable hearing about the many details of the family issues, and that you'd rather concern yourself with how she feels, instead of The Story itself?

Or you might actually be recoiling because of the drama, her relishing the drama, or your inability to connect with someone who grew up in a toxic family. You could be judgmental and wrong, but even if you were -- if being around her makes you feel this bad, and you can't see how to base your friendship on other things, you ought to walk away. Or gradually fade away.

If you do want to hold on to the friendship, you need to get out of your current position as onlooker and take on a role you can feel good about.
posted by wryly at 4:52 PM on April 12, 2012

Alphanerd kinda nailed it, mother and friend are on opposing sides, bf was helping friend behind her mom's back. It's kinda the wrong way to go about solving a problem like this, and it blew up, which was predictable.

And for tel3path, Rock Steady, and some others -- The mom & bf have been dating for only 4 short months. During that time it was discovered bf was a convicted sex offender, and I did not mention this earlier, but he also got drunk a few times and hit on friend behind the mom's back.

(I'm seeing now the best way to do these questions is to include everything in the beginning. That was a big detail I left out, hoping you'd all catch on without having to be so explicit.)

A few weeks ago, when my friend over-reacted and became nearly enraged at me for attempting to suggest she might consult an attorney rather than rely entirely on her mom's bf, she already knew first-hand the guy was a not okay. She got very indignant and painted him as some sort of saint who would right all injustices, all while withholding some pretty significant info that directly contradicted everything she was saying.

As I write this out, it occurs to me that my friend was likely flattered by this guy's advances, and that she may have even reciprocated. That's the only thing that kinda makes sense when I weigh her reaction that day against the info that came out later. I'm sure the bf did an excellent job of putting a wedge between my friend and her mother, and then convincing my friend he preferred her on some important level. Still, going against your moms with her bf of 4 months? Not cool. Explains all the lying, tho, if that's how it went down.

As everyone has rightly pointed out, I'm now convinced the murder thing was my friend calling into question everything she was ever told and believed about this guy.

Working through this thread has helped me realize that my problem with my friend is that this wasn't an issue of discretion, she was lying to me about key details.

Back when it all first came up, she was definitely committed to going behind her mom's back and playing games, rather than dialing down the drama and seeking legal help. I found that disturbing and worrying. When the text message thing happened, a lot of secrets came out, plus other drama (like the murder thing) and I stopped knowing what to think, feel, or do.

I'm sure the situation will take care of itself now that more is out in the open. This guy sounds like a true predator with excellent skills when it comes to using people's weaknesses against them. It really seems like my friend never saw it coming, and her own blind spots contributed heavily to the fall out.

I'm still unhappy she lied to me, but at least I know to address it with her if I'm still upset once the dust settles. I bet by then it won't matter so much to me, tho. I'll just be happy when she's done with it all and safe.

Thank you everyone.
posted by SockyMcSockyPants at 5:57 PM on April 12, 2012

she already knew first-hand the guy was a not okay. She got very indignant and painted him as some sort of saint who would right all injustices, all while withholding some pretty significant info that directly contradicted everything she was saying.

As much as it may seem bizarre, I don't think your friend knew this guy was not okay, or was withholding significant information from you intentionally. I think this is information you're able to weigh the significance of and contextualize, and interpret even through her recounting of events, but the interpretation aspect of it isn't there for her, even though the information is. I wouldn't look at her as someone who was actively trying to deceive you. (Her actions with her mother are another story.)

Natty's comment to me is so 100% on the money here.

I think sometimes about I Heard it Through the Grapevine, and how, on the surface, it's about a guy who feels blindsided and wounded by a woman who left him for somebody else. It was totally written with this in mind, but there's enough information in the lyrics to see that it's written from the perspective of a guy who's domineering, places himself at the center of every decision that woman makes, and makes their relationship a matter of life and death for him. To me, it's obvious why she left him.

For the guy who's singing it, the interpretation isn't there, even though the information is, and I think stuff like this happens all the time.

You've already picked up on the fact that your friend has blind spots that enabled this to happen, and you can bet that if this guy is as predatory as he seems, he selected her precisely because he saw these blind spots.

It's sometimes really tough to draw the line between a lack of knowledge and a moral failure, between someone who's safe and someone who's unsafe for you to be around.
posted by alphanerd at 8:01 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

"It's sometimes really tough to draw the line between a lack of knowledge and a moral failure, between someone who's safe and someone who's unsafe for you to be around."


Thanks everyone. Thank you Alphanerd.
posted by SockyMcSockyPants at 9:46 PM on April 12, 2012

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