Old feuds, new friends, ultimatums and a sticky social situation. How do I navigate this stupid fight that precedes me?
May 21, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Old feuds, new friends, ultimatums and a sticky social situation. How do I navigate this stupid fight that precedes me?

Asking anonymously so as not to further fan the flames.

Friend A and Friend B have a long-standing, convoluted feud involving multiple groups of people (Friend A's side and Friend B's side) that is so old and convoluted that it no longer makes sense. I don't even really know the root of the feud - whatever is was happened years before I knew any of these people.

Friend A is a pretty close acquaintance — we hang out as a pair of couples, having dinner, sharing beer, doing outdoorsy type things, pretty regularly. Friend B is someone I barely know but have spent time with socially. Both A and B are about 10 years older than me.

My SO and I made loose plans with A for an upcoming weekend. My exact wording was "we may be going out of town but if we don't, let's do this." It turns out we ARE going out of town. To spend time at B's property. I told this to Friend A yesterday afternoon.

Last night I got an email from A asking me to reconsider, adding that my decision to go to B's would be a"bridge-burner." A is not the kind of person who apologizes, admits wrongdoing or backs down from an opinion.

So WTF am I supposed to do here? Allow myself to be bullied into spending time with A? I am also friends with A's SO and would be sad to lose both friendships, but I just can't believe grown adults are letting this bullshit get in the way of perfectly good relationships. On the other hand, I am not great friends with B. Uhg. I am so confused by this stupidity.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total)
why do you want to (continue to) be friends with someone who's a domineering bully that "[doesn't] apologize, admit wrong doing or back down from an opinion ?"

Surely there are nicer people to have dinner and beer with, and go do outdoor stuff with who aren't Rush Limbaugh.
posted by k5.user at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

Tell friend A what you said in the last paragraph. Ie " I'm a grown adult, I do what I want and I don't appreciate this kind of bullshit/ controlling bullshit/ manipulative controlling bullshit. If you really want to break off our valuable friendship in an effort to control who I interact with then fine but I wish you would just drop this and well never speak of it again. I don't even know what your feud is about and I don't care."
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2012 [49 favorites]

I'm ... not sure why you value your close acquaintanceship with someone who refuses to apologize, attempts to dictate your social life, employs threats, etc. You ought to think of this moment as an escape hatch from having to deal with a person who seems like they stopped maturing at age twelve. Perhaps realizing that A managed to lose a friend because of their ongoing shitty behavior would be the kick in the ass they need to grow up. But probably not. Either way, I don't see anything except more drama coming from this relationship, especially as you've been de facto dragged into their dumbass feud.
posted by griphus at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

How much do you value your friendship with A? Is going to B's and having fun there worth losing your friendship to A?

If the answer is Yes, go. If the Answer is no, don't go.

And regardless of A's situation with B.. it shouldn't effect A's SO. SO is their own person independent of A. (I do see you concern though. Does SO do everything with A? Or do they do their own things?)

Honestly? I'd do neither and refuse to interact with either group of people until they understand that you can be friends with both equality.

Tell A: We decided not to go to B's.. but I also won't be spending time with you after your threats. Let me know when you actually value my friendship.
posted by royalsong at 12:08 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would continue on with your plans. You could reply to Friend A that your decision to go out of town had nothing to do with her/him. What they choose to do with their feelings about this is within their control, not yours. Do not allow yourself to be bullied. I can't imagine being in a friendship where someone would no longer want to be your friends based on this.
posted by retrofitted at 12:09 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

It would take a better person than I to find a graceful way out. I'd like to think I'd have the cajones to tell A, "I'm sorry you and B have an issue, but you are both my friends. And while I really enjoy and value our friendship, it's not okay for you to tell me who I can be friends with." (And then I'd go hang out with B as planned.)
posted by smirkette at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

When people give you ultimatums like this, you should take them up on it. It gets them out of your hair and you have one less thing in the world to worry about. WIN WIN.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2012 [38 favorites]

I would email friend A back and say that from where you stand, it sounds like they're trying to bully and manipulate your friendships. Ask if they have a reason why your independent actions with B affect their ability to be friends with you: ie, did friend B actively harm a family member? Is B dangerous?

While I think the answer is going to be losing A's friendship, you can at least reply back with something that states how you feel and gives them an out, if in fact there is a basis to the feud that is worthy of such dramatics.
posted by ldthomps at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would say, "If you feel strongly enough to end our friendship over this, then I cannot stop you. However, I don't allow any of my friends to dictate with whom I socialize or spend my time."
posted by xingcat at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

I would not say anything to Person A, as it involves more drams. They've made their idiotic choice, so there's no further reason to deal with them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went through something similar to this 30 years ago. We had a huge problem with the entity that might here be called B. My SO and I might have been in the position of A. However we were grown up enough--though in our early 20s--to say to the parties in the middle that we would not go to any functions that B would attend. We did not say that they would lose our friendship, or that they had to exclude B. Just that we wouldn't be there if B was there.

I guess I say this to assure you that you should do what YOU want to do, not what A wants or threatens.

In our case we had been physically threatened & attacked by "our" B, and with a new baby (baby Klang!) we just didn't feel safe.

Unfortunately, eventually B burned bridges with everyone else. There was no satisfaction to me in that. We just wanted B to get help with the mental health issues at hand.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

All of the above are excellent, mature responses. What I'm going to suggest are a couple that may not be so.

1. Ignore the email, go to B's for the weekend. Have your SO makes plans with the other SO for some time either before/after that weekend (depending on if it is this upcoming weekend or some alternate weekend in the future).

If A brings it up, tell him you thought he was drunk when he wrote it, so you're being gracious and ignoring it. If you can manage to do this in a laughing/joking manner, that would be a plus. If necessary, segue it into a more serious conversation about what this feud was all about. Try to stay as a sounding board though, not as if you're taking sides.

2. Ignore the email and write back something in your usual line of conversation (if you're frequent emailers). If he brings it up again, try something like:

"Listen, it's clear this is bothering you. What's this feud all about? Did B's family member rape one of yours? Because then I could definitely see why you'd be upset. But if this is something stupid, like he borrowed your truck and didn't fill it up with gas again, you need to stop being such a *insert appropriate expletive* and suck it up. We're not in high school anymore."

In short, I believe in always giving people an out. A's a grown-up and should be in control of his feelings but I think we've all sent something via email that we later regretted.
posted by valoius at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think part of the trouble may actually be your own catering to the feud. For example, avoiding talking to A about B and vice versa.

When you told A that you might be going out of town, did you say, "We might be going out of town to B's place?" Or just that you might neutrally be going out of town?

A may perceive, depending on the depth and drama of the feud, that B is attempting to intrude on their plans. They may feel hurt that you seem to be "choosing" B over them.

I think you definitely need to call, not email, to ask about the feud: what it is, and why it's so serious. Ask them about their feelings: and if you in fact didn't mention that the thing was at B's, apologize for that fact, and then move on from there.
posted by corb at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2012

Your friend is being a butt, but I should say that telling people what your plans are is rude if they're not invited. It's also rude to say "oh I can hang out if I don't find something better to do" and then describe exactly what you consider better--spending time with their nemesis! Most people would be a bit hurt and put out. Most people would be more mature than this, but that's life.

So you have two ways to go, and I can be self-serious and dramatic as well so I know what I'm talking about here.

One, you apologize for making it sound like you were choosing B over A, and you plan a special outing with A for the near future. Pretend like the ultimatum never happened and never mention B to A ever again.

Two, just ignore it and act like you normally do. They'll either restate what they're saying, which means they're going to stick with it and you have to make a choice, or they'll go along like nothing has happened, grateful that you've ignored them showing their ass.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:53 PM on May 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

Oh, and if I've gotten it all wrong and A asks about B, is nosy about your plans, and basically makes it impossible for you to be discreet about your friendship with B, then fuck that. Ignore, ignore, ignore, and if they give you shit tell them to fuck off. Or however you say.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:55 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always been a big believer in those who ask me to make a choice having made the choice for me. That doesn't mean that I haven't, in a similar situation, chosen to 'side' with somebody else. But they do that by making themselves someone I want to be around, and in some cases, making me understand why they do not like the other person. But nobody's friendship - nobody's! - comes with an automatic understanding that 'it's them or me.' I wouldn't take that from my partner or my family, at least not without explanation -- from somebody else's problem, it's just Not Okay.

I think that's the issue that needs to be explained. If you're not friends enough with this person to have that kind of Serious Discussion, then they are definitely not friends enough with you to be making that kind of ultimatum.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2012

You might consider having the conversation with A either face to face or on the phone. They'll find it far harder to be totally unreasonable if you're speaking to them "live" (esp in person).
posted by rhymer at 1:38 PM on May 21, 2012

Looks like you're going to be picking a side whether you like it or not. Is someone you "barely know" worth upsetting someone you have an established friendship with?

You make it sound like A is just being an asshole, but maybe they are envisioning a future of renewed drama with B, if you were to be friends with both of them, and they want to avoid getting sucked back in.

I'd ask myself why B is trying to win your friendship if they know you are friends with A. If B seems perfectly cool with your being friends with both them and A, it's entirely possible it's because they relish the potential for rekindled drama with A. Hell, they could be courting you deliberately just to piss off A. You may think B is the more mature party, but maybe they are just devious. They might be secretly filled with glee at having "stolen" you from A.

I dunno. If I liked couple A as people and not just convenient warm bodies to hang out with, I think I'd be loyal to th established friendship and keep B politely at arm's length. If the A's don't mean that much to you, you might even consider distancing yourself from both them and B, sidestepping the drama completely. Because there is no way there won't be some level of drama no matter which side you pick.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:49 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like rhymer's suggestion of having a face-to-face conversation.

Which plans did you have first? You didn't break your tentative plans with A in order to go out of town with B, did you? If you did, I think you owe A an apology.

Assuming the plans with B were pre-existing, you should be able to tell A that and that should be enough. "I'm sure you understand, this has nothing to do with B. If I had plans with you first I would have kept them."
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:15 PM on May 21, 2012

I think you need to more fully evaluate your friendship with A and work out a better metric regarding how much you value them and work out your action plan based on that. My own friendships tend to fall into 3 tiers:

Tier 1 (Loyalty) - These are people who have been there for me when I was in serious trouble (the kind that could easily make your life fall apart). It takes about a decade of consistent & dependable friendship to get to this point, and they're more like family than friends. If I was in your situation and A fell into this tier, I would definitely call off the weekend with B (but you are entitled to ask for an explanation of why the ultimatum was issued).

Tier 2 (Friendship) - These are people who are fun, and seem like I can count on them, but whose loyalties have not been proven yet. I will do nice things for them when it isn't a huge burden, but they don't have the right to make any claims on my time. If A falls into this tier, I would recommend going to B's house, and writing to A something like "Look, I like you, and I'm sorry it seems like I'm picking Bover you, but you're being really melodramatic about this and it bothers me that you're trying to control my life. Let's talk about this when I get back."

Tier 3 (Entertainment) - These are people whose company is fun and whom I enjoy spending time with, but whom I either do not know very well at all or whom I doubt I could count on if I were in a bind. They don't have any particular weight in my mind and I would shuck off their friendship the moment it became inconvenient to me. If A fell into this category, I would tell you to just blow her off - tell her she's being a baby and has to learn to fight her own battles, without dragging other people into her drama.

This is a rather long comment, but ultimately my point is that you need to decide exactly how much friend A's friendship means to you. Different levels of friendship merit different types of consideration, even when said friend is being a total drama queen (which A is certainly doing here).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

Dear A,

I was sorry to receive this email yesterday. SO and I really enjoy hanging out with you and [A's SO], especially our [recent outdoorsy activity].

I don't know B very well, and I'm sorry to hear you had such a falling out with [him]. I hope you understand that while I am aware of this situation, I am not part of it and I don't know enough about it to make any decisions based on it. If I do want to know more about it in the future, I promise to ask you about it.

We're both adults, and I'm sure we both have friends and ex-friends in our past who we might want to warn each other off. If your concern is that SO and I might be unsafe at B's property, I know you would let me know (just as I would for you). Otherwise, I promise to let you make your own decisions about your friendships and I hope you'll do the same for me.

Thanks for understanding. SO and I are really looking forward to [upcoming activity] with you two, so I hope to see you then.

posted by heatherann at 2:35 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's a different perspective. I have a B right now, and although I would never say to people "don't hang out with B," I fail when I try to have a relationship with people who do. It took me awhile to admit this, because I wish the situation were otherwise, but for now that's the way it is. So I almost admire A for being so forthright.
posted by slidell at 6:59 PM on May 21, 2012

Yeah, A's request only makes sense if B is an expert sneaky underminer-type who constantly uses other people to (probably quite subtly) attack A on a regular basis.

In that case, I'd draw a line, too.

Do you think this might be possible? That B is using you?

Give it some thought.
posted by jbenben at 10:17 PM on May 21, 2012

Ugh, your time is your own, and anybody who tries to dictate what you do with your time is not worth it, I think! I wouldn't respond to A, and I certainly would not change my plans to accommodate their craziness. By doing that all you're doing is telling him that his bullying, controlling tactics work.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:12 AM on May 22, 2012

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