Weird female friend territory. Help!
January 3, 2013 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm a married female. My female friend has admitted to having feelings for me and continually makes subtle comments. What to do?

A brief rundown: I'm a married, 25-year-old female. I made a female friend about six months ago, and the friendship progressed quickly. We have a lot in common and clicked very well, so I was excited, especially given that I find it difficult to make friends.

Early on in the friendship, she admitted that she had romantic feelings for me, but we talked about it and agreed that in order to continue the friendship, there would need to be healthy boundaries because I'm happily married. Things were going OK for a while, but there have been several comments/weird vibes lately that are making me very uncomfortable:

1) She's mentioned on more than one occasion that she finds it odd when people get married at a young age, and subtly implies that it's a bad decision because it's likely that you haven't solidified who you really are.

2) About a month ago, she told me she felt possessive of me.

3) Whenever I mention my husband, she seems uncomfortable. She has only met him once, briefly, and it was incredibly awkward. I also find it painful that I cannot invite her over for dinner, etc., and that both she and my husband nurse a dislike for one another. I know you don't always have to like your partner's friends (I don't like several of my husband's friends), but I think this is a little different.

4) In a recent email, she said that she fantasizes about what it would be like if I weren't married. She then apologized. I wrote back quickly to say that it was no big deal, simply because I could not process it at the time (I was home for Christmas and dealing with explosive family shit).

I have gotten to the point where I am very, very uncomfortable with this situation. However, I have not confronted her about it since we first addressed it during the beginning of our friendship.

I'm hesitant to cut things off with her because she is extremely fragile. But at this point, I feel like it's the only thing I can do. It would be weird being her friend knowing that she has feelings for me and is resentful of my husband, who I love very much.

Am I being unreasonable or harsh? I'm finding it difficult not to feel incredibly guilty about this. It's really a shame, because if this weren't an issue, I think we could have an amazing friendship.
posted by shiggins to Human Relations (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm hesitant to cut things off with her because she is extremely fragile.

Not your problem. Cut her off.
posted by empath at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2013 [64 favorites]

I'm hesitant to cut things off with her because she is extremely fragile.

That's not your responsibility. Her behavior is totally inappropriate. Telling you she fantasizes about you? Totally inappropriate. No different than if she were the opposite gender. The "possessive" thing, in fact, concerns me that she will act even more inappropriately, especially if you let this go on further.

You should cut her off. No more chances; she's already had extra chances.
posted by grouse at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2013 [24 favorites]

I'm hesitant to cut things off with her because she is extremely fragile. But at this point, I feel like it's the only thing I can do.

You made it clear that her advances were inappropriate, and she kept making them. So, she's putting her own desires ahead of having respect for you and your friendship. Fragile or not, she's being selfish and kind of creepy and I don't know about you, but having a selfish and creepy friend doesn't sound that fun.
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2013 [18 favorites]

You're not being harsh or unreasonable. This is a person with whom you have many things in common, but who makes you uncomfortable and is pretty openly disrespectful of your boundaries.

You don't have to be friends with anybody.
posted by gauche at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If this friend were a guy, would that make it easier for you? I think you need to get past your guilt and feeling responsible for how she feels. You gave her boundaries at the beginning and she's not only continued to push them, it seems like it's gotten creepy gone way past the bounds of a healthy friendship. I doubt she can dial it back; it's probably best all around to cut off the relationship entirely.
posted by Eicats at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're not being unreasonable at all.

She's crossing boundaries and making you uncomfortable even though she knows that you're married/in a relationship with someone else.

Distance yourself from her because this relationship between yourself and your female friend seems quite unhealthy. She seems quite fragile and as you said, possessive so she'll probably freak out on you if you address this with her.

Maybe, when she's in a better place, with a clearer space of mind, and less infatuated with you then you two can become friends. But as of right now, believe it or not, ending this relationship or putting this relationship on hold seems like the healthy option for both of you.
posted by livinglearning at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

No different than if she were the opposite gender.

Actually, I think if she were a dude, you (OP) would be a lot less blase and a lot more creeped out about this. And you should be.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2013 [27 favorites]

I have gotten to the point where I am very, very uncomfortable with this situation. However, I have not confronted her about it since we first addressed it during the beginning of our friendship.

You need to. She agreed that there needed to be "healthy boundaries" between you in order to have a friendship, right? This is something SHE agreed to. So she needs to know that she has overstepped these very healthy boundaries which she agreed to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You remember those boundaries you set? It's time to enforce them.

If things were different, they'd be different. But they aren't, so you have to deal with what is in front of you. You've told her that it's not going to happen. She's repeatedly made very subtle "moves" on you anyway.

You are not the person doing something wrong here. How fragile she is is her own affair. "Fragility" doesn't excuse making sexual advances on people who have expressly said they're not interested.
posted by Solomon at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're going to have to cut her loose, because she cannot or will not respect the boundaries you've set. I say this as a lesbian who has had crushes on unavailable women (and managed to not be inappropriate about them).

Her fragility is not your responsibility, though of course you don't have to go out of your way to be mean to her (not that it sounds like you would).
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest telling her that because you can't return her feelings, you would like to take a break from the friendship until it can be truly platonic. Reiterate that you are happily married and can't return her feelings. In theory, this allows space for the friendship to 'resume" but my bet is that your friend will either disappear, rejected, into the night or do what she was going to do anyway, escalate the behavior - in which case, you'll be able to take a shortcut to "we can't be friends because you are acting this way. Please do not contact me. If you show up here, restraining order, etc etc".

In the best-case scenario, this poor young woman is in the grip of a horrible crush that is preventing her from acting sensibly, and will look back in a couple of years - when she's somewhat more mature - and think "what a fool I made of myself, thank goodness Shiggins cut me off before I did anything more ridiculous". I have known a couple of young people in similar situations who did grow up.
posted by Frowner at 1:59 PM on January 3, 2013 [15 favorites]

If this were a man behaving line this you would end the relationship without hesitation.

It's not homophobic to end a relationship with someone who is disrespectful of your relationship and attempts to threaten its stability. I suggest that the same gender thing could be making you feel like she gets extra dispensation from you. She doesn't. Her behaviour is toxic for you and your very patient spouse. Not many spouses would tolerate someone putting this pressure on their partner.

End the "friendship" with compassion and wish her well.
posted by taff at 2:00 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Let's be real -- she's not a good friend. Good friends (like good husbands and partners) respect boundaries. She doesn't respect yours.

To be a friend, a person needs to be more than someone you get along with -- they need to be someone you can trust and whose loyalty you can count on. She is flopping on criteria number 2.

And I nth everyone who says her fragility is not your responsibility.
posted by bearwife at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can't be friends with someone who wants to nail you and apparently won't take no for an answer.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:02 PM on January 3, 2013 [19 favorites]

Her behavior is disrespectful to you and your husband both. If this had been a guy, I hope you would have dropped it by now. Same rules apply.

By the way -- no, you and your husband don't need to have the SAME friends, and it's fine for each of you to have friends that the other one isn't particularly interested in -- but it's probably not a good idea for either of you to have friends who dislike the other because they resent them for being with you. Would you want your husband hanging around with a guy who wanted to go to bed with him and openly wished you were out of the picture?
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:03 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Completely inappropriate on her side. And gross.

I've had pleeeenty of crushes on my straight/taken female friends, and kept it to myself. And even when it was more than just a plain ol' quickfade crush, I risked telling a straight friend (once!) that my feelings were a lot stronger and differently focused than just friendship, and she kindly reinforced that she really did have no interest, so I dropped it and focused on just being a good, non-creepy friend. If I can do it (my lack of social skills is legendary), anyone can do it. But some won't, and that's where it gets gross.

I agree with those encouraging you to let her know that because she's clearly so conflicted in her feelings for you that a break would be a good idea so she can get sorted. I'd also advocate being open with her about how her behaviour is uncomfortable and inappropriate, because some people really do learn from that kind of input. But that's not your responsibility, so feel free to ignore that.

Hope you get this worked out comfortably!
posted by batmonkey at 2:05 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

To put a different spin on it from "What if she were your dudefriend?" try thinking "What would I want my husband to do if this were his female friend?"

You have already talked about boundaries. Let her know she is crossing them, and that if she continues to cross them, you will not consider her a friend.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:10 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

If I were you I'd be concerned that this could escalate to her trying to interfere in your relationship with your husband. You should cut her off.
posted by Autumn at 2:17 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's nothing keeping you there, right? You aren't dependent on her professionally or for anything else?

Then cut her loose and let her fragility be her own problem. What about your feelings? Are you expected to be unbreakable? She's not being very nice to you.

And giving your husband evils because he's married to you is just, like, beyond the pale even if it's not backed up with "ooh I fantasize about what it would be like if you weren't married to him".

One thing to say clearly: don't emphasize that you're rejecting her romantically because you're married. You don't want to reinforce her fantasy that that's the one thing standing between you. You have to make clear that you don't have any romantic feelings towards her, you never have had, and you're certain you never will. I'm paraphrasing Gavin de Becker from what I remember of this script:

"No matter what you assume, and no matter why you may have assumed it, I have no romantic or sexual attraction to you at all. I am certain I never will. You need to put your attention elsewhere. And I am going to have to end the friendship because I can't handle the disrespectful way you treat me over this."

She'll argue, but unfortunately it's that bad that you'll have to just go no contact.
posted by tel3path at 2:18 PM on January 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

You are well within your rights to dump her as a friend, of course. But from my read, and maybe this is what's bothering you, you only had one conversation awhile ago about the situation. All of her recent comments have gone unchecked, in fact, personal situation aside, you told her it was ok when it really was not. I am not saying you are responsible for always putting someone in their place, but if someone is a friend I think it's worth the discomfort of saying, "That thing you are doing right now?Weird."If you like her and think she would respond to another talk, maybe it's worth braving. If not, don't feel too bad. Friendships have ended over less.
posted by amodelcitizen at 2:19 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

"You are ignoring the boundaries we mutually agreed upon and are no longer capable of being a good friend to me anymore as a result. . I am not interested in you and am extremely offended that you think it's okay to keep hitting on me and ragging on my marriage when I've told you many times that it makes me uncomfortable and upset. Please leave me alone and don't contact me anymore."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

When someone creeps on you under the guise of friendship such that it makes you incredibly uncomfortable, you tell them to quit that shit. When they repeatedly fail to do so, you friend dump them. Genders do not matter.
posted by elizardbits at 2:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure what your fear is, OP.

If she were a hetero guy, it can get tricky very easily, and potentially dangerous. However, she's a lesbian and you are not. There are several hurdles for her and you to cross before temptation or safety are a consequential factor.

You like her as a friend - Therefore, let her down gradually and gently, but no need to totally break it off. Be direct with her, tell her the friendship rests on this, and give the contact a gradual break.

This allows for the possibility of saving and renewing the friendship in future.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:24 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you don't enforce boundaries they are not boundaries, they are fantasy things that you pretend make things safe.

you know what needs to be done and Askme is giving you the permission. Now do it.
posted by edgeways at 2:34 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

This woman is not your friend. Know how I know? Friends don't want their friends' happy marriages to fail.

It's definitely time to cut this off.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:43 PM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't want any friends that I couldn't invite to dinner with my husband and me. Life is too short to have to compartmentalize various relationships.

She wants something more than friendship from you. You do not want it from her. Best for you to tell her you can't continue to be friends under these circumstances.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she were a hetero guy, it can get tricky very easily, and potentially dangerous. However, she's a lesbian and you are not.

So what, because this person will have difficulty raping the OP what she's doing is OK? What? No. This isn't even relevant, females are still perfectly capable of sexually harassing other females.

shiggins, what your friend is doing is totally disrespectful to you and I agree that you don't need to put up with it given it's making you uncomfortable. Tell her why or don't depending on how much drama you think will ensue, but you don't owe her anything at this point and her fragility is not your problem. If you do want to have one more go at asserting your boundaries then make it clear that your marriage has nothing to do with this, you're not interested in her romantically period, and she needs to come to terms with that for the friendship to continue. Who knows, it may stick. Just be prepared to cut her off right quick if it doesn't.

And don't give her a pass because of her gender, unwanted sexual attention is not acceptable from anyone.
posted by shelleycat at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2013 [20 favorites]

She's mentioned on more than one occasion that she finds it odd when people get married at a young age, and subtly implies that it's a bad decision because it's likely that you haven't solidified who you really are.

Oh and by the way, I would find this disrespectful on it's own. Following it up with telling you she feels possessive of you, the weird angst towards your husband, then an email about her fantasies that you aren't married? Ick. It's like she's forgotten that you're a person with your own agency and ideas and instead she has this whole story in her head about how your nasty marriage is the only thing keeping you away from her, and that's really disrespectful and also kind of weird and difficult to deal with.

It sucks to have this happen with a potential friend when those are so difficult to come by and I'm sorry it has ended up like this. But this isn't healthy friendship material, so you need to either make it clear that you can't accept the situation as is (which will likely end the friendship anyway) or just ease her out of your life. Ug, sorry.
posted by shelleycat at 2:54 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for your thorough and thoughtful responses. This is all great advice. A lot of you seem to have the tone of, "D'oh — friend dump her! This is crazy and unacceptable!"

That's exactly what I needed to hear. I have a very hard time speaking up for myself and tend to put others' needs before my own. I also have a hard time knowing what's "normal" in friendships. Not to make excuses, but a lot of this has to do with growing up in a dysfunctional family and having codependent tendencies.

So even though this might seem like a "d'oh" situation to most of you, I questioned whether or not I was being rational. So thank you — very much — for confirming that I am.
posted by shiggins at 2:56 PM on January 3, 2013 [15 favorites]

It's no reflection on your character if you weren't born naturally knowing this stuff! Awkward social situations are awkward, that's why we have entire communities dedicated to hashing this stuff out.

May I, as always, recommend Miss Manners for general principles of boundary setting combined with badass politeness?
posted by tel3path at 3:58 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Definitely address this. Things won't improve for you unless you do. You sound like a really nice person, and it seems like she's kind of taking advantage of your discomfort, and maybe being manipulative, whether she realizes it or not.
posted by SillyShepherd at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cutting her off sounds like it may be the best way to go.

But, as I read your post, it reads as if you have only enforced/set the boundary once and allowed her to cross over a number of times. She might be too obsessed with you, but in the future, if you are clear on the boundaries and stick with them, things might not go as far. The first time any of those examples of her crossing a line, you should have escalated the boundary to make sure it was very, very clear. Which isn't ideal, of course, but sometimes people are slightly dense because of their own internal story line and need to hear things twice.
posted by Vaike at 5:35 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Let's be real -- she's not a good friend. Good friends (like good husbands and partners) respect boundaries. She doesn't respect yours.

posted by radioamy at 5:40 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

So basically, because you don't want to hurt her feelings or make her feel uncomfortable, you're putting up with her hurting your feelings and making you uncomfortable?

Please tell her one more time, clearly and directly: you are not interested, and if she ever brings it up again the friendship is over. Then do it: if she ever, even once, mentions the subject, walk out and don't look back.
posted by easily confused at 6:03 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

She's mentioned on more than one occasion that she finds it odd when people get married at a young age, and subtly implies that it's a bad decision because it's likely that you haven't solidified who you really are.

Totally agree. Young people generally are DEVELOPING decision making skills. Youth implies inexperience and inexperience makes for poorer decisions. (Before you get all tweaked about my apparent bias, let me reveal that I got married at 20. Stayed married for 24 years to the same woman until she died. I still can't think worth a damn, but have slightly improved in the last 40 years. I had shit for brains when i was 20, and I am far from stupid. Smart has little to do with good decision making though. Judgment is purchased with error.)

However, she's crossing a line and everyone here agrees... the 'fragile' thing is a red flag. You are pulling punches on a clear party foul, bud. Not your concern. Stomp it like a plucked tick.
posted by FauxScot at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @FauxScot: Everyone's entitled to their opinions, so I'm not going to argue my maturity or confidence in my decision to marry. That always results in a lot of tight-lipped, Jerry Seinfeld-y, told-you-so types of sideways smiles.

I don't think it's necessarily the argument she was trying to make (it's dumb to get married at a young age because you will likely change and want different things); I think it's the context in which she said it. Coming from her angle, I think she underhandedly intended it as, "It's really inconvenient for me that you're married because I have feelings for you, so here's a reason that it's probably stupid that you chose to get married."

Either way, all of these answers (including yours) have given me confidence that it's OK to "stomp it like a plucked tick" (awesome phrase). I'm not going to be mean about it, but it's clear to me now that this situation is crazytown and needs to end fast.
posted by shiggins at 6:48 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hmm, person who feels that they have a difficult time making friends suddenly gets a friend! She's great - you have so much in common! Then the little comments start. It starts with an honest confession of her feelings for you but an assurance that nothing will change. And then comes a little weirdness, and then a little more, and so on. Those closest to you don't like her, but you value her as a friend and she's so extremely fragile!

Besides being the plot of about 25% of bad stalker episodes on crime shows, this is the real way that manipulative people find their victims. It wouldn't be such a hackneyed plot if it wasn't already done to death in real life. Go with your gut and cut ties now. She will make it difficult for you, and you may have to turn her away a few times, but it will be a lot harder later. Good luck!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:41 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

"My friend keeps hitting on me even though I have told them this behavior is unwelcome."

That's not a friend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:01 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you continue the relationship, you are tacitly encouraging her to continue in fantasies about someone she can't have. Ultimately she will need to move on from you in order to find a solid romantic relationship with someone who is actually available to her.
Help her out with that.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:01 PM on January 3, 2013

Oh, posted before I read your last comment. Good on you.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:03 PM on January 3, 2013

This woman is not really your friend. She's a "Nice Guy" trying to use friendship to get into your pants.

Er, or "Nice Girl" maybe.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:15 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

a) end the friendship, or
b) it's time to remind her of the conversation you had about there needing to be healthy boundaries, note that these haven't been respected lately, and tell her that if this happens even once more you're going to need to end the friendship.

But then you'd need to follow through.

I think, to be completely fair, the fact that you haven't been firm about boundaries has probably contributed to the current situation too. Maybe the fact that you clicked with her when you don't make friends often has caused you to make excuses where you wouldn't ideally. Whatever, it sounds like neither of you feels 100% sure what the other is saying or wanting, which doesn't sound like a recipe for a successful relationship any more. It's ok to cut her loose.
posted by springbound at 3:18 AM on January 4, 2013

Another way of framing it: You want to be her friend. She wants to be your lover/partner. This is not a friendship. She will never be the friend you need her to be to make this relationship worthwhile to you. There is nothing to gain from stringing her along.

I hear you on boundaries and co-dependence. I struggle with the same issues. Every time I've decided in the moment to not enforce my boundaries, it's turned out to be a mistake. For everyone.

Life is short. Spend it with people who treat you with the respect you deserve. And you do deserve it.
posted by dry white toast at 10:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I followed through and cut her off via an in-person discussion. She was surprisingly calm, though she denied the "I fantasize about you not being married" comment had anything to do with having feelings for me (and she claimed those were gone, too). I didn't buy it, and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders knowing that I don't have to deal with these weird issues. It still sucks to lose a friend whom I have so much in common with, but better to lose camaraderie and interesting discussions than endanger my marriage. Thanks for all the feedback, guys.
posted by shiggins at 9:40 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

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