Ending a friendship over friend's unethical behavior?
February 23, 2013 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I have realized recently that I have a few friends that behave in ways, in other areas of their life, that I think is unethical. How do you draw the line, when someone's behavior is not directly affecting you, on what is acceptable for your standards of friendship?

I have multiple friends that behave in ways that I do not approve of in other areas of their lives. We are not really close friends and they each have their own understandable issues that play out in their own way, ie I am able to empathize with them, though I disapprove. These issues don't affect me personally, but I am finding myself increasingly uneasy about this.

Now, these are just folks I go out for drinks with in groups regularly, not my confidants or besties, but I see them often enough for me to start to question these other aspects of their personalities.

So where do you draw the line?

One example: I know that one of these friends is having an affair, while being married with multiple children. I understand that she is not happy in her marriage and frankly her husband does really cross the line- so I have sympathy for her. On the other hand, I don't approve of her behavior and think the best course of action for her family would be divorce.
posted by abirdinthehand to Human Relations (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The are certain times when you have no choice but to interact. At those times, be pleasant but distant. When the choice is yours, choose not to interact. It really is that simple.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:33 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mainly I would just not want to be in a position to have to answer questions about your example. It's none of your business, unless you know about danger to the children, which while you are likely not a mandated reporter, there is something to think about if that is the situation.

As far as drawing the line with unethical behavior - I think it depends. In one case, I've cut someone out of my life because this person lied to me in the commission of another bad act against another friend. Additionally it was a very stupid lie that if I wasn't expected to see through it, I have no idea what the expectation was. It was clearly dramaville, and I had no desire to be involved or have to even think about it. This person was bringing no value to my life.

In any case, you have to decide whether and what value these people are bringing to your life and determine what level of involvement or lackthereof is appropriate. There is no single answer, because there are all kinds of people. People who lie and act unethically as part of who they are, for example, and people who may behave unethically due to an outside force (addiction, fear). You have to make your own decisions about where the lines are.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:36 AM on February 23, 2013

"when someone's behavior is not directly affecting you," you don't need to draw a line...because their behavior does not affect you. it's not your job to tell them "don't do that!" unless they ask you for advice. be friends with them if you enjoy their company, and refrain from gossip regardless of whom you're with.

i doubt you can know the whole story of why and how these things happened, if you aren't very close to them and they're not confiding in you (or vice versa) about private matters. why are you judging them? would you feel good about being friends with these people if you knew that they felt that way about some aspect of your life, and slowly lost respect for you while acting empathetic?

as far as specific advice, when someone brings up something you "don't approve" of and you feel uneasy just change the subject. ex. if your friend starts talking about her affair, "i'm sorry, i'm not comfortable talking about that, you know, i'm really trying to stop gossiping lately and i don't want to have to bite my tongue the next time i see your husband. so, how are the kids doing?" when you do this consistently, with relentless and icy politeness and a smile on your face, people will begin to think of you as a person who does not gossip. so they will stop trying to gossip with you. it requires willpower at first to cultivate that reputation but it's worth it.

you can stop making plans with these people and move on to try to find more virtuous friends, but the reality is everyone does things they are not proud of at some point. no one is perfect. if you lose touch with these people in the hopes of finding someone better, i think you might miss them when you realize that everybody has moral and personal failings, and generally only after you get to be good friends with someone do you reveal that side of yourself. so if you like hanging out with them...keep doing that, just don't gossip.
posted by zdravo at 6:38 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, you say that

a) what these people do is not affecting you, and
b) these people are casual friends at best.

That being the case, I don't really understand why you need to 'draw the line' at all. These are people you have a drink with now and again; you're not going into a business partnership with them, or making them godparent to your child.

Of course, if you think their 'unethical' behaviour in a particular area bleeds over into their general personality, so that you find them to be a slimy shyster whose company repels you, then treat them with frosty politeness.

I have many, many friends who have made ethical decisions that I wouldn't make. If I decided that people didn't meet my 'standards of friendship' because they cheated on their spouse, or had a fling with a married man, or fiddled their taxes, or acted ruthlessly at work...I'd miss out on some really good friendships.
posted by Salamander at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

You are an adult. You can choose who you are friends with and under what terms you are friends with them.

I think that "drawing the line" comes down to whether the positives of their friendship outweigh whatever negatives (direct or otherwise) you experience. There's no reasonable line that everyone should have - it really depends on you. I have friends I trust my life with and those who are entertaining but who otherwise are morally incompatible with me - both make me happy for different reasons.

I will say this - friendship is a lot easier if you focus on the interaction between you and the friend. That's not to say that you ignore the way your friend interacts with others, but if you get caught up gossiping or concerning yourself with how they live their non-related-to-you life, most of the time it's not going to make your friendship better and is a sure recipe for a lot of drama in your life.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:16 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're already not your close friends, so there isn't much for you to do. Be polite and let that be that.

Cast no stones, first or otherwise.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

On the other hand, I don't approve of her behavior and think the best course of action for her family would be divorce.

Instead of dropping otherwise fine people, I think you should focus your energy on learning to be less judgemental. You are literally making a judgement on what would be best for this entire family - husband, wife, kids, grandparents - with no idea of what goes on behind their closed doors, what he's doing, what their finances are, etc. It's not cool and you shouldn't do it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 AM on February 23, 2013 [26 favorites]

Friends vs acquaintances. Do you care for her or are you just uneasy about her actions? If it is not really the former, I don't think you are a friend or at least a close one anyway. Just carry on knowing that.
posted by asra at 7:58 AM on February 23, 2013

Keep in mind that unless this person has confided to you, an acquaintance, that she is having an extramarital affair, you are being this judgement on gossip.
posted by bq at 8:04 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

From your posting history I get the impression that you might have trouble setting boundaries and keeping other people's drama from your life. Your urge to filter out "unethical" people might come from that.

I agree with other posters that it's simplest (and fairest) to not judge other people or examine the parts of their lives that don't directly involve you. However, I'm going to assume that you're talking about people who repeatedly and publicly screw up because that's how they live their lives, or who are in an on-going mess and keep complaining about it but do nothing to fix it.

For them, you could do the slow fade: delay responding to their calls and messages, and increasingly don't respond at all. Be increasingly "busy" and arrange social events that happen not to include them.

If you see them out and about, be professional and polite but end the conversation as soon as possible (you're "running late"). In a group, smile and wave and all that but seat yourself where you can't hear them.

If gossip about them reaches your ears, become politely deaf and immediately introduce a new topic. Make politely clear to everyone that you don't let yourself get dragged into messes and you don't participate in gossip.
posted by ceiba at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

I guess I'm a bad person, because when I know an acquaintance (not a friend) has done a Naughty Thing I just sit back and enjoy thinking gossipy thoughts about them (which I try to keep to myself).

You don't know what's really going on. For the example of the affair: maybe she and her husband have an agreement. It's none of your business, so long as there isn't abuse or crimes going on that you think need to be reported.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:14 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

You don't have to be friends with anybody you don't want to. I know it would be hard for me to like and respect someone who was cheating on their spouse or partner.
posted by discopolo at 8:28 AM on February 23, 2013

My husband is like a lot of the mefites here in that he doesn't care if his friends engage in unethical behavior. And I mean the whole gamut of unethical behavior, from drunk driving to cheating to dating underage girls.

I'm different, though. I prefer my friends to be good people. At the very least, I don't enjoy endlessly processing behavior that makes me uncomfortable--and affairs are probably at the top of that list. If my friends now are adulterous, they don't tell me that and I prefer it that way.

However, in my experience any statement of disapproval or even distancing ("I'm really uncomfortable with cheating and this conversation makes me feel squicky. Can we talk about something else?") is likely to be taken very, very poorly by the cheater. Oh my god you're so terrible and judgmental. Whatever! I just don't want to talk about it. But in my experience if you ever come out and say that you're uncomfortable with it, you're likely to get an earful of why the cheater is in the right and a good person and it is actually you who are horrible.

So I choose just to distance myself from these situations without saying anything. Talk about other things. If your friend is insistent on making it the topic du jour (and many adulterous people I've known want to talk about nothing but the adultery), call them less and put more time between conversations. It's not worth the drama of a discussion. And those discussions are inevitably drama.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:30 AM on February 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I once had this friend who exhibited some pretty shady behavior at various times over the two years I knew her. She stole a few expensive items from one of her employers. She gossipped some EXTREMELY personal secrets about a different, somewhat difficult friend that she was annoyed by. She sabotaged the new relationship of her best guy friend who had a lot of trouble finding girls to date, directly after that girlfriend actually saved his life (performing CPR, getting him to the emergency room), because she was jealous of the attention his new girlfriend had been taking from her and she wanted to keep him in her friend zone.

But with me? She was super sweet, bubbly, fun. We talked a lot and opened up to each other, she was always telling me how much she cared about me and loved me.

This friend was very intent on finding a guy who could restore her to the lifestyle she grew up with - rich with money to burn. At the time I knew her, I was in a long term relationship someone I was madly in love with, who finished grad school and got a job with a really good salary while we were dating - I think this friend believed he had more money than he did, though. The relationship eventually went bad and I was extremely heartbroken and distraught. I reached out to this friend and heard... nothing. She totally stopped taking my calls suddenly and went silent. One day I mentioned something to the guy I was breaking up with offhand about it - "Wow, I haven't heard from this friend in forever." He said, "Really? I hear from her all the time, she just sent me a text saying she was thinking about me." I found out over time that when she heard our relationship was on the rocks she went after him like a hornet. When I found out she tried to finagle a sleepover in our bed on a day I went out of town (my ex was not into her at all), I sent her 1 message - not angry, just stunned and hurt. She never replied and we never spoke or saw each other again.

I really learned my lesson well after that because all the signs were there from the beginning. If someone is behaving in an untrustworthy way or lying to others in their life, it is a really bad idea to trust them and think they will be different with you. When I think about all of her behaviors that I saw when I was her friend, I think they were actually kind of sociopathic. Not sociopathic in a serial killer sense, but just doing things for self-gain that hurt other people, and not having any conscience about it at all.
posted by cairdeas at 8:35 AM on February 23, 2013 [36 favorites]

To quote Bruce Springsteen, "but sometimes, when it's your brother, you look the other way." In the case of a close friend (or relative), you probably know in your heart when you can't look the other way any longer.

But someone other than a close friend? They may not be bad people--they in all likelihood are decent people that made mistakes--but why put yourself in the way of something you don't like?
posted by skbw at 8:47 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Being non-judgmental is not a particularly useful trait. I find that I, at least, have limited social bandwidth; spending it on people who are duplicitous or dishonest is a waste of my time, so I tend to simply stop including people in my activities after I find that they have passed certain ethical boundaries. My friend circle is very low-drama as a result.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:49 AM on February 23, 2013 [16 favorites]

You may want to take a look at these questions, and dig into the logic behind why you believe you know more about your acquaintance's marriage than she and her family do ("I [...] think the best course of action for her family would be divorce"), as well as how you came to the conclusion that you are an/the objective arbiter of "ethical" behavior ("I don't approve...").
Any given person's perception of morality/ethics is a slippery beast indeed; no two sets are alike, as you have realized. As such, where you draw the line is entirely up to you -- personally, I have a number of friends who have engaged in adulterous behavior, all of which I have taken in stride because human beings are complicated animals, but I cannot abide anyone who willfully litters or throws their recycling in the trash. Takes all kinds! Best of all, you don't even need a reason to end a friendship other than "don't wanna."

Ultimately, no matter how often you are moved to cluck your tongue in the privacy of your own home over matters that do not concern or involve you in the slightest, your friends' lives are none of your business. If you find yourself continually inspired to judge these people based on the disparate bits and pieces of information that trickle down to you at bars and parties, you don't need to do anything except find a new group of drinking buddies.

As someone who was often on the other side of this equation when I was younger, I lost a number of 'friends' like you; while it stung quite a bit initially, I've since realized that "friend" is mutually exclusive with "someone who will stop speaking to you because they think you fucked up on something that has absolutely nothing to do with them." These days, if I found out that someone wanted to drop me as a friend/acquaintance because they had judged an aspect of my life to be unsuitable to them, I'd kindly ask them not to let the door hit them on their way out. Life is both terrifyingly and beautifully short, and there is no room in it for people who secretly (or not so secretly) think you're a piece of shit -- let alone people you think are pieces of shit. Well, it's time to streamline.

Taking action that others perceive as mistaken or immoral is human, minding your own business is divine. Whenever I feel the deeply judgmental part of me start to rise up, she gets smacked down with a heavy dose of reality: Haven't I fucked up a million times? Haven't we all? Haven't my friends still loved me, and haven't I still loved them? My real friends are the ones who will say (and to whom I can say), "Listen, I think your scene is kind of messed up right now, and the way things are, you're not gonna get my stamp of Magical Golden Friend Approval, but hey -- it's your life. The most important thing is that I love you, I trust you, and I will be here for you no matter what."
No amount of perennial scolding or being told that I was Doing It Wrong made a lick of difference, but it was endlessly heartening and encouraging to know that I had people in my court who felt I deserved better. Being on the receiving end of that warm, forgiving, understanding behavior was like having a pearl that grew a new layer every time I was reassured that everyone wasn't going to bail just because I was stupid and had absolutely no idea how to take care of or respect myself. Friends like these are priceless.

The bottom line is that you don't want to be friends/acquaintances with people whose behavior you have judged to be beneath contempt, with people who have chosen a different path than you would have -- most importantly, you don't have to be friends with anyone you don't want to be friends with, but it may be worth considering the fact that if they knew how you felt about them, they probably wouldn't want to be friends with you, either.

If these people aren't even that close to you, there's no need to waste any more time considering where to draw the line -- particularly given that in this case, it has already been crossed -- or how to end the acquaintances. Just end them, with a slow fade ("I'm all booked up for the next few weeks, let me get back to you") or the brutal truth ("I don't want to drink with you anymore because I think you should get a divorce and you're not getting a divorce"). Problem solved.
posted by divined by radio at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I feel that this thread has been a bit derailed by my adultery example. I just included it to avoid a bunch of questions regarding the level of unethical behavior, ie my casual friends are not killing puppies or trafficking sex slaves. . . in order to point to those slightly gray areas of behavior, where it's not an obvious deal breaker, but perhaps may hint at something deeper to be wary of or as others have mentioned, just something uncomfortable to watch/discuss.

And just to be clear, in the example given, I know of the affair first hand, her lover has joined us regularly when we are out.
posted by abirdinthehand at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2013

If it all makes me/makes me feel complicit in some way (I'm talking about you, guy who used to steal little things from self-checkout lines when we were out running errands together), it's pretty much done.

I used to be much more forgiving/"non-judgmental" until I learned, this, basically: that these behaviors were often a warning sign for how I would eventually be treated. Be especially mindful of "girl on girl crime"--if you're hearing about how terribly another woman is being treated (secrets betrayed, socially destructive behavior, boyfriend poaching, etc.) you're being told how she treats her friends or other women. So many, and such painful, examples, too many to list. Listen carefully.
posted by availablelight at 9:29 AM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think the time to draw the line is when you fear it's going to affect your own behavior, or your life, for the worse. Only you can determine how likely you are to be affected. When I was married, my husband got upset about my hanging out with people who were cheating on their spouses, leaving their spouses, etc. He thought that having friends who did this kind of thing would make it seem normal or OK. I don't feel like my friends' sexual behavior or treatment of their partners is going to affect what I do. So I don't cut anyone off for that, although I would if they were asking me to lie for them.

To pick another example where there is a difference between me and my (this time current) partner: he has a group of friends who are irresponsible around drinking, and whose drinking has affected other choices in their lives especially now that they are parents. It's clearly an ethical issue because drunk driving is sometimes involved. I do feel that hanging out with those people has made heavy drinking/drugging seem normal to both of us, in the past. So I have consciously hung out with them less. It's about creating an environment where you feel comfortable and where you can be yourself.
posted by BibiRose at 9:56 AM on February 23, 2013

I've never ended a friendship just because I disapproved of someone's actions. I have ended a friendship when the person's actions made me feel uncomfortable in their presence, caused me or someone I cared for pain, or it was obvious that this was a bad person, not a good person who does a bad thing. Where you draw the line is totally up to you. The internet can't give you permission to (casual) friend-dump.
posted by sm1tten at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I feel that this thread has been a bit derailed by my adultery example.

Maybe. But when I clicked open your thread, I was expecting your examples would be more along the lines of a coworker who helps himself to office supplies, or a friend who misrepresents his education on his resume, or a relative who befriends people for manipulative reasons. Adultery isn't that.

Put differently, there are two different factors here: Is the behavior unethical, and is it private? Something to think about.
posted by cribcage at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2013

"I know of the affair first hand, her lover has joined us regularly when we are out."

Done. If it makes you uncomfortable and, like said above, feel complicit in a situation you find unethical, you stop participating. You get to choose the situations you let yourself be part of. The more you participate, the less you can complain about being uncomfortable.
posted by jenad at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am a quality-over-quantity person in terms of friends. I don't care if you think that makes me judgmental. If you come to me and say "who made youuu the arbiter of ethical righteousness?" I say, ME. I made me the arbiter of what I consider ethically right, and what I will allow in my life and with whom I will choose to spend my time.

There is no way I could go out and socialize, with clear mind, in a group of people in which I knew one was cheating on one with the other. I would feel complicit in their secret, and it would make me physically ill. I know myself. But then, I have zero tolerance for people in my life who "use" other people - financially, emotionally, or whatever. I would far FAR rather hang with a shoplifter or office-supply-snatcher. Neither of those acts destroy lives or families.

When I found out I was being cheated on, although most of my wrath was appropriately placed on the offending party (my ex), I had plenty of ire left for our mutual friends who knew and were friendly with both of us and never said or did anything. They were obviously not my true friends, and were promptly dropped from my life like hotcakes.
posted by celtalitha at 10:53 AM on February 23, 2013 [17 favorites]

It's amusing that people are commanding you to be less judgmental; i.e., being rather judgmental of you themselves.

There are plenty of people who share your values and ethics, and make a daily practice of sticking to their code of conduct. Seek them out; avoid the rest. It's perfectly OK to be discerning. Unconditional acceptance is for chumps (she says, judgmentally).
posted by nacho fries at 11:20 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I just included [the adultery example] to avoid a bunch of questions regarding the level of unethical behavior, ie my casual friends are not killing puppies or trafficking sex slaves. . . in order to point to those slightly gray areas of behavior, where it's not an obvious deal breaker, but perhaps may hint at something deeper to be wary of or as others have mentioned, just something uncomfortable to watch/discuss.

But that's exactly the reason why people are breaking down how they feel about something like adultery, because it's something people realistically encounter on a day-to-day basis, as opposed to puppy-killing or human trafficking. Everyone will eventually have adulterers as friends and colleagues, whether they know it or not, and it really is a gray area when you try to think about how to deal with that knowledge when you encounter it.

On the one hand, you have the right to edit your social circle as you see fit. If it makes you uncomfortable to be around the Adulterer and the Lover, then you have every right to minimize your contact with these people. In my social circle, there were two people with a, shall we say, similar dynamic, and it became really hilariously awful when we were all around one another.

Then again - everyone else also has the same right to edit their social circles. If you're overly snippy to the Adulterer, then they might decide that you're rude, judgmental, a gossip, etc., completely irrespective of whether or not these are fair accusations. If you're fine with that, then you're fine with that.


On the other hand, if you were to write off this adulterer as even a minimal social contact because they are too unethical for you, then you would have had to say the same thing about Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other perfectly worthwhile people who were also adulterers, or if not adulterers specifically, people who had done other bad things.

It's not that adultery is ethical - it's not - so much as it is the case that good people doing unethical things is the general state of humanity.

Similarly, no matter how nice of a person you are - and I'm sure that you are very nice indeed - it would be all too easy to construct a moral argument as to why YOU'RE actually a very unethical person, for reasons x, y, and z, both for individual discrete acts and for acts that are typical of someone living in modern country with modern technology, i.e. using products produced in sweatshops, living the relative high life while others starve, etc.

If faced with these accusations, you would of course defend yourself, and say that people are being unfair, judgmental, hypocritical, and so on and so forth, but it would be too late, because they've already written you off. Would you be okay with that?


In sum, then, what are my two cents?

Keep track of how close you are to various people, and keep them at that same, appropriate size in all your dealings with them.

If these are casual acquaintances, then STOP CARING ABOUT THIS. It is wasted energy to pretend that this is something relevant to you. You are being smug and pharisaic by acting as if you are morally superior to these people. You don't know what people are really thinking and doing, or why they do it.

If these are close friends, where you would feel obligated to say something to someone, then it's different. No one-size-fits-all solution here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:32 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't see the upside of hanging out with casual friends whose behaviors and choices make you uncomfortable.

I have a really dear friend of decades' standing whom I adore. At one point, I became aware that she was shoplifting. I don't know what that was about, still don't, as far as I know it was a behavior that happened only during a brief period of high stress for her. It was very difficult for me to decide what to do, and from my perspective I took the coward's way out of choosing not to go shopping with her (I learned about the shoplifting from a common friend who shared it with me because she was sad and perplexed).

This is a close, close friend and ultimately her friendship meant more to me than my conviction that what she was doing was wrong and hurting others. But. If she had been a casual friend, it might not have.

"My boyfriend that my husband doesn't know about is joining us for drinks" is a terribly unfair position to put a friend in.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:39 AM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you come to me and say "who made youuu the arbiter of ethical righteousness?" I say, ME. I made me the arbiter of what I consider ethically right, and what I will allow in my life and with whom I will choose to spend my time.

Fortunately, you, OP, and all the rest of us maintain the inalienable right to exclude anyone we have judged to be unacceptably/contextually unethical from our own lives; as stated above many times over, anyone can end a friendship just because. There is absolutely no requirement to remain acquainted or obligated to any person, for any reason, let alone one whose behavior you clearly find odious. The line is anywhere you want it to be, and it is usually rather malleable on a case-by-case basis. There is also no need to justify any of this to anyone, as there is no committee deciding whether or not your standards are acceptable -- for you.

OP oversteps the boundaries of propriety only when, rather than simply and non-dramatically removing themselves from the situation that makes him/her so uncomfortable, s/he instead chooses to remain present, continuing to (silently) project his/her moral codes and boundaries upon others. Believing that you know what the best course of action is for someone else, let alone someone you barely know -- call me judgmental, but it just isn't appropriate. If you don't want to be friends with someone, don't be! It's that easy.

We have access to a very limited amount of time and energy in this life, so there is no need to waste any more of yours hanging around anyone who makes you uncomfortable. Maintaining "friendships" with those folks means that you are sabotaging yourself, purposely remaining aware of, continuing to worry about, and maybe even becoming complicit in what you perceive to be your acquaintances' capital-I Issues. The Issues can be about anything from marital woes to recycling habits to reproductive choices to dietary preferences, etc. -- but really, you even have permission to stop hanging out with someone if your only problem with them is that you think they tie their shoes wrong.

Let it go or let them go; it's in your best interest and theirs -- there's simply no need for you to stick along for the ride.
posted by divined by radio at 11:55 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

So where do you draw the line?

At that which makes you uncomfortable. In that situation, her bringing her lover around seems to make you uncomfortable because it gives you access to information you're not comfortable with having (so, it actually is affecting you). How you respond to that is up to you.
posted by heyjude at 12:43 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Either it's a casual enough relationship that you can do a drama-free fade (which is what this sounds like) or it's an intimate enough relationship that it deserves an honest conversation about it before you dump them. The end result may be to ease your concerns (she and the husband have an agreement) or give the other.person pause or help you realize it's a dealbreaker. Wharever the outcome, if it's a person who matters to you then your own ethics ought to include honesty and open communication.
posted by headnsouth at 2:04 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Add mine to the pile of "I don't hang out with people who do shitty things to other people because I know it's only a matter of time before they do something shitty to me."

Plus, ugh, yeah, people who are cheating sure tend to blab on about it a lot. In my experience it has always gone like this: they constantly talk about it, it's extremely unpleasant to listen to (it's horrible to the people they're cheating on, and sometimes with, and often they're all fucked up about it too), I can't fake any positive emotion and say very little, they press me, I say something honest and tactful like "I don't approve and I don't like listening to it" as blandly as I can, they freak out because, at least in my experience, they're already in a bad emotional place. And it sucks for their friends, because normally you want to be able to help your friends through a bad or complicated time, but there's nothing you can do in that situation and no way to console them and every way to anger them no matter what you say.

It's just really no great reward being a friend to someone like this. They bring bad things upon themselves, then get upset, and bring bad things onto people who care about them.

I have zero tolerance for it anymore. Every single time I've quit socializing with that kind of person my life has gotten much better. And I've noticed or heard back about all the shitty things they're doing to other people in their life and have never, ever had a regret about dropping someone like this. Many of them I feel quite bad for, and not in a self-righteous way, because they all had reasons to do the things they did and they're living terrible lives they can't seem to stopping making worse. But I also have friends with crappy lives that don't make other people's lives awful.

My very firm rule is that I am not friends with anyone who knowingly hurts another person for their own gain. Works like a charm.
posted by Nattie at 10:24 PM on February 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I believe that it's not possible to know what's really going on for anybody else and that compassion is ultimately the most important thing.

I also have a policy of Don't draw me into your ethically problematic behavior. I won't lie for you and I won't refuse to answer a direct question if your partner/other involved person asks me something. Given that, consider how much you want to tell me about what it is you're doing.

Exceptions made for "help me plan this surprise party" and things like that. (And "help me get out of an abusive relationship" is a totally different thing, of course, in support of which I would cheerfully lie through my teeth as needed.)
posted by Lexica at 9:59 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with many who have said the line is when people are hurting others. I have also taken a hard look at who I spend my time with, not only because their behavior may directly effect me negatively, but because our standards are set by those we draw close.

It's clearer to me now that I have to perhaps not exclude those that fall in the gray area, but more so seek out people that set a higher standard and make me want to be a better version of myself.

Thanks for all the responses!
posted by abirdinthehand at 3:52 PM on March 25, 2013

« Older KVM for MBP and Mac Pro (DVI and Mini Displayport)   |   Best free&easy online social database... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.