How do we deal with adults acting like teenagers?
May 6, 2013 5:33 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with a snowball of special snowflake drama from supposed friends and set clear boundaries when they are being clearly unreasonable.

Related to the last question I posted whereas slightly different. (Yes I took the advice and brought it up to her and we've discussed the issue... this kinda spawned from it whereas not from our side):

This question is for me and my girlfriend (Q - aged 26); she has a best friend (M - aged 21) who she's been friends with for a good few years now. They used to talk every single day online pretty constantly before we got together. They were a sort of support system for each other while going through some shitty times - both suffering from depression and M with severe anxiety to top it all off.

Myself and my gf made friends at the same time as myself and M, as well as a 4th person (C - aged 21). For a while, we were all good friends but then me and Q started getting closer and chatting on webcam every night for around 8 hours or so. This caused an issue with both M and C, as they said they could tell when we were chatting together as we both started ignoring them. Both M and C have an issue they've talked about before where they are afraid of people leaving them and being ignored, so myself and Q think this factors into their reaction quite a lot.

M and Q have been having a lot of issues because of all this; they've had lots of arguments where M makes Q feel like she's the one in the wrong all the time, and as if she's not considering M's feelings when I know that she has been doing quite intensely.

M claims that Q is ignoring her because she doesn't reply to messages straight away, and that she's been "dumped" for me because she now has everything she needs in her relationship with me.

Meanwhile, C and M have been getting closer and closer during this time. C makes passive aggressive posts on her blog, vague enough that people who don't know what's going on wouldn't think anything of it, but completely obvious to us that they're about me and Q. She took it upon herself to talk to Q online, getting really pissy and angry about how Q wasn't considering M's feelings and that she was "skirting around the issue", which Q quite rightly got pissed off at. She gave C a piece of her mind about not getting involved, since it wasn't anything to do with her, and then she seemed like she backed off.

On the same day, M and Q decided that they should have a "friendship break" for two weeks to see if they can take a step back and sort things out and then see if they can be friends again afterwards. All well and good, but still feeling super teenagey. So that was going well right up until last night, when Q got an anonymous message being rude about a hairstyle she's considering - it was quite obvious it was from one of the parties above, because the grammar and writing style was identical. Q responded in kind, leading to more anonymous messages getting pissed off at her reactions. In the end, M and C unfollowed both myself and Q on this blog, leading to myself unfollowing them too. I got a message from M afterwards explaining, and saying that she didn't want me to take it personally because it was only temporary and that it was weird for her to see my posts from Q. I replied fairly reasonably, but then M's housemate (L - aged 22) decided to get involved and send me messages too, saying that I was attacking M and that I should keep out of it.

Sounds somewhat hypocritical to me, and again, feeling a lot like being 15 and in high school. Messages went back and forth between me and L where she got really aggressive and said that Q should start thinking about how her actions are affecting M.

So I think that basically the point is: how the hell do we deal with all this drama? It's making me and Q really stressed out and increasing my own anxiety. I know Q doesn't want to cut contact forever with M considering how close they are, but the fact that she's just getting other people involved is really getting to Q.

I would, myself, prefer to cut contact but obviously that'd be a strain to the relationship and it's not something I can honestly demand out of anyone, least someone I care so much about. On the other hand, it's been so much stress and drama in such a short amount of time that I am at my wits end about all of this.

PS: Me and Q have been able to talk about all of this and can not figure out the best solution to take, hence this post. Things are great between us, but -- at least from to me -- this situation is really taking a toll, whereas not heavy, in the relationship.
posted by Trexsock to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stop participating in it, that's how you stop it. Stop following the blogs, cut off the anonymous messages on whatever forum they're coming through, unplug your computers if you have to. Spring is here, spend your evenings and weekends taking long walks in the park instead. You can't lose if you don't play.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:38 AM on May 6, 2013 [36 favorites]

Do you all talk and hang out anywhere OFF the internet? Because the very nature of blogs makes any argument public, with all sorts of spectators and witnesses and defendants.

Stop dealing with these people online, it's just exacerbating the issues. If you all live far apart, then it might be time for the friendship to end. If you live close by, go have an ice cream together and DISENGAGE from the internet.
posted by lydhre at 5:39 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is supremely teenagery and immature. I don't know if it is the age difference betwen you guys (21 vs 26) or if there is just a huge maturity imbalance. It doesn't really matter the reason because the end result is the same, and that is M (and C) are being intensely immature and unkind. I think your girlfriend needs to think harder on how close she and M are because M sounds like she's not being a friend at all. Quite the opposite. I frankly would make their "friendship break" permanent. I'd friendship divorce them and go find some new friends who are so resentful of my relationship and who are so passive aggressive and rude. Life is too short to keep ties with people who are only bringing drama and negativity. Seriously.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:41 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

So I think that basically the point is: how the hell do we deal with all this drama

Ignore it. 100%. Online, when your gf brings it up, etc. Just don't take part in it at all.

(Also, next time please use initials that have some relationship to the role each person's playing. GF, BF, etc. or even 1, 2, 3, etc. are much easier to follow than random letters.)
posted by headnsouth at 5:43 AM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Trying to actively control and correct other people's bad behavior is like throwing gas on a fire. You can't play a parental role here. The best way to respond to this sort of behavior is to ignore it.

Also, don't frame this as something that you're merely observing. Messages didn't 'go back and forth between you and L;' you each sent your messages. It wasn't the messages' choice, it was yours.
posted by jon1270 at 5:44 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

You have your answer already. Set appropriate boundaries. Boundaries are often not something that two people can set together, but rather behaviours that individuals set for themselves, and then two people can agree to enact those boundaries. Parents, for example, can agree boundaries for children, but it is up to each individual parent to enact those boundaries within their behaviour.

Honestly, I stopped reading the post 2/3s of the way through because it is very confusing. Sniping comments made on blogs and all that.

Creating a list of priorities would probably be a good start. Q is your number one priority amongst these people. If any lower priority comes in conflict with your relationship with Q, stop giving that conflict energy.

Basically, you have to decide how you want to spend what is really the precious time that makes up your life. If you are enjoying this process – which you may be – then by all means, proceed. For this is how you want to spend your time and your life. If you are not enjoying this process – which you say you are not – then change it.

One thing to remember is that you are feeding a beast at the moment, by responding. The drama continues because it produces a result, mainly in the form of your attention. If you stop paying attention to attention-seeking behaviour, the attention-seeker will (eventually) go elsewhere to seek attention.

What does this practically look like? Spend your time with Q building a relationship, and let the others fade. It is then on Q to join you on that journey. If Q decides that she wants to continue being enveloped in drama, your new choice is between accepting the drama as a condition of being with Q, or go seek your fortune elsewhere and leave the lot of them to 'entertain' themselves.
posted by nickrussell at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Number one, get OUT more. On line is all well and good, if you have no other options, but if you do, for fuck's sake, use them.

As others have said, and will say, the quickest way to nip drama in the bud is to ignore it. Drama can't live in a vacuum.

So WHAT if someone is rude to you about a hairstyle. Let them be. Don't acknowledge it. How about stop blogging about every minute detaile of one's life on a blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.

If you both went radio silent on social media for a week or so, all drama will dissipate completely. Move to talking to Q on the phone (if you're long distance) or, here's a novel idea, how about you two get together and actually date?

So, take a social media vacation. Don't respond to email, don't blog, don't FB post.

Once you've had a chance to let the dust settle, you can all sort out your relationships.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Trexsock, you're completely participating in the "drama" just as much as everyone else is. "Revenge-unfollowing" people on blogs?? Getting worked up over "vague" blog posts that are "obviously" about you?? Escalating a hostile message war with an anonymous person???

No. You are being just as immature as all of them. You need to stop participating. Stop reading these people's blogs. Don't follow them and don't unfollow them, just leave it all alone. If you get any hostile anonymous messages don't reply to them. Just stay out of it. If you get any hostile... nonymous messages, don't reply to them. This is between your girlfriend and her friends. This doesn't and shouldn't concern you. You jumping in to "defend" her is nothing more than relishing your own role in the drama. Just stay out of it, completely.
posted by cairdeas at 5:47 AM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

@everyone who mentioned it: Yes I did reply to the messages last night, but I have already closed my blog to any sort of queries (anonymous or not), actively making me unreachable because you're right, I want nothing to do with it any more. Just to stop the drama.
posted by Trexsock at 5:47 AM on May 6, 2013

Being close with someone doesn't mean that you have to be close with them forever. People change and sometimes that change means that you're no longer compatible.

If someone is bringing you drama, then get away from them. If you're far enough away, they can't give you drama-cakes any more. Remove those individuals from your line of vision and your life will improve immeasurably.
posted by Solomon at 5:57 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

It will be really hard to leave this alone. But do it! A secret I only learned in, like, my mid-thirties: almost all interpersonal drama [that is not the result of grossly immoral behavior such as sexual assault] will dissipate in a month or six if left alone. People who you would swear up and down will never speak to each other again will patch things up and move on. In fact, one thing that occurred to me yesterday as I chatted with someone I'd been anxiously avoiding for months is that it takes energy to keep a feud going. I had always assumed that Something Bad Happens, Friendship Is Broken, Zero Energy Is Required Because Friendship Is Broken, No One Ever Speaks To Each Other Again. But this is not so! The zero-energy solution is to step back, chat idly with people if they drift into your orbit again and seem friendly, and see where things go.

Step back! Three days of not checking these blogs or facebooks or whatever and you will have an entirely new set of internet habits.
posted by Frowner at 5:58 AM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

Seriously, I couldn't read this question- too convoluted and should just unplug yourself. 8 hours per night should only be spent on sleeping. Disengage, get outside, lose the drama and maybe 21 vs 26 is too much of an age difference.
posted by bquarters at 5:59 AM on May 6, 2013 [17 favorites]

Two people starting a relationship in a group of friends is a change and some people will be threatened or scared by change. This is something they should put in the puberty movies they show everyone in 6th grade because it always ends up being a surprise, but it really shouldn't be!

You and your girlfriend should disengage for a little while, and then your girlfriend could contact M in the most direct way possible (in person if they live in the same area, by phone if not) and say, "I realize my relationship with Trexsocks is a change, but you're my friend and I love you, and I still have time for you."

M's reaction will say a lot. If she's willing to discuss and adjust - good. If she still wants to play the wounded victim - your girlfriend can dial the friendship way down because M is selfish.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:30 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

21 is basically still a teenager, unfortunately, especially if everyone involved is American. I'm 26, like your girlfriend (and consider myself just barely an adult), and I spend a lot of time with 18-21 year olds because I'm paid to and only because I'm paid to. Many of them are already awesome and will turn out to be fantastic adults who I could maybe be friends with -- in a few years.

In general, though, you can't change other people's behavior. That's something very young people try to do until they realize that the only thing they can control is their own behavior. If you want the most adult resolution to this issue, don't bemoan the (completely unsurprising) lack of maturity in your friends; be a model of maturity yourself.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:30 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I spent five minutes trying to make sense of all the characters at play here, and then I just decided that it just doesn't matter. You can't stop other people from causing drama. What you can do is stop contributing to it, which means disengage, now. For whatever reason, these people are not good friends for you and your girlfriend right now. Just let it go and concentrate on living your lives well.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

"We are done engaging you about how much attention you think you deserve from us. We don't feel like we owe you anything and arguments that we do owe you something will not get any traction from us. We enjoy spending time with you but we also enjoy not spending time with you, and both of those things have to be okay with you. The more you push, the less we are going to enjoy spending time with you.

"When we want to spend time with you we will invite you to [ride bikes to the beach / play pinochle / go to the movies / whatever fun things you used to do together]. If you'd like to spend time with us, you are welcome to invite us to things as well. If for whatever reasons we're not able to do those things, if we don't see you when you'd like to see us or for as long as you'd like, that has to be okay. If that's not going to work, it's not going to work."

And then stop spending time online. It's a breeding ground for weird drama. Get into your own lives, get to know your neighbors, and commit to having your social life in person rather than online. It will cut out about 70% of this drama.
posted by gauche at 8:27 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing others above: this is way too complicated to read or comprehend. It also seems to be linked somehow to the players in your other question where there was some general unpleasantness and mean-spiritedness and gossipy overall ick.

So because of that, the framing of your post and your question of, "How do we deal with adults acting like teenagers?" is this:

STOP dealing with them, period. You mention a lot of special snowflake details but none of this reads as particularly special or snowflakey. This just seems like you are engaged with a bunch of people who are really into creating and living their own very dramatic (and to my eye, overwhelmingly exhausting and obnoxious) lives.

I do not like to hang out with people like this.

Because of your two posts about the stress these people are giving you, I suggest you do the same.

Believe me when I tell you there are loads of people out there who will not create such drama in your life. Find those people. Hang with those people. Get away from this group of people.

And also really examine how much drama you're bringing to the mix.
posted by kinetic at 8:27 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would argue that most if not all of the participants here are not adults, or even especially mature late adolescents.

You need to stop participating, which may include a social media break and then reboot with a new persona. That persona needs to be a grown up who doesn't engage with manufactured drama.

You may also eventually have to split up with your girlfriend if she cannot chose of her own volition to do the same. This sort of behavior is compulsive and addictive and she'll have to choose not to do it in the same way people have to choose to stop smoking or shooting up or whatever for themselves. Also, when the drama wears off, you may find the two of you have never actually engaged as individual human beings and there's not as much going on there as you thought. If you are prolonging this fake drama in order to cover up that fact, know that it will stop working one day no matter what.

The first step in not participating is an absolute zip-lip policy. You do not discuss those people or their bullshit with anyone - anyone, even the perpetrators - except your therapist, and only insofar as to say "some people are drama-baiting me and I don't have the life skills necessary to deal with it, so I need to work on that." Never, ever again will you pass on or discuss what they said or whose blog they posted on or anything else about them. Refuse to discuss with your girlfriend so that the two of you can have a relationship that's about the two of you rather than the four of you. You do this for the same reasons newly-sober people are not encouraged to hang out in bars, but you also do it for unimpeachable moral superiority. Stop playing the damn game, and stop being a gossip. It makes you a worse human being.

The second step in not participating is to go outside. Log off, walk out the front door, go to a place where people are. Do this at least once a day. When you've established that habit, level up by going and helping people with real problems. Go fold baby clothes for a charity shop or stack napkins for a soup kitchen or something. If you are in school, you could always be studying harder. If you do not have a job, consider getting one. Engage in real life. Responsibility is what turns people into adults. Y'all have too much free time.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 AM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

1. Get off the internet --- EIGHT HOURS of messaging every night?!? For heaven's sake, that's ridiculous, no matter WHAT your relationship is: GF/BF, best friends, total strangers, whatever, you're spending a full THIRD of your life hunched over your keyboard. WAY overboard.
2. Don't participate in the drama, don't feed it or even acknowledge it exists.

Your relationship with Q has nothing to do with M, nor does M have any right whatsoever to complain about feeling left out. M does not own Q, is not married to or a parent or sibling of Q, and has no right to insist that anyone, including Q, focus only on M. In fact, this is one of the signs of an abuser: demanding Q pay attention only to M. And M's insistance that messages be answered immediately? Hell no, because NO ONE has the right to demand that ANYONE drop whatever they're doing to immediately answer ANY phone calls, texts, emails or smoke signals.

Ditto for C: none of this is any of C's business. And that goes even MORE for L: your girlfriend's best friend's roommate has nothing to do with you.

So. Turn off your computer, and stop feeding the drama.
posted by easily confused at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

feeling a lot like being 15 and in high school

Sometimes it's helpful to hear that your experience is totally foreign to most people. You write things like the above ("We're being so immature") but you don't really grasp it, because if you did this entire question would be solved in about three seconds.

Most people perceive themselves as "normal" and so they assume their experiences are normal, too. Like you, they recognize that their experiences might be flawed ("I'm being immature," "I'm making a mistake," etc) but those flaws still feel normalized. It can be helpful to realize that most people, including people in your age group and demographic, never read or post passive-aggressive blog posts or use the phrase "friendship break."

Peer pressure can be a good thing, ABC Afterschool Specials notwithstanding. It's used to enforce social norms. Many social norms are good. Generally speaking I wouldn't say to somebody, "You should feel abnormal, and you should feel the threat of ridicule," and I definitely wouldn't say it to somebody unsolicited. But you're asking for help. You have the intellect and maturity to want to change this situation. In this circumstance, I think it's worth throwing this on the table as an idea.

GF, BF, etc. or even 1, 2, 3, etc. are much easier to follow than random letters.

You're halfway there. What's easiest to follow are names. "My girlfriend, Quinn. Her best friend, Martha. A fourth person, Carla." People expect names and so that's what's easiest, from a readability standpoint.
posted by cribcage at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

we both started ignoring them. Both M and C have an issue they've talked about before where they are afraid of people leaving them and being ignored, so myself and Q think this factors into their reaction quite a lot.

This behavior - on all sides - is ridiculous... BUT I didn't cotton to it much myself when my best friend went MIA when he started a relationship with someone new. So I'm wondering how much validity there is to the point that M&C feel like Q (and you) are shitty friends - especially if there has been a sudden and rapid decline in communication.

Also, I am wondering (per your last question) if M&C are aware your feelings about your girlfriend's friendship with (I'm assuming) M.
posted by sm1tten at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2013

Here are the two lines that stuck out to me:

they've talked about before where they are afraid of people leaving them and being ignored, so myself and Q think this factors into their reaction quite a lot.

While Q may have helped M through some tough times, Q does not have a responsibility to stay friends with M just for the sake of protecting M from M's fear of people leaving him (or her or whatever). It's not Q's responsibility.


M claims that Q is ignoring her because she doesn't reply to messages straight away, and that she's been "dumped" for me because she now has everything she needs in her relationship with me.

Well, yeah, if you and Q are dating, you are of course the primary person in satisfying Q's needs. Duh. Explain to M that this is how the world works.

I would not only cut myself off from C and M, but would ask Q to do so as well. If she won't/can't, this might be a deal breaker. You need to find out if her relationship with you is more important than her relationship with C and M. If it is, then maybe your relationship on a romantic level is not feasible.
posted by Doohickie at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2013

Sometimes you have to step away from things for a while and come back (much) later on and see whether or not there's something real there. So my suggestion is that everyone needs a timeout from each other.

This will go on forever if you let it. You just need to remove yourselves from the middle of it.
posted by heyjude at 9:56 PM on May 6, 2013

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