I don't know what to do about this friendship anymore.
May 9, 2013 11:58 AM   Subscribe

My friend is getting increasingly rude and mean with me, and yet I always find myself apologizing to make things right. What should I do?

My friend, Ann, and I have been best friends for nearly a decade (since high-school). We are both female, mid-20s. She's always been a very confident, outspoken, somewhat stubborn person, meanwhile I am incredibly self-conscious and passive. Many times, with many people, I find myself apologizing to smooth things over, even when I know I'm right. It's gotten out of hand with this particular friendship and I'm starting to feel a little taken advantage of. I'm not sure how to talk to her about it, or if I should even bother.

She's been pretty critical of me for a few years now. Some examples: When I'm driving, she'll tell me it's my turn to go at a 4-way stop, before I've even come to a full stop. I was pulled over once (and generously let off with a warning) for rolling through a stop-sign, so I always make sure I'm at a full stop before I go. She also tells me I'm weird for driving with my hands at 10 and 2, because I "need to relax more." That's just how I learned to drive with my overly-paranoid mom teaching me, and it's what feels comfortable for me. Besides, who cares how I hold the wheel? I've never gotten a ticket or been in an accident, so I think I'm doing OK. On the other hand, she ran a yield sign once and hit another car which sent her car flying into someone's house. I just think no one should be telling anyone how to drive, unless they are actually in danger. Additionally, I always drive because she shares a car with her boyfriend and usually can't afford gas. I don't really like being criticized for the way I drive while I'm actually doing her a favor.

Ann also gives me a hard time when I don't feel like going out and drinking on a work night. I have an 8-5 job while she works retail hours, so I get up 4-5 hours earlier than her every day. On a work-night, I'm asleep by 11. She'll make comments like, "don't you think you should enjoy being young?" or "I don't understand why you want to be so boring." I would love to enjoy being young, but I'm not really all that young anymore, and I have a demanding job that I worked very hard to get. I also have some health problems that make drinking uncomfortable sometimes. Usually, it seems like she wants me to drink with her because I'm generous when I'm drunk and end up buying a lot of drinks for her (since she can't afford them). She "pays me back" by giving me free coffee from the coffee shop she owns. I totally don't mind this scenario, when it's my own decision, but I don't like being pressured to come drink just so she can take advantage of me.

She also likes to try to make me feel stupid. She'll incorrectly correct my grammar and talk down to me a lot. I'll text something like, "I don't know where their house is," and she'll respond with, "don't you mean 'there'?" This infuriates me because I'm a professional writer. Grammar is what I do all day. And besides, she's wrong. I've never once corrected her grammar, even though it's atrocious. I just feel it's rude to be the grammar police. (an example of her grammar: "she don't even know where there house is." I rest my case.)

The breaking point was on a recent road trip, when she freaked out on me for asking if her car was reliable enough to make the drive (some of you may have seen my question about that, it has since been removed). I apologized and settled things by offering that my boyfriend and I pay for a rental car. She said she couldn't afford the $12 her share of the rental would have been. That was fine...until 2 days later she spent a lot of money dying her hair and buying a new dress. I felt extremely taken advantage of. If you're going to tell me you can't afford $12 for a rental car, don't go out and get your hair done days later. I ended up asking her to pitch in her share since gas ended up being about $80 less than we'd anticipated. Additionally, she complained about the size of the car and the size of my suitcase (which was a medium-sized suitcase that I'd filled with things like sunblock and aloe, which I don't use often as I'm dark-skinned, but I brought it because her boyfriend is very pale-skinned). She made a lot of underhanded comments about the space in the backseat of the car (where she, her boyfriend, and myself were sitting), and she even made a comment that maybe I'd gained weight and that's why it was so cramped. This might sound shallow, but I'm a size 4 and she's a size 12...she didn't really have any right to comment on my weight.

I didn't bring up how hurt I was, but for the weeks after the trip, I've been a little distant with her. Yesterday, she asked me why we haven't talked much lately, and I told her I'm not mad, just a little hurt by some of her comments. She again flipped out on me, saying that she did me a favor by even chipping in for gas, and I'm being too sensitive about the weight comment. I work hard, against a difficult medical condition, to maintain my current weight. Her comment was completely out of line. I also don't understand how someone can claim I'm too sensitive about a weight comment, when she recently berated me for several hours about a car comment. Does not compute.

I feel taken advantage of and hurt, but she won't see that she's wrong. She insists I'm rude for asking about her car, rude for asking her to help pay for the rental car after she'd lied about being able to afford it, and overly-sensitive because her comment about my weight upset me. I even ended up apologizing last night! I don't know what to do. On the one hand, this all really upset me. On the other, these things aside, we have a lot of fun together and a shared history. We've been there for each other through some really difficult times. I'd like to get past this, but I can't shake the hurt I feel that she won't even acknowledge that I'm upset.

How do you talk to someone who refuses to accept that they may have done something wrong? Should I even bother at this point? I'm tired of being walked all over, but I don't want to lose my best friend.

(This isn't a case where she's my only friend and that's why I'm holding on. I have a lot of really great friends that treat me very well. In fact, I am one of her only friends because she's pushed most of them away with this attitude.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (71 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm tired of being walked all over, but I don't want to lose my best friend.

You no longer have a best friend. You now have a needy, whiny, parasite. You have the internet's permission to drop the relationship entirely.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [81 favorites]

I don't want to lose my best friend.

Ann's a jerk. I think a lot of people hold on to these high-school era jerks (on MeFi and in real life) out of momentum. So much growth happens through adolescence and then your 20s (and beyond)--the people who were awesome and totally fun may not be the right folks for you in another decade.

That is totally cool, in my book--I think I have had a wonderful, different best friend every decade of my life. When you grow apart, take a breather. Sometimes you catch back up--I'm still friends with my best friend from second grade. My wife is my best friend now.

Anyway, dump Ann. She's treating you worse than you would treat a stranger. It's not worth it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]

This is not your friend, AT ALL. Move on. Sucks for only a couple days then you get over it. I recently dropped a long term friend for unfriendly behavior. I'm better off.

If people aren't adding to your life, they don't deserve to be in your life.

She is totally verbally abusive. It's not okay. Just stop talking to her, remove her from social media, don't text her back. Done.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ugh...I'm struggling to figure out what to say beyond "FIND A NEW BEST FRIEND!" People that make you feel bad, question yourself, feel taken advantage of...those people are not your friends. Friends, especially best friends, should celebrate your successes and encourage your best qualities. You should admire them and both sides should work to make life happier, easier and more awesome for each other.

Basically, expand your circle and find someone who you're more compatible with as a friend.
posted by victoriab at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

She's a turd. DTMFA!
posted by joan_holloway at 12:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Here's what I'd say to Ann. "While I value our past friendship, I'm having a hard time with how you speak to me and how rude you are to me. I think that for now, we should take a break from our friendship. I'll let you know if and when I want to resume it, but as it stands, I don't enjoy being with you right now."

This isn't a matter of "I'm right and you're wrong." It's a matter of "You aren't according me the respect that I deserve as a human and I'm not putting up with it anymore."

You don't have to defend your decision and you don't have to explain to her any more than the fact that you don't want to be her friend right now.

We can't always hang on to our friends throughout our lives. As it stands it's obvious that you're on different paths, and you don't have that much in common any more.

It happens to everyone.

Trust me, you won't miss her you'll be relieved without her in your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Defriend her on FB, block her email, change your phone number (or block hers) but cut off all contact.

You are breaking up and you need to get her away from you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

What are you getting out of this friendship? Specifically, what are you getting out of it now, not in the past? The only benefit to you I see mentioned is your question is some free coffee. Now, maybe you've left out some of Ann's positive qualities (although there hardly seems room for any, given what you have mentioned), but if not, the huge price you're paying (financial, emotional, mental) is not worth a few cups of coffee.

Not that friendships should ordinarily be a strict tally of give and take and "am I getting at least as much as I am giving," but when the balance sheet is this overwhelmingly against you, it needs to end.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is your best friend? She's awful and she doesn't like you. No friends would be preferable and more healthy for you.

Don't break up, just move on.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been you (age, the personality types involved, the power dynamic, everything) and the best thing I ever did was admit to myself that I was getting MUCH more bad from knowing this person than good, and ending the friendship. I went for the slow fade-out at first but was eventually confronted about why I wasn't "putting any effort into the friendship", which presented a quite satisfying opportunity to spell things out. The act of standing up to this person, as well as simply not having them in my life, actually did some really good things for my self-esteem and I have not regretted it for one minute.
posted by lovableiago at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know this is tangential to the question, but you really shouldn't drive with your hands at 10 and 2. Imagine what will happen if the airbags deploy. The force could easily break your arms.

That said, you have better friends. No need to have any dramatic break up. Just fade her out and prioritize your time with folks who value your friendship and share your values. I think a large problem is that you aren't comfortable articulating those values. "I like the stability of not working retail. I like prioritizing my health. I am okay with being someone you perceive as boring and no fun."
posted by politikitty at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ann sounds like she sucks. But, if you want to be her friend, stop being so passive and stand up to her. Stop apologizing when you have nothing to apologize for.

You're being really defensive in your explanation. You don't have to be. It frankly doesn't matter why you're a safe driver, or your suitcase is so big, or why you need so much sunscreen or that you have a good reason to not go for drinks on a weeknight. The issue is that your friend is being a dick.

The next time she criticizes the way you drive, you tell her to shut up and stop being a backseat driver. If she corrects your grammar, tell her to cut that shit out. If she's not capable of talking to you in a respectful way, than she doesn't deserve your friendship.
posted by inertia at 12:28 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

Ann sounds deeply insecure, like either she's invented a competition with you in her head that she's losing, or she's projecting her failures onto you or something.

It sounds like you have a better job than she does, are thinner, and have more money, certainly a more reliable car. It's interesting that a lot of the conflicts that are coming up are centered around intelligence and the sorts of things you've got from having transitioned fully into adulthood. She ran a yield sign, hit a car, and crashed into someone's house? Of course she's going to wind up criticizing your driving.

To answer your question, though, there really is no making someone like this understand. I rolled my eyes when you said she called you "over-sensitive" for complaining about the weight comment. "You're too sensitive" and "I honestly don't understand what the big deal is" are two common refrains of assholes/self-centered people/people who lack empathy. She sounds toxic as hell, but again, she's not going to get to a place of understanding with you. I would find better friends and work on your boundaries.
posted by alphanerd at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]

I had a best friend for 20 years who was similarly mean and critical and I always was the one to apologize and bend over backwards to smooth things over. When I was about 28, I finally opened my eyes and saw that this person who I thought was my best friend was actually a really bad friend. I had other, stronger, better friendships that made me realize that I didn't need this toxic person in my life, so we haven't really spoken since and I haven't missed her at all.
posted by greta simone at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wonder if there's an extent to which you get something out of this friendship in terms of feeling superior--she's obnoxious, you're gracious; she's rude, you're thoughtful; she's a bad driver, you're a good driver; she has terrible grammar, you have excellent grammar; she's irresponsible, you're responsible; she's driven people away, you have plenty of friends; etc. etc.

It feels good to be better at something than someone else--but this friendship is weird and toxic and it sounds like you'd both be better off parting ways. You'd be better off if you invested time and energy in friendships with people who respect you, honor your boundaries, and are nice to you. She'd be better off if her "best friend" wasn't someone who felt superior to her.

I'm not saying you're both equally wrong--I think she's probably hurting you more than you're hurting her--but I'd encourage you to examine your motives for staying in this friendship. Work on valuing, stating, and enforcing your boundaries instead of stating, dismissing, and then fuming over them when someone like Ann ignores them.

You could try confronting Ann the next time she says something nasty, but honestly, I doubt she'll be interested in hearing you. The best way to get your message across is going to be to live it: not just saying, "That hurt my feelings," but following it up with, "No, I'm not going to apologize for feeling hurt by the nasty thing you said, and if you can't accept that, let's spend some time apart. We can talk when you're willing to respect my feelings."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:34 PM on May 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

She's jealous of you. You need to distance yourself from her. You don't have to give her a big speech or cut her off entirely, if you don't want to. Who knows, maybe in 10 years she'll be more confident and therefore nicer and you can be friends again. Maybe not.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Respond with

"please keep your comments to yourself"
"Cut out the criticism!"
"Stop judging me"
"Cut it out!"

No further arguments or discussions.

If she persists in criticising your driving, don't drive her anywhere again. You can warn her. "If you criticise my driving again, I will not drive anywhere with you again"

She'll try to argue with you, don't argue with her. Just let her rant, then don't drive anywhere with her again.

Eventually you'll run out of things to do with her that she hasn't banned herself from. Win, if you ask me.
posted by tel3path at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you all for the advice so far. To those suggesting I just do the slow fade, that's not really possible in this situation. We live in a town where everyone knows everyone and you can't go anywhere without seeing several people you know. It is inevitable that we'd run into each other, at which point I'm sure she'd confront me. Or just show up at my house to confront me. She's that type of person. Would it be wrong to then spell out every reason I have for feeling this way? That feels really unnecessarily mean.

DevilsAdvocate asked what I'm getting out of this friendship...that's a good question and something I need to think about because I can't really come up with an answer right now. That's pretty sad. In the past, I've gotten support during some hard times. Recently, with my health stuff going on, she's actually been very critical of me. Like, sometimes I'm in too much pain and can't get out of bed and she'll say, "exercise will make you feel better, it works for me." Exercise would be great, if I could even walk without feeling intense pain. She'll also tell me going to the doctor is silly and you can cure anything by drinking juices.

Politikitty...that's interesting, I've never thought of that. I just put my hands there because that's where they fall. Had she said, "you shouldn't drive like that because if the airbags deploy your arms could fall off," I would have thought that it was nice of her to be concerned about it. Her comment was more along the lines of, "I know you do this a lot, but it's so annoying when people drive at 10 and 2. They look so rigid, like a grandma. You need to relax a little."

To Meg_Murry's point, I assure you there are no feelings of superiority on my end. It may sound that way because I'm frustrated with her criticisms, but I think she's a strong, confident person. I may be the thinner one, but I think she's the prettier one. I may have a stable job, but she owns her own business (a pretty successful one, given the economy and our smallish town) and doesn't have to answer to anyone. I never felt any of these things or even gave thought to her grammar or driving until she started calling me out on MY grammar and driving.

I've talked to my boyfriend and several friends about this because Ann keeps insisting I'm the rude one and I needed some perspective. Everyone I've talked to agreed with me, but due to our small town, suggested I don't cut ties, but just stop investing in this friendship so much. I just don't know what to say when she asks why we haven't hung out lately. I don't want to just word-vomit everything I'm feeling and cause a huge argument or a ton of dramaz. If I could slow fade, I think I'm at the point where I would.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:45 PM on May 9, 2013

If you were dating this person I would tell you to break up with them. This is a bad relationship.
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I just don't know what to say when she asks why we haven't hung out lately.

"I don't like you anymore and it seems the feeling is mutual."
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2013 [19 favorites]

Previously, an Ask introduced me (and Metafilter) to Ding Training, and since then I've used it with much success. This sounds like the perfect person to try it out on, especially given your follow-up. I wish you the best, whatever you choose to do.
posted by peagood at 12:48 PM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

On the other, these things aside, we have a lot of fun together and a shared history.

Yeah, but it's history.

It seems like you're approaching this from the perspective that there's a right way to think about what's going on here and that it is the way you think about it and her way is not the right way, and that there's a right thing you can say to her that will make her start thinking about it the right way. There is not. Ann is acting like a selfish, ignorant asshole, and anything you say to her is going to pass through the filter of Selfish, Ignorant Asshole that surrounds her brain.

I am not privy to your interactions with her, but I do think that whatever the issue is, it's not helping you to just sort of swallow your pride and roll over whenever a conflict arises. I've spent a lot of my life being the peacemaker and I find that a lot of the time it just results in you getting treated like shit, and you wind up carrying that with you, you wind up resenting it. Some small comment that you might have shrugged off a while ago becomes one too many, and so on.

So here's the plan.

When she pulls something shitty, speak up for yourself. Don't back down. Don't apologize. In fact, go ahead and demand an apology from her, if it's something you feel strongly about.

She says you've gained weight? Straight up tell her, "Hey, you know what? That's actually kind of hurtful. I don't like little cutting comments about how I've gained weight, okay?" At this point she may bring up something unrelated, to which you say, "Right, and we can talk about that in a second, but that's not related to what I'm saying. Please knock off the comments about my weight. It's not cool." Repeat if she tries again. If she says you're too sensitive, say this: "I don't think it's really crazy to not want to have your weight commented on by someone you consider a friend, but even so, I don't need you to agree with my boundaries but I do need you to respect them. If you can't, then I'm gonna bounce until you can."

She corrects your grammar? Flat out: "Please stop correcting my grammar, okay? It's not really cool and it's not necessary and it drives me up a tree and I don't want to hear it anymore."

Here's something that's important: Keep the conversation on the rails. Only talk about one issue at a time. Don't let her pull you into a side discussion of something else. Don't let her introduce unrelated slights when you call her out. Become good at saying, "We can talk about that in just a minute, okay? One thing at a time."

And again, reinforce the idea that she doesn't need to agree that you're right to have hurt feelings. She needs to understand that it's happening and she needs to respect what you say. And she needs to understand that respecting you in this regard is a condition of continued interaction with you. The criticism needs to stop. She is more than welcome to tell you if she feels that you are in any way being disrespectful to her, and you will listen and consider what she's telling you, but that's a two-way street.

But react to these things when they happen, not after.

In other words: Spell out your boundaries clearly, and be clear about what's not okay, and be resolute. If she doesn't shape up, then yes, you should be less invested. At that point, if she asks why she hasn't seen as much of you, you can just tell her that it's the constant criticism and she's more than welcome to come hang out or whatever if she stops doing that. If she argues with that, explain that you're not really interested in fighting about whether or not she gets to criticize you all the time, and that again she's welcome to contact you if she can stop with the disrespect, and then politely hang up the phone or exit the room or whatever.

Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

It sounds like you like being in conflict with her. I don't say this to be snarky, just you seem very enmeshed and are arguing with her and thinking about her on the same level as she is with you.

Ann may not be such a good friend, but you've apparently talked to a number of people in your small town about how awful she is, while continuing to feign friendship with her on the excuse that it's a small town. That makes you not such a good friend yourself.
posted by tel3path at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
FAMOUS MONSTER's advice is spectacular...except I tried that last night and it somehow got turned around to where I was apologizing. I told her the comment about my weight really hurt me and she said I was being too sensitive. I then told her she doesn't get to decide how I feel or invalidate my feelings. She then said I was rude to ask her to help pay for the rental car. Every time I came back to it, she turned it around. No amount of "let's stay on topic" worked. I reiterated that my feelings are what they are regardless of what she thinks about it. And I demanded an apology before I would move on. She eventually apologized like this, "I apologize for the weight comment, even though it was a joke. I'm sorry you took it the wrong way. But I don't apologize for anything else." I stopped talking to her for several hours, but eventually felt bad and apologized. Ugh. The weight comment was not a joke. It was biting and nasty.

I hate this conflict. I hate it very much and I was willing to move past it if she'd just apologize for the other comments, but she refused. I also was not talking bad behind her back and feigning friendship. I laid out the facts and asked them honestly if I was being the jerk here, because I didn't know what to do. I wasn't feigning friendship at this time. Ann and I were not talking and she knew that I was upset with her. These friends also witnessed some of her nasty comments first-hand, so they already had their own opinions of her treatment of me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2013

It is inevitable that we'd run into each other, at which point I'm sure she'd confront me. Or just show up at my house to confront me.

She might and you can deal with that if it happens. You still need to end this friendship. I was in a similar situation in my mid-20s and felt that my friend (who was a lot like Ann in many ways) would also not. let. it. go. She did, in fact, confront me -- at a third party's house where the third party didn't know of her confrontation plan -- and I basically said that I did not think the friendship was going anywhere, that I was sorry and that was just how I felt. She tried to convince me I was wrong...and you know what? I just left. I didn't engage further. It worked.

Well, she did call me (this was before email and social media) once in a while, but I ignored her. The last call was about 10 years ago -- a good 10+ years after the confrontation! She eventually let it go. And I was SO HAPPY once she was no longer my "friend".
posted by Lescha at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

When you cut her off, the only thing you will regret is that you didn't do it sooner. Like, the day it started happening.

I had a friend exactly like this - appeasement just made the verbal abuse and criticism worse. Besides, the way things are going, she will probably cut you off eventually in an extremely dramatic way and make it out to be entirely your fault. I doubt there is any salvaging possible here.
posted by ziggly at 1:07 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

So it's a small town and everybody keeps running into each other..... so what? That does not mean you have to do anything more than be pleasant when you do run into her: you do not have to hang out together, go on trips with her and her boyfriend, double date, be ordered around like some lower-class lifeform, and/or get insulted to your face all the time....

Drop her, you'll be happier. And like Ruthless Bunny says, block her on everything and have zero contact.
posted by easily confused at 1:15 PM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Based on your updates, I'm not sure what you expect is going to solve this problem. You must either accept her bad treatment of you or stop hanging out with her.

I'd strongly recommend you opt to stop agreeing to hang out with her. You've stated your feelings, your boundaries, and your needs, and she's dismissed, belittled, and ignored them. It's not that she doesn't understand that you don't like how she's treating you, it's that she literally does not care.

Try something like this:

Ann: Let's do X Saturday.
You: No thanks.
Ann: Why not?
You: I don't want to. Gotta go. [Hang up/leave]

Don't make stuff up about being busy, just say no thanks and exit the conversation.

You're concerned she'll confront you. Let's say she confronts you:

Ann: You're such a terrible friend! You won't spend time with me anymore!
You: I didn't like the way you were treating me and when I asked you to stop, you refused. So, no, I won't spend time with you anymore.
Ann: [Angry blaming]
You: I'm sad that we can't be close anymore, but I can't be around you. [Walk away/hang up/close the door/etc.]

Don't get into an argument about who did what, just acknowledge that it's sad and also necessary, then get out.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2013 [27 favorites]

You can't let the fact that you live in a small town hold you hostage to this connection (which is no longer a friendship in a meaningful way).

The thing is, there is no magic word or series of words that you can say to her to get her to see any of this your way. The person who would see it your way is not who she is. So you have to stop trying to make her be someone she's not, you have to accept that she is who she is, and you then make decisions based on your needs and feelings with absolutely zero expectation that you will receive any acknowledgment or respect from her when you do it.

Drop her. Period. You can do it respectfully -- but do it respectfully for your sake, not for hers. Do it so that you walk away knowing that you made a difficult choice in the most adult way you could. This accomplishes two things: 1) you have treated yourself with self-respect by setting a boundary so that this person cannot keep hurting you, and 2) you have refrained from amplifying her negativity, unkindness, etc. by reflecting it back on her. She won't see it this way, but that doesn't actually matter. What will matter is that you did the best thing for your own well-being and happiness, and you did it in the most decent way possible by taking the high ground.

If and when you run into her in the future, you can cultivate an air of what I like to call "pleasant teflon" -- say hello and move on. Don't engage. Let her go and let yourself grow.
posted by scody at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

OP, let me give you some hard truth.

You will never get what you're asking for. You're asking how to fix this person's behavior without the options of fading away or confrontation.

If you refuse to do either of those things, you're stuck in this horrible relationship.
posted by 26.2 at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [21 favorites]

If you want to have a confrontation, stop apologizing and the next time she's critical (in a non-driving way), just stop, turn to her, and ask: "you know, you seem to be very critical of me lately. Why?" and let her do whatever she's going to do about it.* Once she's said what she wants to say, you can decide what you want to do.

If you don't want to have a confrontation, just stop spending time with her. Why would you want to spend time with someone who's always critical of you?

*if she asks for examples, you provide them, then she starts rationalizing the examples, it'll go on forever and nothing will come of it. Decline the opportunity to share examples; say instead that she'll have to take your word for it, and ask her to consider her own recent behavior.
posted by davejay at 1:27 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in agreement with tel3path's last comment here. You seem to be really invested in maintaining this relationship. She is running all over you because you are letting her. She isn't apologizing because she isn't sorry. You cannot change the mind of someone who is so convinced that they are right. It is exactly like how everyone keeps telling you to drop this friend and you keep making excuses for why you can't.

You don't need anyone's permission to stop being her friend. Nor do you need to regurgitate this sorry dynamic to other people, some of whom have already seen it in action, to give you perspective on this. This is "golden rule" type of stuff.

You also missed the most important part of FAMOUS MONSTER's advice, which was to "react to these things when they happen, not after."
posted by sm1tten at 1:35 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've already lost your best friend. The person you once knew and loved, she's gone. People change as they grow older, and Ann has changed for the worse. She might change back for the better with time, but that's no reason for you to stand by as her personal punching bag while she gets her shit together.

Ann sounds deeply insecure, like either she's invented a competition with you in her head that she's losing, or she's projecting her failures onto you or something.

I think this hits the nail on the head. It's not unusual for friends who grew up together to start comparing markers of success as they reach young adulthood. In high school, your friends tend to live in the same general neighborhood and families within a neighborhood tend to have similar socioeconomic backgrounds. But once children become adults and strike out on their own, some of them start coming out ahead while others fall behind. This can bring out jealousy and resentment in people who are insecure about their own successes or lack thereof.

I assure you there are no feelings of superiority on my end. It may sound that way because I'm frustrated with her criticisms, but... I never felt any of these things or even gave thought to her grammar or driving until she started calling me out on MY grammar and driving.

I believe you, because I've been there myself. I could have written almost your exact same question five years ago. The people who are giving you a hard time in this thread may not know what it feels like when your supposed best friend seems to have put a target on you.

At first it's completely bewildering, because your friend starts throwing out these mean little barbs, and you don't know where they're coming from. You let the hurtful remarks slide because this is out of character for her, she's probably having a bad day, bad week, etc. But things don't get better, they get worse. Your friend seems perpetually in a foul mood when she's around you. You start altering your behavior to try and smooth things out. You try laughing off the cruel comments. You stop talking about the things that are going well in your life or things that you're happy about, because you know your friend is going to crap all over them. You also stop confiding in your friend about the things that are troubling you, because you know she's either going to make you feel worse or use the information to hurt you later.

Then you start to realize that it's not about you at all. Your friend is deeply unhappy with her own life. She distracts herself from her unhappiness by focusing all her negativity and criticism on you. You're just a convenient target, because you're close to her, and because you care enough about her that her meanness doesn't immediately drive you away. You're also her closest competition, being someone who shared so much in common with her while you were growing up. You feel hurt, betrayed, angry. It can give you some degree of satisfaction to privately take note of your friend's failings, especially when she has picked on you for the same. That's okay, your friend's a hypocrite and you're human. But going on like this is unhealthy, so for your own sake it needs to end. But how?

I did the slow fade. I know you think this won't be possible, but in my case we have lots of mutual friends (who she has never showed her ugly side to, because I'm her only actual close friend) and it still worked pretty well. I became too busy to ever hang out one-on-one. I was perfectly pleasant to her when we hung out in group settings with mutual friends, and that was okay because she was forced to be nice when others were around to witness her behavior. Once she realized that I wasn't going to stick around and take her abuse, her tone with me changed completely. I'm still very cautious with her, and our friendship hasn't recovered. I don't trust her anymore to not lash out at me whenever the mood strikes. I'd rather not have her in my life at all, but in the interest of not making a huge blown out mess and dragging our friends into the drama, quietly keeping her at a distance is fine with me. If I could do the slow fade, so can you.

Best of luck.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:41 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

FAMOUS MONSTER's advice is spectacular

mm yes

...except I tried that last night and it somehow got turned around to where I was apologizing. I told her the comment about my weight really hurt me and she said I was being too sensitive. I then told her she doesn't get to decide how I feel or invalidate my feelings. She then said I was rude to ask her to help pay for the rental car. Every time I came back to it, she turned it around. No amount of "let's stay on topic" worked. I reiterated that my feelings are what they are regardless of what she thinks about it. And I demanded an apology before I would move on. She eventually apologized like this, "I apologize for the weight comment, even though it was a joke. I'm sorry you took it the wrong way. But I don't apologize for anything else." I stopped talking to her for several hours, but eventually felt bad and apologized. Ugh. The weight comment was not a joke. It was biting and nasty.

I hate this conflict. I hate it very much and I was willing to move past it if she'd just apologize for the other comments, but she refused. I also was not talking bad behind her back and feigning friendship. I laid out the facts and asked them honestly if I was being the jerk here, because I didn't know what to do. I wasn't feigning friendship at this time. Ann and I were not talking and she knew that I was upset with her. These friends also witnessed some of her nasty comments first-hand, so they already had their own opinions of her treatment of me.

The missing piece here is that you need to be resolute about this, and she needs to see actual consequences for her actions. You've established and reinforced a dynamic where you'll cave if she badgers you enough. That needs to stop.

The next time something like this happens, do what you did, but don't apologize, don't cave, and don't waste energy trying to get something done once you realize it won't happen. If she won't stay on topic, end the conversation. If she insists she's joking, reinforce that it was hurtful and you're asking her to stop joking about it, and if she belabors the point, end the conversation. If she acts like a complete passive-aggressive shit, end the conversation. If she criticizes you, end the conversation.

You're never going to make her see things your way. You're never going to convince her she's wrong. You're never going to logic her out of treating you like shit. Behavioral training is your only option.

So let me break it down.

STEP ONE: At the moment she criticizes you or treats you with disrespect, say something. Be kind. Do not speak angrily. But be firm. Be resolute.

STEP TWO: As above, end the conversation if she repeatedly tries to turn it back on you, refuses to listen, tries to minimize your reactions, etc etc. Hang up. Walk away. Explain that this is not a productive discussion and you are not going to continue it. In what I quoted, where you went wrong was allowing her to keep derailing and dragging you into side arguments. You need to be iron about this.

STEP THREE: Remain resolute. Apologize only when you know the trangression is yours. Do not apologize to make peace. Do not be the one to call to patch things up. You do you and let her do her. Occupy your time. You will feel guilty because you're a lifelong peacemaker. Now's as good a time as any to get over that.

STEP FOUR: When she asks why you're not around as much, tell her it's because you can't talk to her without being treated disrespectfully and you don't want that in your life. Again, don't put this angrily. Explain that she's welcome to get in touch if she can do so without fighting or being critical of you. Feel free to define "being critical of you" as correcting your behavior in any way when there is nothing at stake. In the long run it's not likely to matter but it's nice to know you've stated your terms.

STEP FIVE: She will start fighting. State, again, that she's welcome to get in touch if she can do so without fighting or being critical of you, and then end the conversation.


Here's the thing: The advice I'm giving is really just damage control and will allow you to sort of coexist in a structured way. Your friendship is over and it's been over for a long time. You can't fix her. You can only route around the damage.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

I think the small community bit is exactly why the slow fade is preferable.

Breaking up with her is just feeding the giant drama you two have. She'll still be in the small community, and every chance meeting will just be an great opportunity for her to air her greivances and try to exact an apology.

All of this is friction of you two growing apart. It's easy to assign blame. But blame implies that there's an underlying cause that can be fixed. And more importantly, blame drags you into this drama. When she asks why you two don't hang out anymore, just shrug and say "Guess I got old and boring. Staying up late and drinking too much stopped being fun." Why don't we catch up anymore? "Guess I'm overly sensitive, but your constant ribbing wasn't fun."

Don't apologize for it. You don't need to be her definition of exciting, or have her definition of leather skin. You need to be happy. You need to do things that make you happy. You need to surround yourself with people that make you happy. Once you decide that your happiness trumps any of her criticisms, it will be easier to build those boundaries.
posted by politikitty at 1:44 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

The weight comment was not a joke. It was biting and nasty.

From your descriptions, it sounds like being nasty is what she's going for a lot of the time. If so, there's no point in telling her how hurt you are, because that's what she wants; you're only confirming for her that she's doing it right. If she cared about your feelings then she'd be falling over herself to change her own behavior. She's not, which should tell you that she doesn't.

That aside, what I think you've got going here is a situation where Ann has some personal emotional problems that she soothes by being critical of you. Every time you apologize or otherwise validate the critical positions she takes, you send the message that her criticisms are valid, and you reinforce her dysfunctional coping mechanisms. You don't need to explain in nuanced detail how what she's doing is hurtful. You need to stand up for yourself. This is the sort of case where "F** OFF" is a perfectly healthy response. Get a little friendlier with anger, because this sucks, and your discomfort with conflict is part of what's keeping you trapped.
posted by jon1270 at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ugh, this whole thing sounds exhausting. And Ann sounds tedious and warped in ways that you are definitely not going to fix. I think that's key here - you're not going to be able to change her behavior, or get her to see your side, no matter what you say. She's obviously very good at turning things around and putting the blame on you - but she can only do this because you keep trying to engage with her.

So stop engaging.

I think what you really need is some sort of phrase you can just keep on repeating to effectively end the conversation, rather than trying to defend or explain yourself. Ann: "Why don't we hang out anymore? Are you avoiding me?" You: "Yes I am, I need a break from our friendship." Ann: "Why? YOU were the one who was so sensitive about [blah blah blah]." You: "I'm just taking a break. For me." Ann: "You're being selfish and [blah blah blah]." You: "I'm just taking a break. For me."

Stick with one phrase that does not explain, justify or blame - something that won't give her something to argue about - because your goal here isn't to get her to give you permission to take a break, or to get her to understand WHY you need a break. Neither of these things are going to happen anyway, no matter how eloquent you are - because she isn't listening. Picture her as a red-faced little gnat if you need to, because her angry, whining buzz should be eliciting no more reaction from you than if she really were.

The only way she can get you to apologize to her or keep you playing this ridiculous game is if you agree to engage with her - so stop doing that. It won't be easy, but I really don't see what choice you have.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are you worried about hurting your friend's feelings? I get that. If you're a decent person you don't want to hurt others, particularly if you've been friends for a long time.


When you ask to be treated politely and with respect, then you aren't hurting anyone. If anything, you're making the world a better place, in your own small way.

If your friend choses not to treat you -- or others -- with politeness and respect, then she hurts herself. She makes her own life unhappy, by being the source of unhappiness for others.

Thinking about this might help the next time you feel the urge to apologize to her. When you consider it, you might conclude that there's something askew when you apologize for what she does to herself.

Good luck -- be gentle and patient with yourself. Eventually, the mindset that says "I treat others well, and I just expect the same for myself" will become more and more natural to you. You'll find your own life gets easier and better and stronger, and the lives of others around you will benefit too.
posted by TheHollowSeasThatRoar at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you need to stop explaining. That's how you end up apologizing. Say, "No, I do not want to discuss this." And don't say anything else except maybe "I am leaving now," or "Please leave," as appropriate. Are you afraid of her causing a scene? Because that might happen, but it'll still be better than dealing with her on a regular basis.
posted by mskyle at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel for you. I had a similar situation with a best friend right after university and I remember how painful it was. Still, eventually I had to heed the wisdom of the great Eleanor Roosevelt and realize that "no one can take advantage of you without your consent." You have to stop dancing the dance with her. It will not be easy, especially at first, but you will feel so much lighter once that negativity is out of your life.

Also, if you are anything like I was, she is probably not the only person you apologize to even when you know you are not in the wrong. Getting a handle on the issues behind that is very worthwhile, if you want to avoid getting into a similar situation in the future.
posted by rpfields at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the friendship has been sort of unhealthy for awhile and maybe you're just now realizing it. The dynamic here appears to be someone who is dominant and enjoys it, combined with someone who is submissive and maybe was ok with that. You don't need to put up with this, and it's not good for you to do so... but if she's been your friend for this long, maybe you owe it to yourself AND to her to simply tell her that you don't like the way she's treating you. Regardless of how she answers, it's a win-win for you: if she get's shitty and tells you where to go, you know that she'll never learn and doesn't really want you for a friend, but rather for a punching bag, and if she apologizes you have asserted yourself and broken the vicious cycle. Don't back down.
posted by brownrd at 2:17 PM on May 9, 2013

You are frustrated, but it's with yourself.

Grow a spine and shut this shit down.

If you're out with her, and she's acting mean, simply say, "You're being mean, it's hurting my feelings and if you don't stop, I'm leaving." If no apology is forthcoming or if she starts rationalizing, then simply leave.

But I'd just tell her that I want to break up and then block her from my life. If I ran into her while I was out, I'd merely nod at her and keep going.

You treat people how to treat you, and apparently you've taught Ann that you will take her abuse and like it. Now you have to retrain her.

Frankly, I wouldn't invest the effort, it doesn't sound like any fun at all.

Clearly, you're terrible at protecting your boundaries, but practice makes perfect. If you feel that you MUST continue to interact with this troll, then keep at it. Keep leaving her. Keep hanging up on her. Keep ignoring her texts.

But I'll bet you money that she never gets it.

But by all means, keep fooling with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:21 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with Meg_Murray.

And another thing you could say, if she confronts you, is "I don't see why you want to be friends with me. You've said I'm too sensitive, I need to relax, and I'm rude. You think I'm too incompetent to drive correctly or understand my own medical condition or even write properly, even though writing is my job. You like to go out late and drink, but I don't enjoy those things. You don't seem to have a good time around me, because when we're together you find fault with what I do and we always fight. I wonder why you even think we should be friends." Don't say it in an angry way, but calmly, just honestly tell her "I think we'd both be happier if we hung out less, at least for a while." And then continue to just walk away, say no, etc.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:23 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm generally against swearing at people because it's offensive and wrong. In this instance, though, I think you'd be justified in telling Ann to fuck off, repeatedly, until she actually does fuck off.

Someone helping you out doesn't entitle them to treat you like this. "Helping your friends out" isn't the act of a saint, it's the act of a halfway decent human being. Being supportive to your friends doesn't buy you anything. It certainly doesn't buy Ann the right to be nasty to you.

Ann is who she is. All the wanting in the world won't make an abusive asshole admit that they're wrong. The longer you stay in contact, the more abuse you'll take and the more abuse you'll want apologies for. You will never get that apology (see: last night). All you'll get is more and more upset.

You need to decide what it is that you're going to do. Are you going to continue to interact with someone you know is going to be nasty to you? Or are you going to get rid of that person from your life?

My advice: cut things off with her. Life is way to short to be dealing with shit like this. Your options are pretty much Final Conversation or Slow Fade. However you do it, though, reach out to the other people in your social circles and strengthen your bonds with them. You might need some support and these people might be able to help you with that. And it's generally nice to have strong bonds of friendship with people.

If Ann does make a scene in front of other people, that's great. It shows her up for what she is. If you can remain calm and cool through that, you win. People will be looking at her, not you.

When you're not talking to Ann, you're not getting abused by her. The next time you stop talking, try making it last for a day, and then see how you feel at the end of that time period. Then try extending it some more.

I'm curious as to how many other friends Ann has, and how many people she treats like this. I'm guessing it's not very many.
posted by Solomon at 2:33 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

she sounds awful. you need to stop apologizing when you haven't done anything wrong. that is just fueling her abuse. dump her. just dump her. she is not a friend to you. honestly, she is too far beyond the pale to change anytime soon. i do suggest you start working on your self-esteem issues though.
posted by wildflower at 2:50 PM on May 9, 2013

You can let her fade away, but you also might think about practicing your own ability to assert yourself.

When she gives you pointers about your driving, you pull over, stop the car, and say in a very quiet voice "I have my license. You are not my mom. Please don't do this ever again."

When she bugs you about going out on a weeknight--you say "I worked hard for this job and I'm not going to jeopardize my future for you or anyone else. Please don't pressure me."

When she corrects your grammar, you text or say "You're not my professor. Please don't do this."

I'd say she's jealous of you, as well.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for the advice so far. To those suggesting I just do the slow fade, that's not really possible in this situation. We live in a town where everyone knows everyone and you can't go anywhere without seeing several people you know.

and yet you manage to pleasantly not be friends with most of the people in your small town, don't you? Don't let this be your excuse.

Please listen to the people who are telling you that you're not going to get what you want from this friendship anymore. She's never going to acknowledge you're right or have a point, you're never going to get resolution, and you're probably not going to get closure over the end of the friendship either. Sad but true.

Just be too busy when she calls. If she comes over, meet her at the door with your keys in hand, you're on your way out. There ARE ways to avoid her. You just need to decide if you want to keep trying to confront her, or just withdraw. You've tried confronting and it hasn't gone well; that's a skill you need to work on. Withdrawing is probably easier and more possible right now.

Prepare mentally ahead of time, what you'll say and what you'll do to pull back and pull away. And do those things! You can fall back on those vague polite responses that grease the wheels of social interaction; when she says, we never see each other, you never have time for me any more, you say, "Oh, I know, I'm a terrible friend, you deserve better! And I'm proving it again right now, I've got to run. Take care!" And skitter on away.

Just fix it in your head. You are BUSY! You aren't mad at her, you are just TOO BUSY! And you're smiling and polite but you're never where she is for very long. She will give up, because it will just be too much work for her to keep trying.
posted by lemniskate at 3:16 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've got an Ann of my own who I am currently trying to disengage from. From your post and updates, and sort of remembering the other Ask you alluded to, I get the feeling you may be like me in this respect... so welcome to the part-time people-pleasing crowd!

By this time you probably already know, at least subconsciously, what people in this thread are saying: this relationship is dead, it's deceased, it's pushing up the daisies. You also know that your only choices are a purging confrontation which restores balance and harmony (totally unlikely for a number of reasons), a break-up or the slow fade. What you HOPE for is a miracle: someone will somehow have the magic wand which you can swing and restore your relationship to its former glory. I say this pretty confidently because that is my reality, too, and unless I am seriously projecting, we are kindred spirits in this respect.

I've tried all sorts of things, including some of the ones recommended here, and have had some success, mostly in confirming for myself that the universe won't implode if I say no. Like you, I've trouble sticking to the "no".

Things I'm gonna try in the future as part of a slow fade strategy:

1. Continue with what I am doing, and keep improving. I think only a people-pleaser can understand the truly gigantic effort it takes to effectively say "no", or "that's not OK" etc. As in, there are actually some cognitive readjustments in addition to the emotional drain, the almost unbearable inner tension, handling the real-life consequences and all the rest. First steps, even if imperfect, deserve credit.

2. Develop useful mantras and little scripts. Just saying to myself over and over "say no" during the kind of conversation where I would start out saying no, and by the end of it I will have agreed to the initial demand and added a "get one free" on top of it. Just keep saying "say no" or "say: I won't listen to this" etc, whatever is context-appropriate whilst she keeps speaking - you know full well what she is going to say anyway, her little insinuations, micro-aggressions, invalidations, manipulations which typically result in you caving, so you don't need to listen to her, just cover her voice with your self-support routine. Hypnotise yourself into resistance, if you will. For this I also find step-by-step dialogue mock-ups like Meg_Murry's above really useful. It's astonishing how I can't even imagine what I should have said in such situations, I normally don't have great trouble expressing myself, but my brain turns to mush in an instant with toxic ex-intimates.

3. Keep scripts ready not only as stuff in my head, but also outside, where I can see them - next to my desk and bathroom mirror, on my wardrobe, wherever I encounter them on a daily basis.

4. Hold a "death of relationship ceremony and vigil". I also have a beautiful past with my own Ann, and this makes it very easy for the few and far between good moments in our current relationship to paralyse me, since they come with all the weight of so much shared wonderful stuff. But really, the wonderful stuff is in the (distant) past, and intellectually I know that. So now I wonder if it wouldn't help my emotions catch up with that awareness if I solemnly bury and mourn what has been. I've actually semi-scheduled something, though I've no idea as yet what I will be doing. So far, I like the idea of just lighting a candle or several and setting them afloat on a river nearby. It was a really enriching relationship for a good few years, but now it has become a major blight in my life. I need to honour the good and let it go so that I can approach this NEW and pretty damaging thing unencumbered. My hope is that it will be possible to be less like goo in this new relationship with a new person and more like someone I can respect.

Good luck, I hope you find something that works - you know things will get worse if you don't cut the Gordian knot here.
posted by miorita at 3:18 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tip: confrontation will not kill you. Unless you think she might actually try to kill you, in which case you need to start the process on a restraining order.

If she does confront you, just agree with her. Yeah, okay, I'm a terrible person because I don't drive the way you like. No, you're absolutely right, I'm literally the most sensitive person in the world for not loving your comments about my appearance. Yep, wrong about everything. Totally worthless as your friend, as you say. So...you know, okay. Good for you. Bye.

Trust me, you're not the only one who's noticed she's completely irrational. You won't be run out of town on a rail because she pitches a fit because you won't...agree to continue to be the worst friend she has. The insults of a horrible person don't actually mean anything - she might as well be saying you're an alien and you have gills and a purple horn sticking out of your head, she's got no credibility.

If you really cannot bring yourself to put a stop to this, I think you should discuss it with with a mental health professional or even an abuse hotline. It's not okay to want people to treat you like this.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2013

I like tel3path's advice - being crisp and clear with her when she's fractious and then your usual loving self when she's not - because it draws a clear boundary and lets her choose whether or not she's going to respect it or move on. Then it's not on you, other than the original drawing of the boundary.

The only thing out of your description of the background for why you're so frustrated that I'd take out of the equation is the gas money versus what she spent on hair and clothes. Right or wrong, you don't know what she had budgeted for what, and those may actually have been things in her budget whereas pitching in on car costs may not have been. Again, might not even be the case, but you can't make assumptions about other people's money like that.

Everything else? She needs to know that you've got boundaries that she's stepping all over, and then she can choose whether or not she wants to respect those or go her own way.
posted by batmonkey at 5:03 PM on May 9, 2013

There's a lot of comments telling you how to explain or engage or tell Anne where she's going wrong. The thing is, she knows. She just doesn't care. That's what makes her an asshole. If you don't want to cut her off directly, I would try a more extreme version of ding training. This worked on my asshole father. Every time A (asshole) does something out of line, there are instant repercussions. You don't engage, you don't explain, you just remove yourself or A from the situation.

A is on the phone, harassing you about your weight? You say, ok, I'm going now. I won't be spoken to like that. And hang up. Don't wait for a response and don't answer the phone when she calls.

A is on you about your driving, while you're ferrying her around for free in your car? Pull over and tell her to get out and walk. If she refuses to get out, drive back home, walk inside the house and leave her there. Don't explain, don't engage, just have instant repercussions for bad behaviour. Say nothing.

She gets stuck into you at her house? Tell her you've had enough and you're leaving. Don't stick around to argue, she relies on it to tell you you're wrong. Just walk out. Once she realises that every time she acts out of line, she'll pay for it by having a favour taken away or by you walking out and it gets her nowhere, she'll stop doing it or you'll no longer see her. Win win. The key is to not engage and to have instant repercussions.

My father has realised he can have me in his life on my terms, if he acts like a decent person or not at all. If he wants to be an asshole there's no place in my life for him. Every time we speak now he's on his best behaviour. He's still a total asshole but I don't have to deal with it.
posted by Jubey at 5:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Stop making excuses for why you can't dump her and just do it. You have an answer for everything. As bad as she sounds, you need to take accountability for the fact that you keep letting her do this. Why? Do you like being her doormat? That's not rhetorical. Sometimes it can feel rewarding to unquestionably be the nice one. Dig deep and figure out why you're subjecting yourself to this. Then dump this loser. She'll find another punching bag, I assure you.
posted by Lieber Frau at 5:41 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

This seems an excellent time to respond to "You're too sensitive," with, "Get fucked." Be incredulous, be profane, and if she complains, tell her to stop being so fucking sensitive.

Jubey's right about Ann being an asshole. Thing is, you don't have to deal with assholes — you can just tell them to get fucked, because who the fuck cares if you're perfectly polite to some asshole? (I recommend that too, instead of thinking about her as "Ann, my friend, whose feelings I care about," think of her as "Some asshole who's ragging on me for bullshit.")

If you really need help, give her my number. I run an ad hoc support business of telling people to get fucked.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

I think it's entirely fair of you to point out to her that she doesn't seem to actually like you or anything you do any more, and for the sake of both of your sanities, you need to end it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a friend with a similar problem. She eventually wrote her problem a letter 'breaking up' with them, worked well.

But holy crap the pseudostrabismus 'ding' approach is brilliant. Completely do that, at least at first, because you don't need to solve anything. You just need to respond. And it gives you some control back. And I think after a couple of weeks, if things haven't got better, even an asshole like her will be closer to understanding why you don't want her in your life anymore. So it's win win.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I invariably recommend Captain Awkward for boundary-setting/relationship AskMe's but the term African Violet (how to break up with a friend) is tailor made for your situation. Good luck. If I didn't move to such far-flung places and fall out of touch with friends anyway, I would probably be posting in here about a friend who was crossing my boundaries.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:54 PM on May 9, 2013

Yep, I'm with klangklangston on this. If she started in on my driving, my weight, my social life, my health and was a tightwad about ever paying her share, she'd get a 'go fuck yourself' from me every damn time. If I was driving and my 'friend' was complaining about an innocuous driving skill, I would stop the car and ask her to get out. If she called me 'sensitive' for doing so, I'd say 'fine, I'm sensitive, and also very, very bored of your crap.' If she made 'jokes' about my weight I'd tell her to go fuck herself. If she wouldn't pay her share of petrol money, I'd leave her at home.

Grab some self-respect, channel the anger that you are sidestepping to share with us to the right person, in the moment, with velocity.

Who cares what anyone else in your small town thinks if she says anything to them, or if you have to see her out n about? She's a silly little scab and she is not worth having as a 'friend'.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:57 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Sometimes, when you're really close to a situation, it's hard to see a way out. Thanks, all, for the kind words and even more for the harsher ones. Those are things I needed to hear. I'd favorite every comment if this weren't anonymous.

I'd like to address batmonkey's comment about making assumptions about other people's money. This trip was planned months in advance and transportation was discussed well ahead of time. My issue isn't that she didn't want to spend money on a rental car (the plan was always to chip in for gas, but the rental car idea came about a week before the trip). Her share of a rental car was $12. Had she said, "I don't really want to spend money on a rental car because I want to get my hair done and buy a new dress," my response would have been to tell her to drive her own car, then. But she misled me into thinking she was really broke, and could barely afford the trip as is (really laying on the sympathy). So I offered to let her ride in the rental car without chipping in. She made it sound like, if she had to fork over $12 more for the trip, she wouldn't be able to come. Had I known that she intended to dye her hair two days later, I would not have been so generous. It really felt like she knew I'd pay anyway (since I often do), so she knew she could get away with not chipping in. And that's just a shitty thing to do.

So, back to the rest of the advice. I can see that maybe there's some jealousy going on, because I had a similar situation with a childhood friend in which I was the jealous one. She graduated college first, got a real job first, got married first, and I had a hard time with it so I was a little bitchy. Never to this extent, I just blew her off for a while and didn't make time to talk to her. After a few months, though, I realized I'd been an awful friend to someone who was really important to me, and I made amends. I also realized that she worked hard for everything she got and she deserved her happiness. And that I can be happy with my own life. I guess I was hoping that Ann would come to this kind of realization as well.

This all started a couple years ago when Ann was having trouble with her boyfriend and business. It was just a few rude remarks here and there, so I attributed it to stress. And I guess I just got used to that dynamic and didn't notice that it never really changed and only got worse. I have been making excuses for it because the thought of cutting someone out of my life is really scary. We have a LOT of mutual friends, in that ALL of my friends are friends with her too (though in about 90% of the cases, they're my friends that I've been close to for years and who only recently started hanging out with her and aren't very close). She's invited to all the things I'm invited to. I know if I told people, "hey, Ann has been really awful to me for a really long time and I don't want her around me anymore," they would most likely stop inviting her, but that feels really bitchy on my part. I don't want to have to tell people to stop inviting her or to choose between us. It's starting to feel like an actual break up.

My solution for now is to just grow a spine. I'm going to start being way more direct about how her comments affect me and see if that helps. Several of you gave me some really good steps to follow to assert myself. I'll give it a few months and if there's still no progress, then the slow fade seems to be the way to go.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:19 AM on May 10, 2013

Wow, people are telling you to end your friendship with her because she has the audacity to say things like "enjoy being young" and "stop being so tense." Really? Nothing I read in this long post was at all something where I'd say "Oh yes, she's a terrible friend, end it." The only thing that remotely seemed like a problem was when she wouldn't chip in for a car rental, but then got a new dress and got her hair done. But here's the thing, maybe she had budgeted for that dress and hair coloring because she decided she needed it and she didn't think it was worth changing her budget for the car rental. Unless there is a clear pattern of behavior where she is mooching off you, the thing about the car rental is pretty weak. Also, I correct my friends' spelling (but I am a writer and not wrong) and they don't mind -- they thank me. Who cares?

Nothing she says sounds mean-spirited to me AT ALL. It mostly sounds like OP is way oversensitive and can't take a joke. I don't see how it's possible to conclude anything other than she was joking around when she made the comment about your weight because if you're a size 4 and she's a size 12, and if she said it based on the size of your luggage, it's OBVIOUSLY a joke and not something she meant seriously. Geez. My friends and I tease each other all the time. We know we don't mean it and we tease harmlessly. Yes, I've had a couple friends who teased me but it wasn't innocuous -- they'd tease me about things that I find hurtful, they'd dish it but couldn't take it, and the stuff they said was kind of mean. I'd tell them it bothered me and they didn't get it. So I for sure end my friendships with those people. Maybe to OP, this woman takes it too far.

It seems like your personalities don't mesh, really. If the stuff you wrote in that post really actually bothers you, then yeah, stop being friends with her. But your friend is not a horrible person, you just don't seem to get each other. I'd get really "busy" until she takes the hint.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:25 AM on May 10, 2013

If Ann is, what seems to me, ungrateful and indicating that OP is generally inferior and does things wrong (OP, you sound like a cool and reasonable person to me), I think OP has valid reasons for questioning things and for needing less toxic in her life. I don't see that OP is being too sensitive. These are OP's concerns, and ones that are valid for discussion.
posted by SillyShepherd at 8:48 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is the OP. I'm just going to comment here rather than bug the mods again. I think it'll be ok.

AppleTurnover, you seem to have missed a lot of what I wrote in both my original post and my follow-up comments. Believe me when I say these things she says are not meant as jokes and are said in a spiteful, nasty tone. It's all about the way things are said, which doesn't come across when you're just reading it. I can take a joke, in fact ALL of my friends are the type of people who hurl sarcastic, joking insults at each other all the time. When you've known someone for 10 years, you can tell the difference between jokes and insults. Also the comment had nothing to do with my luggage, which was in the trunk. Those were two separate comments made days apart.

This is not a chipper, "enjoy being young!" type of encouragement. It's an "I don't get why you need sleep. You should enjoy being young and come drink with me because I need a ride and can't afford to drink if you don't come so I can mooch off you."

I don't care how she budgeted her money regarding the trip. I care that she LIED when she claimed to be so broke that $12 meant she couldn't go. I'm sorry, but if you have the money to dye your hair (something I went without for years when I was working my way through college), you have the money to chip in. And, as stated in my follow up, I don't care how she spent that $12. Just don't expect to mooch off me for a ride when you threw it in my face like that. She accepted a free ride on the grounds that she was SOOOOO broke, then went and spent at least $100 on her hair. That's completely dishonest and the very definition of taking advantage of someone. Had she not lied to me, there wouldn't be an issue and I would have told her to take her own car. You also missed where I said she mooches off me for drinks and rides all the time. Like, every time we ever hang out. While also insulting the way I drive. This is just the straw that broke the camel's back.
posted by thisismyname at 8:59 AM on May 10, 2013

Mod note: OP please do not turn this into a discussion forum, take the advice you need and then feel free to leave the rest.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:27 AM on May 10, 2013

To be fair, with some of my more obnoxious friends, "Get fucked," when they start complaining about shit I'm doing does not end the friendship, but rather establishes boundaries and tells them, well, get fucked over that particular concern. Some of my friends are assholes, but I still like them because they're mostly not assholes, and calling them out when they are is part of that.
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

OP, in light of your most recent responses, I would suggest that you need to focus on completely disengaging with Ann. You are way, way beyond the point of repairing this friendship. It's clear that you feel nothing but contempt for her. I'm not saying she doesn't deserve it, or that you're not in the right to be angry - I'm saying that it's not healthy for you to continue being in contact with her.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agreed with keep it under cover, it is time to move on. When someone treats you badly from carelessness or thoughtlessness or accident, find; when someone treats you badly because something bad is happening that you're not aware of until you raise the issue and they tell you, fine; when someone treats you badly because you're treating them badly, fine; but when someone treats you badly and shows no regret after you raise the issue, and shows no sign of change? Then that's contempt, and contempt never ends well. In your case, I'd say the contempt runs in both directions, so it is time to move on, immediately. Don't look back, and don't make a fuss. Just stop spending time with them, and cancel any obligations you have with them. Life's too short.
posted by davejay at 12:06 PM on May 10, 2013

I know if I told people, "hey, Ann has been really awful to me for a really long time and I don't want her around me anymore," they would most likely stop inviting her, but that feels really bitchy on my part. I don't want to have to tell people to stop inviting her or to choose between us. It's starting to feel like an actual break up.

A slow fade means that you gradually stop engaging with her. It means that you downgrade her from best friend to friend to acquaintance or whatever level you feel comfortable with. It means that you can be polite to this person in passing but that you don't confide in them anymore. A slow fade does not mean you involve yourself in her relationships with other people. It does not mean you dictate to others how they should feel about her or that they have to choose between you.

Not to mention that if the other things you've said are true - that she has few friends due to her behavior, that most of your mutual friends are closer to you, and that at least some of these friends agree that she's a poor friend - you won't have to ask them to stop inviting her to things. It'll just happen. Or not.

What you seem to fear (more than losing the "friendship") is that she'll blame and confront you, but to be honest, that's already happening, anyway - that's essentially the dynamic you have right now. What do you have to lose?
posted by sm1tten at 12:19 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know if I told people, "hey, Ann has been really awful to me for a really long time and I don't want her around me anymore," they would most likely stop inviting her, but that feels really bitchy on my part. I don't want to have to tell people to stop inviting her or to choose between us. It's starting to feel like an actual break up.

You don't actually have to do this. You can simply tell people "you know, I felt we'd grown apart and for my own sake I needed to move on." And then you leave it at that. You don't shit-talk her, you don't make anyone choose, you don't engage in any behavior that extends the drama. All of this is a matter of choice.

Think of the calmest, most mature person you know, whose way of handling even the stickiest of situations is something you admire. How do you think they would act after ending a friendship? Do that.
posted by scody at 12:33 PM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

OP again. You all are right, I am feeling an unhealthy amount of contempt toward her and am thinking starting the slow fade now will be better for me. So...I'm still not quite sure how to do that. My main group of friends are about 8 people who hang out regularly at one person's house. It's not like big parties, where it's easy to avoid her or be busy talking to other people. It's also usually always on the same nights, so it's very predictable. When she comes to the hang outs, she of course sits right next to me and talks to me the whole time. How can I detach myself from her in this situation? I wouldn't ever actually ask people not to invite her. Like I said, that feels incredibly bitchy. So, in such a close setting, what are my options here?

FWIW, I have several other friend groups who don't particularly care for her (or she for them), so thankfully this isn't an issue in every aspect of my life. However, this main group is composed of my closest friends and it's definitely not something I want to cut back on or give up. There is a chance that if I stop bringing her around, they won't invite her any more as they are the people who witnessed some of her crappy behavior. But short of that, what can I do?

(mods, if this needs to be a separate ask, let me know. :))
posted by thisismyname at 12:57 PM on May 10, 2013

For your own sanity, you need a break from your friend. If you and her attend this group event together, then just go by yourself. Of course, she still might show up on her own, so then hang out with other people there. Or ask the host if she needs help with snacks or passing out coasters. If it gets to be too much, say you are really tired/don't feel/ have to go home and feed your pet monkey and just leave. Otherwise, even if you don't want to, you might have to take a break from the group gatherings and instead meet some of your friends for coffee on a different day.
posted by lawgirl at 2:14 PM on May 10, 2013

Mod note: OP, you need to stop responding here, period. AskMe is not intended for the sort of protracted back-and-forth you're creating.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2013

I agree with a lot of what's been said here, and I'd like to point out one more thing (if someone pointed this out & I missed it, sorry!): You don't have to choose between the fade and confrontation.
I find something between the two to be really useful for scaling back relationships. That is, don't be available as often, don't be able to stay as late/as long as she'd like, and take a bit longer to return calls etc. As mentioned above, you are very busy these days. Don't make invitations as frequently. Treat this person as the distant friend / acquaintance you'd like her to be.
At the same time, when you do get together, try to step back from your need to be nice, or to resolve all disagreements. Aim for polite, patient, diplomatic, and self-respectful. Cultivate a practice of (politely) saying what you think, and avoid agreeing with things that you don't actually think or feel. Agree to disagree. If your friend's going to be an immature jerk, and you maintain this kind of behaviour, I can see two benefits to taking this path: you will not agree to let yourself be treated badly (in this, I think FAMOUS MONSTER's comments are spot-on); second, your friend may not like you as much, and may scale back your interactions on her own. Which is ideal--you've done nothing blameworthy for her to gossip about, but you don't have to interact with someone you don't like.
In short: behave like the strong, self-respecting, respectful, calmly rational person you know you can be.
posted by Edna Million at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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