How best to deal with polite, yet really rude and selfish people?
July 30, 2013 5:36 AM   Subscribe

This woman I've been friends with is like a sheep in wolf's clothing. Extremely polite, kind, caring on the outside, which totally draws you in to being friends with her. But in reality she's demanding, bossy, everything has to be on her terms, and really childish. I'm in a totally one-sided friendship with a friend and neighbor and I am having a really hard time doing the fade-away because she is so (seemingly) well-liked and established in our circle of friends and such a presence in our neighborhood. How, in your relationships, or circle of friends do you bring to someone attention that you are tired of always being the one doing the driving, inviting, hosting, etc. and that they need to step up and do their part? This person comes across as so sweet, kind and socially savvy that saying anything like this to her could seem to be really damaging, akward and embarassing for this person. She is non-confrontational, has been a total avoider in past relationships, and always comes across as holier than thou and as someone who always takes the higher road, etc. I'm so sick of having to cater to her demands and would really like to say something while maintaining a semblance of dignity, and politeness. Can you help with some suggestions?

There's a person i my life who I've known for several years, for the first two-three years I really really liked this person, admired her, hung out with her on weekends, considered her a bestie. She comes across as one of the most put-together, competent, kind, caring and polite women you've ever met -- this is external apearances. And people are generally drawn in by her physical beauty as well as her seemingly kindness and politeness. But having been one of her closest friends for years, I've experienced her as really a bossy, controlling person who has relied on me to really serve as her wing woman/fill-in and to serve as a playmate on weekends and weeknights because she no longer has a husband and does not want to date.

She is like a wolf in sheeps clothing - coming across as someone who is kind, charming, sweet, and caring, yet she's self absorbed, self centered, and really lacking in generosity. For example, she never reaches out to you, yet she expects you to always be checking in with her. If you make plans with another friend and do not invite her, she is totally offended, yet finds some way of conveying that without coming outright saying it to you. She has this way of not being confrontational, yet really showing you she's annoyed/pissed off at you if you've not included her in your plans, in a group outing, etc. If she was a confrontational person when she's miffed for being excluded, it would be easy to react but because she does it in such a polite way, its really difficult to tell her she's being childish and to grow up.

Other things that drive me and my friends crazy (yet we can't seem to address this with her): she always expects to be driven around. She never offers to hosts when our friends have get togethers, never offers to drive when we go places together, yet is always expecting to be invited, and pretty much expects to be the guest of honor.

In social circle situations - how do you politely, kindly tell a person that they never pull their weight and that they need to? My friends and I are almost too afraid to say anything - yet they (not me so much) don't want to cut ties with her because they feel sorry for her, and she always surfaces when she doesn't hear from you in a while by sending you a demanding, yet very politely written email stating she hasn't heard from you in a while and would like to get together. I think its feeling sorry for her that is keeping me from doing the slow fade away that seems to be the only solution. Any other options/suggestions or how have you dealt with this (gracefully) in the past that has worked?
posted by dmbfan93 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Often when people behave in ways we see as selfish/self-centred/hurtful, it is coming from a place of sadness and/or loneliness.

For example, a friend of mine recently fell out with her sister because she said some very hurtful things to her. It turned out that sister's relationship was under a lot of strain, but she hadn't told anyone, and this negativity was coming out in other ways, and upsetting people.

Here is the giveaway in what you've said here: she no longer has a husband and does not want to date.

This person sounds as if she could be lonely and sad, and instead of expressing this to her friends and seeking support, she's putting up a safety wall in her mind, telling herself that she's fine and her friends love her as much as a partner would, and perhaps overstepping the mark with you all by trying to get you to fill that space in her life.

Perhaps instead of talking about her behind her back ("Other things that drive me and my friends crazy (yet we can't seem to address this with her)") you could do a little more to earn her trust and confidence, and take a quiet moment with her sometime to ask her, gently and with care, if she is ok, and if she is happy.
posted by greenish at 5:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


You need to learn how to say no. That's all. No need to explain to your 'friend' that she needs to do X, Y or Z, simply stop doing things you don't want to do.

Learn the phrase, "that won't be possible." Say it loud, say it proud.

She wants you to drive her to the mall, "that won't be possible."

If you don't want to talk to her, don't call her. If you do, do.

As for her expectations or disappointments? So what? That's her problem.

If she sends you a passive aggressive email about wanting to get together, send a simple one back:

I've received your email. Very busy on my end. I'll call when I'm free to meet up.

What you are complaining about is FULLY within your power to stop cold, you just have to stop dancing to her tune.

Here's another phrase I found useful, "You'll just have to get over it."

So for example she says this, "I heard that you and Sheila went to Dairy Queen the other night. I sure would have liked to have been asked to go too."

You say, "You'll just have to get over it."

Done.

Seriously, live YOUR life. It would not occur to me to cater to someone who is exhibiting behavior that I find annoying and I certainly wouldn't reward it.

Set the example, others may follow, or not. But do you really give a shit?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


For example, she never reaches out to you, yet she expects you to always be checking in with her.

Her expectations, if these accurately describe them, are entirely on her side of the relationship. You don't have to meet them even if you perceive them. This seems like it solves itself.

If you make plans with another friend and do not invite her, she is totally offended, yet finds some way of conveying that without coming outright saying it to you. She has this way of not being confrontational, yet really showing you she's annoyed/pissed off at you if you've not included her in your plans, in a group outing, etc.

Again, I don't see the problem here. You are doing something that she finds annoying or maybe hurtful, and she is annoyed or hurt by it, and is managing her own feelings in a way that doesn't raise any red flags to me.

she always surfaces when she doesn't hear from you in a while by sending you a demanding, yet very politely written email stating she hasn't heard from you in a while and would like to get together.

This, too, does not strike me as particularly out of bounds for adults who are in the same social circle.

I'm not trying to say that you're wrong or can't have what you want here. I get that this person is annoying to you and that's totally valid. But it doesn't seem to me that she's done anything worth confronting her about, and it does seem more than a little to me like you want your friends to ostracize this woman as well, and that's not up to you and not about you.

How you do the slow fade is you set those boundaries that you need to set and you own your own choices. Nobody is making you feel sorry for this woman and capitulate to seeing her when you don't want to. You're an adult who can decide or not decide for yourself, and so are your friends. If this woman is so irritating to you that you hate being in the same place as her, you can decide whether or not to take a pass on going out to events where she is likely to be. You can do all of these things without her changing her actions one whit.
posted by gauche at 5:52 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't say it to her: the thing to remember about the fade-away is to do exactly that, fade away like the mist.

Don't check in with her; if being left out of plans other people make between them offends her, then so be it. You are not required to invite her just because she expects you to. Don't drive her around: if she asks to be driven someplace you weren't already going, use a firm "That won't be possible" or "Sorry, I'm not going that direction". Do not debate with her why something isn't possible, nor is there a need to explain yourself: your decisions, (whether or not to invite her, to drive east when she wants a ride west, whatever) are not up for discussion.

I get what greenish is saying about how she may be unhappy, but that doesn't give her the right to demand always being included in other peoples' plans or insist on free rides whenever/wherever. This person sounds like a self-centered taker, who demands the social group revolve around her and her desires.
posted by easily confused at 5:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, there's no way to politely call someone a freeloader. But, honestly, she's asking, you're providing. Stop providing and refuse to feel guilty for it. That's really your solution.

"Can you drive me to..."

"No, I'm afraid I can't. It's very inconvenient for me. Perhaps you'd like to meet us at..."

or

"I hadn't heard from you in awhile. I felt left out..."

"Oh! Then why didn't you reach out sooner?"

You're not responsible for her. Stop thinking you are. You don't have to check in with her. And really, feeling sorry for someone is not really the best basis for a "friendship". I wouldn't want to be friends with people who hung with me almost solely because they pitied me.
posted by inturnaround at 5:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's another phrase I found useful, "You'll just have to get over it."

You know, this is a not a nice thing to say. It's not necessary to be mean, just to be firm in your decisions and decline to justify them. How about, "It just didn't work out that way."
posted by Dolley at 6:03 AM on July 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


You say that she's driving you and your other friends crazy, but all of you are "too afraid to say anything"? This is easy to solve: just say no when you mean no. The way you're posing this question makes me wonder if you spend a lot of time talking to your friends about how irritating this woman is, without ever letting her know your feelings about the situation.
posted by biddeford at 6:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


she always surfaces when she doesn't hear from you in a while by sending you a demanding, yet very politely written email stating she hasn't heard from you in a while and would like to get together.

"Great! What would you like to do? I feel like I always do all the planning; let's do something you put together!"

never offers to drive when we go places together

"I'm really tired; can you drive tonight?"

You can't really hold her accountable for not directly stating what she wants if you're not doing so, either.
posted by jaguar at 6:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like others have said, just because someone says (or hints) that they want something from you, does not mean you have to provide it. You don't say where you have established boundaries that she's violated. So do that - say "why in the world would you be offended that I saw a movie with [other friend]?" or say "Your party sounds like fun but it's yours - I'm not hosting this one." or say "next time just call when you want to talk, I can't read your mind."

You say this person is well-liked and seen as generous and kind in your neighborhood/social circle. But neighbors and acquaintances are not close friends, and it's normal that close friends would see a side of a person that their neighbors and acquaintances don't see. It's unlikely that she's deviously pretending to be nice to everyone else while taking advantage of you. Rather it's just that she has a public, acquaintance face and a private, hair-down personality. Not two-faced, just not broadcasting her insecurities to the world.

Another possibility is that other people in your social circle have been where you are, they know she's demanding and bossy, and they also pulled back and are now only acquaintances. That's easily done without drama.
posted by headnsouth at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You just have to stick to your guns and tell her that certain things won't be possible/aren't gonna happen. Worst case scenario is that the fade out is a straight cut to black, which is what you want anyway, right? If your goal is to ostracize her from your whole circle because that would be easier for you, though, maybe take a step back from trying to manage how your friends treat her and just handle how you do.
posted by OompaLoompa at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to offer a possible alternative explanation: you say she no longer has a husband. Is she well-employed? Is there a possibility she's just poor?

When I was poor, I didn't often host because I couldn't afford it or was ashamed of being seen as shabby - and gas is very expensive these days. You say she keeps up apperances - is it possible she might not have told you this?
posted by corb at 6:34 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


I realize you're supposed to be the better person and all, but I've had success with going down to their level rather than expecting them to come up to mine (or just fading away). I like to think of it as the southerners' "Bless your heart" put into action.

Basically, you become the most disorganized, aloof person ever (to her).

You didn't include me. Oh my, I apologize, I don't know what I've been thinking these days, I could have sworn I left you a voicemail. Silly me; next time I guess! .....then continue not inviting....Also acceptable: We were wondering where you were, is everything ok? [evites/email invites are great for "accidentally" not inviting people -->Jane.Smith@mailprogram.com can become Jane.Smith@malprogram.com and then you can pull the "you were on the invite but I had a typo in your email, computers are tricky, right?"]

You were supposed to pick me up... Oh gosh, I thought Sally was picking you up, mis-communication sorry!

You're hosting book club this month right dmbfan93? I thought I was hosting next month, you said you'd host this month, didn't you? I could have sworn that's where we landed on that, no? (the rest of the group confirms)

This has been very effective in my experience.

I can go all day with these, so if you need more, just memail me.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You say that she seems so kind and polite and everyone has a very high opinion of her apparent personality... and then you say it's driving your whole circle of friends crazy how she expects so much of you. Maybe your perception that everyone thinks she's practically perfect is a bit unrealistic, and in fact, if you treated her like a real person with flaws to be worked on, your other friends would appreciate you for it, and not be upset with you for hurting Miss Perfect's feelings.
posted by aimedwander at 6:37 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is she upset when you see another friend, just the two of you, or is she upset when you plan group things and don't invite her? The first is weird, the second is not. If you don't want to drive her places, just say you can't do it.

I don't know how "she never reaches out to you" squares with "if she hasn't heard from you in a while, she emails saying she'd like to get together" (the latter sounding totally normal as well).

You haven't given that many details, but this sounds sort of like you finding her annoying and then finding everything she does annoying as well as opposed to everything she does being objectively bad and wrong.
posted by jeather at 6:42 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


How do you politely, kindly tell a person that they never pull their weight and that they need to?

I think you hit the nail on the head with "politely" and "kindly." Instead of secretly rolling your eyes and being upset that she's being demanding and selfish, just take the words she's saying at face value and express what you would like.

"I haven't heard from you in a long time, when can we get together?" -- instead of responding with anger because you think she's being passive aggressive, just say, "I know! It's been a while. Let me know when you're free."

"Let's go to the movies, pick me up at eight" -- instead of "There she goes again, demanding rides," "Would you be able to drive this time?"

Being quietly offended because you hung out with another friend instead of her -- She didn't say anything directly. Ignore.

I also like the advice from greenish and corb. Maybe she's not evil, she's just reaching out to you for something that she needs, but doing it in a way that's driving you away instead.

(Or maybe she's evil, in which case politely asserting yourself, ignoring subtle jabs, and expressing clearly what you want from her is likely to eventually drive her away.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was just coming in to say what corb said above...There are some aspects of her behavior that I recognize. I'm a working single mom and finances are really scary at times. Life can also get pretty lonely and I'm socially awkward to begin with. I can't afford to host anyone, can't afford gas money for special trips, and I'm kind of insecure about my tiny apartment and my general circumstance...this is why I don't initiate plans most of the time. It sucks, and I hope it changes, but this could be part of the story here.

On preview, take a look at what chickenmagazine says, that's good advice right there.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Classic Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture. She's an Ask Culture person, you are a Guess Culture person. When she asks you're allowed to say no. Though I agree with you she needs to get a better handle on her emotions.
posted by waterandrock at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'll reiterate....I don't pull my weight all of the time because I really can't or I don't think that I have much weight to pull....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:56 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a bit different take on this maybe than others. First of all, the entire point of a social circle, is to be a social circle. What I read is that you are afraid that if you cut her off, you will actually be cutting yourself out of the social circle. If you thought you had the authority to cut her off and have the others follow you, you probably would have.

Since you have not, and your struggling, it seems to me that 1) you would like to not associate with this woman, 2) that would really mean ostracising yourself, so that 3) you have adopted a view of pity for her as a rationalisation for why you cannot cut her out of your life.

What I find curious is your animosity toward her. She actually does seem like potentially quite a sad case. She's alone, and knows (from your description) how to function from a place of power, but not a place of authenticity. The other thing I noticed from your description is that she seems quite adept at keeping the group together by ensuring that there is ongoing communication and connection. Whilst you may perceive that as being on her terms, it looks like the result is that she keeps you all together.

And that may have a very real purpose, which is she needs you and needs the group to be together. And that you and the others respond to her, indicates that you also need this social group and it is an important part of your life.

What I also read is that you have experienced a significant change. Perhaps something specific happened, or it could be a more general change. Regardless, the result seems to be substantial animosity. I would really explore why that is. Because how it comes off is that there are established roles / power dynamic in the group, and now 1) you don't like those roles / that power dynamic, yet 2) you still need the group. This could be any number of things, but it looks very much like you want to take the group and leave her, which is unfortunately not the way it works.

I don't see this as being about her really, as much as about something that's really bothering you that you are not expressing, either to yourself, or her (or both). I think if you can find the answer as to what is really bothering you, you may find a greater degree of peace and/or a better path forward here.
posted by nickrussell at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


thanks all who have offered some input - appreciate it. not going to threadsit, but to clarify - this woman is way better off financially than any of us in our circle of friends. she lives in a single family home, while we all live in condos (smaller units)and due to her divorce and career path, she has a lot more disposable income than any of us. for those of you that identify with her, i appreciate your feedback. but I'd really like to hear feedback on how best to point out to this woman that even though she is lonely and sad, the rest of us have our struggles too, and she needs to be considerate of others' feelings and needs. I want to point this out to her in the least confrontational manner possible, in a non-threatening way - possibly via email - i want to sustain a relationship with her but i only want to do that if she will change. and yes, someone mentioend that it sounds like I spend a lot of time with mutual friends complaining about this woman. We have spent HOURS on this conundrum - the conundrum being, how to not dump this woman completely but also establish boundaries. none of us have successfully done this with her. and yes, she gets extremely annoyed if just two of us hang out without her, which is so annoyingly immature for a woman in her late 40s. in fact i am so sick of the hours of complaining we have spent about this woman, and what a hold/control she seems to have over us, that dumping her completely seems even more appealing just to rid myself of lost hours due to this endless feeling of annoyance.
posted by dmbfan93 at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I’ll be honest – on re-reading your post it seems to me that jeather has it with

this sounds sort of like you finding her annoying and then finding everything she does annoying as well as opposed to everything she does being objectively bad and wrong.

It seems to me that a lot of the issues in the post as it stands now are either hyperbolic or else very contradictory. For example, nothing you have described warrants like a sheep in wolf's clothing to me. That is for someone who is utterly two-faced, where the hidden face is positively dangerous, whilst you have, at best, described someone who is a bit of a freeloader and a leach on group energies. And even then, as others have pointed out, some things seem to be mutually exclusive, such as you keeping the friendship because of the fact that she is so unanimously well-liked, whilst at the same time your (common?) friends being annoyed with her for the same reasons as you, or these two statement:

For example, she never reaches out to you, yet she expects you to always be checking in with her

and

when she doesn't hear from you in a while by sending you a demanding, yet very politely written email stating she hasn't heard from you in a while and would like to get together.

She just seems to provoke a very violent reaction in you (and maybe your friends) for such relatively minor social mis-steps (some of them I would hesitate to even call mistakes). Nonetheless, I feel like I can relate to your upset, even with all the above in place, because I’ve gone through similar stuff. My take:

1. There is some other stuff about her or in your past interactions which you are not acknowledging, or not even aware of, and which contributes the meat to your current annoyance. For example, did you ever share a crush where she was more successful than you? Was it ever the case that you felt she undermined you (consciously or not) in a way that is too embarrassing to think about? I have seen both these things, and other similar stuff, happen, get repressed by the “victim” after which they came out in inexplicably strongly felt annoyances, and have also personally gone through the specific two examples cited above. Each time, it took what felt like a super-human on my part to not displace my disappointment and anger by inventing reasons of upset, and I was only mildly successful.

2. You’re just incompatible with this person. What I mean by this: firstly, she seems very direct (demanding, controlling), whilst you are waiting for her to figure the imbalance in your relationship on her own (you being her driver, host, inviter-to-things). She won’t; waterandrock’s link to Ask versus Guess is very useful here – she assumes that if anything is amiss, you’ll tell her directly. As long as she hears nothing from you (including no “no”s), she thinks you are fine and dandy with whatever is going on.


Secondly, and this is something I can empathize with quite bit if true, she, for whatever reasons, is fairly apathetic about adding her own creative energy to your interactions and is quite happy to cruise on your wave, whilst you feel obliged to plan and entertain, but at the same time are resentful of the person who creates this feeling in you. This I know intimately, I’ve grown up this way (my role in the family, amongst other things, was to do damage prevention and control re. my mum’s volatile temper – so I instinctively take on the role of caretaker, entertainer, class clown, pseudo-therapist etc as needed, and have been, in time, a great find for many an apathetic person who I ended up resenting and finding demanding and a drain). Anyway, here it is important to realise that the problem is not the other person, or even you, really, but just the way you spark off each other.


My advice:

1. Make your relationship with this person, or the planned absence thereof, be about you and her – not about a larger group. You don’t need validation from other people to not like someone. Whether your other friends like her or not, you have a right to like or dislike her for any reason, and you don’t have to confide your reasons in anyone (so you can actually not want to hang out with her even for reasons which may feel “shameful”, such as she is more extroverted than you and attracts all the attention, or she really put you down that one time and didn’t even seem aware of it, or she is really a stingy driver and there is nothing about her attractive enough for you to make it worth the hassle etc.)

2. Try to gain clarity on why you have grown to dislike her so vehemently. As said above, the reasons in your post seem a bit confused and/or flimsy. Is there something else? Do you remember any instance in your past where you felt hurt by her and then buried it?

3. Try to figure out clearly what your feelings for this woman are. Beyond the few things that annoy you about her, do you like her enough to warrant the discomfort of confronting her on the problems, in the hope of solving them and continuing the relationship, or are you quite happy to drop her by a slow-fade?

4. If you decide that yes, one way or the other you are fed up with her, but don’t want to make waves – leave your friends to interact with her how they will, and decide what shape you want your own interaction with her to have. No more car rides? Say no each time she wants one. She writes to complain she wasn’t invited to something? Don’t answer. She passive-aggressively suggests she should have invited along to some event? Ignore, or, if you’re annoyed enough, tell her that you just wanted to go with Jim, Tim and Bob, and therefore you only invited Jim, Tim and Bob. Just practice it privately before you say it to her, so that you can say it in a natural, neutral way, rather than all annoyed and agitated, cause that could make YOU sound like a boor.

5. As for your friends and the congress about all the annoying things she does (not clear yet if they like her or not, tbh) – personally, I think this is really ugly. Fair enough, if one or two people have to swallow their dislike of someone else for the sake of group dynamic, I can see why you need to vent by way of bitching (only just), but if she is disliked by the whole group and rather than talking to her or somehow making it clear that she is no longer welcome you just organize bitching sessions, this seems immature and hateful.
posted by miorita at 7:52 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think you need to let go of the idea that you're going to change this person. The idea of pointing stuff out to someone, after which their entrenched behavior is going to change, is unrealistic. This has worked out for her for a long time; if you and your group reject her, she will probably find other people to do it with. (I'm not rejecting the idea that she is doing it out of some kind of neediness, however. She may live in a bigger place or have a better income but still perceive her needs as greater than yours. Happens all the time.)

We have spent HOURS on this conundrum - the conundrum being, how to not dump this woman completely but also establish boundaries. none of us have successfully done this with her.

So what are you getting out of this? There must be something-- personally, or in terms of your group dynamic-- or you wouldn't be doing it. You could stop doing so much for her and she would either pick up the slack or go away.
posted by BibiRose at 7:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


So what have you actually tried with her? When she asks for a lift, what do you say? When she refuses to host things, what do you say? When she says she's sad she didn't get to hang out with you and a friend, what do you say? It might be easier to figure out what else to try if we know what you have already tried.

You do not have to keep being friends with her. If you find her annoying, then it's okay to stop hanging out with her.
posted by jeather at 8:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


In light of your update: if she is relatively recently divorced, you may well be the first time she has social interaction with a group of people outside of a couple. She may find it really hard to calibrate her reactions to what is going on, so, whilst it is unrealistic to assume you can change entrenched behaviour with someone in their forties, I think you might be in luck here: maybe she is just blundering around trying to figure out how and what to do as a single person. In this sense, she may well be like a newborn, even if she is forty, succesfull and generally together.

What I would do with regard to her getting annoyed about not being invited to smaller group-outings is try to meet up (you, someone else) with her as just the two of you, or maybe in a smaller, break-away group and do something separate from the larger group. Each time she subsequently complains about not being included in small outings I’d try to patiently explain to her that you caught up with x, just like the two of you went for a catch-up chat last week or whenever. That is it. Do this every time she complains. If she doesn’t stop after a few times, you can ramp it up and tell her that everyone has the right to have individual relationships with each other outside of relationships with the other group members, and that this is not up for discussion any more. If she still doesn’t let it go, just tell her you will never have this conversation again, cause you already explained it a few times, and then just don’t have that conversation again with her.

Same with being invited over - why not say, next time you are planning a hosted event as a group, "Hey, we've never been to Mary's/ never played poker at Mary's, what do you say, Mary, about doing it at yours?". Is a bit rude, just inviting yourself over, but at the same time gives her the opportunity to reciprocate. Maybe she assumes noone will want to come to sad divorced lady's house, or she is self-conscious about hosting as a single person, especially if you lot are all couples, or mainly couples.


It’s possible she genuinely has no idea how to relate to people in a non-professional and non-couples setting, or that she feels self-conscious about certain aspects of your interaction (is she a relative new fixture in the group), and that she can learn via you being firm, kind and polite at the same time. If not, just disengage.
posted by miorita at 8:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nothing you described really sounds like she is that terrible a friend, or worth spending hours with your other friends discussing how to deal with her. Is what she's doing so terrible or do you really just not like this woman, and are getting all Mean Girls on her with the rest of your friends?

She might be aware that you and your friends are trying to pull away from her--and realizing that people are hanging out without her is another reminder that there's a group of people she considers her friends who are spending time hanging out without her discussing what a problem she is.

she gets extremely annoyed if just two of us hang out without her, which is so annoyingly immature for a woman in her late 40s. in fact i am so sick of the hours of complaining we have spent about this woman, and what a hold/control she seems to have over us...

This is entirely within your abilities to control. Stop complaining about her. You are an adult, and spending hours gossiping with friends about her isn't exactly mature or helpful behavior either.

You cannot control the way she feels if you exclude her from outings with friends or tell her that it will not be possible to give her a ride somewhere. You can decide to not let her reaction bother you.

this woman is way better off financially than any of us in our circle of friends. she lives in a single family home, while we all live in condos (smaller units)and due to her divorce and career path, she has a lot more disposable income than any of us.

Unless you are her accountant, or maybe her divorce attorney, you don't know this for sure. Don't count other people's money.
posted by inertia at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


I want to point this out to her in the least confrontational manner possible, in a non-threatening way - possibly via email - i want to sustain a relationship with her but i only want to do that if she will change.

What you are proposing is to point out to her how unskillful she is at communicating with her friends by communicating with her in a highly unskillful manner. Just talk to her. Be honest. Be willing to accept that she may not take your ultimatum as well-intentioned advice, and she may choose to not sustain a relationship. That's her option just as it is yours, but it's only fair to be honest about why you're considering it.


in fact i am so sick of the hours of complaining we have spent about this woman, and what a hold/control she seems to have over us, that dumping her completely seems even more appealing just to rid myself of lost hours due to this endless feeling of annoyance.

Either establish boundaries or just end it. At the very least you need to stop calling this woman a friend. I'm sure she would be mortified to learn that everyone she considers a friend is complaining about her to everyone else she considers a friend.
posted by headnsouth at 8:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


in fact i am so sick of the hours of complaining we have spent about this woman, and what a hold/control she seems to have over us, that dumping her completely seems even more appealing just to rid myself of lost hours due to this endless feeling of annoyance.

You know what will be even easier, and will work instantly? For all of you to stop complaining about her.

Change what you can change: your own reactions and behavior.
posted by scody at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


she gets extremely annoyed if just two of us hang out without her, which is so annoyingly immature for a woman in her late 40s

You know what else is "annoyingly immature" behaviour? "I spend a lot of time with mutual friends complaining about this woman. We have spent HOURS on this conundrum"

Nothing you've said about her sounds very bad - most people have a couple annoying flaws to go along with their good qualities.

That said, you aren't obligated to be anyone's friend. If you don't like her, stop accepting her invitations to hang out. If she's established in your group of friends and other people invite her out, that's fine - just be polite and distant when you see her, and she'll get the hint.

If you do want to be her friend, other people have suggested how to make it clear to her when her behaviour is unpleasant for you. You can't change her, but you can alert her to the fact that she's coming off as a freeloader etc. It's up to her if she wants to alter her behaviour after that.
posted by randomnity at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Per your update, and the suggestions above: have you read the Ask v Guess post? Do you guys share things in your social circle? What I would do is post/email that to the group or where the group can see, and say something like: "This is so great! I think I'm more of a guess culture, where I try to see if something is wanted before I try to impose. What about you guys, dear friends? Where do you fall on this scale?"
posted by corb at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quickly...

this woman is way better off financially than any of us in our circle of friends. she lives in a single family home, while we all live in condos (smaller units)and due to her divorce and career path, she has a lot more disposable income than any of us.

(I don't see how this is relevant.)

how best to point out to this woman that even though she is lonely and sad, the rest of us have our struggles too, and she needs to be considerate of others' feelings and needs.

Find a time to sit down with her, and say that to her.

I want to point this out to her in the least confrontational manner possible, in a non-threatening way

It is very hard to evoke change and not be confrontational.

i want to sustain a relationship with her but i only want to do that if she will change.

That is very difficult to do. Based on the previous points:

• she is financially well-off
• you want her to be more considerate of your feelings
• you do not want to confront her or directly address this issue
• you want to keep her around, but only if she changes herself into someone you find acceptable

And then we have...

We have spent HOURS on this conundrum - the conundrum being, how to not dump this woman completely but also establish boundaries.

Often, people with poor boundaries attract other people with poor boundaries. If you can identify poor boundaries in her, and you have been her friend for a length of time, that may also indicate that you have poor boundaries. Establishing boundaries is not a social exercise, it is a very personal exercise. And it can be hard to do without being confrontation sometimes.

i am so sick of the hours of complaining we have spent about this woman, and what a hold/control she seems to have over us, that dumping her completely seems even more appealing just to rid myself of lost hours due to this endless feeling of annoyance.

She doesn't have any control over you, other than the control you give her. Why are you giving her this control over you? That is the point that I was looking for earlier. You are giving her a tremendous amount of control. If you can figure out why, you'll be closer to the answer.

Anger is an unmet need. So if you are angry/annoyed with her, you have a need that is not being met by this relationship. You say that need is her lack of boundaries, but her lack of boundaries is not your own lack of boundaries. You can easily have boundaries whilst she does not. You then say that she is immature, yet you and your friends are the ones who speak about her for hours, but then do not have the desire to bring her into that conversation.

You do seem angry at something, it's just not apparent what it is. Is there a chance she is a proxy for something else, or you're transferring it? I'm just not seeing how it all adds up.
posted by nickrussell at 10:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know someone who is very similar, at least in some ways. I, at least, can understand where you're coming from and sympathize. I'm sure that other people can continue to discuss whether or not her actions individually or as a whole should be annoying to you, but the point is that it's a general pattern in which the specific examples aren't necessarily overwhelming but taken as a whole in context the problem still emerges.

Sadly what I had to do was essentially cut that person out of my life. There wasn't really a way to establish an appropriate set of boundaries and when I tried it just resulted in more grief for me and mine.
posted by Carillon at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


She sounds manipulative and controlling and seems to be a drain on all of you. This may or may not be due to insecurity and loneliness from her being recently divorced. She might not be aware of how her behavior comes across to her seemingly close friends. Crucially, she might not be willing or able to behave any differently, no matter what you say to her. All you can control is how you respond and interact with her.

If you make plans with another friend and do not invite her, she is totally offended, yet finds some way of conveying that without coming outright saying it to you.

It sounds like you put a lot of energy into reading into the way she acts. Since you say you do want to preserve the relationship with her, stop doing that. If she has a problem with the way she is treated in this group of friends, she can bring it up with you and/or your friends directly, and maybe then you can have an adult discussion about it. In the meantime, you are allowed to invite some of your friends out and not invite her.
posted by wondermouse at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This woman sounds like my mother, who is a bottomless pit of social need no person can adequately fill. I put up with the fallout because she's my mother, because I'm sympathetic, because she has a relationship with my child, and can occasionally be fun company. But she is a drain on my energies, probably my primary source of life stress.

Are you sure your social group can't break free? Or could you have a relative like mine that is causing this (relatively innocuous) friend to push your buttons?
posted by acm at 12:42 PM on July 30, 2013


And people are generally drawn in by her physical beauty as well as her seemingly kindness and politeness. But having been one of her closest friends for years, I've experienced her as really a bossy, controlling person who has relied on me to really serve as her wing woman/fill-in and to serve as a playmate on weekends and weeknights because she no longer has a husband and does not want to date.

She is like a wolf in sheeps clothing - coming across as someone who is kind, charming, sweet, and caring, yet she's self absorbed, self centered, and really lacking in generosity.
...
this woman is way better off financially than any of us in our circle of friends. she lives in a single family home, while we all live in condos (smaller units)and due to her divorce and career path, she has a lot more disposable income than any of us. ...


I think what could be happening here (as opposed to 'is') is that this woman no longer possesses an essential entree to your group, a husband or SO, and even worse-- because of her physical beauty and relative wealth-- now constitutes a potential threat to the marriages and relationships of the other members of the circle (I take your description of her as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" as a possible expression of awareness of this threat) .

If that's the case I don't blame you, and I don't think you should blame yourself. I've seen a number of groups of friends destabilized and ultimately destroyed when an attractive man or woman in the group suddenly became unattached, and read of many more.

What I believe would be wrong, however, is sifting her character and behavior for flaws which would give you justifications for your entirely reasonable desire to exclude her, and then attacking her for those flaws.

I think she would be very much in the wrong to expect to be included in the group to the extent she has been, though. At best, she might be able to move to the periphery and hang on until she has a boyfriend, but even that might be pushing it.
posted by jamjam at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that she seems "offended" and "miffed" when not asked to join you may have something to do with the fact that she knows her "friends" gang up and trash-talk her for hours. Speaking as an awkward single woman who has been on the opposite side of this story in a circle of couples, we're generally perceptive enough to piece that kind of thing together based on circumstantial evidence. It's appalling to put her down for wanting to be included if events to which she's not invited turn into a referendum on her bad character and a brainstorming session on how best to confront her about her shortcomings. Christ almighty.
posted by cirocco at 12:35 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


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