I'm just not that into you!
August 28, 2013 2:08 AM   Subscribe

How do I discourage someone who is pursuing me for friendship?

A woman in my town/community has been pursuing my friendship for the last year or so. We have toddlers the same age so we had a few parent dates. Our kids play really well together which is nice. There are things I really like about her but other things I don't like. She has a kind of bossy/pushy personality and I find myself going into "please and appease" mode, wanting her to like and approve of me when I'm with her, and then getting resentful and not wanting to hang out with her when I'm away from her. (I'm working on my assertiveness.)

Basically I don't really want to be friends with her. BUt then she keeps texting me to hang out. I have fobbed her off the last few times. I thought she had got the message but she has just texted me again. She texted me saying that her son wanted to hang out with my daughter and could we please make a date. What do I do?

The complication is, that we are in the same community and share a lot of friends. There will be lots of places I will see her (3 yr old birthday parties). The other complication is, that my husband and I are close to her newly ex husband, who ended their relationship last year, much to her devastation. So I sometimes hang out with him with our toddlers (we get along very well). Also he confides in me about her, and it just feels all wrong for me to be friends with her for that reason. Also I just don't want to because of the way her personality irks me.

I guess I feel that if I keep fobbing her off, it will be really tense and awkward when I run into her which I invariably will. I would love to keep on non-tense terms, but I guess to do this I have to hang out with her once in a while. But I just don't really like her that much and it feels bad because her ex husband and I have talked about her a lot, and it feels really inauthentic to then hang out with her as though I like her. But also I know she's sad about the break-up and wants friends to hang out with and I feel bad about dissing her at this time. Maybe also I don't like how aggressively she has pursued me... messaging me saying that her son wants to play with my daughter seems almost passive aggressive. Thoughts???

Conundrum!

Do I just keep fobbing her off and deal with the tension and awkwardness when I see her? Do I tell her that I don't want to hang out with her? Do I hang out with her once in a while even though it feels inauthentic?

I would appreciate any advice here guys. What would you do if you were me, what would you want me to do if you were her... ??? THanks.
posted by saturn~jupiter to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
But also I know she's sad about the break-up and wants friends to hang out with and I feel bad about dissing her at this time.

That's really the core of the matter. You don't want to have her as a friend, but you can clearly see that she is in need of a friend. What you see as aggression seems more to me like desperation.

Disclaimer: I can personally attest that it sucks to be dumped by your spouse and then dumped a second time by "your" friends so I am a little sympathetic to this woman's situation.

I don't know what I would do if I were you, but if I were me I would make the effort. You don't have to be her friend, but you can certainly be friendly. (Like a lot of other things in life, sometimes just going through the motions - even when your heart is not in it - makes all the difference.) Make a play date, but include other children/parents too as a way to introduce her to other people amongst whom she might find a real friend.
posted by three blind mice at 2:36 AM on August 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


messaging me saying that her son wants to play with my daughter seems almost passive aggressive. Thoughts???

I would consider that she isn't necessarily using the kids as a passive aggressive excuse here. Lots of preschoolers do express that they want to play with a person they've played well with before, and the little boy might actually be asking to play with your kid. Maybe she really wants to relax and enjoy a toddler playdate where her son is playing well and not having lots of toddler conflicts.

Of course you don't have to hang out with her, but it might be easier to frame a few get togethers as toddler hang outs. Don't talk about personal things, meet at a playground or kids museum, and perhaps ask if you can invite someone else with their toddler along as well. Talk about the kids, what they are eating, pleasantly comment on their play, check your phone occasionally: you are supervising their playdate.

More and more, your kid will have playdates where you're indifferent to the parent. Until the kids are old enough to be dropped off in a few years, you'll probably just be biding your time making chit chat so your kid can play half the time, rather than get-togethers as adult friendships where youre just bringing your child along. It is almost like waiting outside their gymnastics lessons, just part of the necesssary low level chit chat in parent life. I think framing this woman's requests as a kid playdate takes the pressure off you to like her, while allowing you to avoid the social drama of rejecting her totally.
posted by third rail at 2:39 AM on August 28, 2013 [23 favorites]


Why don't you let her know how close and how much you admire her ex?

That should tell her quite clearly you not only don't care much for her, but you've also picked sides.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:46 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe also I don't like how aggressively she has pursued me... messaging me saying that her son wants to play with my daughter seems almost passive aggressive.

Hmmm, I think you might be projecting a little bit, here. As a parent of a toddler, I get genuinely excited when my daughter expresses interest/delight in playing with another child. You know, kids at that age don't always get along, or they just "play in parallel", if you know what I mean. Especially when the parents seem relatively normal, at-least-on-the-same-book-if-not-the-same-page re: parenting norms, it's nice you know?

This has no bearing on whether you should/could hang out with her, but I don't think you should feel forced to demonise this woman - even a little - to feel justified in not wanting to hang out. You don't need a reason if you don't want to be someone's friend, that's okay, you can both be good people.

She sounds lonely, and I feel that fobbing her off is the least ethical thing to do, really. I've seen how horrible it can be after breakups when you feel the entire world is spending time with your ex and just withdraws with no reason or the honesty to tell you why. It's really hurtful and sad. Is she doing the majority of the parenting? It's possible she's also desperate for some adult company. If I were you, I would fob her off 2 out of 3 times, hang out every now and then, in situations that will work best for me (I am somewhat of a people-pleaser I grant).
posted by smoke at 4:01 AM on August 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Best answer: What I get from your question is that you want to run away from her, rather than be assertive with her. Which you can do if you want.

But, if you have an excuse - such as children who may wish to play with each other - you can just view her as an acquaintance. You then get to work on not being walked all over.

If you really don't want to meet with her, you need to tell her that you feel uncomfortable about meeting up with her because you're friends with her ex.

And, yeah, you're reading into things here that aren't necessarily there. You can't assume to know why she's doing anything.
posted by heyjude at 4:05 AM on August 28, 2013


Best answer: Soumds like she needs a friend, and I think it's an excellent, low-cost way for you to work on that please-and-appease mode of yours. Spend time with her, be friendly, and DON'T cave in to her pushiness.

Easier said than done, I know, but pushy people are a constant, so might as well get the hang of it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:39 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Best answer: I had this happen years ago but the "pushy person" turned out to be a really good friend. I think it is okay to have the occasional play date, with you practicing your assertiveness in person. But yes, I think it would be fine to invite others as well. But does she know you are friends with her ex? I think she needs to know that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:45 AM on August 28, 2013


Best answer: I sympathise. I have known a couple of people like that and I found them very exhausting.

I'm afraid you will have to be assertive. There is no magic wand to wave around here. You will have to say "Sorry, but that won't be possible" whenever she pushes for a get-together.

I understand the added complication of toddlers playing well together and a shared social circle based upon your children - but you should not have to endure anyone's company. I am sorry that the woman has no friends but it is not your responsibility to become her friend as a result.
posted by kariebookish at 4:49 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Have you considered that maybe she wants to be friends with you because you are so close to your ex?

I agree with randomeystrike in that it is possible to have play dates with children and their parents and stay diplomatically and cheerfully away from personal topics, keeping the relationship "shallow".

This sounds like an ideal sandbox* to test your ability to be assertive by taking a confident stand against her bossiness over and over again ("I'm sorry, but that won't be possible", "Could you please stop doing that?"), including potential talk about your private life, or about her ex and your friendship. If she doesn't respect your position on that, then you would have a very legitimate reason to drop her.

You may still find some other stuff in common on which to base your acquaintance - maybe you both like knitting or doing puzzles while the kids play. Maybe she is not as terrible as her husband has portrayed her to you?

*no pun intended.
posted by ipsative at 4:52 AM on August 28, 2013


Don't keep your child away from friends because you don't like the parents. Instead use the playdayes to trade off alone time with the other mother. Tell her you'd love for the kids to play together but you're terribly busy/on deadline/whatever and could you just drop your kid off? Then next time she can drop her kid off w/you & you'll return the favor. That way its a kidsitting swap relationship instead of a pretend friendship.

Also I think you should stop talking about her with her ex.
posted by headnsouth at 4:53 AM on August 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


I'd frame it as you feel closer to her ex, and it feels awkward to hang out with her. That way you're not straight out saying you don't like her. Say you don't want to be caught in the middle, and you're just not comfortable seeing them both socially.
posted by catatethebird at 5:01 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


You could pre-emptively discourage her by organising all kid dates via the ex, and then if it comes up that she is actually just trying to hang out with you then you can have that assertive conversation. It won't be particularly nice though, I imagine.

Did you hang out with her much before her ex left her? If so, that might be why she's pursuing you, because she thinks you're friends already, and with a break up and sadness there's probably a fear of missing out and a desire to establish dynamics independently of the old relationship. So is it being bossy/pushy or just going through a hard time and looking for connection and kindness? Annoying/pushy or no, she's devastated after her marriage breakdown and I'd be pre-disposed to be a bit gentler with her at the moment, unless she did something terrible that precipitated the breakup.

It's not your responsibility of course, but in refusing to take that responsibility it may not be possible not to inflict a little hurt given, as you say, you don't like her.
posted by doodledeedee at 5:21 AM on August 28, 2013


Why don't you let her know how close and how much you admire her ex?

This is unnecessarily cruel. Regardless of how you handle your child's playdates with this woman's child, regardless of how you deflect her suggestions to become personal friends, pretending to be Team Ex Husband (or vocally and explicitly being Team Ex Husband) is cruel. It's also bad for children of divorce to take sides--you may think the toddler won't notice that Mom's upset because Friend's Mommy likes Daddy better than Mom, but you could easily be wrong.

It would be good for you to practice your assertiveness, as you've expressed a desire to do, by refusing to discuss her Ex. Or you can practice your assertiveness by not hanging out with her outside of playdates.

Divorce/dissolution of a long-term relationship/breaking up with your child's other parent is hard for lots of reasons. One of those is the perception that other adults have chosen a Good Person and a Bad Person in the break-up. Please try not to contribute to that. You were not in the relationship--no matter what her Ex has confided in you, you really don't know what happened to break down their relationship--and it is unfair and unkind for you to judge her implicitly by telling her that you've chosen her Ex over her.

Maybe you don't like her and don't want to be her friend. That's fine. You handle that by making it about your schedule or by vaguely but firmly stating it won't be possible to get together outside the occasional playdate. You do that by being friendly but brief when you run into her in public. You don't do it by referencing her break-up. Making it about how you like her Ex better or you've chosen to be his friends not hers is sledgehammering her with another rejection that is implicitly about the failure of her marriage/partnership. That's mean.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


Best answer: I'd only get together with her to let the kids play. If there are things about her you don't like, address them as they come up. Since you don't like her much and you don't have anything to lose, you don't really have to worry about appearing rude.

Don't meet with her where you're a captive audience, go to a park or the library or an activity.

Treat her as an acquaintance, because you can't escape her. Your kids like to play together, you'll see her all over town, you'll do PTA together. I'd rather be friendly with her, than constantly avoiding and shutting her down.

It may be that what irks you about her will chill out and calm down once she sees that you're not avoiding her and actively allowing her into your life.

There are people in my life that I'm friendly with, but only for certain things. I had a friend for years where most of our interaction took place over lunch and a trip to Wal-Mart. She was happy and it didn't bother me too much to have her hanging around while I bought deodorant and tampons.

You don't have to be besties with her, but given how intertwined your relationship is because of your child, it's not such a hot idea to blank her out of your life completely.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best answer: It sounds like she makes you uncomfortable because she triggers you to go into "please and appease mode." You could use this as an opportunity to learn to assert your opinion more instead of just avoiding her. There are a lot of overbearing people around and you can't always avoid them; might as well learn how to deal.

Also, it's good to practice compassion to people who push our buttons. You probably tell your toddler that you have to learn to get along with all sorts of people. The same is true for us adults. Of course, we should avoid people who are toxic and abusive. But this woman sounds merely annoying.
posted by xenophile at 6:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would make occasional play dates at public places, like a park, beach, library story time, McDonald's playspace, whatever, and maybe add another friend who has a child the same age. Public places are less intimate, and groups are less intimate. In your home, her bossiness may feel invasive, and in her home, it's her turf, and her bossiness may be worse.

Yes, it would be kind to befriend her, but you don't care for her company. She may be energetic and organized, and contacting lots of people, which is exactly what she should be doing. It's okay for you to say No. You are not responsible for her. Don't gossip about her, and maybe even say (true, of course) nice things about her to others.
posted by theora55 at 6:58 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mod note: A couple comments removed. Kruger5, we have talked to you about not constantly getting in side-arguments with other answers in here, and we mean it. Cut it out now and cut it out going forward.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2013


Take a look at the events schedule at your local public library. There should be some activities there that would be fun for your kids. Schedule one of these as your playdate. Kids will be happy, and you will have both a specified amount of time and a specific purpose/topic of conversation for your time in her presence.

And try to be a little compassionate. Right now you don't need her and so she's an annoyance. She might have thought the same thing about you before her life blew up and she found herself desperately needing any kind of friend. It's nice to have so many friends that you can afford to blow off the ones who aren't perfect, but that math changes drastically when bad things happen.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:32 AM on August 28, 2013


As far as I know, my parents had no more than a passing familiarity with most of the parents of my friends. I would go over to a friend's house; my parents wouldn't come along with me. My friends would come over to my house; their parents wouldn't come along with them. I remember this happening as far back as I remember anything - before kindergarten.

Assuming that your child also wants to be friends with her child, why not just let them?

"Hi, saturn~jupiter, my kid really wants to hang out with your kid."

"Great, annoying~person! You can drop your kid off at my house at 3:00, and pick him up at 5:00. Or if you want, he can stay for dinner. Or maybe you want me to drop my daughter off at your house?"
posted by Flunkie at 7:36 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Agree to the occasional play date so that the kids can play together. Depending on the age and your comfort level, those could be play dates at which you are both present or ones where only one of you is watching the kids. Chat politely while you are together whether that's during the whole [;sudate or at pickup and drop-off times. Don't give her some speech about how you've chosen her husband, but don't agree to anything other than play dates. There is nothing inauthentic about having a polite but limited relationship with the parent of a kid whom your kid likes.

It sounds like this woman may well be a part of your social circle and your kid's life for years to come. Maybe your kids will continue to be friends. Maybe she will become active in the PTA or the leadership of some sport or activity in which your kid participates. Maybe she will become even closer to some of your close friends. It just doesn't make sense to openly reject or choose sides against someone like this. Her future good will could be important to you some day. Also, this is a tough time for her and a talk about how you are choosing her husband and don't want to hang out with her would likely be painful.
posted by Area Man at 7:43 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a toddler. Yes, my son asks to play with his friends. I think you are being unkind here.

Get a babysitter or friend to make the play date so the kids can hang out.

The real problem is that you talk smack about her with her ex.

I hope her child hasn't overheard.

That part is pretty shitty, and you should not engage in ANY negative conversation about her.

Her ex should not be confiding in you. Tell him to get a therapist.
posted by jbenben at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


It seems very unkind of you to sit around and gossip about this woman behind her back with her ex-husband. Especially while your kids are there having a playdate. Not exactly an awesome example to set for your kids about how to treat others.

As for the issue of her messaging you saying that her kid wants to play with your kid: given how most of your post is about how much you dislike this woman and how much her personality annoys you and you just want her to go away, it's hard to say if this is passive aggression on her part. To be honest, it sounds more like you're the passive aggressive party, since you're dodging her and gossiping about her instead of being upfront and honest with her. Also, it's likely that her kid DOES want to hang out with your kid and is asking to do so. My three year old niece frequently asks her parents when she's going to get to see this friend or that friend and that she misses them. Sometimes I'll get a text from her mom: "Kiddo has been talking about you all day today, I think she misses you :)". I think it's sweet, but then I'm not looking for reasons to not hang out with her, you know?

I think you need to examine your own part in this. It's totally fine not to like someone or to not want to be friends with them, but it's not okay to talk about them behind their back like you're doing. And it's not okay to cut your kid off from their friends because you think their mom is pushy and you're hoping she'll stop contacting you if you just ignore her hard enough. Think about the message you're sending your kid about how to treat people when you do that.
posted by palomar at 9:25 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd be concerned that you'd end up modeling to your kid, and their kid, that it's ok to ostracize someone and that one parent is worth more respect. ie. if dad calls, I can hang out with my friend; if mom calls, my friend's parents won't answer.
Your kids may grow up together and be in each others lives for years, I'd say it makes sense to find a way to get along pleasantly. It doesn't sound like she's done anything really wrong, you just don't love her personality. Life is full of getting along with people we find challenging, sometimes they even grow on us.

Do I hang out with her once in a while even though it feels inauthentic?

Yes.
posted by fruit sandwich at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many many couples divorce after children arrive because raising a family is a HUGE stressor.

In other words, you could just as easily be in her shoes.

I'm gathering the ex husband may be secretly feeling very guilty over the demise of his marriage, hence why he's commiserating with you. I know he's your friend, but joining him in vilifying his ex, someone who is also having a tough time, is not the way to help him.

I think these two people have twirled you up a little in their drama. It happens.

There are plenty of ways to make sure the kids get together often without socializing much with the mom - do that.

Politely deflect the rest.
posted by jbenben at 10:32 AM on August 28, 2013


If I were you, I'd be less passive-aggressive. I also think that having play-dates with your children does not make you friends, and that this is the type of situation that would be an ideal place for you to work on your assertiveness and compassion while modeling mature behavior for your child.
posted by sm1tten at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2013


You might also consider that she doesn't absolutely adore you, either, but that, as a mother, she is now focused on ensuring that her kid is not going to suffer socially because her marriage dissolved.

Think, too, about the social currency of playdates and how showing some kindness and forbearance now will pay off down the road. For example, I know the woman downstairs whose son is 3 weeks younger than mine doesn't particularly click with me but I would absolutely watch her son for a few minutes so she could run an errand, and would likely ask her to do the same for me and expect she'd probably oblige.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your life changes when you get married and start a family. You don't always get to pick your "friends" anymore. Don't misunderstand -- yes, you still get to pick your top 3-5 personal friends who are your real confidants. But for the rest, a lot of it filters through your spouse and your children's activities.

Provided this lady is not a weirdo or indoctrinating your toddler into a strange cult or trying to sell you MLM products, I would encourage you to go ahead and be her "friend". Allow her to be someone who orbits your life. Carpooling, sleepovers, etc. It is good to have reasonable people to share these responsibilities with. Yeah, some people might have different conversation patterns or blurt out weird jokes, but so what? Personally I could overlook "bossy" or "pushy". I'd be more worried about "quick tempered" or "intoxicated". As long as they are "solid" people, in my opinion it's good to have them in your life.
posted by 99percentfake at 12:07 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this the wife of the friend for whom you posted a divorce question? The same guy whose house you don't like to go to? It seems to me that you are pretty deeply into this family's business. Honestly I think you need to decouple the kids' relationship to each other from your relationship with either parent. If you are in the same community and your kids like to play together, arrange playdates for the kids. (I'm another person whose parents weren't buddy-buddy with my friends' parents.) You're entitled to not like people, but the world doesn't have to be divided into people you are enthusiastic about and people whom you just ignore. There's a lot of space in the middle there. You don't have to capitulate to her needs, but think about it as a relationship with a whole family rather than just the individual members.
posted by stowaway at 12:12 PM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh man, is the ex the "friend" you posted your question on how he should leave his wife with a newborn and 2 year old? Yeah... If so, then I am reading your question way different. It is not complimentary to either you or the ex-husband.

The woman is hurt and flailing. She is trying to make sure that her children are not feeling friendless like she feels right now. Oh hell, did your "friend" decide to tell all the mutual friends that he was not in love with her and was planning to ditch her when child number two was three months old? Because that has got to sting.

Maybe she does not want you as a friend at all, and just wants to make her toddler happy by having someone they could play with for some time or even try to have seeming normalcy by doing outreach to the old network of friend and acquaintances from her married life. Look, there are ways that you could have the kids play and you not be there with her (see all advice above) but there is a spectrum relationships, it is not always so cut and dried. Also, get out their business. This will not end well for anyone involved if you continue to be complicit in the ex's plans and sounding board for his behavior.
posted by jadepearl at 4:30 PM on August 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Response by poster: so many good responses here!!! I have marked way too many "best answers" but I really appreciate all these perspectives. THANKS everyone.
posted by saturn~jupiter at 2:56 AM on August 29, 2013


Response by poster: Important note: our kids are both still wearing nappies and not old enough to play at each other's houses without us. I would feel weird about her having to change my daughter's pooey nappy! and I wouldn't really want to deal with her son's.

Also the reason I thought the message may have been passive aggressive is because I just cannot imagine her son expressing a desire to play with my daughter. He is really obsessed with trains and although he and my daughter seem to like each other and are never mean to each other, he doesn't seem THAT interested in her. So I feel like it was more her wanting to hang out...
posted by saturn~jupiter at 3:11 AM on August 29, 2013


Also the reason I thought the message may have been passive aggressive is because I just cannot imagine her son expressing a desire to play with my daughter. He is really obsessed with trains and although he and my daughter seem to like each other and are never mean to each other, he doesn't seem THAT interested in her. So I feel like it was more her wanting to hang out...

This doesn't really matter - not every indirect communication is passive-aggressive (one of the things which defines passive-aggressiveness as opposed to, say, being manipulative, or slightly avoidant, or more guess than ask, or just a weird communicator, is underlying hostility - see here). I think you yourself would admit that, even if her toddler was entirely stumm about playing with your one, her text could not really be motivated by acknowledged or unacknowledged hostility towards you. She may just not feel comfortable to outright say "Hey, let's hang out", and that is not a shitty thing to do, even if many people would prefer more direct communication.

I do think that you kind of know what is going on (and this may also be one of the reasons why you perceive her as either passive-aggressive, or else overbearing and pushy/ bossy). You know about yourself that you are not particularly assertive, or that, even if inside your head you are (in that you know what you want/ need) you don't always know how to translate that to the outside world, and more specifically some of your personal interactions. Due to some of your relationships you end up feeling guilty even when you know there is nothing to feel guilty about, and even if the other person makes no outright accusations or demands (I remember quite a few of your previous questions, and must confess that to some extent I feel mirrored in them).

So then this other person comes along, who you are slightly reticent about due to the whole breakup-with-friend story, and on top of that she is unwittingly riding tracks which push your buttons - no wonder you feel exasperated and like you want nothing to do with her!

But I agree with the posters who say that you should take this opportunity to work on your assertiveness - partly, this is for your own sake (life is just unmeasurably easier and less stressful if you can deal with situations in a low-key manner, rather than allowing them to grow to catastrophic proportion through avoidance - again, personal experience), but also for her sake. I don't know if this is the same woman from your friend's question (and, if not - what's wrong with these men?!?), but please have a bit of understanding and kindness towards her. Her husband deserts her in a really callous manner (and passive-aggressive - THAT is passive-aggressive! And more besides...) as her body, mind and soul are still reeling from having gone through childbirth, she had to suddenly become a single mum (even with great help from him, it's absolutely no piece of cake to go childbirth - transition to completely new status, double new identity - mum of two + singledom - challenges of being a single parent), and now she is being shunned by former friends/ acquaintances whilst she is still adjusting to all of this ... Honestly, my heart goes out to her.

This doesn't mean that you have to take her on as your responsibility, cause she is not. But I think that if you could work on your assertiveness, on your boundaries, or rather on how to reinforce them (you seem to have fewer problems than many with knowing where they are, mostly), you would find that it is not such an imposition to extend her some kindness, in a fairly detached sort of way, which might make your life easier as per other posters above, and which might go a long way towards making her feel less isolated and discarded.

As someone who has some of your problems (I apologize if I am just projecting, but the ways you phrase your questions makes me think I am not wrong here), my advice would be:

First, separate your reactions to this woman as a human being from the whole fall-out with the break-up. My suspicion is that some of the problems in that marriage are not entirely dissimilar to the problems you are having with this woman (if this is the woman from your previous question - the husband seemed to be massively avoidant, and the conclusion sort of present itself that he would have perceived her as pushy and overbearing and bossy), so you are primed to see her in that light from having discussed her with the husband. Then, try to imagine how you would perceive her if you were the assertive type. Does she do things which would be exasperating to anyone, or is it just the dynamic between non-assertive and assertive person that leads to your dislike for her?

I think it is important to be honest here, because otherwise you may well end up feeling inauthentic even after you drop her - you will be haunted by the suspicion that you may have been mean in your unkind thoughts about her as a way of divesting yourself of the responsibility of ditching her for a reason you don't deem good enough (such as: given your close friendship with ex-husband, you feel disloyal interacting with her, and you don't want the grief etc). Tbh, you seem like a person who is scrupulously honest with themselves, and my feeling is you are partway there anyway.

Secondly, if after the above you come to the conclusion that you're OK with some interaction with her, my suggestion would be to have very concrete ideas as to what kind and what extent of interaction you're OK with, what EXACTLY you are uncomfortable with. If you know exactly what you want/ can live with, it will be easier to identify things that go beyond your boundaries in the moment (very important skill - I frequently find myself days, sometimes even weeks later all sulky because something went way out of my comfort zone, but in the moment I may have been just slightly confused, or even have had no internal feedback of the negative kind at all). Again, you seem pretty OK on this front, but you might still want to think in much more concrete terms (toddler-time only, toddler-time once a week only, to last no more than x hours, or the occasional coffee but nothing more, also, what topic of conversation are out of bounds etc.)

Thirdly, have pretty clear plans as to what happens when one of your boundaries gets pushed against. What do you do if she starts calling you all the time after a couple of toddler dates? What do you do if she wants to talk about her ex? How will you reinforce your boundaries in a respectful, considerate and firm manner? I think this will be for you the biggest lesson here - it's all very well to know your boundaries and know you don't want anyone to push against them, but how exactly do you do this? What words do you use? What actions? etc. Reading AskMe has me convinced that some CBT can help with this - might this be an option for you, especially since it sounds that this a problem for you beyond your current issue with this woman?

Lastly, if this is indeed the woman from your previous question, I have this observation: your friend best-answered this comment, and explicitly thanked kellybird for that answer, and I think with absolutely good reason, since it shows how you can deal with a really shitty situation you can find yourself in, rather than allowing said shitty situation to turn you into a cruel and callous person. However, the advice given there is not easy to follow at all. Especially not if the problems the marriage was haunted by were such that a penitent-generous attitude is difficult to maintain (a more forceful, assertive/bossy partner who does not want to accept the breakup, for instance). I think in such situations having support from family and friends can be crucial (I am talking about support for the husband here). Sometimes, where you cannot keep the noble attitude up (I don't know, because breakups have fall-outs), friends can slightly pick up the slack, maybe be warm and friendly with the ex where the previous partner is too exhausted by the breakup clashes. This can create a sort of aura of goodwill around the "husband" camp which would not emanate from ex-husband alone, and which might go a long way towards keeping the atmosphere such that once calmer times come round, a good working relationship between the two parents can be built. So I think you can actually help your friend long-term by maintaining a friendly toddler-mums acquaintanceship with his ex-wife (regardless of what she does right after the breakup - sometimes things explode before reaching a more temperate climate).

You might also like to remember this question; this is like that, only with crushing heartache and two kids.
posted by miorita at 4:50 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


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