Disappointed by friends - am I overreacting?
August 25, 2016 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Facebook kindly made me aware that people are congratulating one of my closest friends on her engagement with my ex-bf.

When one of my best friends told me that she is going on a trip with my ex-bf, I was genuinely not affected by it. I had always thought that my ex needed good friends and was truly happy that he remained friends with mine. I knew they both needed to go away for their own personal reasons and that each needed a travel companion.

A few days into their trip, however, a post appeared on my friend's Facebook page stating that they were engaged (complete with photos of them together and a picture of entwined hands with an engagement ring). This was met with much surprise and glee from her friends and family. This was also met with much surprise and puzzlement from our common friends and my family, whose questions and sympathy I had to receive and endure. A day or so after, my friend replied to all the well-wishes by announcing that haha, the joke's on everyone. Not only was it a fake engagement, it was also a part of a social experiment.

I was as surprised as everyone but I never believed it was a real engagement from the start due to, well, reasons. My initial reaction, however, was still an overwhelming sense of betrayal. I felt that this made a mockery of not only my relationship and everything I had hoped for with this ex, but also because in our circle of friends, I am known for being the hopeless, naive one who still believed and championed the idea of marriage. It is no secret that one of the major reasons why that particular relationship ended was because my ex did not see marriage the same way I did and could not see himself making that kind of commitment. He was also notorious for not wanting to be photographed. There are very rare photos of us together and not one was ever posted in his social media accounts. It sounds childish and inane, but I had always felt sad that no hint of mention of me or our relationship was ever seen in his social accounts given that his friends and family all were out of state. My close friend is privy to the fact that I had always felt hurt about not being "publicly" introduced to his friends and family when we were together.

I had not spoken to either one of them. While I had been careful not to express how I really felt in all my responses to all the questions about this faux engagement, I also know that they are now both aware that I thought this was extremely insensitive on their part. They had not made any effort to reach out to me, for apologies or otherwise. A common friend had gently suggested that I was overreacting and implied that *I* am being thought of as the overly dramatic one. There is the hint that I should be the first one to make amends.

Barring this incident, my friend has always been one of the best people you could hope to meet and has always been there for me. I love her dearly and it breaks my heart not to be talking to her. But I just couldn't make myself to reach out first . Am I wrong for feeling the way I do and wanting an apology from them? Am I being overly emotional and dramatic about this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (88 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you're being overly emotional at all. What a cruel, insensitive trick.
posted by the_blizz at 2:50 PM on August 25, 2016 [131 favorites]

I unfollow any ex whose behavior is likely to upset me.

As to your other friend, yeah sorry but I would drop this person immediately. That's a shit thing to do in almost any interpretation of this I can come up with. I can't imagine a world where I consider someone a close friend, and they've confided in me about the end of a serious relationship, so I take that as license to go on a trip with their ex and fake everybody out about getting engaged for a joke/"social experiment". Literally the ONLY good explanation I can come up with is that this friend and your ex are sociology grad students in the same department and they're engaging in important research together. But I think you would know if that was the case. Also even if that were what was up, surely a good friend would warn you in advance?
posted by Sara C. at 2:51 PM on August 25, 2016 [27 favorites]

These days it seems "social experiment" is getting tossed around a lot when "cruel prank" would be more appropriate. From how you describe the situation, I do not think you are being overly emotional or dramatic. My mind is somewhat boggled that a close friend of yours would see this as an appropriate or even amusing thing to do. I would feel betrayed, too.

You have my sympathy and that of many here, I'm sure. I hope you also have other more thoughtful friends close at hand that you can process this with.
posted by col_pogo at 2:53 PM on August 25, 2016 [96 favorites]

You are not overreacting. What they did is a cruel and immature prank. There is nothing wrong with wanting friends who are both mature and sensitive to the feelings of their other friends.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:54 PM on August 25, 2016 [16 favorites]

I would drop the friendship(s) over something like this. But I can't stand pranks, or "social experiments", or whatever. I, too, have been told I'm too rigid about this. I don't care! They won't apologize, and they don't care that they hurt you. Hurting people is the point of this kind of humor. You don't need any drama -- just keep fading away.
posted by Malla at 2:54 PM on August 25, 2016 [35 favorites]

this person is a truly shitty friend and i would probably defriend them and the ex on fb immediately
posted by burgerrr at 2:56 PM on August 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

This sounds pretty shitty. However, when people were congratulating them, please don't take this as a personal offense. The "right thing to do" when people get engaged is to congratulate them, regardless of how you feel about the engagement. Your interpretation of "surprise and glee" is actually these people's performance on Facebook. You actually have no idea how they actually feel.
Be glad that your friends reached out to you about this issue and showed concern for you. That's a really good sign that they are caring friends.
It is hard for us to know if you were overreacting because we don't know what exactly you said and did regarding this. Now you sound like you were pretty coolheaded, but that may not have been the case in the moment.
As far as your ex and your friend - they made a severe error. They should probably apologize. But they're probably still figuring out what to say. If they were my friends, I'd want an explanation why they did this. I'd also wonder why they were so inconsiderate, given that they should be aware that marriage to this particular man is a touchy subject for you.
I'm also assuming that you and ex broke up fairly recently. If your break up was 5+ years ago, I can see why some might interpret your actions as overreacting.
Good luck to you in sorting through this.
posted by k8t at 2:56 PM on August 25, 2016 [73 favorites]

Hm. "Social experiment."

We used to call it "lying."
posted by crazylegs at 2:56 PM on August 25, 2016 [34 favorites]


Is there some possibility that these two are or are likely to get romantically involved? I don't like to bring that up, but I keep thinking that the kind of complicity that goes along with a flirtation seems to be needed to pull a tasteless stunt like that. Here we have one person who hates being photographed and hates marriage agreeing to be photographed and talk about a fake engagement, and another person who is normally kind and thoughtful acting unkindly toward a friend. That's the kind of thing that people do in the complicity of flirtation and the desire to impress one another - everything else flies out the window.

I...don't know whether you're going to get an apology, but I think your friends as a group sound a bit immature. The trouble with tasteless stuff is that it doesn't necessarily call for an apology -- is it really wrong to be tacky? - but it does reveal a lot about people's judgment.

I think you should contact your great and good friend and tell her gently that you felt hurt and maybe mocked and see what she says. In a sense, this is you "reaching out", but I don't think she's likely to step up on her own.

Again, your friends sound like they have terrible social judgment and I think you should broaden your social circle a bit.
posted by Frowner at 2:57 PM on August 25, 2016 [30 favorites]

You are not overreacting.
posted by spindrifter at 2:59 PM on August 25, 2016 [11 favorites]

You are having all kinds of different feelings for all kinds of different reasons. Sorting them out might help you figure out which ones are about friend, which are about your ex and which about being used as "social experiment".

First, I have strong reaction to people deliberating manipulating other's people genuine reactions and then saying "Ha, ha, just a joke" or in this case "just a social experiment". Real experiments have to undergo ethical review to make sure that the manipulation of other people is done is a way that causes minimum harm and that has some clear social benefit. This one doesn't and if I was their friend I would be ticked off about this. This is probably the most mild offense but that your friend bears the most responsibility for .

Second, there are the feeling got woken by the idea that your good friend and your ex might have really gotten engaged to each other, which stirs up all kinds of hurt which doesn't go away just because it turns out it wasn't true. While it was thoughtless of her to not let you in on the "joke" or consider your feelings, that is not primarily your friend's fault.

Third, it clearly woke up old pains about all the bad things in your relationship with your ex - stuff you not putting pictures of you up on Facebook. This has nothing to do with your friend.

My thought:
- you are entitled to take to time recover before you have to deal with your friend. Even if most the hurt wasn't her fault, you need to get your balance back before you should be expected to deal with her
- good friends are very valuable. if she is otherwise a good friend to you, it is worth it to push yourself to make the first gesture. You need to talk about this, let it know how it impacted you and hopefully her response will make you feel like she cares about your pain and you can resume your friendship. Maybe not, but, when you are ready, you owe it the friendship to see if it can repaired.
posted by metahawk at 2:59 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I read your above-the-fold and beginning, I thought "you have a right to feel how you feel but I don't blame you or being upset" because I thought this was going to be an issue of your best friend & ex having a secret relationship -- of course you should be disappointed by that!

But then I got to the part where it was fake and holy crap are these people assholes. If they really wanted to do a "social experiment," they could've set up a filter that didn't include you or something, or told you first that they were going to do this. That they didn't is, at best, just incredibly thoughtless (which still isn't good) and at worst, intentionally cruel.

(And ... they may not be engaged, but I bet they're lying about what's going on between them, I'm sorry to say. )

Get away from these people. They are not your friends. Friends don't do this sort of thing.
posted by darksong at 2:59 PM on August 25, 2016 [53 favorites]

You are not overreacting. These two should apologize to ALL your friends, not just you. And unfriending them on Facebook—or at least muting their posts—strikes me as a good idea.
posted by ejs at 3:02 PM on August 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, that's effed up. I'd definitely unfriendly/unfollow while you got your bearings.

The best case scenario is that they're just immature assholes lacking in all empathy who weren't thinking about you at all when they decided to pull their lame stunt. But inadvertent cruelty is still hurtful. You can do better than to be around such heedlessly clueless friends.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:02 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

>> Friends don't do this sort of thing.


Fuck these people. This is immature and mean, and you are definitely the one taking the hit here. You are not the one who needs to apologize about this situation. Your friend is an idiot for participating in this, and your ex-bf sounds like a piece of work.

IMHO, of course.
posted by mosk at 3:03 PM on August 25, 2016 [29 favorites]

So, to me, this bit:

Barring this incident, my friend has always been one of the best people you could hope to meet and has always been there for me. I love her dearly and it breaks my heart not to be talking to her.

is more significant than a weird, tacky "social experiment"; good friends are a rare thing. Even decent people sometimes do insensitive things, thinking wrongly that everybody is going to find them funny, and in the absence of any other hurtful behavior from this friend, I'm not sure it was malice. Why not reach out and let her know that your feelings were hurt and give her the chance to explain and apologize? You don't lose any points in life by being the first to talk.
posted by thetortoise at 3:04 PM on August 25, 2016 [41 favorites]

... a social experiment ... for what? For fun? Attention? To laugh at people they tricked? To see if anyone would say something negative? Honestly, what were they looking to gain from it? There's absolutely nothing positive. Drop these "friends". Your feelings are valid. I'm cringing on your behalf.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:08 PM on August 25, 2016 [33 favorites]

Agree with Sara C.: unless they are sociology grad students working on their thesis, then no, this was not a "social experiment", it was nothing more than a cruel, tasteless and immature prank. Or else they did mean it, but somebody probably got through to them just how tasteless the whole thing looked, and they tried to cover themselves like a cat covering it's poop on a tile floor (and about as effectively....).

Remove both of them from your fb friends list, and block any feed from them: your ex is, at best, an insensitive jerk; and your 'close friend' isn't any better: they deserve each other, and you're better off without either of them in your life. (PS --- no, you certainly weren't the one creating drama here, it was the instigators of that tacky little "social experiment"!)
posted by easily confused at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is a bridge I would burn.

So sorry. May you find your people, wherever they are.
posted by Dashy at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

As thetortoise says, you should talk to her. It might feel to you like you're making a stand by waiting for her to apologize, or that making contact would be admitting you were wrong, but standing silent to see how long it will be before you hear from her? that's basically another useless social experiment. It strikes me that there's probably a lot of conversation going on that you're choosing not to be a part of, and it's probably conversation that's relevant to you and your friendship with this woman (as well as friendship with this ex).

Also, being the first to contact her and being willing to hear the direct full story from her does not mean you have to like what you hear and forgive her. She did wrong by you, and if she doesn't recognize that, it's worth being very angry over. But right now you're relying on a rumor mill as a go-between, and that's no good.
posted by aimedwander at 3:16 PM on August 25, 2016 [13 favorites]

Oh HELL no, honey, you are not overreacting and these people are acting like jerks.
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:16 PM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can't even begin to imagine the deep-down resentment and cruelty this friend of yours must harbor to do something so terrible to everybody and especially you. I don't think you should continue to be friends with her, because I REALLY think there's some evil reason she did this. Sorry. I'm trying to think of ways where this was just a harmless social experiment/prank and I can't imagine one.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:24 PM on August 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

Social experiment? If I were privy to that Facebook feed, I would almost certainly troll along the lines of:

What was the hypothesis? What was the control? Where are you planning to publish?

"Social experiment" is a wall for a not particularly bright 15-year-old to hide behind as an excuse for bullying or being an asshole. I would discontinue friendships with grown-ass adults over something like this.
posted by slagheap at 3:27 PM on August 25, 2016 [17 favorites]

Cut him out of your life. He hasn't demonstrated many reasons to keep him around. Unfollow on FB and cut the connection. You can be civil in case you run into him or whatever, but no need to keep him around in any way.

As for your friend, I'd speak to her. Tell her that you're really hurt by this prank (I'd call it a prank, not "social experiment" or some such nonsense). Tell her that her friendship is important to you, but that you feel like she was willing to do things that were cruel to you for some cheap attention on FB. And, frankly, be ready to hear or find out that she and ex-bf are starting a relationship. If she doesn't see what the problem is or asks you to minimize your hurt feelings, consider it to be one of the rare times that someone shows you who they really are. And then, drop her.

You're not overreacting. This is such a showcase of immaturity on their parts.
posted by quince at 3:35 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm going to go against the tide and say that you are overreacting.

WAY back when on livejournal a dude that I was friends-of-friends with posted a gallery of pics of he and his girlfriend eloping at the Mall of America, he was totally the kind of guy who would elope at the MOA so I believed it, and wished him well. Turns out, he posted all the pics on March 31st: want to guess what he posted the next day?

Anyways, the joke was dumb (part of why I'm sharing this story is to show that it's not like your ex and your friend are being super original or witty or anything). The other part of why I'm sharing is so that you know I've (sorta) been through the same thing and I guess I don't really get why this upsets you so much.

Am I wrong for feeling the way I do and wanting an apology from them?
I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong for feeling the way you do, but I wonder what it is that you want these people to apologize for. I think it would be very different if they had actually gotten engaged, because that would kind of imply that they were hiding the seriousness of their relationship from you (which is understandable in a way, but if either or both of them value you friendship they need to grow some gonads and have the hard talk).

But it was a joke. And you saw right through it. And I bet because they both know you well they figured you would. And I don't think the joke was on you. They appear to be of the LOLMarriageIsSilly type, and they may have underestimated how seriously everyone else would take it. So they hadn't anticipated you having to answer a bunch of awkward questions. Which is thoughtless, but how big of a deal is it really?

I think it might be a good idea to ask yourself if you're not actually kind of worried that something might be happening between the two of them, and how you would handle it if it were.

Barring this incident, my friend has always been one of the best people you could hope to meet and has always been there for me. I love her dearly and it breaks my heart not to be talking to her.

Call/text her and meet up, leave ex-bf out. Don't demand an apology, but if she's as good of a friend as you say, she'll be willing to at least hear that you are upset. Maybe you can find out what the two of them were thinking.

Ask her what's up between the two of them, and if she says that there is something, either let her know that you wish them the best (if that's really true), or that it's going to hurt to see the two of them together for a while.

And stop talking to other people about these two people -- gossip never makes things better.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:36 PM on August 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

Wow. Well, now they know that one of the results of their "social experiment" was that a friend was deeply hurt and many people, including that friend, AskMe, and probably quite a few of their real life acquaintances are questioning their judgement and sensitivity. Congratulations to them.

Personally, I would consider letting friendships with people like this go. If they're this clueless, stuff like this is going to keep happening. Your ex, in particular, has shown that he does not deserve your continued care and affection, however platonic. But, if the friendship with the woman is as important to you as you say, it might be worth having a conversation to lay it all out and hear her side of the story. Speaking to her directly will be much more effective than ignoring her and talking to others about it, and should cut down on the (unjustified) accusations of drama on your part.

And either way, unfollow both of them on FB. You don't need to know about this kind of crap.

On preview, what Quince said.
posted by rpfields at 3:36 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm not super prone to cursing, but I just stood up, said "fuck those people" three times in a row and got myself two cookies and stuffed them in my mouth. That is how upset I, an Internet stranger, was when I read that this was a "social experiment" like it's all just some kind of joke. It is not a joke, and the defense of "just wanted to see what would happen, hah hah, social experiment" is basically the same as the "it's just a joke" defense, which is not actually a defense at all. "Jokes" like this serve a social function, and the social function in this instance was to do something incredibly hurtful to you in a very public way. This is so cruel I can't even stand it. I am so sorry this happened to you.

You have every right to be completely upset and to feel betrayed. I wish that I was in the same place as you so that I could take you out for a nice dinner and give you cookies and help you find friends who do not behave this way. There are a lot of very good people out there in the world that would never dream of doing something like this. I hope that you have some of them in your life already, and if not, that you are able to find them.

You ask if you are wrong to want an apology. On face value, of course this is not wrong - they should apologize, obviously, of course, and wanting that makes a lot of sense. But I might encourage you to dig a little around that desire, ask yourself why you ever want to hear from these individuals again - the whole lot of them. The best friend, the ex, the friend who suggested that you were supposed to apologize or make amends (what, no, that is not a thing). These individuals are not true friends. People who care about others do not behave this way. It will be difficult to start over, but I'd heavily encourage you to find a new social engagement, hobby, or organization to get yourself involved with so that you may find new friends that way. Forget these jerks.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 3:48 PM on August 25, 2016 [76 favorites]

You are absolutely right to want an apology. I wouldn't speak another word to your friend until she comes bringing one. There's no way she could have not realized this would be hurtful to you. If she is as good as you say, she may not have apologized yet because she's too ashamed. (I have lagged behind for this reason.) But that's hers to address. As for the man, he seems irredeemable. For now, "don't stir shit to see if it stinks," as my grandfather would say. Just avoid these people and any friend who wants to poke at this problem, and take care of yourself.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:49 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is a social experiment the way that this random dude deciding to surprise his girlfriend in the shower while pretending to be a chainsaw-wielding maniac for the lulz was a social experiment.

Drop these two assholes immediately, and enjoy your life without the presence of two immature idiots.
posted by Tamanna at 3:49 PM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

A day or so after, my friend replied to all the well-wishes by announcing that haha, the joke's on everyone. Not only was it a fake engagement, it was also a part of a social experiment.

These people aren't your friends. This is an incredibly cruel thing to do, and it's not unreasonable for you to feel like it was designed specifically to hurt you. Even if it wasn't, they should have know it would be hurtful - it's blindingly obvious.

In your place, I would burn these bridges and salt the earth so no bridges will ever grow there again.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:01 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

They are in a relationship. They've been hooking up. They are a couple.

I also think you should communicate to your soon-to-be ex friend that you feel mocked and hurt. Communicate to her that the way she acted was insensitive towards you. Tell her your friendship meant a lot to you and you are disappointed. Then wish her well.

Then you should block them and maybe stay off FB for a while. And please tell your other mutual friend who suggested you were being dramatic and overreacting to f$ck off. Tell her for me. Thanks.
posted by jbenben at 4:04 PM on August 25, 2016 [60 favorites]

Woah... you're supposed to apologize for being upset that you've been made into an unwilling guinea pig in your so called friend and your ex boyfriend's little "social experiment"? (Last time I checked, social and psychology experiments need informed consent from its participants, and it doesn't sound like they bothered doing that. Wonder why...?)

Please do yourself a favour and don't humour any of your old friend, your ex, or your well meaning commentor "friends" with an undeserved apology. And consider cutting them out too. This kind of thing is enraging and smacks of betrayal.
posted by Tsukushi at 4:08 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd go no contact with these people for at least as long as it took them to apologize for being so insensitive -- or permanently. You don't need people in your life who treat you with such a gross lack of care and respect.
posted by orange swan at 4:17 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Assuming your take on your friend isn't super far off (ie she's been decent etc etc and isn't a psychopath, and you have understood your friendship reasonably well to this point), the only explanation that makes sense to me is what Frowner suggested, that one or both of them are attracted to each other & something's cooking there. And the "joke" is a way of them either processing this for themselves, before they're willing to admit it to themselves, or for the public, so that if/when they announce they're dating, the "joke" will already have made an impression and gotten people to warm to the idea. Because dating your ex's bff, or your bff's ex, does happen & might be about love & is fair in the way war is, but is also kind of unpalatable & stinky.

If anything like that is happening, they have got the perceived high ground at this point (sounds like).

Maybe talk to your friend to see what's what, as people have said. But I wouldn't be surprised if she has a great excuse & doesn't get your point, or if you learn if they're dating soon. Would ditch if so, but keep it private, because unfortunately, you will probably be judged by people who are otherwise all right & should know better.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:17 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

To follow up on my last comment because I'm still mad about this:

Am I wrong for feeling the way I do and wanting an apology from them?

In my opinion yes, but not for the reason you asked. I think you shouldn't expect anything from them because they did something this cruel, knowingly. Why would they apologize? They are cruel and mean. I also think that you shouldn't expect an apology because you should never talk to them again.

As for the social experiment aspect. What was the experiment meant to test? The limits of their cruelty? Congrats, a success. Extremely high and reckless levels of assholeism.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:17 PM on August 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

I don't think you're overreacting, and I agree with everyone who suspects these two are banging. But that feels well-covered here. I just wanted to signal boost this:

However, when people were congratulating them, please don't take this as a personal offense. The "right thing to do" when people get engaged is to congratulate them, regardless of how you feel about the engagement.

This is so dead on. I ABSOLUTELY guarantee that many many people who congratulated them typed "congrats!" whilst thinking, "WTF?!?" There are people you know you agree with you that this is at best, kinda lame.

Which, honestly, it is totally possible that this isn't a work of cruelty but just...real thoughtlessness and impetuousness, and they bring that out in each other. Which ALSO means you're probably better off taking a break from them anyway.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:22 PM on August 25, 2016 [36 favorites]

In my dream world, you'd post a link to this thread on their Facebook wall. They conducted a social experiment in public, and harmed you. Let the consequences of their actions (your pain, our judgment) be public, too.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:33 PM on August 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

As much as you're hurting right now, you should also be patting yourself on the back for dodging a bullet!! This guy sounds awful -- a bad match at best and a shitty person at worst -- and how great that you are free of him. You deserve to be with someone who truly values and cares for you, and this guy was not it.

That said, it sucks and I'm sorry. They don't owe you an apology but you owe it to yourself to cut them both completely out of your life. I don't think it was bad that mutual friends were congratulating them but I think it's crappy that the those mutual friend/s couldn't see how hurtful it all would be for you. They can think you're overreacting and still support you 100% but it sounds like they're perhaps not the best pals anyway. Perhaps your friend is truly in love with this guy and was really hoping it wasn't just a joke but got too embarrassed to pretend it was anything but when he revealed the truth. I mean, that's a bit far-fetched but, if he played you, he's playing others, too. I could go in more detail if you'd like but for now I'll leave it at that.

I have very mixed feelings about marriage myself, and the older I get, the more I realize it's not really something I want. However, I certainly respect the concept of marriage, and would never put friends or anyone else down for wanting or believing it in. The fact that your friends were belittling you for what is, frankly, a super mainstream belief tells me these "friends" are rather small-minded and unkind even if they claim to have a more alternative worldview overall.

And, if I may be so blunt: during your courtship, this guy was showing you that he wasn't serious about you or your relationship. It hurts so much to look back and see but hindsight is 20/20. Being a romantic is awesome. It's an optimistic way of seeing the world when so many people are jaded and not open to the happiness they have or that's coming their way. However, being a "hopeless, naive" romantic means ignoring the red flags that had been popping up throughout. You can and will find that romance and love one day but please be careful not to be so in love with the idea of marriage that you are stuck with someone who does not respect you or what you want. (Remember the old MTV dating show, NEXT?! You can say that to any future dates who put down marriage, don't want to be photos together, etc. No need to stick around or apologize!) So many of us have been there, albeit without the cruel Facebook farce, and we're even better than before. You will be, too, even if it takes a while to heal from all of this: the breakup, the feeling of betrayal, and now this. Good luck as you work through the fallout of your changing relationships and best wishes for a happier life down the road!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:35 PM on August 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

Disappointed by friends assholes - am I overreacting?


We've had a couple of incidents of "social experiments" here in London recently, on the tube from which no-one can escape. They are horrific. The people who set up these fiascos are attention seeking dicks. The "targets" in these "experiments" are always women; how would the "audience" respond to molestation, racism, a woman breastfeeding, general misogyny... It harms social cohesion when you don't know whether a woman is actually being molested or whether it's just another fucking prank. It's tragic. Everyone loses.

And it's not that they're showing something new, or highlighting issues that's aren't already in the heads of people who travel these lines. The people that put on these "shows" fucking offend me.

Anyway, your so-called friends not only pissed you off, they brought their unwilling families and friends into what is basically a scam for attention. If the goal of their experiment was to cause harm then they succeeded, but to be honest, I don't think they had a goal in mind except to fuck with people.

Do not apologise. If you think your friendship with your close friend is worth saving, wait until she makes the first move, otherwise, block the hell out of them and move on.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:44 PM on August 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

If it does turn out that they are hooking up and that makes you feel even worse, remember how dishonorably they've behaved. Good friends would think "gee, feelings are still raw about the break-up, one of us should have a private conversation with our friend, give her a little processing time and treat her with the understanding that it's going to cause her at least some hurt, and also we should make it possible for her not to interact with us as a couple for a while, maybe dial things back on social media that she uses". They didn't do that. They decided to act selfishly and foolishly because it seemed fun. If that turns out to be the case, neither one of them is someone you need in your social circle right now.
posted by Frowner at 4:46 PM on August 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

I concur that it was a shitty, cruel prank. I'd cut off contact, online and irl, with your ex-boyfriend altogether. Tell your friend how much the prank hurt your feelings, and then take a great big step back from that friendship and focus on yourself.

I guarantee that most people who congratulated them think they are assholes.
posted by stowaway at 4:49 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm really sorry this happened to you. I'm kind of shocked on your behalf, frankly.

Here's the note I would write to your friend:

Hi [Friend],

As you probably know, I am aware of the engagement stunt you staged with [ex] on Facebook. Given how well you know me and how much you knew about my relationship with [ex], you can probably imagine how that prank made me feel. I'm too exhausted to go into the details, frankly, so hopefully you can summon an impression of how that affected me.

In light of our longstanding friendship, I wanted to give you a chance to explain your actions before I cut you out of my life.



If you get anything less than a sincere and contrite reply... it's over between you two.

Sending an email is a courtesy I wouldn't even make the effort to extend to your ex.
posted by delight at 4:52 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

You're not over reacting at all. They were being nasty jerks.

I bet a lot of the other people taken in are feeling angry and mislead right now. There is nothing fun about stupid jokes and pranks like this. Frickin' 'social experiment'. They don't have that right. Real experiments run by academics have very strict ethics guidelines and requirements, whole departments manage that sort of thing.
posted by kitten magic at 4:52 PM on August 25, 2016

What they did was a tacky joke, but I suggest you give your friend the benefit of the doubt that she didn't realize how much it would hurt you. (Although some of this depends on how much your friend realized the relationship's failure was related to commitment issues and how long ago the breakup was.) While your best friend was thoughtless, it doesn't seem worth ruining an otherwise good friendship over. It's very understandable if it takes you a little while to get to the point where you can talk to your friend again, but I think that the posters who are saying to drop the friendship are overreacting.
posted by phoenixy at 4:52 PM on August 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

These people are vile. Cut both of them off without hesitation and when she comes crawling back, tell her you conducted your own social experiment to find out who was a shitty, cruel attention seeker and she failed. But you'll be posting all your results on Facebook so she can read about there, before you block her.
posted by Jubey at 5:02 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can I ask how long ago you broke up with your ex? Because this whole scenario makes your friend sound like... a psychopath, frankly.

Even if he's been your ex for a long time, even if years have passed and she doesn't think of him as your ex anymore, the whole "social experiment" thing is loathsome. But if it hasn't been that long, then she's... not the person you thought she was, at the very least. (And, she's definitely dating your ex, or is about to be.)

Don't feel bad about the congratulations from the peanut gallery though, that's just manners. I congratulate people on highly dubious achievements and relationship milestones all the time. It's just what's done. Trust that all those people are pretty grossed out by all of this, to the extent they even noticed it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:05 PM on August 25, 2016 [24 favorites]

How long has it been since your breakup?

I think there's two separate issues here: the manipulative "joke" which was not a very good joke, and your feelings about your ex/breakup. I think these two things are walking over each other.

Your friends aren't responsible for the feelings you have about the relationship, though if they're aware you have feelings that makes them quite inconsiderate.

I do think that there should be more opprobrium sent the way of the joke makers just for being manipulative. As mentioned, where is the experiment? Where's the punch line? It was dumb reaction-bait and everybody should give them shit for thinking they could Uproxx everybody.

I also agree that it might have been a trial balloon for them to be a twosome.
posted by rhizome at 5:14 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wasn't going to write anymore but metahawk kinda nailed it for me. "Social experiment" should be taken at face value as "Ha ha, it was just a joke", they just chose to disguise it.

What "Ha ha, it was just a joke" means is that they are refusing to accept any responsibility for how this turned out. If you/friends/family were taken in by this or hurt the onus is on you/them to suck it up and deal with it.

The summary of my last comment still stands. Unless they are willing to apologise, kick them to the curb. Your life will be much better without them in it.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:19 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You know what I would do? This is going to be really hard but it would scorch the earth and any chance of a budding relationship between the two of them. I would post something on Facebook in response that tags the both of them and basically lay your bleeding heart out there for everyone to see - or at least anyone that would have read the original.

Say that you've always been a hopeless romantic who fell deeply in love with Shithead McFuckKnuckle and wanted nothing more than a fairytale marriage and to spend the rest of your lives together. Talk about how one of your biggest supporters was BitchFace, who was there for you through all of your ups and downs. Then mention how hurt you were to see that Shithead didn't feel the same way, in fact he didn't even acknowledge you existed on social media. And now to find out the two most significant figures in your life played you for a fool and devastated you by taking your greatest pain and exploiting it by pretending to be secretly wed, for what, for fun? For likes? Your trust in people is gone, your friendship is gone and you're left being the butt of someone's joke. I mean, really write some feeling into it.

Now everyone knows, let's see whose laughing now. Raw emotion is so rare to see, everyone will be shocked into the reality of what they've actually done. Publicly shame them. They will never, ever be able to show their face as a couple and this relationship will die instantly.
posted by Jubey at 5:24 PM on August 25, 2016 [25 favorites]

Yup, childish assholes, both of them. "Social experiment" or whatever the fuck term they use doesn't matter, because what this was was an attention-seeking stunt with – make no mistake – a few dashes of sadism thrown in for good measure.

Torch that bridge and don't look back. Living well is the best revenge and you fucking deserve better. You know that, right?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 5:26 PM on August 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

As said above - Friends don't do this sort of thing.

They may argue another point of view. They might put it to you that you are overreacting. But if/when they do, the "friends don't do this sort of thing" line is probably a fair response.

Or, as a variant, the question: "Why would you as a friend do something like that?"
posted by chris88 at 6:03 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

The purpose of this little stunt was to send a public signal, not one of "we're engaged" or "ha ha...social experiment!", but rather to exclaim "we are more intimate than you think we are." Intimate enough to go on a trip just the two of them and devise a stupid prank that pits them as a team against everyone else. Either they're dating already or they will be in the near future.

Whether it was intentional or not--probably not, since these two numnuts don't seem particularly self aware--this is probably their way of alienating you so they don't have to deal with any fall out related totheir partnership. Something like "well us as a couple might have been a thorny issue to deal with before, but now it's not something we really need to worry about anymore because we're no longer friends with anonymous anyway because she is just so sensitive and couldn't take our little joke."

Don't contact these jerks, but don't also make a big stink of the situation. Move on to better friendships with better people. These people are not worth your time and energy.
posted by scantee at 6:10 PM on August 25, 2016 [40 favorites]

You are too valuable to allow people to treat you shabbily. In fact, you are too valuable to spend a single moment on these two jerks.

Go on with your life and never contact either again. You don't have to contact them to drop them - they are unworthy of any effort on your part.
posted by 26.2 at 6:11 PM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

So, I don't think you're overreacting, but I do think it's very possible no malicious intent was behind this.

It could have been something as simple as a private joke that just got out of hand before they thought it through. Maybe their waiter asked "are you two thinking about getting engaged? Because you know sir, I can bring you a bottle of our finest champagne for you to pop the question..." And then it became a weekend-long gag they took too far. Or maybe they started joking about how ironic it would be if they, two marriage haters, decided to get engaged... And got caught up in their own joke.

They should have known this would hurt you. He in particular should have known! However it is possible that she just didn't think.

Tell her you're hurt and ask her why she did it. Proceed from there.

Block him forever.
posted by samthemander at 6:25 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh god, is it that horrible "if you liked or commented on this now YOU have to announce one of the following things on your page" thing? That is the absolute worst. I do think people post that meme unthinkingly most of the time because of the chain letter nature of it. Some people are just unthinking dumb followers. But the fact that your friend chose "say you're engaged" rather than one of the other options like "say you won $X" means she was really staggeringly thoughtless in her feelings toward you. I second the idea to let her know you're hurt, ask for an explanation, and assess the friendship if it isn't a full and outright apology.
posted by MsMolly at 6:48 PM on August 25, 2016

You know what I think might have happened?

I think they got engaged, and then he backed out of it. The photos etc. were real, but he panicked and refused to stay engaged after they had announced it. And because she doesn't want to break up with him, and they don't want other people knowing details about what's going on inside their relationship, the two of them cooked up this 'social experiment' explanation to save face, because that seemed like a better idea than HERE IS OUR DRAMA all over FB.

Bad call. Very bad call.

If this is what happened, though, it wasn't premeditated, and she's not going to be in great shape right now either, which might explain why she hasn't reached out. Try to prepare yourself for the idea that the two of them are together and that it is serious.

If this is not what happened, drop them like they're hot, because anyone who would premeditate that is not a friend worth keeping. But I would suggest trying to find out whether this was, even for a few hours, a real engagement.

Also, do not apologize for anything. You have nothing whatsoever to apologize for.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 6:51 PM on August 25, 2016 [25 favorites]

I think you are overreacting.

One is your ex, the other is your friend. That doesn't mean that things they do with each other has anything to do with you. Maybe it's because I think marriage is silly, but if they are amused by pretending they are engaged and then revealing they are not, more power to them.
posted by layceepee at 7:27 PM on August 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

There's something going on here, more to the story, that probably means there is or has been more intimacy between them than you were aware of. But we don't know the specifics of the story. You're not overreacting - it's insanely hurtful to do what they did, as they chose to do it - and you're perfectly justified in going no contact with both of them. Also, clear them out of your visual field. You don't need to encounter this madness on Facebook, and if your other friends are caught up in the drama of it all, unfollow them for the time being too.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on August 25, 2016 [11 favorites]

Taking their actions/words at face value (i.e., assuming they are not secretly banging) -

You are not overreacting. True friends and partners are not supposed to take your feelings lightly. These people didn't even just take your feelings lightly...they don't appear to have even thought of them. A true friend would stop and think, "Hey, this is really going to hurt her feelings, I know how much she wanted to marry this guy, even if I would only ever do it as a joke." Someone who was your partner would stop and think "Hey, this is really going to hurt her feelings, I know she loved me enough to want to spend the rest of her life with me, even if I didn't want marriage."

I say that as a person who dated my (former) good friend's serious ex, who broke up with her because she wanted to get married and he didn't. I struggled for literally years over whether to be with this guy (we really loved each other), even though I was no longer friends with the good friend. Because I took the pain it could inflict on her seriously.

You do not owe this "friend" anything. She should be coming to you ABJECTLY sorry. Even then, I wouldn't want this self-centered, thoughtless, cruel, tacky person in my life.
posted by sallybrown at 7:58 PM on August 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would agree with the "overreacting" folks if the people who did this were, like, two distant coworkers or something. Or OP's ex and his new girlfriend, maybe. Or if the friend who did it is more of an acquaintance and didn't realize they dated or what the circumstances of the breakup were.

But this isn't something a close friend who actually gives half a fart about OP should do. If someone treats you like this, they are not your friend. Which is fine if the people who did it weren't meant to be friends. Except that they were.
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 PM on August 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

I kind of hate the word "overreacting." Why pour all that shame and guilt on your head for a natural, instinctual reaction. You feel how you feel and it's valid. And now, if you choose to, you can use this as an opportunity to learn and grow, though I know it's painful. I think the work here is you with yourself, not with them.
posted by soakimbo at 8:18 PM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agree with all the above, and am a bit baffled by this:

A common friend had gently suggested that I was overreacting and implied that *I* am being thought of as the overly dramatic one. There is the hint that I should be the first one to make amends.

A person is allowed to have feelings, and to talk through their feelings with friends. Expressing hurt does not equal "being dramatic".

As far as I can tell from your description, you have not engaged in some kind of public shaming response to the bizarre behaviour of your ex and friend, nor any kind of punitive counter attack, or anything that could constitute drama...

so I am baffled why anyone who is a friend can't simply listen to your feelings about this without judging.

Are these people very young? I had a groups of friends for a while when I was about 23 and some of them were quite thoughtless and gossipy and liked doing things to draw on people's vulnerability... then I met some more mature people and being friends was so...easy... and I suddenly remembered what having friends was supposed to feel like... I wish you a similar period of growth.
posted by chapps at 8:25 PM on August 25, 2016 [15 favorites]

in our circle of friends, I am known for being the hopeless, naive one who still believed and championed the idea of marriage.

Honestly, unless you are currently a high school or college student, this sounds like an incredibly immature group of people (although I can't agree enough with the people saying that the ppl posting "congrats!" were likely going "what the fuck?" in private.)

I agree with jbenben that these two are likely a couple who have been sleeping together, but that they and possibly this entire group of people is so used to fearing and deriding intimacy and commitment that the only way they could think to publicly announce this was a bizarre "We love each other! We're engaged! Haha, psyche, just kidding, love and relationships are for losers!" prank. I can remember people doing this kind of relationship fakeout (also couched in the pretend-adult terms of "a social experiment") in middle and high school, when they were young teens who were not emotionally/developmentally equipped to deal with the idea of being in a partnership, and so terrified of intimacy and of seeming uncool that they made up these ridiculous lies to take some of the edge off the vulnerability of admitting they cared.

What I mean is: this is not you being "dramatic," this is you being emotionally healthy and mature. Stick with the friends who reached out to you in private to make sure you were OK. Distance yourself from the toxic people involved in this prank or who think you're overeacting, and pity your friend and ex bf for being the kind of small, scared souls whose only way to protect themselves from their own feelings is to bully others, because if they're hard on you for having feelings of hope in committed and loving relationships, they're going to be despising themselves for having those feelings pretty soon, and, unlike you, without the emotional tools to cope.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:57 PM on August 25, 2016 [13 favorites]

That it was a social experiment makes it far worse. If they had truly fallen in love and decided to marry, well, I might consider that rash, but sometimes love* has really horrible timing. (* or infatuation-driven rushed marriage decisions that may or may not become enduring love) And while in that situation, I might wish that they had warned you privately before announcing it, I would understand their joy leading them to rush to share.

But a "social experiment" deserves none of that deference. It's either astoundingly thoughtless, or deliberately cruel. (Or they're lying about it being a social experiment.)

And your feelings are VERY understandable. I can imagine certain pieces (the bit about him not sharing your relationship on FB) slipping your friend's mind (maybe??), but that doesn't matter, because the entire idea at its core was hurtful. And I completely agree with moonlight on vermont's view on your social group. Hopefully that report came from one particularly shut down individual. But if it's true that your social group thinks you're overreacting, then I'd stay start working to find friends who are more understanding of and careful with one another's feelings.
posted by salvia at 10:22 PM on August 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

I've read your post, and the answers here a couple of times, and I disagree that your friends and ex are thoughtless in the way they've executed this "social experiment" (lol whatever).

Here's how this 'joke' works: it creates a stunt that simultaneously mocks your pain at your breakup and your ridicules your trust in your best friend, who publicly throws her support behind your ex, in front of hundreds of people. The fact that it's done so publicly means some will be unaware of the references being made and some will be 'in' on it. Those who are 'out' of the joke will offer congratulations (the expected politeness norm), while those 'in' on it can enjoy the drama of watching your pained reaction, exacerbated by the clueless 'out' group. Will she make a big deal on Facebook and there'll be a massive drama or will there be a 'classy', strangled congratulations? Either way, people will know you are hurting but are constrained to react because you're in public, and that is where the pleasure of this prank lies.

Your ex and you BFF (and probably most of your social circle if they don't see a problem with this, sorry) you should cut out immediately. They are not your friends. They find your pain laughable. Your concerns are a joke. You don't need to tell your BFF she hurt you because that was the entire point.

I disagree that you should reach out to your BFF, by the way. I think her betrayal of your friendship and her exploitation of your private hurts and sadness is way worse than anything your ex has done.

I also wonder about your characterisation of your BFF as someone who is normally wonderful. I know I sometimes have problems picking up on red flags and tend to let a lot of things go as natural human faults, that later on lead to me being treated shittily. I have a tendency to overlook or minimise lots of instances bad behaviour that can end up adding up to hugely awful situations like this, over time. Maybe look back at your friends behaviour and see if this is the case for you.

Lastly, it seems really obvious these two are boning and don't want to feel guilty about it, and want you to look like a crazy unreasonable harpy for objecting to it when the truth finally comes out. Honestly, please drop these people. They do not care about you.
posted by everydayanewday at 10:55 PM on August 25, 2016 [19 favorites]

Drama Llama says "No Drama!"
What an incredibly tiresome couple they sound.

I'd ghost them out of your life because it's too short and too precious to waste on people who manufacture situations like this.
It is unfortunate you will be upset about losing a shitty friend along with a shitty boyfriend but I, an Internet person, promise you will find better.

You will find new, mature and genuine friends and you can have a great story which begins "did I ever tell you about the time I dodged two bullets?"
posted by fullerine at 11:39 PM on August 25, 2016 [9 favorites]

You are not overreacting. If anything you are underreacting. If a so called "friend" had pulled a cruel trick like this on me I would be letting them know exactly how I felt in colourful language and I wouldn't be seeing a way back for this friendship. The fact that you are even considering being the one to reach out and make amends suggests you are a kinder and more forgiving person than most... but honestly, you don't deserve this kind of treatment.
posted by intensitymultiply at 12:35 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think what your friend and ex have done, even if they apologize, is a dealbreaker. Dealbreaker, for me, means an action so disrespectful that my feelings about the person change and are no longer restorable. It's like the off switch had been pressed on my feelings. Once a friend called me at 2am to shout drunk abuse at me down the phone. She apologized in a way that implied the whole incident was my fault. And I was just done with her on a level where I didn't even have to make a consious decision. That pales in comparison to the level of disrespect in your friends actions. I think these people have done something that would just make my whole being switch off to their existence. Even if they apologize ( which I don't think they will), I just don't think you will ever feel the same about them. Give yourself time because your hurting, but once your feelings have settled you might find that you just don't care about these two any longer.

Also, anyone who implies you are being the dramatic one is doing so because they feel uncomfortable in the presence of your very real pain and emotion. It says more about them and their level of empathy and maturity than it does about you. They just want to go back to the easy group dynamic and as the Facebook post can't be undone the best thing for them would be if you just swallow your feelings. It's a selfish attitude. Don't bother with people who act inconvenienced by your feelings on this subject.
posted by Nilehorse at 12:45 AM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I read your intro post I also thought that this was like a friend actually getting engaged with an ex and I thought the 60+ comments were telling you that you need to move on even if you can't necessarily be happy for them and blah blah...

But no. I read your extended explanation and I actually said out loud "Dude, that's fucked up."

Your story just recalled some horrible memories of my own past relationship where the guy would not acknowledge that there was a relationship and it was horrible and it messed me up for a long time.

They cannot pass this off as a joke because... uh not funny at all and actually pretty mean considering the background of your relationship with the guy.

I can believe they probably didn't do this to purposefully hurt you. But they now know they did. It really shouldn't matter that they didn't do it specifically to hurt you. They're mean for not acknowledging why you have legit reasons to feel hurt. They haven't reached out to you because they know they're in the wrong and they're embarrassed but instead they're telling themselves that you're being dramatic and/or have no sense of humour because they're immature jerks.

Fuck 'em (and actually your so called friend too, urghhhhh I feel so bad for you!!)
posted by like_neon at 2:02 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I don't buy for a second that these two people are "just friends." I think this was a crueland immature way of testing the waters. Like Frowner said, at a bare minimum this type of joke typically requires a heavy degree of flirtation.
posted by skjønn at 2:49 AM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

My first thought was the same as Rush-That-Speaks'. It's the one that fits best with your descriptions of their characters.

There is also the possibility of hidden red flags. I too am the sort who can overlook them with friends until something like this happens. It seems... very, very cruel of them, however. So cruel that the thought that they really were engaged, and then Flaky Dude Was Flaky and your friend desperately tried to save face without thinking things through seems more likely.

In any case. You are not overreacting. I too never get this "overreacting" thing when it's someone who's sincere and doing what they need to process things. It would be different if it were someone using their emotions to justify nonsense involving others, which, hey, is what your friend + ex have done. In other words: it is they who are overreacting! I mean seriously WTF, either way you cut it, behaving the way they have is drama central. All about appearances rather than genuine feelings.

Likewise for the people telling you you're the sensitive one? What kind of friend dislikes another friend's sensitivity?? The only case in which that would be okay would be if your friend were telling you that your sensitivity is wonderful and "is there some way I can help you process this?" Otherwise, ugh.
posted by fraula at 3:01 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I also think the question "am I overreacting?" is unnecessary in your situation. The only question is whether you are upset, whether your friend and ex could have predicted you would be upset (yes, unless they are suffering from a clinical deficit in empathy) and whether they had some good reason to risk upsetting you so much anyway (no, lol social experiment doesn't count). Either these people don't know you at all - they thought you wouldn't mind this "experiment" - or they don't care about you at all. So they don't deserve any continued relationship with you. If your friend feels that people ought to be completely emotionally unaffected by this kind of craziness, well, that's a weird expectation but she is absolutely free to go and find new friends who are that laid-back about their emotional lives. She doesn't have the right to demand that you change who you are so that she can keep you in her life while never having to be inconvenienced by your feelings.

This would be true even if your feelings were super-unusual and proved you were unusually delicate or emotionally fragile or whatever. No one has the right to knowingly trample over your feelings and then demand that you pretend it doesn't matter to you, however odd or strange your feelings are. They can either respect your feelings in how they act, or accept that a relationship with you is impossible given the disparity between what they want to do and your emotional needs. So I don't think you need to poll other people about how normal your feelings are or if they would feel the same. What matters is whether your friend could have predicted how you feel, based on her knowledge of you. It seems incredible that she could be such a close friend and have spoken to you during the relationship and break-up and still not know.

I'm saying this only because apparently there are people - including friends of yours - who think your feelings are surprising or strange. I'm really baffled by that because I don't know anyone, personally, who would find this joke funny or forgivable. I have several friends who left serious relationships because the other person had different beliefs about commitment, marriage and children. One of those friends has now been happily married to someone else for a year, and it's been five years since the initial break-up with the other guy. Even now, I can't imagine how she would react if I or one of her other close friends pulled a stupid stunt like this with that ex. I certainly wouldn't expect her to find it funny and let it go by without any hurt or anger. If your friend really thinks you are that unusually cold-blooded, she can't know you very well. More likely, she doesn't care about you that much. I'm sorry. You deserve much, much better.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:04 AM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

oh wow - this is just unbelievable. I don't have much to add to all the excellent answers to the north, however in answer to your question "am I being overly dramatic/emotional about this?" I can provide a quick story.

My Toxic Ex loved a little triangulation and one of the people he did this with at one point was a good female friend. She wasn't absolutely Inner Sanctum-level of female friend, but we spent a lot of time together and had cried on each other's shoulders. For me, that crying was in relation to my on-off highly troubled relationship with Toxic Ex. Over time she became more friendly with Toxic Ex as we were all hanging around together, with more time it seemed liked she was flirting (and he, of course, loved that, see above : triangulation), and when we went into one of our "off" periods it became very clear that he was now the preferred person to hang out with (Friend being the sole arranger of all the group's activities) and he relished this. it was all over facebook, I felt like I had lost my partner and my friendship group at the same time. Pretty grim feeing. However I had other friends to confide in who understood how I must be feeling, one or two of them in this friendship group I felt like I had to abandon. There was no suggestion anything was going on romantically between them, they were two people using each other for attention and going-out. But it still made me realise she wasn't a true friend due to her own issues and need for attention at that point in her life over-riding considerate behaviour. it culminated in a big argument (engineered by Toxic Ex, he really was a piece of work!) So I cut them out of my life. Toxic Ex, only temporarily, unfortunately :) I let him back in a few more times before my Come-to-Jesus moment and left him. But I was no longer Friend's friend.

Flash forward a few years and now things are very different. Friend is now in a very different place in her life, and my boyfriend is her friend. we have hung out as a group and despite all the sh1t that went down, we are perfectly happy chatting amiably together when occasion calls for it. Toxic Ex? For unknown reasons she now hates his guts (easy answer here would there was some kind of brief romance that went sour but for various reasons I feel that's unlikely).

So my advice would be - cut Ex out of your life without a second thought - block the bejaysus out of him on FB. friend - the mature thing to do (which I should have done) is to have a conversation with her about how you felt about what you saw. Be prepared to not like the response ("you're over-reacting", "it was just a joke", "it was just something that got out of hand", "surely you know I wouldn't do something deliberately to hurt you?" or, the doozy "we are actually in love and in a relationship"). And be prepared to do what you need to do to protect yourself and surround yourself with positivity in response to that conversation. It might just be you need time and distance from her, and she from you.

I've got a tenner here that says the reason she hasn't got in touch is because she knows she did something wrong.
posted by mrmulliner at 4:21 AM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

When things like this happen, I think of Mrs. Obama: When they go low, we go high.
posted by archimago at 4:42 AM on August 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

Even if their story is true-- which, like others, I doubt-- they performed this dumb "experiment" in order to provoke reactions. To me, that makes your friend's criticism doubly absurd. It's like you are being poked with a stick and she is criticizing you for how you respond.

I think you need some friends closer to your own level of maturity.
posted by BibiRose at 6:07 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is terrible. You're not overreacting. I would not speak to any of the people involved again.
posted by superfluousm at 6:24 AM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're not overreacting.

I would unfriend them, and I would also see whether any of your other friends come to your defense and rip them a new asshole, and speak to them if they don't.

What I would love to have happen is if some of your other friends got angry at them on your behalf, and you just said nothing but quietly unfriended these two jerks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Can you give any more info about the "social experiment" aspect? Recently there was an article making the rounds -- and I'm so sorry I can't find it now -- about a woman who was noticing some weird norms on Facebook. It was something like she would post about landing her dream job and get only a few likes, and to compare, iirc she made a fake engagement post, which got her a million likes and positive messages. She used that social experiment as a jumping-off point to write about what people seem to value and how off-balance (and misogynistic) it is.

I don't think that woman was an evil, cruel child, a vile asshole who's lying about everything and definitely fucking him, a tacky, mean idiot who deserves to be cut dead despite years of support and loyalty. I think that woman owed her friends a general apology for sure, but not an abject, groveling one for being such a self-centered sadist.

Was it that kind of social experiment? Because "lol fooled you" is not a social experiment.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:14 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think that woman owed her friends a general apology for sure, but not an abject, groveling one for being such a self-centered sadist.

Maybe, but the problem is she hasn't apologized to the OP at all, who was the one most foreseeably hurt by this. Which means Prankster's motives are left to the OP's imagination, which because OP is upset means she's going to be imagining the worst.

Prankster could have said to the OP: "Hey, I'm sorry, that was a joke there that got out of hand and I'm really sorry I hurt your feelings. That's the last thing I wanted to do." That wouldn't be so very hard, especially if Prankster valued OP's friendship. Since Prankster hasn't done that, it looks like Prankster maybe doesn't value OP's friendship and/or possibly did mean to hurt her and was very deliberate about the way she went about it. It's really on Prankster to say if that's not the case.

I just... I really don't know by what standards anyone could say you were "overreacting" to this. It's such a bizarre situation, how can anyone gauge what the optimal level of reaction to it would be? Faced with a publicly enacted practical joke which, coincidentally or not, pokes at your sensitivities in detail around a larger hurtful situation, would the legal prototype of A Reasonable Person have 5 reaction? Why not 4 or 6 reaction? Would 3 reaction be enough, would 7 reaction be too many? It just seems like a perpendicular question, like dancing about architecture.

But if that answer doesn't satisfy you, let's reduce the issue to its bare essentials. Your best friend and confidante went on a trip with your ex. They then very unexpectedly and publicly announced their engagement. You were then subjected to intrusive questioning by your wider social circle about the situation. Next, your friend and ex revealed that it had all been a prank. Your friend has not been in touch since, because she disagrees that you should be upset about this.

What reasoning can anyone give for why you should or shouldn't feel the way you do about it? Because they think they wouldn't feel the same way in the same situation? Okay, but that doesn't change the fact that you are entitled to your own experience and opinion of this. The strongest argument is that you should be trying to rebuild bridges with the friend who has offended you. I actually agree with that part. But it's upsetting to be in a position to have to do that, and your friend is apparently unwilling to lift a finger to help. All the emotional labour is coming down on you, because you're wrong by some inexplicable standard.

To me, the most telling detail was that your other friends asked how you were coping with the news of the engagement. This means they were all expecting you to be upset about it, so there's no way your upset wouldn't have been foreseeable to Prankster and Ex.

I mean, MAYBE if the breakup occurred five years ago and you've been sitting in your wedding dress like Miss Havisham ever since, day after agonizing day, my perception of the situation would reverse and I'd think your friends were treating you with kid gloves and you were the one with issues. But even then... this is your BFF and confidante we're talking about here, not just someone who is vaguely floating around in your friend group. Which means they could still have anticipated you being upset, even if that was on your own time.

But then again, you weren't getting huffy about your friend and ex going on what you thought was a platonic trip, only to have them come out with news which suggested they might have been dating for a long time, which means you haven't been living in the world you thought you were living in, and you were confiding in someone who was empathizing with you to your face and schtupping your ex behind your back. At least, you might have thought that for a few days before they said it was all a joke.

The only way you could be overreacting to THAT side of it is, again, if the breakup happened five years ago and you're still so possessive of Ex that he and Prankster had to sneak around behind your back despite having every right to date each other.

But I'm going to assume, OP, that there ISN'T anything you haven't told us and you HAVEN'T been playing Miss Havisham for a quarter century, because I actually don't get that vibe from you. In which case, my personal opinion is, so what if it was a joke? It was bizarre and not funny and your distress was something a lot of people anticipated besides just the perpetrators.

In the spirit of turning the other cheek, I actually do recommend contacting BFF directly and asking her - and do try to be polite and open-minded and keep the emotion out of it for the purpose of this exercise, just for practical reasons - "When you did this thing you call a social experiment, what were you hoping to achieve?" You could also ask "Knowing what you know about how upset I was that Ex wouldn't make our relationship public, you flaunted your surprise engagement on social media. It makes me wonder if you were using things you knew about me to hurt me. Were you?" And you could also ask, "I'm wondering if you and Ex have actually been hooking up for a while and you were doing a trial run for going public with it. So - were you?"

She may not react well to these questions, which is why it's called turning the other cheek: because you might get slapped. But it's as you say - Prankster was/is your friend. Now maybe this is salvageable and maybe it's not - that depends on Prankster as much as you. I personally agree with those who don't hold out much hope. But I do recommend reaching out as opposed to cutting Prankster outright with no discussion.

Ultimately, I think BibiRose is right - you need a friend group that's closer to your level of maturity.
posted by tel3path at 8:20 AM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

This was also met with much surprise and puzzlement from our common friends and my family, whose questions and sympathy I had to receive and endure.

People were reaching out to you with *sympathy* and now they're accusing you of being overly dramatic?

No. Just no.

You are not overreacting in being hurt by this thoughtless, insensitive "experiment".

In this situation, I personally would withdraw a bit from the sympathy/concern trolls and would keep my own counsel for a while.

As far as your friend is concerned, if she is truly your friend she really does need to reach out to you. It's inappropriate for her to simply sit back and wait to see what your reaction is. What are your options in that case? To reach out and tell her you were hurt, which of course she will frame as you being dramatic; or to simply move on and act like nothing happened, which clears the path for her to continue to commit shitty acts of insensitivity and betrayal against you? No. It's on her at this point to prove that she is worthy of your friendship.
posted by vignettist at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I had not spoken to either one of them. While I had been careful not to express how I really felt in all my responses to all the questions about this faux engagement, I also know that they are now both aware that I thought this was extremely insensitive on their part. They had not made any effort to reach out to me, for apologies or otherwise. A common friend had gently suggested that I was overreacting and implied that *I* am being thought of as the overly dramatic one. There is the hint that I should be the first one to make amends.

I don't understand what you would even apologize to them for. It sounds like you've expressed some hurt to people who reached out to you asking, but have tried to be measured. You haven't thrown a fit, made a scene, called them out, etc. Are you supposed to apologize for being hurt and not totally lying about that? Or for not having spoken to them even though they also haven't spoken to you? That's a bizarre request. It would be hard to even formulate such an apology.

If your friend really has been so lovely in the past, I think it may be worth reaching out to talk to her. Like many others, I suspect something else was going on.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry. Like many others, I think they are dating, or at least hooking up. The friend may have been lovely in the past, but it looks like she's made a choice. Unfriend, block, and time will make this less important.
posted by 41swans at 12:14 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even without the context I would distance myself from anyone who pulled this kind of public "joke". It reveals a level of immaturity and nastiness in a person that is frankly upsetting and a bit of a bore to deal with. Possible exception if it was some master's sociology thesis but even then, ugh.

With the context, just wow, no wonder you are upset. I agree that the likely reason your "friends" haven't reached out to you is because they know deep down they did a very shitty thing.
posted by arha at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, and there may be some exceptions out there, but in my experience anytime anyone was super coy about public acknowledgments of our relationship in any form it was because they were actively involved with other people and being shitty about it. Your ex sounds like a piece of work.
posted by arha at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2016


Can't believe I forgot that one!

He's a player. He played you, he's playing your friend. Wow. So sorry.

Ignore this person forever and ever and ever. It will take a while for him to go away, but eventually he will. Put ALL of your energy on relationships where folks do not know him, completely separate yourself from this drama...

Also, so sorry about your friend. She was tricked, even if they stay together, her life with him will be fraught with deceptions and heartaches. Pity her. Stay out of it, though. Don't get involved.

I'm just letting you know what's going on. I can't believe I missed that relevant fact! Cheaters need ambiguity around their relationships to keep from getting caught and labeled by others. It's textbook. I bet you can even google this phenomenon, that's how common it is.

I can not encourage you to walk away with anymore confidence or purpose than I already have in previous comments. This situation is a shitstorm and the less you are publicly associated with it, the better off your reputation will fare.

I know from experience. This ends badly. Distance yourself now. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

also because in our circle of friends, I am known for being the hopeless, naive one who still believed and championed the idea of marriage.

Adding to the chorus that you are too good for these people. They aren't your friends. Friends don't do this. I'm so sorry this happened to you. It's a cruel joke and you are NOT overreacting.

I hope you find new, supportive, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, conscientious friends. Friends who have better things to do with their time than concoct ways to manipulate others' emotions and then shamelessly blame the ones who are hurt by it.

Best wishes.
posted by onecircleaday at 11:40 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dating a friend's ex has booby traps lying around all over the place. Mostly the issues arise from heretofore unexpressed alliances among your friends, his friends, and friends in common. Families also add to complications.

I didn't see where you described the terms of your breakup with the ex. You may not be aware of what undercurrents were set in motion among those in the peanut gallery. You also didn't say how long ago your breakup happened. You did say that a fundamental mismatch (regarding children) was the primary reason for the breakup.

I once was in the position your friend was in. My good Friend of Long Standing broke up with his ex. She was also a friend of long standing. When they broke up, my Long Standing Friend pointed out that his ex had told him that she had "warm" feelings toward me that she was growing weary of suppressing. My chain of reasoning never got past the "whoopie" stage, because I had also harbored carefully trimmed warm feelings toward her. I stopped resisting the attraction, she stopped suppressing her warm feelings, and we began to see each other romantically. Some weeks later my Long Standing Friend told me that he was disappointed in me, and felt that I obviously didn't value our friendship, so he was cutting ties with me, didn't want to associate with me any longer. I was both surprised and wounded.

I tried to explain myself, of course, tried to point that they were separated and I thought he had in effect cleared the way for me by telling me about her "warm feelings." Naturally that argument fell on deaf ears, but it took some time before the weakness behind my reasoning became clear to me: self-centered myopia. He was right; I hadn't considered him, or how he felt. She was his ex, but he was my friend. For a while I had been confused, and felt that he simply misunderstood me. Now I felt dense, and unworthy of his friendship. Even today, some 40 years later, I still feel bad about that. We'd been friends for ten years or so at the time, and I just let it slide away. I count that episode among the educational dues that I've paid over the years.

I can see all kinds of possibilities for intrigue here. On the one hand, your friend and your ex are scheming bastards who'd cooked up a plan in order to embarrass you--in which case they both would be the sort of asshole who likes to stir up outrage, trolls who feed on causing trouble.

Or I can see your ex and your friend out on a trip that turned into an interlude--on some level they'd sensed their mutual attraction, and they wanted to see where it might lead.

The Facebook incident seems bizarre to me, but I don't necessarily see it to be an intentional slap to your face. They may have been wallowing in a romantic bubble, and by the second bottle of wine the Facebook thing could have seemed like a cute idea. Unless they both are congenitally goofy, the lameness of the "social experiment" tag they concocted supports some permutation of that theory.

In any case your friend didn't think about you, so she's guilty of short-sightedness, but I'm not sure her actions actually rise to a betrayal of your friendship. Your ex is your ex, so forget about him. Keep in mind that you had tossed him back into the dating stream, and he owes you no explanations about his romantic pursuits.

You and your friend owe each other some face-time, not facebook time, to see if you can reconnect. She may not actually yet see how what she did affected you. A friendship ought not to be thrown away via or because of notes pinned to a cyberspace wall.

Your camp followers, your peers, are not insignificant, but it seems unproductive to let the peanut gallery determine your romantic partners.
posted by mule98J at 12:03 PM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Coming into this thread super late but reading samthemander's comment really shifted my perspective of the whole situation -

"It could have been something as simple as a private joke that just got out of hand before they thought it through. Maybe their waiter asked "are you two thinking about getting engaged? Because you know sir, I can bring you a bottle of our finest champagne for you to pop the question..." And then it became a weekend-long gag they took too far. Or maybe they started joking about how ironic it would be if they, two marriage haters, decided to get engaged... And got caught up in their own joke."

Based on your description of your best (!) friend, she sounds pretty solid. You care for her very deeply. I assume you have at least normal-person level of assessing relationships accurately. Her behavior here does not jive with that at all unless you frame it as above.

If I had to make up a scenario I thought most likely, it would be that ex-bf and your friend have hung out. They've texted a lot. It got kind of flirty but neither of them were confident enough to take that next step. They hang out and it's rife with tension. Ex-bf invites your friend along on this trip. They're going to be staying in the same room (just to save money). At this point in a relationship, you have blinders on to the rest of the world and you are just head over heels smitten and limerance-crazy.

Vacation time. She's nervous but thrilled to be on a trip with her crush, solo. At this point you are probably literally the last thing on her mind, partially because ooh romance and partly because she knows this is a shitty thing to do and doesn't want to face that.

They get to their destination. It's late, it's been a long day, they go out to a bar. Your friend uses the comforting balm of alcohol to be flirtier than normal. It's reciprocated. Holy crap, best thing ever. They're sharing a hotel room anyway. Don't worry about the rest.

The next few days are like Disneyland for your friend. Vacation romances are like being in a snow globe. Maybe someone there mistook them for engaged. It became that in-joke because ha ha wouldn't it be soooo funny if we were together long enough to be engaged? Maybe they "pretended to be engaged" at a restaurant to see if they could get a free dessert. Hah, it worked! Free dessert! Woo!

Three drinks in at the restaurant, your best friend (in snow globe romance world) thinks it would be genuinely funny to make believe like she's engaged to this dude, while genuinely wanting to make her romance public but not really knowing how to do that in a normal-person way. She's like, bro hold my hand I'm totally getting a pic of this, then uploads it to Facebook. Still lovey-dovey, still thinking it's a cute thing, not at all thinking of you (which is kinder than the alternative).

Next morning your ex sees it on FB and freaks the eff out. They have a big shouty fight over it as he makes it painfully clear how he definitely does not see their relationship even lasting past this vacation. It's a huge blow to your best friend. She also now has the mortification of seeing the congratulations pile up. Literally the only thing she can think to do is to pass it off as a joke. She knows it's in bad taste but what was her other option? She's defininely NOT engaged to this guy, and she definitely isn't going to say that she was was kind of drunk and crushing hard.

In this possible universe, I bet she is still hurting bad and if she does think of you, she feels worse.

Note: this is not meant for you to feel bad for her! It was such a jerk thing to do! But if you are such good friends with her, I would reach out just to be like, wtf, that was hurtful.

Please follow up if you have any more explanations.
posted by amicamentis at 1:40 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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