Danger Will Robinson!!!
December 26, 2006 8:14 PM   Subscribe

How do you give a stranger warning that the new woman in their life is really a bad person?

Suppose that you know this to be true, how could you give a "friendly warning" without getting too bogged in details?
posted by jtoth to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's almost no way that any scenario involving "giving a stranger a warning" will end well, or will accomplish what you want it to. Unless there's criminality involved (how do you define "bad person"?), or unless this relationship somehow puts you at risk, you're probably better off leaving the whole thing alone.
posted by pdb at 8:17 PM on December 26, 2006

I think it would depend on how you're defining "bad". If she's a convicted serial killer, I imagine you could show your friend the clippings. If she stole a dolly from her 3rd grade classmate back in grade school, you could have the classmate call your friend and give the whole sob story. If she strangles kitties, you could show him their teeny little corpses.

But he'll probably be too under the sex haze to listen to you. I told a friend once his girlfriend was crazy and GUESS WHAT? They just got engaged. Never again. I'm minding my own business in that regard, forever and ever amen.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:17 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Unless you have reason to believe that this relationship puts the person at risk of abuse, I don't think you really can get involved.

If you do think it puts the person at some sort of risk, I suppose you could try sending them a letter, e-mail, or telling a mutual friend. However they will probably blow it off, because no one listens to reason in the heat of a new romance. It may, however, stick in the back of their mind if warning signs start turning up.
posted by tastybrains at 8:20 PM on December 26, 2006

Unless this woman is dangerous to your stranger's person and has a bona fide police record, and maybe not even then, you should keep your mouth shut.

If you persist in needing to tell this stranger that he is making bad choices, you may only do so once. To do so more than once is to sink to the level of basically stalking, and that is not where you want to go. Having been the warned party once in my life, allow me to assure you, I did not appreciate this person meddling in my life. I didn't appreciate the continued, forceful, and unwanted contact this person initated so much that I was within a phone call of having them arrested.

You don't want to be that guy. Seriously. Unless she's gonna shoot the guy (I assume guy, but could be a girl), you're better off just letting it go.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:25 PM on December 26, 2006

Lemme guess, crazy ex-girlfriend?

If it's a total stranger, you are probably out of luck. If it's a friend of a friend of a friend kind of thing (like you might encounter with in a crazy ex situation) you might be able to have said friend of friend relate the horrors of your breakup.

But it won't make a lick of difference. Why is stranger going to listen to you when he's got his new Hotness?

Unless 'bad person' means 'dangerous', I'd walk away and let the stranger learn the hard way.
posted by quin at 8:29 PM on December 26, 2006

[H]ow could you give a "friendly warning" without getting too bogged in details?

Anonymous letters are the reliable old standby for these things.
posted by tkolar at 8:35 PM on December 26, 2006

All good points for sure. Yes there is a criminal tinge to it all. It is not based on my personal experience, but that of a friend. I just happened to be around for and aware of the entire situation as it unfolded.

The stranger is someone I see around occasionally (enough to acknowledge but not someone who I am on a first name basis with).
posted by jtoth at 8:36 PM on December 26, 2006

One of my best friends dated a 'crazy ex-girlfriend' of mine. Right at the start of things, I gave him my two cents about her and what he was getting himself into, but I also made it very clear that I was giving him advice because I was his friend and I cared about him. After that, I kept my mouth shut unless he came to me first.

Their 'relationship' lasted a few months. By the end of it, he came to the same conclusions I had and now we laugh about it.

So my advice is to stay out of it unless you are directly asked for advice.
posted by Diskeater at 8:36 PM on December 26, 2006

Diskeater and others are right: unless she's a serial killer or something, stay out of it unless you are directly asked for advice.
posted by scody at 8:39 PM on December 26, 2006

Anonymous text message?
posted by chrissyboy at 8:46 PM on December 26, 2006

I've been in this unfortunate situation once or twice in the past five years with friends who are reaching the engagement or marriage phase of their respective dysfunctional relationships.

At some point when we've been alone, I've asked the friend in question: "are you happy? Is s/he making you happy? I'm only asking because you haven't seemed happy. In fact, I've sensed friction between you guys, not that it's my business. As a friend I just want to make sure you've sorted through the pros and cons. And if you're happy, I'm happy, but as a friend I just want to be another pair of eyes and ears and look out for you."

Mercifully, the responses have not been too hyperdefensive. They've been relatively level-headed, and I've learned something about the respective relationships, BUT by and large the friends in question have forged ahead anyway (and don't seem much happier for it). Sometimes you gotta know when to step aside, I guess.
posted by deern the headlice at 9:19 PM on December 26, 2006

Joey deVilla seemed pretty relieved that some stranger warned him about the New Girl. But keep in mind that Whistleblower was cautious, low-key, and presented solid information that Joey could assess and use to make up his own mind. Finding out that her claims about her life, work and credentials were false was probably a lot more effective than hearing J. Random Stranger talking about what a crazy bitch she was.

Part 1

Part 2 (comments)

A follow-up

posted by maudlin at 10:18 PM on December 26, 2006

You need to talk to Accordion Guy. He was warned by strangers once, and probably quite happy about it.
posted by easternblot at 10:22 PM on December 26, 2006

Ha, not fast enough.
posted by easternblot at 10:22 PM on December 26, 2006

How do you give a stranger warning that the new woman in their life is really a bad person?

Based on what you've written, you don't know if she a bad person. You seem to know she did some bad things, based on hearsay, but you DON'T KNOW IF SHE IS CURRENTLY A BAD PERSON 'cause people can change.

How could you give a "friendly warning" without getting too bogged in details?

You can't. If you want to disrupt someone's life like that, then you need to give details, present facts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 PM on December 26, 2006

If you truly find it important that you warn this person, obtain documentation of the criminal record of said "bad person." That should speak far louder than any story.

It is a bit creepy, it is a bit invasive, and there's no way to avoid that. Still, as shown above, it isn't always bad.
posted by Saydur at 11:17 PM on December 26, 2006

Well, think about this way: The person now involved with her is not even a friend of yours, so, logically, your motivation to warn him or her should be no greater than your motivation to track down and warn every single person the woman ever becomes involved with... until such a point that you are convinced she is no longer a bad person. At least that's how it seems to me.

(fandango_matt, the woman is not jtoth's ex.)
posted by taz at 11:25 PM on December 26, 2006

Also keep in mind that sometimes people change, and that everybody deserves a second chance. Maybe the woman in question is legitimately trying to start over...
posted by Brittanie at 1:31 AM on December 27, 2006

Just an aside... now might be a good time to brush up on the meaning of libel and slander. You could be entering into a personally risky course of action in which your intentions don't matter all that much.

I agree with other posters, though... if you've got newspaper clippings, arrest records, restraining orders, you may be protected by the truth.

If otherwise, proceed with caution and spend some thoughtful time considering your own motivations. Some really negative interactions are really specific to only two people, and the stranger may just be the yin to her yang.
posted by FauxScot at 2:26 AM on December 27, 2006

If your conscience dictates you must tell the person, then do so, knowing it probably won't do any good. I had an acquaintance once who started dating a close friend's rapist. I got permission from my friend to tell most of the story, although I left the actual rape out of it. The acquaintance married the guy anyway. But if I hadn't told her I would have felt responsible if anything bad happened to her.
posted by someone else at 6:25 AM on December 27, 2006

My roommate and I want to start a website called thatbitchiscrazy.com where you can enter someone's email address and it will send them an email that one of their friends would like them to know that "THAT BITCH IS CRAZY."

Personally, I've seen at least a dozen situations that called for such a service in my short life.

Actually, now that I think about it, I could have used yourboyfriendisadouchebag.com a couple times too.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:52 AM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

How do you give a stranger warning that the new woman in their life is really a bad person?

How do you know she is a "bad" person ? First, you better facts instead of hearsay, gossip, bullshit before telling anybody anything. Second, your judgement of what is bad may not fit that of the stranger, unless of course we are talking about some kind of serial killer or extremely violent person.

Third , why do you want to warn the stranger ? Is it because you want to take revenge against the "bad person" and hide that to yourself behind the screen of helping the stranger or avenging your friend ? You know the answer.

Anyway I would second the anonymous message on the grounds you don't know what the stranger reaction might be , I would also try not to involve the friend.
posted by elpapacito at 7:55 AM on December 27, 2006

If you can get solid evidence-- like everyone's said, a news clipping, a police report, et cetera-- then it's easy, as you don't have to be involved beyond mailing it or a copy of it to them. If you can't, I'd advise a single, short, anonymous note that gives them no way to contact you; you're not intimately involved, it sounds like, and unless you can tell with certainty and immediate knowledge what happened, you shouldn't stick your neck out like that.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on December 27, 2006

You can only do this if you have proof. If she has done thigns that are illegal, then involve the law and let nature take its course.

If she's just done things that are questionable then you still need evidence. Notify the guy in a nonjudgmental, anonymous way. For example slip a note in his mail box: "In case you don't know, your new girlfriend is married. Call this number if you would like to talk to her husband." Why? Maybe he knows she's married and doesn't care.

If your evidence is more of the "she's just crazy! Trust me! She uses guys and dumps them!" variety then stay out of it, you'll look crazier than her. This guy already has a relationship with her, you're just a stranger. He's going to take her word over yours unless you have proof.
posted by Ookseer at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2006

Well, just my .2, but I find the idea of sending anonymous messages very ugly. I think the only way to do this kind of thing is in person, which requires you to be on speaking if not friendly terms with the guy, which isn't your case.

So, I believe you should just forget about it. If she's still the bad criminally-tinged person you know her as, he may find out for himself, or not, this may sound callous but it's not your problem. You can't really meddle with people's lives like that. It's complicated enough with friends (or family!), nevermind strangers. If he hasn't heard of her bad reputation, and you don't have any solid proof to convince him, and don't even know him well, why should he listen?

But since you haven't specified much, I'm assuming the criminal part was small enough to be already over and done with, otherwise she wouldn't be walking around free, right? or if you mean you know something criminal she did but never got caught for, then it's not the guy you need to contact but the police, but I don't think it's likely you meant that.
posted by pleeker at 9:16 AM on December 27, 2006

Well lets make it a given for the sake of the question that we all know she actually did illegal things. Also, lets be clear, this is not an ex girlfriend of mine. This is a group of friends who all know about this woman and see this dude heading for disaster because he doesn't know.

Most of the answers here were not really answering the question I asked but there have been some good bits overall. I will discuss with the group next and see what we all agree upon.

It's not that we're meddling, just that the stranger is known by "outside friend association" to be a pretty normal decent guy. It would be a real shame not to warn someone when you know they are in for it.

Being that none of us know the guy except that we've all seen him around, we haven't found a good way to tip him off without appearing to be all of the things mentioned above. It's really intended be a "public service announcement".
posted by jtoth at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2006

Ah. That's a tricky one.

I don't think this is the kind of thing that should be done in groups. To do this rightly, you have to have intimate knowledge and discretion; you will have neither if more than one person knows.

My advice: tell the group you're out, and stay out. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 1:57 PM on December 27, 2006

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