Is he text-book material?
July 9, 2008 3:35 PM   Subscribe

My friend's boyfriend sucks. She knows that, but she doesn't seem to realize how serious it is. Please help me help her.

I should start by saying this is not one of those "oh I don't like my friend's boyfriend, how do I tell her to get rid of him". No. That specific decision is hers to make. I'm completely comfortable giving her some hard to hear advice which she asks from me anyway (and I from her), so that bit is not a problem.

So my friend M. has had a boyfriend, J., for 7 months now. They've been living together for 6 months. As you can gather from that, their relationship escalated very quickly - he's her first real boyfriend, he was in a lot of financial trouble at the time (and still is, for that matter) and about to loose his place, so they shacked up.

From the get-go this guy sounded like a very odd person - he told her he "knows" what people think, that's he's an "excelent" judge of character, that he's highly intelligent (much more so than everybody else he knows), that he can manipulate people into whatever he wants. Everyone, except the people he falls in love with, he said, meaning her. He's fucked up in the head, I thought to myself.

He is depressed. Or at least that's what he told the doctor who wrote his medical leave (unexplained rashes, panic attacks, mood swings, all of it true). He was on a medical leave for 2 months, got back to work and that same day quit his job. This was one month ago. Since the start M. has picked up all the bills (rent, food, cable, etc), and she's always done all the housework. He sits at home all day scratching his nuts. A big part of the problem is he claims he's not depressed. He says it's just a "bad patch". He's on Xanax for this "bad patch", but refuses to see a therapist because there's nothing wrong with him. He blames everything wrong with his life on other people, however illogical his reasoning. He's now taken to insulting some of her friends for no real reason other than he's such a great judge of character (she's point-blank told him to not badmouth her friends, or leave - yay M - and no, I'm not his target). He claims he doesn't get a job because he's too good for any of them. I believe he actually used the words "too special". He doesn't have any real friends of his own apart from a few internet acquaintances.

Today she told me they had this conversation (or something similar, I can only imagine it went worse than she told me):

(They were home. He's sitting behind the computer, she's doing some house chore)
J.: Don't interrupt me for the next 10 minutes. Under no circumstances! I'm betting a lot of money on internet scratch cards!
M. (a bit annoyed I'm sure, but still less than she should be): Okay...
[20 minutes later]
M.: So, how'd it go?
J.: How did it go? Well, obviously I lost. And it was all your fault! Your "okay" annoyed me, and I didn't win because I was annoyed. It's always the same fucking thing.
At which point she went into another room, not because she's a wimp but because they fight all the time and another go at it seemed pointless. I also think she didn't realize how seriously deluded his speach was.
[Another 20 minutes later]
J.: Babe! Where are you? I won! I knew it! I knew I was going to win, so I bet some more money, and I won! Give us a smooch!
M.: (rolling her eyes): Yeah. Great.

M. knows the relationship is going south, she really does. She's in love with him, and has invested a lot into it. She doesn't want to loose, and I totally understand. We've all been in a sinking ship, giving it just one more minute to see if it keeps afloat before it actually goes under. Thing is, I think he's starting to mess her up way too much with his shitty psycho attitude. I'm no shrink, but I really think he needs serious help, which he completely refuses. She seems to believe him, she still believes she can help him out. I'm sure they have good moments, otherwise there would be no doubt in her mind, but she's a different person now, not for the better, and she has realized this. She knows he's bringing her down - but not quite just how down, I don't think.

So, here's the question part: MeFi, I want to provide her with a bunch of articles (online would be most helpful, but if there's a perfect book out there I'll go for it) that help her understand how serious his situation is. Like I said, I'm not a therapist, so I have no idea if his behaviour adds up to anything text-booky or not (does it?), but I do know the delusions of gradeur and the warped externalization cannot be good. Articles about how you can't help someone who doesn't want you to would also be good, and if they delved a bit into why it is people deny what's so obvious to others (fear of failure, etc) it'd be even better. She's asked me for help with this, so it's not like I'm going to drop these in an e-mail with a DTMFA note attached. I'm not going to tell her to dump him at all (although I'm pretty sure she knows that's where I stand), I just want her to fully open her eyes to the whole situation. There's obviously much more going on, but if you've read this far, I wish I could give you a cookie. It's more of the same crap, really, in different scenarios. Or worse.

Thank you. I do apologize for the length.
posted by neblina_matinal to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in neblina_matinal's position before (thinking very little of a friend's partner) and have learned the hard way (loosing said friend) that it's very easy to be one-sided about an issue such as this.

In short, I would like to offer some advice, but would feel far more comfortable doing so after hearing both M and J's side of the story. From what neblina_matinal tells us here, yeah, it sounds like the guy needs to be cut loose, but I think both M and J would feel a rebuttal could explain away some things here.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2008

i can't add to your impression of the situation, but i would say that she may want to take a look at what people say in this thread.

also, if she could get counseling to help work up her courage and self-esteem, that would help her a lot, too.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2008

You want articles? I'd try this for starters.
posted by brain cloud at 3:51 PM on July 9, 2008

You're a good friend - but the truth is, it may not click for her how unhappy she is in the relationship until he crosses whatever line is uncrossable for her. When you've invested so much of yourself into a relationship, it's so hard to let go of that hope as a sunk cost... and you try to rationalize to yourself how much closer you've come to those uncrossable lines. Help her realize just how far away from happy she's become.
posted by grippycat at 3:55 PM on July 9, 2008

Like brain cloud, I wonder if he might be a sociopath. However, when you show your friend that link you might need to point out that "sociopath" does not necessarily mean "violent serial killer." That is a common misperception. A sociopath is not always violent.

Also, there are some things, like the inability to love others, she might dismiss because she's in a relationship with the guy and loves him, and he has acted in a way that makes her think he loves her back. You might need to point out that sociopaths can be quite good at faking it, just to be sure she reads through the whole thing.

Of course, he very well might not be a sociopath. It's just common for SOs of sociopaths to be in denial for a while, or dismiss the idea, because it doesn't occur to normal people that someone would pretend to love them so convincingly. She might have some solid evidence that he's not a sociopath, which is great. Just do what your best, without being pushy, to see that she examines the idea either way.
posted by Nattie at 4:01 PM on July 9, 2008

Don't take responsibility for her emotions and don't second guess her choices. It's not your place. If you really care about her, keep your friendship strong and prepare a soft place for her to land when the relationship falls apart. Don't get impatient when she repeats the same frustrating anecdotes & circles around what is (to you) the obvious conclusion. People need to model and talk out changes before they implement them. Giving her the space to do that is worth more than any internet articles on D'ingTMFA.
posted by felix betachat at 4:02 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

No worries about the length, I think we're all here to help as best we can. Frankly he sounds like my older brother, the black sheep of the family. My advice would be that she move out, and let him sort-out his own issues, which will probably end badly, but sometimes life sucks. He can either choose to get his act together, find some work, even if it's day jobs, or end up living in a van at the river. But really she shouldn't be supporting him, especially since it sounds like things will just end badly anyway. If I've misunderstood any of the situation, ignore it, but really, it doesn't sound like a healthy relationship, the reason for the post obviously. Sorry, no links, but surely others will have some. Good luck trying to work this out with her.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:03 PM on July 9, 2008

"I should start by saying this is not one of those "oh I don't like my friend's boyfriend, how do I tell her to get rid of him". No. That specific decision is hers to make."

See, here's where I have a problem with your logic. If this really wasn't a "I don't like my friend's boyfriend, how do I tell her to get rid of him" thread... if this really was a question about getting leads or links to articles that could help your friend, why all the judgemental crap about your friends boyfriend? Why did you not simply write a much shorter question which asked "I would like links to articles that describe dysfunctional relationships?"

You did eventually get around to asking that question but before you did, you spent 5 minutes of my time detailing how much you dislike J. And you reinforce how much you dislike him and over and over again. And this being AskMetafilter, a place well known for being less than helpful on relationship questions (let's be honest, any time someone asks "Should I dump him/her" the answer is "No, you should KILL THEM!").

And there's another element that makes me think this is less about helping M come to some sort of epiphany and more about "I hate J." Observe;

"I'm completely comfortable giving her some hard to hear advice"
"He's fucked up in the head, I thought to myself."
"I think he's starting to mess her up way too much with his shitty psycho attitude."
"I'm no shrink, but I really think he needs serious help."
"I just want her to fully open her eyes to the whole situation."
"She knows he's bringing her down - but not quite just how down, I don't think."

There is a lot of 'I's in there. Read those quotes again and you'll see this question is more about you, you, you. Basically it makes the whole question sound like it's about you and how you dislike J and makes it sound less about helping your friend.

Now again, it could actually be that J is useless and using M and needs to be cut loose. I won't deny this is a possibility. But given how very one sided this question is; given how you seem less interested in finding articles to help M and more interested in bashing her partner; given that your question is full of references to you and how you feel, I think it would be very beneficial to hear M and J's side of the story before the usual AskMe pile-on begins.

neblina_matinal, any chance you can get them to chime in here?
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:04 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

google narcissism.
posted by violetk at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Guys, the OP said this: "She's asked me for help with this, so it's not like I'm going to drop these in an e-mail with a DTMFA note attached." "This" meaning the articles, from the context.

She included a lot of the other information so we could get some idea of what links to show her. If she didn't say anything about his bad qualities, we wouldn't know where to start with what might be up with him psychologically. Yes, the fact she doesn't like him is going to shine through.

I dunno, I think the OP took a lot of care to point out that she understands it's her friend's decision, and she is trying to help in a way that her friend requested she help her. While I understand the impulse to be sure, and while it's decent advice when it applies, I really don't think it's helpful for more and more people to ignore her actual question and jump on her case.
posted by Nattie at 4:13 PM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

She seems to believe him, she still believes she can help him out.

It sounds like J. is a sociopath and possibly an addict of some sort (gambling, perhaps?), and your friend is wandering around in Codependent land.

Good news: A lot of people eventually see the light and get the hell out. Many women go through one of these relationships at some point in their lives.

Bad news: It may take a very long time, and there's nothing you can do to speed it up.

Be her friend, and do what you can to support her when she needs you - but it isn't going to do you any good to try and get your friend to see the light. I've been on both ends of this scenario - and you are spitting into the wind.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:15 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is eerie. My sister was married to the same type of guy. They are now divorced. Unfortunately, he still blames her for all of his problems (two years post divorce). He still does not work, still has no friends, and I could go on and on but I respect my sister's privacy and it makes me sick to think of this kind of person.

The article brain cloud links to is right on.

What produces this kind of person? I have no idea. Your friend should run and run quickly. Get the hell out before she wastes another day with this idiot. I hate to be bitter and pessimistic but therapy does not work on these types of people. They're perpetual victims, blamers, and despicable human beings that will never be happy, or anywhere near normal, productive, supportive, or rational. They lack the ability to escape their own fucked up minds. They're so self-absorbed and childish that they can't get out of their heads to care about anybody else. Your friend would be better off alone, but she's blinded by "love". There's not much you can do but offer your tactful opinion if she asks for it. Hopefully she will tire of him and see the light. The situation sucks, I know. I'm sorry.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:17 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Effigy2000, I get were you're coming from. I deliberately threw in the "I" because "I" know this is my view on things, from what I hear from her. Can I get them to chime in? I can get her to, but not him. That'd be up to her, but I can ask.

As for me really not liking the guy, honestly, all my dislike comes from what I hear from her, because I can't complain about his attitude towards me. Yes, I'm still biased, I know that, which is why I do want the references and not an opinion on what method she should use to KILL HIM.

Nattie, I know mental states aren't usually full-blown, so I'll take what I read with that in mind, and if I find she'll just go "noooo, noooo, this is so not him" even though I think it possibly is, I'm more than willing to forget about the idea completely.
posted by neblina_matinal at 4:18 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Are we sure her friend asked her?

If it wasn't clear before: Yes, she did.

Why did I give so much detail? Because I had no idea where to start, or what name to call it. That's also why I need your help. And I could have mentioned worse details.
posted by neblina_matinal at 4:36 PM on July 9, 2008

There's going to be a line, and whether or not she knows about it (or where it is), he's going to cross it and she will need to GET OUT RIGHT NOW.

Anecdotally: I was in a relationship very similar to this one with a guy sounding very similar to J. I paid the bills and put up with the nonsensical comments, the holier-than-thou attitude, the disrespect, the total filth that was himself and his home for three years (no one I knew understood this, and it puzzles me to this day) and none of it bothered me, until one day I knew I was done. That day I was really sick, and I woke him up, told him I felt like crap, and asked him to take me to the hospital. He wouldn't because he was hungover from a couple of gallons of beer and twelve hours spent playing World of Warcraft. "Leave me alone," he said. "I'm sleeping."

It took me until a few minutes after checking my goddamn self into the ER (yes I'm still bitter) to realize that it was utter bullshit. I was packed and out within two weeks - and that only took so long because I was getting over bronchitis.

...Long story... long: I don't have any articles to give you, but I have my experience. Something will happen (probably someday soon), and it will be the last straw. She knows it's a crappy relationship, maybe deep down, but she knows it. And there will come a point that she can't ignore it anymore. Just be there for her when that time comes.
posted by alpha_betty at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

I guarantee that if you Google for "should you dump him?" type articles, you'll find a wealth of resources that describe J to a T. I looked up those same articles myself when I was in a bad relationship of epic proportions. The answer always came back "YES!!!" but I'd find some reason to say those articles didn't apply to my situation because I didn't want to break up. Your friend may very well do the same thing. But, as has been mentioned, we all have a breaking point. It may help her just to know that she can count on you for support. Do you have space for her to crash if she needs a little time to find a place of her own? Looking back, I realize that 50% of my apprehension about getting out of my own situation was moving out and where to go. Most of my friends and family lived too far away. If it had been more convenient for me to physically get out, I probably would have much sooner.
posted by katillathehun at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2008

She's asked me for help with this

What does she want help with? I don't understand what she needs research for - is she saying she'll break up with him if there's a diagnosis but not if he's a garden variety jerk?
posted by moxiedoll at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2008

the problem with linking to articles is that the determination of a mental illness is a subjective process, not an objective one. hence any article that describes a condition--say socieopath--is going to provide a list of absolutes, whereas it's pretty darn rare that someone that's mentally ill actually exhibit *all* of the traits. your friend will be able to easily defend J. because of this.

what may be more effective is this thread, and responses like alpha_betty are what you need: people's experiences that are similar. if your friend reads enough of those, it might provide insight.
posted by lester at 5:05 PM on July 9, 2008

Wow, neblina_matinal, I cannot imagine being a bystander while a good friend goes through something like this. Like you, I would be desperately searching and hoping that there was something, anything I could do. You're a good friend. You are watching your close girlfriend being hurt and treated poorly and that would sucksucksuck. I don't blame you for casting about for a solution.

It occurs to me that, horrible as this sounds, she's actually allowing him to violate her boundaries. I mean no offense to your friend...I promise. But she's the one letting this happen. Why not encourage her to get a therapist, like, yesterday? I know a few sessions with a good therapist can open one's eyes to things. And even if it doesn't result in the hoped-for, immediate eye-opening, the therapist will be in place to deal with the fallout when M does realize she has wasted a year of her life on an utter loser of epic proportions.

I know therapy is the refrain here, but I think it can be extremely useful in situations like this.

You're a great friend - best of luck. Sorry things got a bit focused on the question of your intentions here - but putting myself in your place, I totally understand and hope I have friends as concerned and caring about me. I think we've all seen friends go off the rails in various ways and watched helplessly - it's quite difficult.
posted by Punctual at 5:12 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Lester, the more I read on antisocial personality disorder, the more I think you're right. It can be easily dismissed because I'm sure he doesn't display all the signs.

Definitely, alpha_betty's answer is the most striking. If anyone else would like to share your own personal experience and/or the pivotal moment when you realized you needed to get out, please go ahead.

(And yes, I've offered my place to her, anytime she needs it).
posted by neblina_matinal at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2008

You didn't chose to date this person. You don't get to chose to dump him, either. Make sure your friend knows how you feel. Once she knows that, you should drop the issue unless a) he becomes physically abusive or b) she asks you for your input. If you continue to meddle you risk losing her as a friend. Perhaps this is worth the tradeoff to you, if you feel that strongly about the negative aspects of the boyfriend. But the most likely outcome here in the shortterm is a broken friendship, regardless of how long it takes for your friend to get married/break up with the guy or become a domestic violence victim.
posted by Happydaz at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

"If anyone else would like to share your own personal experience and/or the pivotal moment when you realized you needed to get out, please go ahead."

The pivotal moment came when he hit me.

But not because he hit me -- it was because he was hitting me BACK. Him hitting me back made me realize that I had been hitting him very often over the previous year -- and I am not a person who gets driven to violence. But he was making me mad enough, on a regular basis, to slap him in the face or something. And he dealt with it by just letting me do it until one day he slapped me back, and it woke us both up and we got out of there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 PM on July 9, 2008

Could people please just respond to the specific request for help?

Haven't you ever read something and said "oh wow, that is exactly what I'm going through." Has it ever helped you to hear something you thought was unique to yourself or your situation expressed by someone you never met? Has their perspective helped you feel not alone, or given you a new understanding of the situation? Lists like "ten signs you might be depressed" -- why do those exist if it's always a simple matter for people to realize they're in a bad situation, pull themselves together, and do something about it?

It helps people to understand something is A Thing, and this thing is not good in exactly This Way, and other people who have dealt with this thing have faced These Challenges and overcome it through These Steps. Sure, taking a nebulous world and creating labeled Things is stereotypical and sometimes problematic, and should be viewed with discretion and skepticism. But they're helpful as well. It doesn't sound like the OP is going to take the articles and, you know, use them to KILL HIM. She is just seeking information for someone who is open to learning.
posted by salvia at 7:36 PM on July 9, 2008

salvia, I think all comments above are relevant. sometimes responses away from a+b=c might shed new insight. they might be relevant by making the TC relaise they themselves have an issue rather than us just pandering to a specific question. they might move the problem in a whole new positive direction. don't try and impose a firm linear direction on issues such as this, it turns it into
posted by Frasermoo at 8:23 PM on July 9, 2008

If she's never broken up with someone she may not know how to. She may also be afraid that he will harm her or her stuff or refuse to leave and cause a scene or make trouble with her landlord. If he's been living there that long she likely can't just toss him out if he won't go. Maybe you could help her talk through a few scenarios and come up with a workable plan that she is 99% sure she can follow through on. When she initiates that plan is entirely up to her though.
posted by fshgrl at 8:28 PM on July 9, 2008

Punctual is right on, IMO. No one's going to dispute that J (as you describe) his all sorts of toxic. What's disturbing is that your friend M. is enabling him, aware at a basic level of what kind of relationship she has, and yet is unable to leave. All of the "advice" that's some variant of DTMFA won't help. What your friend needs is some professional help.
posted by mkultra at 8:31 PM on July 9, 2008

Sorry to be blunt, but professional help here says to me, she leaves him, and if he gets fucking antsy, professional help is a court order. No more, no less.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:38 PM on July 9, 2008

What you describe seems like a 'textbook' case of a sociopath, as others already have mentioned. Consider picking up The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout for your friend. It isn't an intellectually stimulating read, but more a scenario-based "how to" guide for recognizing the deranged. For your purpose it may be well suited — it's an easy read, and I recall a similar scenario detailed there.
posted by MD06 at 8:56 PM on July 9, 2008

My guess is narcissist, not sociopath, although they are similar in some ways.

He seems to lack some of the more actively "wild" (for lack of a better term) behavior that characterizes sociopathy. He's missing things like physical fights, infidelity, criminal history, or a constant need for stimulation.

He definitely has five or more of the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, the ones I think he is demonstrating are listed below in bold, with support in italics.

1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance
"he told her he "knows" what people think, that's he's an "excellent" judge of character, that he's highly intelligent (much more so than everybody else he knows)"

3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique
"He claims he doesn't get a job because he's too good for any of them. I believe he actually used the words "too special"."

5. has a sense of entitlement
"Since the start M. has picked up all the bills (rent, food, cable, etc), and she's always done all the housework. He sits at home all day scratching his nuts."

6. is interpersonally exploitative
See above, also "he can manipulate people into whatever he wants. "

7. lacks empathy
I can't find a quote that really fits, but his overall behavior demonstrates a lack of empathy for your friend.

9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
See above, also, "How did it go? Well, obviously I lost. And it was all your fault! "
posted by sondrialiac at 9:27 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Frasermoo, I normally would agree with you -- I generally think it's okay to answer relationship questions by raising unconsidered issues: "but have you considered XYZ?" or "the real problem here is ABC." But those relationship questions typically ask "how do I deal with the situation?" or "how can I stop feeling this way?" or "what should I do?" which makes those answers pertain to the help sought. In this case, she gave a specific description of the behavior and made a specific request for informational resources about what pattern those behaviors might fit. That is why I think we should respect her question, particularly now that she has defended it multiple times. She's on a search for something, a thing she feels will help in a situation that she has to live and we do not. Nobody has to answer the question, but let's stop the derail where people argue with her.
posted by salvia at 9:29 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you convince your friend that her boyfriend is sociopathic/narcissistic, will this encourage her to leave him, or will she feel that now she owes it to him to help him get 'help'?
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:43 PM on July 9, 2008

It's obvious why she should dump the guy. It's not so obvious why she doesn't. I would ask her what she is getting out of the relationship. What does she like about him? Why does she stay? How does being in the relationship make her feel about herself? (if she is aware that the relationshp is making her act in ways she doesn't like that might be a powerful incentive to change.) Obviously, some of his behavior bothers her. Is it OK if things continue this way for years and never change? Does she have limits - what would it take for her to say "enough"?

(This is not a link to an article but I think it could lead to a helpful conversation that might move beyond just complaining.)

Also, assure her that a person can love someone very much but realize that it is not healthy to stay in a relationship with them.
posted by metahawk at 10:36 PM on July 9, 2008

Your friend has low self-esteem. There may be some glue holding her to him, such as good sex, or the belief that he will get his shit together and repay her and she doesn't want to write this off as a personal, financial and emotional loss. Until she gets fed up and is finished with him, it won't end.

However, what might help is you suggesting she see a therapist herself that she can speak to about her boyfriend problems. Hearing that stuff from a professional bears insanely more weight than that of a friend, or articles, or anecdotes from strangers.

As for me, I was with a very charming loser for 10 years who almost destroyed me, and despite knowing it, things got very ugly before we divorced. I loved him so ridiculously that it inhibited my ability to reason, even in the face of what eventually became extreme and unacceptable behavior (drug addiction, filming pornography in our home, hiding debt from me, getting arrested, cheating, multiple years of unemployment while I worked). Being with him was like an addiction with all the highs and lows. I exhausted my friends with alternate pleas for help, crying out in frustration and hating myself for taking it and being self-destructive instead.

I know you said she asked you to help her with this, but I can't tell what gender you are or what bearing that may have on this. If you're a guy, she may feel like she needs you to sort of force him out of her life and she may cling to you as a replacement or emotional crutch; if you're a girl, she may end up dragging you into their fights/attempts at breaking up and indirectly cause him to feel resentment and anger towards you, which is not a good thing.

I lost a third of my life to a bad relationship. Ask her how much of her life she's willing to allow herself to be this unhappy and see how she responds. 7 months isn't shit; breaking up now is easy. But when it becomes years, there is a lot more to lose.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:28 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

This post is getting a lot of answers so I'll try and keep mine short and specific.

Firstly, No normal person would be comfortable being in a dependant living situation like this one. Having dated someone for only a month and then move in, rely on them for everything, for six months, and show no signs whatsoever of doing anything for themselves? Please. Any reasonable person would be overcome with feelings of guilt and be working hard to either get a job or help out as much as they can around the house.

His casual rudeness and disdain is indicative of a few things:

Perhaps he feels uncomfortable with being so dependant. It makes him feel guilty and vulnerable - and he reacts by being unnappreciative and rude by innapropriately projecting his guilt onto your friend. This is terrible emotional coping on his part and would demonstrate a total lack of emotional development.

Or, perhaps he feels uncomfortable with his dependant situation because he is not comfortable relying on someone he can't control totally. In light of his comments about manipulating others, this is probably likely. By being rude and lowering your friends self-esteem, he can establish the power dynamic long term. This would be evidence of some psychopathic tendencies.

Either way, he obviously takes your friend for granted and is enjoying it while he can.
There are men in the world who live constantly in the houses of other women they sucker into these dependant relationships, with sob stories or just a bit of charm, relying on them totally, often running them into debt in the process, until they are finally exposed for what they are and kicked out. There was an article in the local paper about one of these douchebags two days ago who pretended to have cancer to get free housing, food, and so on for years and years over a string of girlfriends.

- -

Without any of the answers it's obvious he should be dumped, but your friend hasn't. It's her first relationship, yes? She's obviously hesistant and unsure what to do. He's likely aware of this and enjoying the leeway it gives him.

Let her know that his behaviour is not normal. No boyfriend, live in or no, depressed or no, should treat her this way. His comments about controlling other people are indicative of serious emotional problems or an anti-social personality disorder.

Let her know that there is no way this is going to get better. It's just going to get worse and worse until she either stands up for herself of he gets sick of her and finds someone else to mooch off.

And finally, let her know that there are plenty of nice guys out there who will not treat her this way, will not expect her to support them, will not be rude to her, will make her feel better about herself, and will actually be fun to be around.

good luck.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 11:45 PM on July 9, 2008

I don't have artlcle links, sorry, but I'm nthing the 'hey darlin, where's your self esteem' responses.

I once wholeheartedly loved a person. I still loved him after he tried to run me over with his car. And I still loved him after he killed himself several years later.

I still love him and miss him terribly.
But I could not fix him.
posted by mcbeth at 2:04 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Focus her on this: Sometimes helping people is about not helping them so that they realize they need to straighten out their lives and take action.

Sometimes people need time apart in order to learn to appreciate and respect each other.
posted by ewkpates at 3:35 AM on July 10, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, I've read all the links and googled some more. I can definitely see some symptoms of antisocial personality disorder in J., more so than narcissism. His front is not good enough for a narcissist, nor does he seem extremely concearned with what others think of him. He assumes he's great, he doesn't need the approval of others to feel like he's great.

Thank you to everyone who shared their personal stories. Knowing M., those are the ones most likely to get to her.

I also think she should get help herself - actually, so does she, but at the present time she can't support it financially (you don't have to guess why). Therapy is definitely on the "to do" list, when it becomes possible. Definitely, relationship-wise her self esteem is on the low.

To everyone so worried I might loose a friend because I'm meddling, I can assure you I am not. I carefully chose my words, and I've told her multiple times I am here for her no matter what. This is not me interrupting her happy bliss going "say, that J. is such a bad seed", I'm responding to her, to everything she tells me. Yes, I have an opinion, but I think she'd just kick my ass if I were "oh hum" about it in avoidance. I know I'd kick hers.

I'm not going to get M. or J. involved in this thread. I must have only considered it due to the lateness of the hour yesterday. There's nothing worse than an argument on the internet, for everyone to see and pitch in. That one could be a friendship breaker for sure. She will read through all your answers, though.
posted by neblina_matinal at 4:32 AM on July 10, 2008

She knows far more than you how bad he is. She will get out in her own time and efforts to push her will likely backfire. However, if she asks for advice regarding her boyfriend, encourage her to stand up for herself at every opportunity.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2008

Therapy is definitely on the "to do" list, when it becomes possible.

Oh, no, no no. Therapy now. Professional therapists make financial accommodations for patients all the time. Believe me, your friend will not be turned away because she can't pay yet. "To-Do List" = "never". DO NOT LET THAT BE AN OBSTACLE.
posted by mkultra at 7:27 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, let me second mkultra. She can find a sliding scale therapist who will charge her as little as $40 for a visit if she's really broke, depending on where she lives. (who knows, maybe less if she has ANY kind of insurance?)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2008

All of your friend's "get me some materials to read up on" and "I'll get a therapist when I have the money" stuff is right along the lines with "I'll quit drinking tomorrow." They exist to get her well meaning friends off of her back, while requiring her to do nothing about the situation. You have to realize that your friend is complicit in this situation. This guy wouldn't be taking advantage of her if she didn't let him. To think that she doesn't understand what's going on is to sell her short - she knows, but she's not done. There have been libraries of books written on this subject, and still no-one completely agrees why people do this. She needs to be needed right now, and when the pain of being used exceeds the reward of being necessary and important, she will drop him like yesterday's news.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2008

Hey, I know someone involved with his older brother for years. She thought she could fix him with love and money too. Now they have several children together and she feels trapped. He has blown through all her money and convinced her to borrow $200,000 from her (retired, not wealthy) parents and he blew through that too. That destroyed her relationship with her family. They have no friends because of his behavior and her friend's exhaustion over seeing her enable him. The girl children they have do not know how to have a normal relationship and make bad partner choices. Is this the kind of boy she hopes her (hypothetical) daughter will date?
posted by saucysault at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2008

neblina_matina, in the first 5 five years I spent online I did so as a person who had a similar pattern as your friend. I was in sequentially bad enmeshments with narcissist types of people for most of my life, until I came to was is called in the narcissist-codependent recovery movement as "roadkill". It has only been in the last 8 years or so that there has been a grassroots online recovery movement, learning to detach and heal from enmeshments with pathological narcissists and/or sociopaths, either as spouses, parents, bosses, 'friends', lovers.

I complained about the abusers in my life but I was blind to both their illness, in which they are stuck permanently and my own compulsive, self-destructive desire to be helpful, to caretake, to be motherly in spite of the relentless pain and misery that caused me. I was not drawn to be lovingly caring or sustain relationships with nice people but, until I was able to heal, was drawn to enmeshments of the miserable kind, specifically with malignant users.

I've written literally thousands of pages online about Narcissism-Codependence. Some of that writing has cyber poofed due to age. Some is still standing.

The bottom line is, imo, that your friend is likely to have grown up in a dysfunctional family and on an unconscious level this is what she is familiar with, toxic 'love'. Trying to wake her up to it, bring her out of denial, she may end up hating you for. It's almost impossible to bring people out of denial about their addictive behavior. And I think she is likely addicted to him.

There are many sites online discussing codependency. This one about the various types of love addiction is interesting.

A little info about ACONs (adult children of Narcissists). A few of the comments I wrote in this recovery group for those detaching from enmeshments with Ns (pathological narcissists).

Unrecovering Narcissist Codependents (NCos) can choose the abuser over the friend. And you are not safe around this guy, who sounds as if he has classic NPD traits. Maybe Somatic Narcissist? Watch your back around this guy. Don't tell him anything personal about yourself, protect your money, your privacy, your job.

Your friend is attached to somebody malignant and while she is, she will not be a decent friend to you but dump her pain on you and then go back to the abuser. The sooner she reaches roadkill and from her own pain/suffering detaches from this guy, the better. He will likely never go into therapy, or only do it because it's required by the judge. She will likely see nothing wrong in her compulsive and self-destructive caretaking abusers, until she is vampired of everything and is forced by her misery to seek answers of her own volition.

A simple book like Women Who Love Too Much might help her 'see'. Maybe.
posted by nickyskye at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2008

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