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Ms. Opinionated: My Best Friend's Fiancé Is A Jerk To Me On Facebook

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Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.

Dear Ms. Opinionated,

My close friend is getting married to a man who is, for lack of a better word, a jerk. When he has disagreements with her, he resorts to meanness and personal attacks almost instantly. He also does the same thing to me -- albeit only on the internet. If I post something on my Twitter or Facebook that he disagrees with, he'll never disagree politely. Instead, he flies off the handle and starts posting mean-spirited comments and sending me mean messages.

I obviously have issues with him being mean to her, which she knows, and she is choosing to go ahead with the marriage anyway. I don't feel that I can change that, unfortunately. Recently, her fiancé and I had an argument where he was, once again, unnecessarily mean to me. (I realize this sounds one-sided, and it is -- I'm not saying I'm without blame, but I am saying that I do my best to stay civil during arguments, because I'm not, you know, a child.) She defends him ("he doesn't know how he sounds") and sees it as us "having a disagreement" and asked me to please "work it out, for [her] sake." I tried doing this via email, but he was once again too mean and unreasonable to talk to. I don't know what to tell her, and I'm also getting sick of having to deal with him. I know I'm supposed to put in effort because, if nothing else, I have to be in the wedding with him. But I don't know why it's on me to "work out" the fact that he can't be nice to people. I want to be a good friend to her, but I also don't think it's right that I should have to deal with his meanness.

Well, first of, it is not on you to "deal with his meanness." If he can't respond to you on Twitter or Facebook civilly, there's zero reason for you to continue to engage with him. You can de-friend him on Facebook, or simply set your posts to where he can't see (but why dance around his feelings?). Block him on Twitter or, if you use a Twitter client and don't want to block him (though, again, why?), simply mute his replies. He can rage all he wants at you, but if he's yelling about stuff and you don't see or hear it, it's impossible to care (or respond).

I mean, yes, he shouldn't be a jerk to you (or to her), but you already know that he is not going to change. So rather than arguing with someone on social media -- which, in my opinion, is only slightly less messy than throwing Donny's ashes into a stiff breeze -- who is literally only doing it in order to argue, give yourself permission to just ignore him like you would any other child throwing a tantrum in a public place (i.e., resolutely but with sympathy for the child's caretaker).

As for what else you should do, if you didn't cc her on your working-it-out email, I recommend forwarding it to her now. It's not likely to do any good in terms of actually working it out with him (see also: child having a temper tantrum), but at least she can see that one of you made the effort. And then, all you can do is leave it alone. I am sure she'd love to have a situation in which you bend over backwards and contort yourself to make him happy -- after all, it's probably what she does all the time! -- but you are by no means obligated by friendship or her own less-than-smart relationship decisions to do so.

But, to correct one of the basic assertions of your questions, it's likely that her fiancé is more than just a garden-variety social media jerk. By your own accounting, he is mean to her at the slightest disagreement, he personally attacks her and, by attacking you, he is also pretty effectively isolating her from her support systems. Those are some pretty big warning signs of domestic violence, and you have every right to be concerned.

(This is not, obviously, to say that he is abusing her physically now or that he automatically ultimately will, but your description screams "warning signs," and I didn't want to let that go without addressing it.)

That said, you are also right that there's not very much you can do to separate her from a relationship she continues to choose to be in. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some good advice for what to do if you are concerned that your friend is being abused, but it boils down to being there for her as much as you can. "Being there for her" does not mean that you have to bow to her jerk fiancé's every mood or emotional need, and it doesn't mean you taking abuse from him, verbal or otherwise. But it does mean telling her that you love her and that, no matter what happens with the fiancé, that you are and will be there for her, even if she thinks you might not be. And it does mean trying to strike the balance between your own comfort level (less arguing with the jerk on social media) and safety and with making sure she still knows she is your friend and that you want to spend time with her.

In the end, though, you may need to draw the same boundaries with her that you do with him: You love her and she's marrying him, so you're henceforth be as civil (maybe you could say "nice" instead, but what you mean is "civil") as possible, but you're not longer going to listen to or read abusive statements or language from him. And if she can't respect your decision to not act toward him as she does -- with deference to his supposed inability to recognize how he comes across to others -- and demands more of you than mere civility in the face of his baiting of you, just keep repeating that you love her and value your friendship, but there's nothing in that which requires you to argue all day on Facebook with someone who isn't interested in listening.


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Comments

10 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I'm in college and my best

I'm in college and my best friend's boyfriend is just like this... he's mean to me over the internet (and in person) and gaslights me. "Clearly you don't understand..." "I was just joking..." "Why do you take everything so seriously?" It's very infuriating. I finally got up the courage (and maturity) to just block him on Twitter. As for her, he's not outwardly mean to her...but there are times when he teases and makes fun of her. God, I hope they don't get married.

Bringing back memories

Those are the exact types of phrases that my father used with me, my mom, and my brothers throughout my childhood. It was part of an ugly cycle of verbal abuse that served to reinforce his position of authority and make the rest of us feel like crap. I haven't talked to him in 20 years, and I don't regret it a bit.

domestic abuse isn't always physical

Excellent advice all around, but I did want to address that your answer made it sound a bit like physical abuse is the only "real" abuse. Not all abusers are physical, and in fact many survivors who have been physically abused often report that the emotional abuse and isolation have far longer lasting effects.

Certainly physical abuse is dangerous and can escalate into potentially fatal territory, but people should know that you don't have to be getting knocked around to be abused.

And yeah, the best thing the friend can do is to draw her own boundaries but still be in her friend's life if she can. If the jerk is an abuser, he will eventually do everything he can to isolate her.

Power and Control Wheel

From a survivor of emotional abuse

THIS.

I was emotionally and verbally abused by my first boyfriend and one of the things I have struggled with for DECADES is the assumption of many people around me that it wasn't "real" abuse because he didn't lay a hand on me.

I spent the better part of two years being slowly verbally beaten down and gaslighted into thinking that I was the bully (because I would defend myself when he verbally attacked me). He threatened suicide the few times I mustered up the courage to try and break up with him. Finally, after he broke up with me (because I found out from HIS friends that he cheated on me), he not only cyberstalked me (including reading my email, which he had apparently acquired the password to while he and I had been dating) but still tried to bully me into being "friends" with him up to three years after we split.

At this point in my life, I am pretty sure that I will be dealing with the results of his abuse for the rest of my life. Just because he never hit, punched, kicked, or otherwise physically assaulted me does not make what he did to me any less abusive. And I am deeply disappointed that an article implying that physical abuse is the only "real" abuse was posted on this site.

WORD! I am just recently

WORD!

I am just recently coming to terms with that my ex of 7 years (we broke up 5 months ago) abused me emotionally and gaslighted on top of that (do "That was not what I meant" "You misunderstood me/I haven't expressed myself clearly/I meant the opposite of that/You're interpreted this wrong" "You're overreacting" "Can't you take some criticism?" "I was just joking" sound familiar?). And I never complained to anyone about it and kept all the bad stuff secret. And now nobody would believe me, and most of the friends we have are common... And he also tries to bully me into being friends and asking if I'm "ready yet".

Emotional abuse is real and so hard to recover from, these people (the abusers) are masterminds at playing with and creating insecurities.

I am happy you commented, it's good to see that all this is an abuser pattern and I'm not overreacting/imagining things.

Grammar

I really like this advice; the content is wonderful. I try not to be a overzealous-grammar-corrector, but please fix the first sentence of the last paragraph.

See also

This excellent post from Captain Awkward may be helpful: http://captainawkward.com/2013/05/29/483-dealing-with-a-friends-caustic-...

Abuse does not have to be

Abuse does not have to be physical to be abuse. This guy sounds like an abuser.

Abuse does not have to be

Abuse does not have to be physical to be abuse. This guy sounds like an abuser.

Best Friend's Fiance a jerk

I agree with all the comments and suggestions.
I didn't see a comment about the writer attending the wedding. My understanding is that the essential/original purpose of attending a wedding ceremony is to be the community that supports the marriage and will help the couple through difficult times.
This person does not want to support the relationship. The most clear way for that to be communicated is to decline attending the wedding. It may put a disjuncture into the relationship, but otherwise it gives a double message - to attend an event that is clearly one that she doesn't support. I did the same for a friend who was marrying a drug addict who had very few personal assets or qualities. It did end the friendship, but I could not bring myself to sit and watch the vows which I did not believe should occur be said.
I feel sad for my friend, but hope that my statement (I let her know why I wasn't attending) helped her sort things through later. Whatever I would have said at the wedding or put in the card/gift would have been the ultimate hypocrisy for me, and made me feel complicit in the false 'joy' people show at weddings.