DEAR AMY: My husband and I have a close friend who started dating a woman he met online. He seemed starry-eyed. Then, out of the blue, she texted me from his phone to say she wouldn’t tolerate him hanging out with me unless we were with other people, saying it was “inappropriate” for a man and a woman to spend time alone together, unless they were a couple. She insinuated that we were sleeping together. Our friend told us that she had broken into his phone while he slept, read our (extremely platonic) texts, and flew into a jealous rage, waking him up by screaming at him. In the next few weeks, though, it proved to be just part of a larger pattern of cruel and irrational behavior. So far she’s accused him of cheating on her, of being gay, of not really loving her, etc. She implies that she’ll sleep with other men to punish him. She flips out over things beyond his control, like his work schedule. Meanwhile, he’s paid off her substantial credit card debt, racked up before they met. She finally pushed him far enough that he broke up with her. He came to my husband and me repeatedly for support. We tried to be kind but honest, pointing out the obvious red flags. Later, he crumpled to her combination of pleading and guilt trips, and to our horror, got back together with her. They’re in couples therapy, and he now says that they “both made mistakes” and swears that everything is now wonderful and they’re talking about marriage. She’s aware that we were fully in support of their breakup. She doesn’t want him around us. He wants us to “apologize” to her and “give her a chance.” I feel like our choices are: apologize to this toxic woman and pretend she doesn’t repulse us, or lose our friend, perhaps permanently. Do you see a third option?
Feeling Less Forgiving
DEAR FEELING: Before caving to the two options this raging bully has offered you, you should at least ask her to refine the parameters of her demand. Based on what you report, it sounds as if she is asking you and your husband to apologize for being loyal friends with the person she is now claiming exclusive dibs on.
The four of you should meet in an effort to clear the air. If she demands an apology because you weren’t supportive of their relationship during their breakup, you should tell her, quite honestly, that your loyalty and support is naturally toward your friend, and, given her behavior toward you personally, surely she couldn’t expect anything else.
You can offer: “So ... yeah, no, we won’t be apologizing to you today, but we would be very happy to give you a chance to behave differently toward us.”
You should also tell him, “We want you to be happy. We want you to get what you want. If this relationship is what you want, then we only wish you well. We want you to know that we will always be here for you.” You don’t need to declare her off limits; she will likely make this choice for all of you.
DEAR AMY: My daughter recently graduated from college and has been working as a paid intern in a government office. Lately she has been telling me about another employee who is becoming progressively more paranoid, unstable and disruptive. This employee is not someone with whom my daughter works directly, but they frequently work in close proximity to each other. I’ve never been a “helicopter parent,” and my daughter is a very capable young adult, but these stories are beginning to scare me. Other employees have filed complaints, but the relevant supervisor has not been effective in dealing with the problem. It doesn’t seem appropriate for me to intervene, but I’m worried. Any thoughts on how to proceed, or any advice I can pass on to my daughter?
DEAR WORRIED: Your daughter should talk to her immediate supervisor about this. She (and/or you, if she asks you to) should also contact the person who runs this internship program.
DEAR AMY: My heart went out to “Devastated,” the young woman whose father was having an extramarital affair with a woman just a few years older that she is. My father did this. The gossip alone was ruinous to our relationship.
DEAR SURVIVED: “Devastated” was trying to control the family gossip. I wish family members understood that this makes things worse.