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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Breaking up with friends

When it comes to friendships, I've always subscribed to the Seinfeldish philosophy that you can actually have too many. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where the pool guy at Jerry's gym tries to work his way into Jerry's circle, but Jerry rebuffs the guy 'cause he has no open slots for friends? I sort of think that friendships require a lot of time and commitment so they shouldn't be entered into lightly. And if you take on too many people, then you risk stretching yourself too thin and not giving adequate time or attention to anyone.

So when a real friendship and not an acquaintanceship falls apart, separating can be like parting ways with a romantic interest. It can be tough.

This all comes to mind 'cause I got this message from Anonymous-SP, who lives in my old stomping grounds, Milwaukee: "A friend of my girlfriend's is Psycho. Not just a bit crazy or too loud after tequila, but freakin' nuts. She creeps whole bars full of people out and due to her behavior, ends up moving to a new city every 2 years or less. Both me and my girl thought, initially, that she was just a bit odd but generally nice. We were wrong. During her first few months here in Milwaukee, she dated a guy we'll call Dude. After about two months of dating and another two of him trying to get it through her head that there was no "he and she," (I actually heard Dude tell her "You are not the one" one evening at a local watering hole), she got the picture and realized they are no longer an item.It's been months since she made the realization but still stalks Dude. Follows him from bar to bar to bar at night. This all came to a head over the past weekend. She stalked him from bar to bar again. This time he was on the lady-hunt and snagged the attention of an attractive blond. While we were all sitting at the Nomad (you remember the Nomad, James), Psycho was sitting by herself and her ex-dude and his new blond interest were sharing a chair. Then, outta no where, she shoves them both over and off the patio area. Both hit their heads and spill their drinks. But wait, it gets better. Dude and the blond then decide they have put up with enough and leave. Dude goes to blond's house. He proceeds to get 40 calls and VMs from Psycho throughout the night. Next day, Dude left blondie's house and went home the next morning, and who does he find sitting on his back porch, still drinking and now crying, at 10:30 a.m.? Yup, it's Psycho. For good reason, this freaked Dude out. He's now talking restraining order and we agree that might be in his best interest. (Sorry for the whole story)So, my question to you is: How do we (her former, now-frightened friends) let this lady know that we no longer want to ever hang out or be friends anymore? She clearly isn't good at taking such hints. How do you break up with a friend?"

Well, first, since I know who you are SP - I have to say ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Only you could find a soap opera of this making in Brew City.

Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

Now second, I'd hide my bunnies, kittens, puppies, and all other pets that aren't large enough to defend themselves against this woman and the pot of water she will inevitably boil.

Third, I'd consider a restraining order for myself if I were you...and your girl.

Fourth, I'd sit the offender down in a completely sober state and tell it to her straight. I'd tell her something to the effect of "Listen, this friendship is not going to work out. Frankly, your behavior frightens us, and no true friendship can be stable if it's built on fear, unless, of course, the friends are a pimp and his prostitute. Your behavior not only frightens us, but it's causing tension in our extended circle of friends, and it's not fair that we risk losing our other friends because they don't want to be around you either."

Finally, if you don't want her to sneak over and kill you in your sleep after the breakup, I'd finish it with something like this: "I know this sounds tough, but right now you need to dote on yourself, and spend all your time and attention on you, not friends, not other people. Get some counseling and get things together. Right now it's not a good time for us to be friends, but who knows? Maybe down the line things will be different."

That way you give her a little hope that all is not completely lost and she won't project all her anger onto you guys for initiating the breakup.

Of course, my disclaimer is I'm no pro head shrinker. So in case I'm totally wrong you might want to go ahead and get that restraining order.

What do the rest of you guys think?

8 Comments:

  • Oh my. I think you've pretty much hit all the high points. I'm not so sure sitting down with the nutso would work. You'd have to "deliberate" back and forth, which would lead to further gnashings and brow beatings and such. Or, they could just set down the facts and limitations and not allow any debate. And then say, sayonara. "We're moving onto a different phase in our life and you don't fit into it."

    The restraining order might be a good thing to have in the pocket.

    By Anonymous Frothmistress, at 8:32 PM  

  • Drive her to the country and hope she doesn't find her way back. This is all very scary stuff.

    By Blogger Dale, at 9:18 AM  

  • This is a tough one. I'm with frothmistress ... I don't think trying to reason with a nutjob will work. You're not breaking up with a friend, because that person is not a friend but a psycho.

    I would just stay away as subtly as possible. I knew a psycho like this once although the circumstances were slightly different. This is what we all agreed to. We just didn't invite her to things. In spite of all this she did manage to severely damage my relationship with my then boyfriend. BUt sure enough, she ended up moving, which she had been doing for years now. Never spending more than a year in one place.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 10:06 AM  

  • This is a tough one. I'm with frothmistress ... I don't think trying to reason with a nutjob will work. You're not breaking up with a friend, because that person is not a friend but a psycho.

    I would just stay away as subtly as possible. I knew a psycho like this once although the circumstances were slightly different. This is what we all agreed to. We just didn't invite her to things. In spite of all this she did manage to severely damage my relationship with my then boyfriend. BUt sure enough, she ended up moving, which she had been doing for years now. Never spending more than a year in one place.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 10:06 AM  

  • This is the not-so-anonymous SP again offering thanks for the advice and an update.

    On the advice: I think I might just dodge Psycho unless it comes down to a chance meeting. I just hope they stipulate that my home bar is off limits in the restraining order.

    Bad news I didn’t mention before: Psycho just got a new puppy (why? Cuz Dude just got one, of course). Feel bad for that doggie.

    Update: She called me yesterday.
    Back story: A month or so ago, we were talking and she said she was gonna go see a band in my hometown. She asked me about hotels. I said, don’t worry about it, my mom has an empty duplex, you can stay there for the night if you have a sleeping bag.

    So, she called yesterday inquire what my mom’s address was and if she could still sleep there—now with friends!!!—and left a VM asking such.

    UM, YEAH. I am upset enough she knows where I live and now she thinks I’m gonna give her MY MOM’S ADDRESS???

    RIIIIIIIIIGHT.

    Sorry Psycho, I like my mom’s house the way it is…not burned down, that is…

    I did not return the call.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:35 PM  

  • Ever notice that these Pyscho stories always involve booze?

    By Blogger Crashtest Comic, at 9:07 AM  

  • Can only speak from my experience here. There are generally two types of restraining orders, and how strictly they are enforced has a lot to do with the attitudes of the local police. In the absence of any provable threats of violence, I believe you can only file a civil restraining order, and I'm not sure how much it weighs, really.

    When I had a "stalker," my local police took it very seriously. One of the first things they asked was whether I had explicitly uttered the words, "I don't like you and I do not want to have anything to do with you and I don't want to see you or receive any more phone calls." Apparently, I should have also explicitly said, "Go away!"

    In the absence of such things explicitly stated, some people believe they are receiving encouragement. Some sort of passive reinforcement, apparently. In my experience, people become more enraged when they are slighted and ignored for no clear reason. Always let the reason be made clear, and THEN pretend they are dead and invisible.

    WRT the now-scared friends, it would probably be helpful all around if you were to tell her how much her behaviour makes you uncomfortable and why you can't be friends with someone who makes you so nervous. Also, tell her you question her judgement, and use the fact that she has now invited friends to your mum's place. Otherwise, you're not being clear, either.

    I feel for everyone involved.

    By Anonymous Yvette, at 2:03 PM  

  • You have a good point CT. I've never seen one of these types of dramas blow up when there was no booze involved.

    But this woman sounds straight up looney, so looney that it wouldn't matter if she was sober or not.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:09 PM  

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