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There's this acquaintance of both my girlfriend and I that pretends to flirt with my girlfriend. Neither of us are close enough with him to classify him as a "friend," though both my girlfriend and I get along well with him [except for this scenario] and run into him at several different social events as we have a lot of mutual friends.

Whenever both my girlfriend and I are together, he walks up to my girlfriend and "pretends" to flirt with her--he grabs her hair or makes jokes in a flirtatious manner. When this happens I usually step between then/whatever and kindly tell him not to do that (he is well aware that she is in a relationship). She has also directly talked to him. However, he keeps doing this. My girlfriend and I often talk about this situation and she has expressed dismay at the situation--she finds it very annoying.

He's mentioned to me before that he only does it because it annoys me [the boyfriend]. I've considered letting it be and "stop getting mad" so the perpetrator no longer gets a rise out of me. But, I feel this is an issue that should stop now, not something that should slowly fade away over a few weeks. Quite frankly, this behavior is unwelcome, is making us both uncomfortable, and quite clearly not acceptable.

He generally respects me, so I've considered sitting him down for a serious talk to tell him why it is not okay (he is several years younger than both of us), but I'm afraid of the small chance that it could make things worse. What's the best way (for either my girlfriend or I) to make it clear that this behavior is not OK?

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    Do you know how your girlfriend wants to handle it? Has she asked you to step in and handle it? – corsiKa Feb 6 '18 at 15:40
  • {Comments removed} - Please don't write answers in comments. If you want to answer this question, use the answer section below. If you can't because you don't have sufficient reputation, either earn the reputation or move along. Answer comments are not acceptable here. – Catija Feb 8 '18 at 20:36
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Short answer: Really it is your girlfriend that needs to be firm with him and tell him to stop. You can and should back her up, but she has to establish her boundaries with this person herself.

I know you want to protect your girlfriend from this person flirting with her, but unless she herself calls out the behaviour at the time it occurs then he will continue to see it as acceptable.

Next time it happens she needs to step away from him and say something like:

Both abcdefg and I have asked several times in the past for you to not do this. I don't like it when you do it and it needs to stop now.

This way your acquaintance can see that he's not just annoying you but her as well. Make sure that she physically steps away from him to remove him from her personal space.

Once she has said this to him, both turn and walk away from him. This will ensure that he has no chance to argue or raise discussion. Repeat more loudly each time it happens until it stops.

You've said that she has spoken directly to him about his behaviour, but unless she calls it out when it is happening then he will continue to do it. Make it clear that it is utterly unacceptable and disrespectful to both her and to you.

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    Well put. Until she addresses the behavior, she's in the middle of this. OP can (and should) support her but she needs to be the one to say "you're bothering me; knock that crap off" – baldPrussian Feb 6 '18 at 1:26
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    Good answer and short answer. I would give you two ups for that. Many answers are long with lots of details when a few sentences would be enough. I prefer short and clear answers - and I guess I am not alone. – user8838 Feb 6 '18 at 2:00
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    "She has also directly talked to him. However, he keeps doing this." This is bordering on assault or sexual harassment territory. It is the unwanted contact of a sexual nature that has been requested to stop by both your girlfriend and yourself. If this was to happen in many workplaces access the world, this could well end up in law suites and termination of the "acquaintance". I couldn't agree more with this answer, but as part of the escalation, your girlfriend, with your back up, could point out that his behaviour wouldn't be welcome in the workplace and isn't here. – Jon P Feb 6 '18 at 5:06
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    @MarkBooth If I slapped you in the face to piss your friend off, you would have every right to tell me to stop (and so would your friend). The fact of the matter is; it doesn't matter who the intended target it. He's harassing the girlfriend after she told him to stop. The boyfriend should not be relevant here; and the guy should understand that what he is doing cannot go on, regardless of who tries to stop it. The boyfriend can also say something, and back her up; but it is the woman being mostly affected. – JMac Feb 6 '18 at 17:04
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    I would suggest leaving abcdefg out of it completely. i.e. I have asked several times in the past for you to not do this. I don't like it when you do it and it needs to stop now. instead of Both abcdefg and I, because if this guy is doing it to get a rise out of abcdefg then including him in that would let this guy justify himself in his actions. – Daevin Feb 6 '18 at 21:45
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This is not a flirting issue, it is a respecting boundaries issue. No, you should not ignore it so he doesn't get a rise. While this approach might eventually stop his actions, before that happens he will escalate to provoke you more strongly.

The first is that you and your GF need to be on the same page, you already talked so you are halfway there. The second is that you together need to firmly establish this boundary and defend it.

This is where it gets tough. As he seems to be someone pushing boundaries and probing how far he can go, you need to have an escalation plan that he can under no circumstances win. Primary rule of escalation: Don't start if you aren't ready to finish.

Depending on the context and environment, the final escalation step might be anything from physical violence to calling the authorities on him. That sounds extreme and it is, and most likely it won't get to that, but it needs to be clear to both him and you two that he cannot possibly win with an escalation strategy. Typically, when this is clear, the escalation doesn't start.

Once you feel certain that he cannot push through the boundary you establish, you clearly state it, with no ambiguity or softening. The best would be if your GF states the boundary and you reinforce it. "Please stop touching my hair." - "Now and always."

Do not enter a discussion. Clearly inacceptable behaviour does not deserve a discussion. You do not need to explain why something like this is not ok. If he doesn't know, it's his job to figure it out.

Do not enter a lawyer-weaseling session, especially not about what exactly is ok and what isn't. This can be tricky if social touching (e.g. hugging for greeting) is normal in your social circles. But, like a country border, the line might be complicated but it is always clear. Get to that point, state the line, do not let him cross it for even one millimeter.

He will try your boundary again on another occasion. Be ready to defend it multiple times until he gets it. If he crosses it, immediately escalate. You are sure that you will win the escalation game and he won't, so go there. "Hey, I told you to stop that!" is the first step, it needs to get stronger each time.

All of this might sound harsh and strong to you. It would have to me when I was younger. This is cultural context. I fortunately know people from many different cultures, so if a gradual escalation strategy seems violent, remember that in many countries on earth, he would have been hit in the face without warning if he had done what you describe. I'm happy our society isn't violent anymore, but also realize that this creates more wiggle-room for bullies.

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    This and the other point about speaking up in social situations hits the nail on the head. Part of the reason situations like this carry on so long is that it becomes a personal thing between the abuser and the abused due to a social fear of embarassment: "Maybe, no one will believe me", "Maybe they'll think I'm overreacting", "Maybe he'll flip the situation". The abused must find confidence (helped by there being two of them in this situation), and confront him in public, with the confidence to escalate to a screaming match if necessary – Philbo Feb 6 '18 at 13:53
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You cannot fix this. Your partner should. The next time he does this she should react with a loud voice: "Stop touching me." Followed by pushing him away if he doesn't immediately back off.

This should be done with as many witnesses present as possible.

You gave him enough chances to stop his behavior. This action will send a message to him that he crossed the line. And also to your friends that this guy crossed the line.

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It sounds like this honestly, is going beyond flirting and is becoming sexual assault. Or at least a physical attack / battery given "he grabs her hair".

Therefore the main suggestion I would give would be would to immediately call the police / law enforcement when this physical contact happens and explain that he grabbed and spoke sexually towards your girlfriend (it may be better if she makes this call herself).

Depending where you live, I expect there would not be serious long term repercussions for your friend such as a criminal record. But he is likely to have a stern talking to, and will be shows how serious such behavior is. Hopefully meaning he wont return to this behavior with you, or anyone else.

It is worth being concerned that if you do this at a public event, disruption may be caused, so you may choose to take care when you do something like this. However I suspect given many have seen this (I assume) and it involves both unwanted advances and physical contact few people would see the action as unreasonable and at worse you are labeled as a bit rigid for a while.

  • The person making a police complaint should be the girlfriend. – Yakk Feb 8 '18 at 16:07
  • @Yakk I agree. That's why I mention "(it may be better if she makes this call herself)." However I dont know much about the OPs jurisdiction and think it would still likely be better to make a call on her behalf than not at all if eg, she were too afraid. – Vality Feb 8 '18 at 19:22

protected by HDE 226868 Feb 6 '18 at 14:24

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