20

I have a friend X who I have had to block on all social media after they have proven themselves to be:

  • intense and demanding (A)
  • trying to upset me (B)
  • emotionally manipulative (C)
  • having angry and aggressive overreactions to assumed slights (D)
  • extremely confrontational (E)
  • angrily blames other people when they are at fault (F)
  • a history of behaving this way towards others (G)

X noticed that I blocked them and confronted our mutual friend MF about it. Demanding to know what they had done to upset me because as far as they could see we were great friends. MF managed to evade the questions saying that we hadn't spoken in weeks. MF is due to move home again soon and I worry that X will continue to pressure them for information when they return - knowing that MF will see me as soon as they arrive.

I also worry that I will see X at events based on our mutual interests and they will confront me publicly in an aggressive and angry way [as before] as to why I blocked them.

I don't know what to do when I will see them in public. How do I avoid confrontation? Or what is the best way to disengage from confrontation with an extremely confrontational person?

An extensive history with evidence of A-G can be read here: https://pastebin.com/5yrF7zfz

The key points are:

  • Initially this was a primarily remote friendship which evolved from X being reverent to intense, demanding and controlling over the course of about a year.
  • We have had one in person interaction - X was obnoxious, negative, complaining, angrily overreacted to playful attempts to diffuse conflict, ruined the event we attended, overstayed their welcome in my home by 9 hours, easily the worst guest I've ever hosted, and was angry at me for being too frightened to ask them to leave.
  • X is unreasonable and thinks that everyone else is being unreasonable [landlord]
  • X regularly tries to upset me in conversations, ignores me when I say no, is relentless in trying to make me do what they want.
  • Has previously shouted at me in front of a room full of my friends so seems to not have a problem with public conflict.
  • X has recently moved to my city and I could run into them at any time - I have had two close calls so far and in both contexts I was in disguise.

A clarification: MF is the only friend we have in common but our mutual interests will draw us to the same locations as they are niche.

19

X is clearly being abusive, and I am not sure the way X tries to be near you could be considered stalking.

Blocking this person from social media is a very good first step, and it's important you block X from your offline life as well. If X tries to approach you, you can tell X clearly you don't want any contact. Make sure you do this online or with other people around.

Also, document X's behaviour, and if you told that person to stop, document this too.

There are also organisations to help victims of stalking, and I am sure they can give you better advice on what to do to get rid of X while staying as safe as possible. If this is not considered stalking, maybe they can tell you where to go.

Maybe you also want to get a restraining order, but I don't know how quick you will get one in the UK.

Finally, when being in public try to avoid being alone, and if X approaches you, don't engage in any conversation.

  • Thank you for your response. I hadn't thought of it as abuse before. I have been in that situation previously. I look into those organisations as suggested. Do you have any advice on what I could specifically say to shut any confrontation? Being alone is pretty unavoidable for me most of the time. – blueberryredbull Aug 18 '17 at 12:07
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    @blueberryredbull I'm affraid that shutting down confrontation will be difficult. Some basic rules: stay calm, and if he insults, don't insult back, don't let him provoke you, don't show you are affraid even if it's difficult. As what to say, everything I can think about is "I don't want to talk now", but I can't say how effective this will be with such an agressive person. – DarkPurpleShadow Aug 19 '17 at 20:25
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    @blueberryredbull Another thing I can think about, is if X starts for example to accuse you about something, you answer something like ""I'm sorry you see me this way" or "I'm sorry you see it that way". I have never tried it myself, and I can't say how well this will work, but I saw it one on a Youtube video about how to best deal with a narcicist. PS: I just realised you didn't specify X's gender. Editing everything I can to correct myself. – DarkPurpleShadow Aug 19 '17 at 20:32
11

Intervention, Intervention, Intervention.

If it's a group consensus that he's being borderline abusive and he's still more than happy to attend social gatherings, hold an intervention amongst your friends and let him know the impact his actions/words have on others in the group. Then if he's confrontational, you can have the support of your peers. Make sure you have one person (the most confident, or someone who knows him best to do most of the talking and they'll chime you in to talk about how it's making you feel etc...)

He's isolated himself regardless with this behaviour, he needs to know what he's doing wrong and how it's impacting your life otherwise he'll never learn and someone else will fall to the same fate as yourself.

I would like to emphasise that you should always remain calm and collected within an intervention and your peers, too. (even if he doesn't).

Points to get across

  • You don't want to converse or talk to him at social gatherings
  • You don't want him to message you on any form of medium
  • You just want to go about your life without his personality getting in the way
  • You will go to the authorities if it persists.

Not what to do

  • Play the blame game, don't point out all the mistakes he's making (i.e. with the landlord, it'll only divert attention away from his actions on you guys), literally just point out the impact he's having on you and your friends (and his friends to him).

Even if some of your friends want to be still be friends with him, you can't control that. But, at-least he'll know and know not to carry on, he'll know the impact his behaviour is having on your mental health and he'll also know his position regarding yourself.

Here's an article on how to host an intervention and tips on what you should do, it's for alcohol abuse but same rules can be applied dynamically.

5

From what I can understand X seems to be kind of obsessed with you, what you should do is ask your friends if he is the same way with them atm. If he is the same way with them, then you should be able to find a solution to this together. You also said that MF told you that X had a history of being this way, did you ask MF if they knew why X acted this way? Knowing why X acts this way might help you deal with him better.

Either way, it seems that confrontation is inevitable, I believe that you should take the lead, avoiding the problem might just make it worse. What you should do is talk to your friends and tell them that you blocked X, and why you did it. This way when the confrontation happens they'll understand the situation, and will most likely help. In any case, you should make sure that the confrontation does not happen when you're alone, especially if you're afraid of him.

When the confrontation happens you should be clear to X that you can't be friend with them anymore, and that you would prefer to keep a "distant" relationship (since you seem to have the same circle of friends, completely cutting ties might not be possible). If they are reasonable being clear about your reason to end your friendship with them should be enough, but you should also set clears boundaries (like telling them that you don't want to see them in your home anymore, for example).

If, after you confront them, things do not change, or get worse, you might need to file a legal case against them (if really X starts to really scare you, it might be the best solution).

  • Thank you for your answer. Getting to the root of the behaviour sounds like a good idea. I'll talk to MF when they are home and try to work out an action plan. It is the inevitability of the confrontation that is stressing me out at the moment. I don't know how to express why I do not want to continue the relationship with X without enraging them, do you have any advice for that? – blueberryredbull Aug 18 '17 at 12:10
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    As you stated, X seems to love confrontations, so I think that him being angry will be inevitable, what you want to do is making him the least angry possible. the first step would be to be honest with him, if you lie to them thing will only get worst. Again, you should make sure to confront him in a public place, to avoid thing escalating. The safest course of action would be to confront with MF at your side (if possible). It seems like X as quite an affection pour MF, and might be more calm. Something that might help you could be to "prepare" what you wan to said, it might make things easier. – user3399 Aug 18 '17 at 12:20
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Please don't be disillusioned: this is about control. From what I see you've been placed (intentionally, don't ever doubt that) in a difficult position by them. They have asserted some control over you and are trying to maintain that control. Belittling you in front of others is intended to make you stop talking back. Blowing up on you is intended to make you stop fighting. Your history looks an awful lot like how many abusive relationships start. "now you're making me look like an asshole": Their being an asshole is what made them look like an asshole, not you calling the kettle black.

My advice would be:

First and foremost, if at anytime you fear for your safety, please don't hesitate to escalate the issue to the proper authorities. I would not expect you to be able to get out of this without some conflict, but the intention here is to minimize the conflict and clearly communicate your intentions:

Preferably pick a location where you physical safety is assured (a public location, preferably with people you know and they do not), plan a way to excuse yourself and make your confrontation (they more control you have over the situation, the less you leave to them):

"I'm done. I do not want to continue our interactions and I would appreciate it if you respected that."

(very likely some angry version of why)

"I've made my decision, please leave me alone."

That's it. Any explanation offers a thread to an argument, which is the goal to: assert dominance. They will very likely try to engage you in an argument. Try your best not to fall for it.

From that point on, variations on

"I'm not going to talk to you, please leave me be"

and disengaging will quickly make it obvious they no longer have any control. Temper tantrums are only effective if people engage. Try your best not to. They will intentionally try to draw you into an argument, because you're pretty clearly uncomfortable and they can assert control.

You can step up the tone if necessary, but stepping up the tone does step up the conflict, so do so only intentionally.

  • I really appreciate your specific examples of things to say. My main problem was finding neutral but firm language to use when dealing with X. Thank you so much. – blueberryredbull Aug 21 '17 at 12:05
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Having seen this type of issue before, that I had to deal with and my SO, the general wording we used was along the lines of

"My account on such-and-such site is open to a variety of people, friends, business contacts, etc. Therefore I have to keep some level of control and monitor content as any postings there are associated with me even if I do not make them. Though others may say things that I may or may not agree with, find funny, am entertained by and such, they may still be of a nature that I find it inappropriate to be associated with to some in the audience. Though there are security settings, the fact is that nothing posted on the internet is private so I have to treat it that way and decide who can and who cannot post to my accounts."

Yes, it has cost us a couple friends who were too hot-headed to understand that their freedom of speech does not extend to using our world as their forum, but that became their choice on how to react. Some people do not understand that your page is only their forum for rants, posting porn, personal attacks and outlandish claims if you choose to allow it. I may have friends that I tolerate such behavior from in private and generally enjoy their company, may even visit their social media pages, but that does not mean they get to permanently graffiti my world and pages associated with me that way. If that is beyond their understanding, then it becomes their choice to separate beyond the social media realm.

They need to understand, in fact we all sometimes need reminders, that the world changes and today many employers for instance ask for social media contacts of prospective and current employees, or research such contacts for themselves. People get fired and in some cases prosecuted for postings in social media. If something is posted to my page, even if I do not agree with it, to an outside observer my allowing it to stay can be viewed as consent or agreement. I have gone so far myself to tell others that on the 3rd time I have to delete one of their posts, or if their posting links someone to contented I do not want my page linked to, I feel I must block them. Most take it fine, some do not.

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    I think you misread the question - the issue does not appear to be someone posting inappropriate content publicly to social media, but rather being aggressive, manipulative and clingy - the "monitor content" argument doesn't really seem to apply. – NotThatGuy Aug 18 '17 at 13:16
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    @NotThatGuy Not really. I am trying express how to address if the person continues to push for an explanation. Beyond that, if it remains an issue, then social circles need to change. I did only address the response aspect though. – dlb Aug 18 '17 at 13:40
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    I would posit that explanations are just invitations to argue. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your choices, and I would expect them to take issue with any explanation you provide, because conflict allows them to assert their dominance and that is the goal. – TemporalWolf Aug 18 '17 at 21:53
3

We are only seeing one side of the issue here but if your description of events is accurate and fair, avoidance seems to a good answer here. There are two situations that could be the case for this persons mind: normal psychology or abnormal. The answer I am giving here can apply for both but please, if you start suspecting an abnormal psychology, you need to seek help. In that situation, it's possible for things to become dangerous very quickly.

One thing I've learned about people that are unreasonable is that when they are hostile or abusive to someone and the target of that abuse doesn't respond in kind, they interpret the asymmetric response as confirmation that the abuse was deserved. In other words, because you have not thrown a fit over this person's behavior, you are tacitly agreeing that the behavior is warranted. Sometimes this is actually true as in domestic abuse situations. The victim might rationalize the abuse by telling themselves that they deserve it.

I had a very unpleasant experience that lead me to this conclusion. In a nutshell, I was physically and verbally assaulted by two people who were thought I had done something terrible which I did not do. And by that, I mean there wasn't even a grain of truth to what they believed. I am quite sure, however, that, for whatever reason, they truly believed it at the time. I was much stronger than they were and probably I wasn't ever in danger but I was so shocked by what they were saying, I didn't really defend myself physically and instead kept asking them what they were talking about. Which was met with "you know what you did" and more violence. At one point, one of them said something to the effect of "you must be guilty or you wouldn't be taking this from us". Soon after that point I became very angry and they ran away.

This might be unintuitive but your lack of strong response to these irrational behaviors may be seen as confirmation that they are rational. I think you should attempt to avoid this person but if you are confronted, you should be ready to tell him/her in no uncertain terms that the reason you severed relations was due to their inappropriate behavior and that you want him/her to leave you alone. Unless you think this person might be crazy. Then you should probably scream for help, in all seriousness.

  • I would encourage not to discussing reasons: reasons/explanations which describe their behavior are arguable, which means offering an invitation for conflict... and I hope OP's situation does not result in violence. That being said, you've unintentionally practiced "shock & awe" in your encounter: a show of (the threat of) overwhelming force will cause many aggressors to stop: you're taking control from them. Although, for it to be effective in all situations, you have to be able to walk the walk after you talk the talk. – TemporalWolf Aug 18 '17 at 21:52
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    @TemporalWolf I don't disagree but I think there's a subtle difference between what you are saying and my point. A lot of people think that if someone is angry at them, the best solution is to be nice and accommodating. This often works when the other person feels guilty. The problem is that there is segment of the population where this kind of 'nice' response will encourage them to continue and even redouble their aggression. Calmly asserting yourself will often stop that cycle. Ideally it's done as soon as the problem starts which isn't an option for the OP. – user1982 Aug 21 '17 at 13:31
1

I treat friendship breakups like romantic ones for exactly this reason. I can't handle the tension of waiting for the the time I have to speak to them, etc, so I prefer to just address it.

If there is a reason, I do list it. I will tell them that I think we had good times in the past (if we did) but that we have had many changes to our lives and at this point it doesn't seem to me to be working out to maintain the friendship. I thank them for the times we shared and wish them no ill will, and prefer if we no longer stay in contact. I may even end it with something about hoping we will still be able to bump into one another and say hello.

I find doing so diffuses the anger, often they may even agree that we have overstayed the usefulness of this level of interaction and all is well.

You will get angry ones too who might say they do not understand why you would cut them out of your life, etc. You can say that you aren't cutting them out. You are merely moving on because the two of you do not seem to really get along quite the way you once did and you should bother be free to invest your time and energy into more fulfilling pursuits and meeting new friends who may better suit your life and where you are now within it.

Realistically, this is life. You will not maintain your friends from your your youth all the way through. You may with a few, but most have to be replaced. They need to be because you will follow different paths. Some have kids early, some later, some very late, and some not at all. Even in that alone, you will find that you gravitate toward people at a similar place in their lives through mutual understanding. I am an older mom. I have found in recent years I have made much younger friends as most of my old friends have fully grown kids and some are grandparents (not kidding). So I still like them, but they are not at all wanting to go to the children's museum with me or hang out in the sandpit. They might if they have a grandbaby that day.

And, as for the extreme of this person's drama and intensity, well that makes breaking up harder, just like it would romantically. I would still do it, personally. In such case the anxiety if even more intense. I had a friend a long time back that would occasionally "go off on me" I called it. She would scream and yell about the strangest things where she perceived she was being slighted. I also broke up with her formally. I was sad too because when things were okay, she was a lot of fun. I just straight out told her that I was so uncomfortable with the liberties she took when angry that I would prefer us not remain close. I told her that there were a lot of things i did like about her and that I hoped she could be civil with me when we saw one another (inevitable in this particular case) but that I no longer wished to have any contact with her outside of running into her socially. She was awkward about it for maybe a year, but mostly just avoiding me. Eventually all was fine. She then moved away, and came back about 5 years later and tried to rekindle a friendship. I was open to it to the extent I wanted to see if she had changed. She really had too much of her subtler bad attributes for me to believe it was different so at the end our get together I closed with telling her how happy I was to see her doing so well and that I hoped she continued doing well and look forward to maybe getting together like this once a year or so, so we can do a catch up. I never heard from her again.

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