Friend or Foe: My friend is dating her jerky married boss.

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
July 26 2011 10:05 AM

My Friend Is Dating Her Married Boss

He's a total jerk who dictates what she eats and who she sees. How can I stay friends with her?

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Dear Friend or Foe,

A good friend of mine—"Elise" —has had a string of bad relationships in the past and really wanted to meet someone. So, two years ago, everyone in our friend group was excited for her when she met someone she was crazy about. Then we found out he was married. And her boss. As someone whose husband once cheated on me with a co-worker, I was definitely NOT okay with this, and I told her so. She swore that things were basically over between Boss Man and his wife (they weren't), and "no one at work knows what's going on" (everyone knew). But she was just head over heels for him, and nothing anyone said would have mattered anyway.

At first, we all tried to be nice to him and to include him in our plans. In the process, we discovered that he's arrogant, competitive, rude, and acts as if he's above everyone. The people who work for him hate him (we have another friend who works for him who confirmed this) and they hate Elise now too for getting special treatment. Elise, in turn, seems overimpressed with his money. She wanted a house, so he bought one (though her name isn't on the deed). He bought her a car. And now she's always decked out in designer clothes splashed with logos. Since they've been together, she's also lost a bunch of weight. He dictates what she eats, where they go on vacation, and who she hangs out with. He thinks that because he's older and wealthy, and she has no money, he has all the control over her. And he's right. This from a woman who used to say that she'd never be dependent on a man!

We used to see Elise three to four times a week, but it's gotten to the point where we can't hang out with her at all. On the rare occasions she goes out without him, she seems distracted and spends the evening texting him. And "couples nights" are impossible because our other halves all dislike him too. I used to talk to Elise every day, but I don't know what to say anymore. It pains me to see her throwing her life away on this jerk, and I fear it's not going to end well. There's nothing we can do, right? She's now telling people that they are talking about having kids. She's always wanted to get married, but he doesn't. So now all of a sudden she doesn't, either. But now she's going to have kids with him?

Sincerely,
Freaked and Concerned

Lucinda Rosenfeld Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.

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Dear FAC,

I agree that Boss Man's Overlap Problem (between Wife No. 1 and Girlfriend No. 2) doesn't make him look like the newest of new men, or the most delicate of souls. But you may be extra sensitive to this issue as you were the spurned party, once upon a time. As for the fact the Elise works for him (and is getting extra perks), I'd be steamed to the gills if I worked in the same office and was, say, not getting permission to leave work at three. But since you don't work there, I don't really see why it's your problem. Moreover, a large number of singles (and, er, I guess married guys too) now meet their mates at work. The office is where we spend an inordinate amount of our time; it makes sense that we find love there, too.

What is your issue is that, by your own telling, your old friend has hooked up with a guy who is a materialistic, conceited jerk. Here, you have my sympathies. It's always disheartening seeing the friends we love match up with romantic partners we loathe. But statistically speaking, at least two out of 10 are bound to do so. As you suggest, there's not much you can do. Furthermore, and although you might wish otherwise, I wouldn't be so sure that it's going to end badly for Elise and her man. Every egotistical, controlling man needs a wife to control and to show off. No doubt he's gun shy on the marriage front on account of the demise of his first marriage. But after the baby arrives—presumably in an adorable Gucci onesie?—maybe he'll come around.

And maybe once Elise is more secure in the relationship, she'll be back in the mood for Girls' Nights, or even Girls' Saturday Afternoons. You can reduce the chances of laying eyes on the Ogre by proposing only outings that are female centric—pedicure party, anyone? But before you go ahead, you might want to ask yourself if you even like Elise anymore. Are there qualities of hers that still appeal to you? BTW, regarding Elise's appetite for nice clothes, cars, and homes, many of us are guilty of said crimes. It's just about keeping your acquisitions in perspective.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe:

I met "Valerie" in Social Work school, and we hit it off with right away—until some red flags started to turn up. If I canceled plans due to a large school load or illness, she became very agitated instead of merely annoyed. She also texted several times a day for no reason, and would call me later, extremely angry and screaming that I hadn't returned her texts—even though she knew I'd been at work that day. Her behavior became more controlling and demanding over the following months.

The last straw came when we went to a bar, and she got trashed and came back to my house ready for a fight with her ex-boyfriend, who is also my roommate. My other roommate and I knew about her instabilites and kept a close eye. We called her a cab and she went home without incident, until she started sending me texts that my roommate (her ex-boyfriend) had raped her that night, an accusation that I KNEW not to be true!

After that, I dumped her pretty quickly. Unfortunately, we have several classes together until the end of my school career, and she is someone who would cause a scene. Is there a way I can professionally and politely handle being in small classes with her?

Sincerely,
Had Enough of Psycho Friend

Dear HEOPF,

I have a feeling a bunch of commenters are going to write saying, How do you know she wasn't raped that night? I'm going to trust you on this one (that she wasn't). Though I'm left wondering how extensive the accusation was. Did she go to the police? Did she just tell you and your other roommate? In any case, it's clear you want out of the drama.

While in Valerie's company, I suggest smiling, saying "hello" and "how are you" in a friendly but brisk manner that doesn't invite an answer, and sitting on the other side of the room. As for your earlier charges, it sounds as if Valerie has quite a temper. That's a nice way of putting it. (A less nice adjective would be: unhinged.) Though allow me to suggest that I, too—like many, I assume—find it strangely disquieting when a text isn't returned ASAP. Modern etiquette gives us 24 hours, if not a week, to answer emails. But there's something about an unanswered one-line text—especially one saying, "Dinner tonight?" —that leaves the insecure among us feeling as if we're the only kid in the 12th grade who didn't get asked to prom. I'm sure you're as crazed as the next grad student struggling to make ends meet. But is it too much (social) work to write back, "Sorry—busy tonight"?

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

I met "Mary" over 30 years ago when our husbands were in grad school together. We maintained contact by phone and visits since we also had kids the same age. Now, our contact is almost exclusively by phone. Mary has admirable qualities, but the phone brings out the worst in her. Calls aren't conversations, they are Mary Monologues which go on until I interrupt and tell her I have to go. If I try to get a word in, she usually interrupts me—often by finishing my sentence!

Worse, her favorite topic is her dysfunctional family and battles with her siblings. Her husband won't listen to her, because he said she is obsessed. I finally told her I'm not interested in the family fight. I also emailed this to her, but she still always brings it up. I've told her I'm too busy for phone calls and to email me or go on Facebook, but she says, "It's easier to just call." I've told her to see a therapist to talk out her family issues and she says, "I already have."

For the past few years, I've allotted an hour per month listening to her, but now I don't even want to do that. I've reduced contact to about once every three months, but then she calls back the next day! I talked to her 10 days ago for 1½ hours, and she's called seven times since then! I feel guilty for dodging her calls, and possibly like I need permission to let this relationship die. We have a long history, but dreading phone calls from someone doesn't sound like a good friendship. Is there another way I can handle this?

Sincerely,
Unpaid therapist Looking To Retire 

Dear UTLTR,

Old friends are good friends—until they're not. You have my permission to hand in your letter of Mary Resignation. Life is short, and Mary is running down the clock with her one-sided prattle. Also, may I suggest a modern invention called Caller I.D.? When face to face with Mary's digits, you can simply make the decision not pick up the phone. Maybe she'll finally get the message. Or if she doesn't, then after the 68th message (or missed call), send her an email saying you're so sorry but you're simply swamped and don't have time to talk on the phone these days. Just be sure to limit ALL future requests for reprieve to text-based mediums. The very fact of you being on the phone seems to spur Mary to keep chewing the fat. So you need to deprive her of that food source. Like a parasite, she'll eventually go looking for new hosts—and new ears in which to din. Pity the next friend she makes!

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

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