Q. One of my dearest friends, “Susan,” is married to a man many of the people in our group do not enjoy spending time with. I tolerate him, because I love her.
“Bernie” talks at us instead of to us, monologues, and interrupts a lot.
My friend has told me privately that he’s verbally abusive to her, but she loves him, so she lets it slide. I’ve managed my relationship with him by being playful and joking with him, which he has seemed to enjoy.
Bernie recently “went off” on me. He became enraged and verbally abusive when I asked him mildly to please allow me to finish my story before interrupting. I felt completely blindsided by his ugliness, ranting, and yelling.
I was shaking when I told Susan about this. She responded, “Oh that’s just him, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Later she told me not to expect an apology, because he never apologizes.
Later, I told her that I was worried it was going to be weird to be around him, and she said, “Oh don’t worry, he’s completely over it.”
Unfortunately, Amy, I am NOT over it. I don’t ever want to be around him again because I feel angry, disrespected, threatened, and afraid that unless I treat him with kid gloves, he might go bonkers again.
I don’t want to say this to her because she has normalized his behavior. That’s her choice, but it’s certainly not mine. However, I will at some point have to say something.
A. One suggestion is for you to find a way to stand up to this bully the next time he goes bonkers. You should do so in a way where you are true to your own values and behavior — working hard to not let him rattle you, and responding: “Hey, I’m not OK with you yelling at me. Please stop it.” Practice this — or a similar response — on your own. Do not focus on being clever or joking your way around it.
Yes, you could avoid him, but then he would be controlling your movements and social choices.
Obviously, you won’t be inviting this guy to your home, but I hope you will not let his presence elsewhere keep you away.
His wife is his enabler and clean-up crew. She is with him, and in order to stay with him she must discount and normalize his behavior and the effect it has on her, and others.
You could say to her, “Look, I’m not judging you. But I don’t like being yelled at, and I don’t intend to tolerate it.”
Q. I’ve been corresponding with a woman I saw speak at a public forum several months ago. Our interactions have been positive, and I enjoy her insights on current events, especially on things she’s passionate about (though she’s often busy, and I worry I’m taking up too much of her time).
However, I’m also planning to ask her out. We live in the same metro area. She’s currently away for several months, but when she gets back I’d like to ask her to lunch.
Is it wrong of me to have two motives for interacting with her? If not, is there a way to ask her out that won’t seem awkward?
A. It is not at all wrong to have mixed motives for trying to meet someone in person, as long as you understand and anticipate that the person you are hoping to meet might not share all — or any — of your motivations.
Many fulfilling friendships have started out as blind dates that didn’t blossom into romance, just as some romances have started with collegial meetings between people with shared interests.
It is vital that you behave in a way that respects whatever boundaries she wishes to erect. If she doesn’t want to meet in person, don’t press her. If you do meet, use the meeting as a laid-back opportunity to continue your conversation.
You likely do not know all that much about her personally, and she may wish to keep it that way.
Q. “Sleeping Alone” wondered why her partner was going to bed later than she.
Amy, he might be an introvert. Introverts need “alone time” to recharge. This might be important to him.
Also an Introvert
A. This pattern of her partner not going to bed with her most nights was quite new, and indicated a big change in their relationship. They will have to figure out what’s behind this change.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.