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Miss Conduct

Advice: Can we tell our friend’s annoying spouse to zip it?

We all get along great, except this one husband is a total killjoy.

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What do you do in a group of friends when one member spoils it? There’s no way to uninvite the person because he’s married to someone else in the group you really like. Said person interrupts frequently, is a know-it-all who knows very little, and is frequently demeaning and dismissive of others. It wasn’t always like this (or maybe it was, and you just didn’t see it). Can you politely tell someone they annoy you? Just try to avoid them? Or do you have to get over yourself and deal with it if you choose to be part of the group?

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E.J. / New York

You can take a more active approach than any of those! You’ll be doing your own mental health, the group, and probably even Obnoxious Oscar himself a favor if you start curbing his bad behavior in the moment. Not by explaining your own feelings, which have limited purchase in the imaginations of the Oscars of the world, but by clearly identifying and/or asking him to stop whatever he’s doing. Interrupting? “Excuse me, I think Melanie was still talking and I’d like to hear what she has to say. Melanie, please continue!” Demeaning comment directed at you or someone else? “My stars, what a rude thing to say. Anyway, who else saw Colbert last night?” If you’re also married, or have a particularly close friend or two in the group, get them involved as well. A few strong clapbacks and Oscar might well fold like a cheap protein chain.

Also, you say you can’t uninvite Obnoxious Oscar because he’s married to Festive Felix, but Felix might bloody well know what he’s tied himself to. There’s a nontrivial chance that Felix has heard, before, some version of “If your spouse doesn’t get his act together, he’s no longer welcome.” I’m not necessarily advising this drastic step, mind, only saying that it’s more possible than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

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Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.