One of my best friends has always been quippy and hilariously inappropriate, but lately, her behavior's veered into snide and judgmental territory. She hated everything about my last two boyfriends but now that I'm dating she hints that I'm being too, well, "open." She makes backhanded comments about what I eat when we go out, and sometimes even about stupid things like what movie I want to see. I know it sounds like she's terrible, but we go way back and still have fun together most of the time. Should I just try not to take the things she says personally, or can I call her out on what a bitch she’s being?
Dr. Valerie Camarano, Doctor of Psychology
Well, both! You absolutely should not take these comments personally, as they likely say more about her own insecurities and values than yours. People who criticize others to this degree are often trying to shift focus from their own issues and behavior by consuming themselves with the life choices of others. I would bet your friend isn't flawless, but finds it easier to talk about how imperfect you are instead of dealing with her own demons. That said, if this person is important to you, you should definitely address the issue but be careful in your approach. Her passive-aggressive comments indicate that she’s already on offense, so I imagine her defense mode might be even bitchier. Be gentle and try to get to the root of what’s going on.
Natalie Ruge, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
To me, it sounds like this friend's rude comments are an attempt to mask jealousy or she might be projecting her own unhappiness with her life choices. Some people have a tough time opening up and as a result, keep communications on the surface through teasing and sarcasm. I see this often in couples’ counseling as men tend to have a difficult time expressing themselves sincerely, but it can happen in non-romantic relationships too. The fact that you didn’t mention wanting to end the friendship all together shows that you still care, so if and when you do decide to talk, let her know you’re coming from a place of concern and use “I” statements instead of “You” statements so she doesn’t feel attacked. Engage her in a real conversation away from the group and tell her you’ve been noticing a bit more edge from her lately, then ask if she’s okay. It could be that she’s hurting and doesn’t know how to talk about her pain, and instead inflicts it on others. Whatever it is, she needs to know how her behavior is affecting you and boundaries should be set before she says something she can’t take back.
True — but, on the other hand, she’s a grown woman and it’s not your job to teach her that if she doesn't have anything nice to say, she shouldn't say anything at all. I mean, didn't Thumper cover this in Bambi? Your friend's lack of social appropriateness and lax boundaries are exactly what make her hilarious and outspoken. Unfortunately, it's also what's making her seem mean and unapproachable right now. I always support several attempts to preserve and mend a friendship before saying goodbye, but only to a point. Rather than sit her down and re-educate her on manners, address her snide remarks head on, reject her criticisms and stand up for yourself. If she makes a joke about your dating preferences, tell her you’re really enjoying yourself right now and you don’t need her judgment bringing you down. If she criticizes your choices in food, clothes, or movies, a simple, “That’s not cool” should shut her down. Hopefully she gets the hint after awhile, but if she doesn’t, move her to the “Good in Small Doses” column and forge ahead with your ride-or-die chicks. Hope this is helpful, good luck!