Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: When NOT To Take A Stand
Why hello there. Fancy meeting you here. Me? I know, it’s been awhile since I last sidled up to this here advice post, but time is a flat circle and wisdom is forever. What matters is that we’re all here, now, together — bound by our twin desires to hear about other people’s problems and share our own personal opinions in a manner masquerading as “help.” And the good news is, the column is making its triumphant return with a zinger of a question that really has it all. Pettiness! Immaturity! Weird wedding dramz! And the tasty cherry on top? This is a scenario that is perfect as-is, and doesn’t actually require any dramatic conflict resolution to speak of. My contributions are wholly unnecessary! Huzzah!
Follow me, my friends, as I ease back into this advice game by explaining how important it is to recognize when the status quo is already working in your favor.
[Reminder: Yes, we’re still doing this thing! And as I frantically try to catch up on the emails that are already in our inbox, you should feel free to add to the pile! Just drop us a note at [email protected] and witness the magic. Or the laziness. Or both!]
So here’s this week’s question, which is only a few months old and came with a juicy coda full of details that I can’t share. But honestly? You don’t need them anyway! The initial inquiry is plenty detailed enough, and I’ve gone ahead and highlighted the most relevant bit anyway (in BOLD). Take a look:
Here’s my dilemma:
Since my husband and I were married last fall, a large rift has developed between us and the wife of his best friend (his BF was the best man). Apparently, she is upset that she wasn’t included more in our wedding, when she “went out of her way” to include me in theirs two years previously. Just as an FYI, I was included in their wedding like a bridesmaid, without actually being one — basically I got to do everything the actual bridesmaids did, but didn’t wear the matching dress or sit at the head table. However, our relationship with her has changed considerably since that time (for a number of reasons, unrelated to weddings), and we aren’t as close now as we were then. I won’t go into a ton of details, but she behaved in a way that was so petty and toxic, she demonstrated quite clearly that she doesn’t respect us as people who have been her friends, who have known her for over a decade (or a decade and a half in my husband’s case), as her husband’s best friend, or even just as people.
Her accusation is also more than a little nonsensical — she was included in every pre-wedding event we held, but she either chose to show that she didn’t want to be there, or else she didn’t show up at all. I didn’t bring anyone dress shopping other than my mum and sister, didn’t have a sleepover the night before the wedding, and didn’t include any other spouses in anything extra on the actual day of the wedding, so it’s not like she was left out of any of that either. I had been considering asking her and some other friends to spend time with me while I was getting ready on the day of, and had even thought that maybe I could ask her to participate in the ceremony in some way, but by the time I was making those decisions, she had upset me so much that I didn’t want her to have anything to do with the wedding, more than was necessary. I also felt that asking her to do any of that, over other friends, just to mollify her, didn’t make any sense [FFS she’s 31, not a toddler — you don’t reward toddlers throwing temper tantrums anyway!].
Since then, she has made it clear that she doesn’t want anything to do with my husband or me, either not talking to us when we’re together, or leaving us out of plans with the rest of our circle of friends. This attitude is in turn making it hard for me to want to be around her when we are included by anyone else — why do I want to spend time with someone who clearly doesn’t want me there? However, I don’t want to make this any more difficult for my husband than it needs to be, and part of me feels that I should just suck it up and deal for his sake so he doesn’t lose his best friend of 20+ years. My husband (as well as his best friend and BF’s wife) are in the wedding of another couple we’re all friends with this fall, and I feel that in refusing to spend any time with this group of people, I will just be causing drama for people I don’t want to cause drama for, making me no better than her.
My husband has suggested sitting down and talking with her, but we’ve both known her for a long time, and we both know there is no reasoning with her, especially when she feels she’s been wronged. I don’t owe her an explanation or justification — it was our wedding, and at the end of the day it didn’t have anything to do with her. Even if her feelings were genuinely hurt (and I believe this is more about power/control than hurt feelings) her behaviour in response to that was completely inappropriate and childish, and I’m never going to be able to forget that she thought it was OK to treat us the way she did. I also know she will probably never apologize. My husband has tried talking to his best friend, but BF either doesn’t want to confront her about it or doesn’t care that she was so shitty.
So how do we move past this? Can we move past this? Should we even bother? If this was anyone else, I’d have no problem cutting them out of my life for being so toxic, but like I said, I feel like that would just result in my husband losing his best friend, and the rest of his friend group by extension (because yeah this woman is THAT woman). But continuing to put myself in situations that make me miserable doesn’t seem fair either, and my husband agrees.
Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!
You are absolutely right — this does sound like a pretty toxic situation. Seriously, if her entire problem is simply that you didn’t make your wedding about her enough then… I mean, that’s not even a real thing. It’s your wedding. That’s just crazypants. And while admittedly all I’ve got to go on is your version of events, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if your husband’s best friend’s wife (whom I’ll call “Wifey” from now on) might have a different explanation for the tension between you. At the end of the day, Wifey has already made up her mind. She doesn’t want anything to do with you, as you stated clearly in your letter.
And the good news is that this is the best possible outcome!
The beauty of getting cold-shouldered is that you literally don’t have to take a stand. You can’t force her to like you or engage with you anyway, so let that freedom wash over you! There’s no need for further confrontation. Instead, you can embrace the opportunity to get ignored and not have to deal with Wifey, and go about your social interactions with the rest of the friend group guilt-free. You see, there’s this misconception that being slighted or wronged in some way means you have to draw some bullsh*t line in the sand, and trust me: You don’t. Adults tolerate other adults all the time without cutting them off or confronting them. Just because one person is a petty, attention-grabbing tyrant doesn’t mean you need to meet that person on their own level, and you’re not going to impress anyone by making them see that no really, YOU’RE the one who has been wronged instead of her. Don’t feed drama with more drama. The fact is, if Wifey is as exhausting as you say she is, then you’re making out like a bandit here! She’s not worth the energy! You just sit pretty, acting cool as a cucumber, while she pouts and makes herself look like an unreasonable jerk in front of everyone else — and better yet, leaves you alone while she does it! So don’t speak ill of her, don’t reach out to her, use a cordial front as a shield, and if you find yourself forced to make small talk then give it 2 minutes before excusing yourself to hit the restroom. Because you are absolutely correct: If Wifey is acting like a toddler, then treat her one. And that doesn’t mean rewarding her for throwing a tantrum, nor does it mean throwing your own competing temper tantrum — it means refusing to give her the attention she’s seeking in the first place.
Now, I understand that your concern isn’t necessarily about your relationship with Wifey, but the wider ramifications on your husband and your friend group. And here again, I have good news: That is also not your problem. Your husband’s relationship with his best friend is between the two of them, and it’s up to them to sort it out like the adults they are. It’s not like you’re giving your husband an ultimatum about not hanging out with his BF because of Wifey, are you? They can just hang out on their own! And if they can’t… try encouraging them to do so! If your husband’s friend values this relationship, then it’s on him to either find ways to interact with your husband that won’t draw his wife’s ire, or work it out with her on his own. But you didn’t create this mess, and it’s not on you to fix it. It’s on them. Honestly, why should you pay the price just because your husband’s friend has bad taste in partners? And the reality is, he chose Wifey when he married her. He probably knows exactly who she is. If he’s willing to lose his friendship with your husband because of her whims, then that is also his choice. You and your husband may need to accept that, but it doesn’t mean you have to take responsibility for it.
And that goes for the whole friend group! Look, it sucks making new friends when you’re in your thirties, or really at any point in time (making friends is hard!), but that doesn’t mean that having crappy friends is somehow preferable. If these people are cool with letting you and your husband get excommunicated over, what, getting married the way you wanted? Then they’re obviously crappy friends! However, I’d give your friends the benefit of the doubt before I worry too much about them choosing sides, because the beauty of not taking a stand against Wifey is that you’re not asking anyone to take sides either. There are no sides to take! There’s Wifey, being petulant, and there’s everyone else being mature adults who don’t drag in unnecessary pots to stir. By not feeding into the drama — by being the bigger person, here — you’re underscoring just how childish she really is without lifting a finger. Sure, it may mean you miss out on some group hangs because Wifey is organizing. That’s OK — they were probably lame anyway. Instead, organize your own events — and invite Wifey! Show her that, unlike her, you can tolerate her presence! Make sure that any tension the friends are experiencing is not coming from you, and they’ll appreciate it. Because everyone has that one friend they tolerate just to keep the peace, but it’s a whole other bag when you’re caught in the middle of two people having a fight you don’t even care about. Chances are, she’s only getting invited to these events for her husband’s sake, anyway — and it sounds like she’s making things plenty uncomfortable for everyone involved without you doing a thing.
Does all this mean that you’re going to have to just “suck it up and deal,” as you put it? I guess. But I prefer to think of this more strategically. If you play your cards right, you won’t necessarily be completely free of Wifey’s orbit… but you may find yourself strengthening your ties with the other friends who recognize her for exactly who she is, and who will inevitably be on the receiving end of her brand of nonsense in the future. You’re playing a long game here, and you don’t need to draw a line in the sand just to find comrades to side-eye Wifey with.
My advice? Enjoy the freedom that Wifey is giving you, and just be Teflon. Let this sh*t roll right off of you. Sure, it may take some getting used to. She may irritate you at the next BBQ, but just remember that she is entitled to her opinion of you. Not everyone is universally adored, and that’s alright! As long as you truly believe that you didn’t do anything wrong to her, and she’s not disrespecting you to your face in public, then accept her nonsense as being HER nonsense and move on. You’ll probably never get an apology from her, but you also won’t have to pour a bunch of energy into faking the whole friendship thing either. I’d call that a net win for you. Besides, the most important thing here is preserving the relationships you care about, and that means being the sort of person your other friends want to be around. The kind that doesn’t drag friends into the middle of some adolescent attention-grab for no reason. And as for your husband? Let him deal with his best friend on his own. Whether that friendship lives or dies needs to be their decision, and it was never contingent on either your’s or Wifey’s involvement to begin with. Worst case scenario? Be prepared to support your husband if his friend does draw away from him. After all, nobody should have to choose between their marriage or their friends, but if Wifey is putting her husband in that position, then it’s only natural for him to choose his own wife. Nothing lasts forever. Maybe this is how their friendship will drift apart, and maybe in a few years they’ll find room in their lives for each other again. Or not. That’s for them to sort out between themselves.
Header Image Source: Universal Pictures
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