The Friendship Doctor

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Dealing With Adult Bullies

Some bullies never grow up.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I cannot believe I am dealing with a female, adult, bully at age 42---but here I am. She is a neighbor who lives behind my house. My husband and I had a brief friendship with her and her husband. It was brief because they were very over-bearing and demanding. They also put us in the middle of a falling out they had with our next door neighbor, with whom we got along with very well.

We just stepped back from them and they took it very personally. This happened over three years ago. She is very erratic in her moods and behavior so I think there is something wrong with this woman. Lately, she has been quite mean. We were at a cocktail party and she repeatedly called me a nasty name.

It was hurtful but also disturbing that I was being called nasty names at age 42. Question: Do I confront this woman about this behavior and if so, how or given that I think there is something mentally wrong with her, just let it go? She is not a "sit down, let's bury the hatchet" type person. I tried that a couple of years and thought we were "good" and then she got irrational and angry again.

She has a problem with maintaining friendships so there is a history here. My friends think her issue with me is straight up, intense jealousy. I don't know what it is but it's disturbing and emotionally exhausting.

Signed,
Val

 

ANSWER

Dear Val,

Some bullies never grow up. It's unfortunate that you're living so close to this one---and that you can't totally avoid her.

Clearly, you don't want a friendship with this family. Even if you acquiesce to all of this woman's demands (which you shouldn't), you'll never please her. The odds of changing her personality are pretty low, too, thus making her a pretty poor candidate for a friendship.

Avoid her whenever you can. If you meet up with her in social settings, ignore any inappropriate behavior. She'll know why, so no explanation is needed. Bear in mind that if she continues on the same tack, it will be prove more embarrassing to her than to you.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Irene

 


Prior articles on The Friendship Blog about adult bullies:

 

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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