Relationship Advice

The Duel

woman on park bench

My friend Jane and I enjoy a few drinks when we go out to clubs, and Jane has the occasional cigarette. Our friend Margo, however, does not smoke or drink and does not condone this behavior. She feels compelled to lecture Jane every time we go out.

Furthermore, Margo wants to be included, even though we know it's going to end in the same disappointment for her...that we have not changed our behavior.

Margo does not drive and has not ever offered to pay for gas money, while Jane and I trade off. Whoever is driving, the other buys a drink early on in the night, or chips in a few bucks. At any rate, Margo tells Jane that she acts like a mother hen because she cares about her health, though it ends up sounding like a holier-than-thou lecture.

But if Jane has not changed her ways after numerous tries, we're puzzled why Margo keeps trying. Margo also told one of our friends she doesn't like the men we are dating and thinks we are settling. (They also drink and smoke.) Yet she told me to my face she's happy that my current relationship is going so well.

She does not seem to be able to be honest with me but can openly criticize Jane's behavior to her face without any clue as to how much it frustrates her. I don't want to lose Margo as a friend, but Jane and I don't feel the need to be treated like we don't know any better when Margo's never had a drink, a smoke, or a serious relationship.


Candace, Margo criticizes, lectures you, and doesn't chip in. We cannot understand where the friendship part comes in, but we can tell you there are three ways you can go.

One, the direct approach. Tell Margo to stop the holier-than-thou stuff because she is not your mother and she is not the law. So knock it off. Plus you don't drive and you don't chip in. So fix that. But the direct approach is as unlikely to work for you as it does for Margo.

Two, aversion therapy. Every time Margo mentions smoking, hit her with driving and chipping in. "We drove tonight so you owe this much money." Make cash money the price for wagging her finger in your face. You won't mind it so much if you are being paid to listen to her.

Three, be passive aggressive. While we don't normally condone this behavior, sometimes it is the price we must pay for getting a bad person out of our lives. You two seem like easy marks and that is why Margo is drawn to you. Margo is two-faced, and you are too nice to stand up to her.

Following this approach, you might begin by not answering every fourth call from her. The following week you don't answer every third call. Then you stop returning every other call. And so forth.

Just as every woman needs to know a few self-defense moves, so she needs to know a few lines to handle noisome people. Annoying people try to corner us to get what they want, and we need something more than a stammer as a response. If we hesitate, they will have us under their thumb.

So you might explain to Margo, "I can't always pick up the phone." Most importantly, if you take the low road, keep it to yourself. You can never tell anyone what you are doing because it reverses roles and makes you the perceived victimizer, not the actual victim.

Annoying people try to rein us back in, and if we escape, they try to exact revenge for getting away from them. That is why you cannot explain your actions. This is not prevarication, but self-defense. It's social jujitsu. It's using your opponent's weight against them.

Wayne & Tamara