Carolyn Hax: How to ignore a boyfriend’s nasty, mean colleague

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 16, 2013

Adapted from recent online discussions.

Hi Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My boyfriend has a colleague who is truly the most heinous person I’ve ever encountered. He’s always been fairly unpleasant to my face (and to others in general, but that’s beside the point), but I recently learned from some mutual friends that he said some nasty things about me and our relationship on several occasions to my boyfriend. My boyfriend brushed it off when I confronted him about it, but agreed to minimize contact with the colleague.

I’m bothered with the fact that I will have to see this person eventually and that my boyfriend still sees this colleague in a social setting outside of work. What should I do?

Anonymous


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Slashing his tires is out, and you probably don’t have an opportunity to sneeze on his toothbrush, so your best course is probably just to ignore him.

We all have someone in our lives who says vile things about us, if not many such someones, so the main twist here is that you actually know who he is and what he’s saying. In fact, you’re actually on the lucky side since your smack-talker is apparently nasty to others; that’s germane to the point, not beside it. When someone who’s normally kind dislikes you, it feels personal; when someone nasty is nasty to you, well, whatever. It’s not about you and you’re hardly alone.

There is really nothing you can do to stop unpleasant people from saying unpleasant things (except when it becomes a crime), so the less of a spectacle you make about it the better. For grins, try saying with a big smile, “Hi, [Heinous Person]!” whenever you see him, then continuing on your way. I swear, it does a body good.

As for your boyfriend’s continued interaction with him, some of that is inevitable with colleagues. The brushing-off could very well reflect your boyfriend’s long experience with ignoring anything this guy says.

If you have reason to believe your boyfriend seeks out his company, though, then forget shortening your boyfriend’s leash as a solution (since it’s never a good one anyway). Choosing to hang out with people who say unfounded, mean-spirited things about your supposed loved ones is a character issue, not a calendar one, and the way to deal with a character issue is to find out how extensive it is, not how well you can cover it up.

Hi, Carolyn:

Our friend’s wife lost her job several years ago, and they have had a tough time since then. Because my husband and I are in a fortunate position, we buy them grocery gift cards periodically.

We recently found out that our friend’s wife has turned down several jobs because “they don’t feed my soul.” We are aghast and do not want to continue to help them.

However, they literally do not have food on their table some weeks. Should we say something or just stop helping them? Thanks!

Friends in Deed

Happiness is minimizing your involvement with things that leave you “aghast.” Stop helping, say nothing.

I’m not sure whether typing that fed my soul or snatched its plate away, but the answer makes sense to me regardless.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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