• Resolving Problems

Adult mean girl who is an angel to everyone else

Published: April 25, 2013 | By | 23 Replies Continue Reading
A poster writes that a “mean girl” in her circle of friends is verbally abusive in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.



I have a girlfriend who, over the past couple of years, has begun making subtle and insidious personal attacks on me. She is very sneaky and calculating, and always manages to catch me off guard with her sticks, jabs and innuendoes. She will do this in front of our other friends and even, at times, when we are alone.

I don’t know why she decided to pick on me, or what about me drives her to do this. I haven’t been able to pick up on her doing this to anyone else in our circle. She seems to go out of her way to please and pump up everyone else. At times, I sense she is sharing knowing looks with one of them as if to imply that she has dragged that friend in with her on the emotional assault.

I haven’t noticed any of our other friends doing this to me, and haven’t discussed it with any of them. She is so sweet to everyone else that they would probably think I was crazy anyway!! I am worried that I need to limit my time with this girl, which, in turn, will limit my time with my other friends. It’s not something I want to do, but seems that I have to for my own emotional health. Have you run across a similar situation before? I’m just looking for a way to handle this! Thanks for your help.

Signed, Cindy


Hi Cindy,

I’m so sorry that you have encountered someone who treats you this way. I can’t begin to speculate about why she is doing this but it probably has more to do with her than it does with you.

Next time something like this occurs again, make a mental note of what your friend said (being as specific as possible) and how it made you feel. Find a moment when you can speak to her privately and tell her about her behavior. It is possible that she may not even be aware of her actions and their impact on you. If she is aware of what she is doing, bringing it into the open should make her think twice before doing it again.

I can’t think of any reason why you should be spending time with her alone as a twosome since, understandably, you don’t enjoy her company. Moreover, it will only give her more fodder for her attacks. On the other hand, try to stay involved with your mutual friends because she seems to be the only one with whom you are uncomfortable.

Make every effort possible to not disparage her to others in the group. When someone is acting mean and making personal attacks, others are likely to realize what is going on even if they are reluctant to get involved.

Hope this helps!

My best, Irene





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Category: Mean girls

Comments (23)

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  1. Gwen says:

    I had a similar experience with a long time friend who I realized was actually a frenemy. I still grieve the loss of this 10year friendship, but as time goes on it gets easier and I feel much better about myself. It became crystal clear watching from afar how dysfunctional she is and how the others blindly go along (or perhaps ignoring what is really going on). I can say, that I did confront her and she denied the mean behavior. I’m glad I did and don’t regret it. She too, has a saintly reputation, and people would think I was crazy! I really believe that as time unfolds, other people will fill your shoes and see what yo saw. Your absence has probably created a pause for others to reflect.

    • Olivia says:

      Same happened to me. They just can’t help themselves. Whomever they see as above them they degrade when in a group…one-on-one is when they pour on the sugar confusion that hyponotizes everyone.

      • Gwen says:


        How did you get past that and move on?

        • Olivia says:

          I waited until I had simmered down before I ended the friendsip. I talked with women (complete strangers), and they all said she was being really mean. I still miss her everyday and I imagine it will be this way for awhile. We live in different states, which also made it easier. I send her loving thoughts everyday…some people we love from afar. That is how you move on…one day at a time.

  2. Alberta says:

    Who needs a relationship where they’re criticized all the time – that sucks. If a person likes you then then like you; if they don’t they don’t. It is crazy making when you think the person likes you, you call her friend but she criticizes all the time, those ‘subtle’ jabs are the worst. So a person who does this is not really a friend – people don’t do this to those they genuinely like and love. I loved my friend but the jabs got to be too much – I began to believe them – was always apologizing and I was always the bad guy. We were like sisters so I took her opinion to heart and felt like sh*t after our outings. I tried to talk with her about it – you’d think you could talk to a friend who you were with for more than a decade – the words got stuck in my throat and I was um um um because I’d never called her on it before. She called me names and dismissed me. I guess I wasn’t allowed to point out any behaviour of hers that bothered me, yet she never ever hesitated to let me know when she wasn’t impressed. So that was nearly twenty years of this garbage – don’t stick around for it – it starts to infect your well being after too much time. I have pretty much given up on friendships because of this kind of jabbing behaviour – right now, my cat is my bff and with her we can hang out without being psychologically torn apart in the name of friendship. Realize that she is not your friend, she is what is called a frenemy.

    • Mavis says:

      wow the same thing happened to me. friends for almost 20 years and she never hesitated to criticize me or point out when I did something that bothered her. I finally confronted her about what was bothering me and it ended our friendship. I later tried to apologize but she won’t see or talk to me at all. she totally turned it around so I was the bad guy. and yes it was all those ‘subtle’ jabs – she is super nice (I think kind of fake nice) to most other people.

      • Olivia says:

        Me too! We were friends for 25 years, but I chose not to confront her as I knew she would do what you described, exactly. After our last visit, she was so mean that I politely said goodbye at the airport, knowing I was never going to see her again. She knew something was off and called me later that night to see how my flight went, then called me again the next day. I am happy I ended our relationship on a loving note, before we hung up I said “I will love and miss you like I always do”. Without any more contact, a month later I quietly unfriended her via FB (we don’t have a shared group so there wasn’t a humiliation factor for her socially). I still miss her everyday, but where she is in her life is filled with insecurity and pain that she needs to resolve.

  3. Tracy Hansen says:


    She is being passive aggressive and isnt worth your time. If you choose to stay in this group continue to be you and the others will see through her.
    Best of Luck.

  4. barb says:

    Doesn’t sound like a friend to me. I would bring up the slights as soon as they happen and question her about them. As sincerely as possible without getting too emo.

    If she is real, she will apologize and reel in the mean. Or, she will just act as if it is you being too sensitive and touchy. She will then call one or two of the others and discuss it all from HER version. And YOU will be the mean one.

    Life is too short to be miserable and play mind games. Mean friends cause more stress than they are worth.

    Good luck to you. It hurts. I know.

  5. Rosemarie says:

    I had a couple similar situations. One was a girl who wasn’t even a friend of mine. She was known in the circle of people I knew. She was a goodie two shoes to everyone else, but she was evil to me. Similar to one of the other comments, I found out she was jealous of her boyfriend paying attention to women. She did it to a few other girls I later discovered. Because I was a shy/passive person, bullies tend to home in on types like that. I wasn’t going to let it get to me. I just went about my business. A couple times she shoved me out of the way. I almost took my earrings and the high heels off to fight her that time! lol! But I focused on the positive. I thought OBVIOUSLY she has a problem. She is jealous of something that I have–could have been my confidence, kindness, sweetness, beauty–who knows?! I made sure my behavior was in check too. I wasn’t doing anything to harm anyone intentionally. She was a very insecure person. If she could only have seen that she could cultivate those qualities in herself, she wouldn’t have targeted me. Turns out my positive attitude paid off. She got was was coming to her. Her boyfriend dumped her on her birthday. The mistress was the one who bought her birthday cake.

    Another case involved a friend who was giving me uncomfortable signals. Turns out she had a “crush” on me. She would do and say things behind our friends’ backs. I couldn’t talk to my friends about it. It put a damper on the friendship, so I had to distance myself. I couldn’t bring myself to discuss the topic because I felt she was confused about her sexuality. She presented a different person to our friends, but acted out when she wanted. It made a difference to be distant and she doesn’t bother me when I happen to see her in our group. My point is that we can’t control other people’s thoughts and behaviors, but we can change our own. It takes work and you will grow from it. I had to learn how to be positive and stand up to the bully. I’m stronger because of it. And I had to learn to have respect for myself with the other friend. I figured if you can’t respect my feelings, than maybe you aren’t a friend. I won’t allow myself to be manipulated to please people. I suggest talking with the friend, but most of all change your attitude and you will see how your relationships will change. Good luck!

  6. Kristen says:

    What a difficult situation. Like Sheryl, I’m wondering if there’s something going on in your friend’s life that making her act this way. What I’m missing in Cindy’s letter is, does she want to be her friend? In other words, is she a good friend when she’s not being…well, critical?

  7. Sonia says:

    Oh I’m having a very similar experience!! I had this friend who behaves like a saint to everyone and I always looked up to her and tried to be as kind and friendly as she was. Then out of the blue, she started ignoring me. Like I would ask her if she’s free and she’d say no, and then she’d arrange to go out with other friends without me. It has got to the stage where if she sees me in uni or at parties, she will turn around and walk in the opposite direction!!

    I spent ages stressing over what I might have done, and I even wrote her a heart-felt letter asking what I’ve done and apologising for it, but she never replied. I couldn’t believe someone so mature and saint-like could become so passive-aggressive!! But then a few months ago I found out her boyfriend had a crush on me, around the time she started ignoring me. They have since split up. So the moral of the story is that this mean girl in your life is probably so threatened by you that she can only feel good about herself by putting you down. I know first hand how much it hurts to be singled out in the group, but this person is probably very insecure and will one day realise the error of her ways.

  8. Suzanna says:

    You wrote something that made me wonder if you MIGHT(just might!) be over-sensitive..
    You said’I have not been able to pick up on her doing this to anyone else in our cirlcle’..
    I feel when put-down require a vibe or the a real focused attention to pick up on them, then perhaps a person is looking for what they are expecting to hear..
    I have a feeling other ladies in your circle are unaware of when she has made ‘jabs’ at you..
    Try to consider that she is just rubbed you the wrong way, before you start to feel alienated from the whole circle

  9. ruth pennebaker says:

    What a fascinating — and painful — topic. Women’s friendships can be the most wonderful, enriching part of our lives, but sometimes, they are so damned complicated. Being honest and straightforward is the way to handle it, I agree, but it’s tough to do.

  10. Living Large says:

    I think in a lot of these situations, it’s as Sheryl describes. Someone is having a tough time and they’re envious.

    • Sela says:

      There is no excuse for bad behavior. It is a choice to humiliate or devalue someone, especially when one makes a choice to vocalize it.

  11. Sheryl says:

    I had something similar happen to me. I got so tired of the attacks that I ended the friendship. The (ex) friend wrote me a note about a year later, explaining that she was going through a tough personal time and was very envious of a few aspects of my life. It was good to know it wasn’t something I had done, yet at the same time it was difficult to forgive a close friend who was capable of treating me so poorly.

    • Olivia says:

      How scary for your old friend to put it in writing, but I give her great credit for doing so. You deserved an apology, yet I can see why you would be leery of any kind of friendship with her now. If my old friend sent me a letter of apology I have no idea how I wold respond either. Act with kindness and compassion with hestitation, from a distance.

      • Kamille says:

        The green-eyed monster wrecks friendships! In a split I would accept an apology and SLOWLY rebuild the freindship, like restoring the foundation of an old house.

  12. Amy says:

    If it were me, I’d ask this woman if there was anything I did to offend or upset her, that way you’re not putting her on the defensive. If she says no or acts surprised at the question, I’d say, “Sometimes I feel like you’re critical of me, and since I know you’re usually generous with compliments, I wondered if perhaps I may have done something to offend you.” She might not be aware that her statements have bothered you. Kind people generally don’t target one person to single out as a target, so possibly she’s not so nice and you’re the only one who’s noticed (unlikely with people who have known each other for a while), or she’s angry with you and hasn’t addressed this in a way using healthy communication (passive-aggressive) or you’re being overly sensitive or she doesn’t like you for some reason that has nothing to do with you and she’s doing a lousy job hiding it.

    If you’ve got one friend who you’re closest to in the group, you might want to get her opinion to see whether she’s noticed anything about unfriendly-friend or if perhaps, you might be overly sensitive to this woman’s words, although a big second to what Irene said about not disparaging this woman to others in the group. People don’t like being put in the middle. It’s natural to feel closer to some people in a group friendship and less close to others.

    You can’t change anyone but yourself, but you can change your reactions to that person. Ask yourself why you are giving her comments and her opinions so much space in your brain. Ask why you’re allowing her to ruin the fun you have with others. Ask why her opinion matters. Humor is a great way to diffuse negative situations, as long as that humor isn’t biting or mean spirited. If she makes what feels like a snide comment about your hair, you might say, in an even voice. “Really? I love pony-tails. I like anything that gives me an extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning.” “You don’t like my haircut? I love like short hair.”

    Good luck.

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