• Handling Breakups

Dealing with grown-up mean girls and their men

Published: September 12, 2013 | Last Updated: September 12, 2013 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading
Encountering grown-up mean girls can feel as humiliating and disheartening to an older women as it felt in high school.


Hi Irene,

Immediately after my divorce from a 40-year marriage, I moved to a place 500 miles away. Found a nice guy to be with about two years later and we became close friends with another couple. We traveled extensively with them, no fights or disagreements, for four years. I thought all was well.

Then one day they called me, just me alone to their house for lunch and said they could no longer be friends with us because my partner smoked cigars on the golf course and outside of restaurants, had a “fraternity” sense of humor, and didn’t share their taste in fine dining and classical music. Mostly this came from the husband but the wife backed him up.

I was devastated. It has bothered me for more than three years. We share many friends in common, except I have backed out and become quite reclusive, as I know that they have talked about this with others. It is humiliating and sad, and mean. I also noticed that several others have sided with them and that people I thought were friends appear not to be particularly loyal.

I’m almost 70, far from my family, feeling more alone by the day. This has shaken my confidence badly; I would not say it was an understatement to say that I am more or less afraid of people at this point. All of this is from someone who had a great social life, friends, events, activities and a good life here. It has fallen apart.

I think I am a pretty good person, when I am a friend I’ll bring you soup if you are sick, or walk your dog if you are out of town on an emergency or do whatever might be helpful. I’m somewhat quiet, thoughtful and I never repeat anything anyone says to me, but somewhere here I am missing something in the big picture.

People here say they go out every night of the week all summer long; we might go out one or two nights. I have come to doubt my communication skills, my ability to discern if someone is safe and okay to be with. I’m 70. Didn’t we leave all this in seventh grade?

This is pretty awful. I’d like to move but am stuck with a big piece of real estate so here I sit. More isolated everyday. I think it is a bad situation. It’s a very small community and it’s ruled by a cabal of sorts. If you aren’t in it, forget it. Thoughts?

Signed, Marcia


Hi Marcia,

A divorce after 40 years of marriage can leave anyone reeling. It’s great that you were able to move, meet someone whose company you enjoy and land on your feet.

Being rebuffed by this couple after four years of friendship, and having them summon you to their home to pass judgment on your partner must have felt like a punch in the gut—almost like another divorce of sorts. Even if they didn’t want to spend time together with both of you anymore, this was an unkind, brutal and thoughtless way to sever the relationship, almost akin to using a blunt instrument rather than a surgical incision. The problem is compounded since you live in a small community that sounds somewhat close-knit and inbred.

One question that occurs to me is whether you have any concerns that your partner may be a bit “rough around the edges” socially or that you feel, too, that he’s off-putting to other people (because of his sense of humor or cigar smoking, etc.)—or whether you think their judgments were totally specious.

If these people were accurate to some degree, while you may be able to see past your partner’s rough exterior, others might have more difficulty. Still, this doesn’t excuse their hurtful humiliation of you both.

Making friends as a couple is always more challenging than making friends as an individual. Are there opportunities for you to pursue your individual interests or hobbies where you live? Are you and your partner able to travel more as a twosome and, perhaps, meet more welcoming people?

I can understand how this was a terrible breech of trust but you need to move forward and find new friends who are more worthy of your friendship. Ignore the clique; you don’t want to be part of that group.

Hope this helps a little.

My best, Irene

Other relevant prior posts on The Friendship Blog:

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Category: Relationships with ex-friends

Comments (10)

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  1. Lua says:

    Like others said, why would these “friends” continue hanging out with you for four years if this was such an issue? It does sound like 7th grade crap. Guess this is proof some adults never change. And if others are siding with that couple, then good riddance. As much as this hurts now, make room for those who care about you. I honestly think these were excuses, lame ones by the way, to drop you both from their clique. Well now you know and dont waste another minute thinking about these idiots. Good luck and keep on moving forward.

  2. mouse says:

    Oh Marcia, What a blow that lunch meeting had to be! I felt sick to my stomach just reading your report of it.
    Our culture does not teach us HOW to work on relationships. If only they knew to be mentioning these complaints to your partner right in the moment, over nad over and letting him know that they didn’t like the cigars or the jokes were a bit too much, etc. Then your partner could have made his adjustments or not, his choice. And the friends could have discharged their disturbance energy authentically in the moment. We all can challenge ourselves to practice speaking honestly in the moment, yes it is scary! Because when we don’t, the energy of discomfort accumulates and often ruins the delicate feeling level of friendship. And that is even scarier. So few of us have these skills, and we all need them.
    And why they dumped it all on you when you weren’t the offender? Fear, probably. They horribly mishandled the whole thing and have hurt you terribly. I have wondered what you told your partner and how he received the information.

    I would also be devastated by this treatment and this loss. and this is what I learned when I was single till age 42. NEVER GIVE UP! Continue to get busy with anything you have interest in and I guarantee that this will bring more people into your life.

    I am right now reminding myself as I speak to you—- Stay grateful for those people we DO have in our lives, imagine ourselves adding even more people as time goes on, and never give up on relationship. And at almost 70, you likely still have time to create another 25 year friendship! Isn’t that worth trying for? And even if it seems this group is just ‘everyone’ and you are excluded, I guarantee that there are other people who are not part of that group.

  3. Mals says:

    I just want to thank you for your comments, Amy. I am not stressing about the situation as much since I read and processed your comment.
    Thanks 🙂

  4. Lauren says:

    Hi Marcia,

    I send my best wishes to you. You have been through so much. You must be a very strong women. If those “friends” really did not like your partner, they should NOT have continued the friendship for FOUR YEARS. If they had any class, they would have quietly discontinued the friendship almost 4 years ago, if they did not really like your partner. It seems to me that they are narcissistic, thoughtless, mean people. It must have felt awful when they invited you to lunch at their home for the “friendship cut off” session. I have seen that some people never get out of junior high school mentally and emotionally. It’s just sad. Write them off emotionally, and go out with your partner to restaurants, clubs, go on vacation with him, go visit your family members, do volunteer work, join some evening classes in photography or something else,go to your place of worship, or just read and enjoy your own company; and put THOSE PEOPLE out of your mind. You must be very strong, and you should be proud of yourself dealing with what you have been through. It sounds like you could write a book on it. I say, just conduct yourself gracefully, enjoy your husband’s company, go out and about, chat to people in stores, restaurants, and realize that you don’t need those awful “friends”. I can’t understand why , after four years, they said that they don’t like your husband…after four years! This is very strange indeed; so the best thing is just to let it all go emotionally. Forget them!
    Honestly, who needs people like that. I personally do not like the idea of breaking off friendships by inviting people over,or meeting in a restaurant, with the “bad news”. It’s much kinder to just break away/drift away from people sooner, rather than later. Don’t bad mouth your friends in the community, just take the high road and be above it all. Time heals all wounds. All the best to you. Lauren

  5. Mals says:

    I think something similar but different has happened to me. My partner and I have been friends with a husband and wife for 12 years. We used to joke so much that the men were having a ‘bromance’ and they loved it. They became quite wealthy and the wife started to care more about who her husband was friends with and what people thought of them. When she was talking to me she would say “I’m not judging you but…”. It used to make me laugh because it was a weird thing to say, and I just figured that she picked it up from her new friends. Other friends would just drop off and I’d ask about them and she would just shrug her shoulders and not speak about it. I knew it would eventually happen to me, but i didn’t expect what did happen.
    They just stopped talking to us, stopped answering the phone when we called, stopped emailing, stopped replying to messages. Nothing. My husband was really upset and actually asked if he had done something wrong and he didn’t get a reply at all. We were devastated, and still are. All our friends were essentially their friends. I feel like it would be rude of me to try to catch up with a friend in common, because I don’t want it to look like I’m a friend stealer or something. Goodness, it feels so high school and mean girls. I just want a friend, and I like our friends in common and I want to know how they are going.
    Also she was a friend to many person and I am a close friend to few person, if you understand what I mean? So this cut-off business leaves us alone.
    I actually wish that they did have a meeting with us to “pass judgement” because we really have no idea what we have done. Is it me? Is it him?
    It has been 9 months and we are nearly ready to move on and start “looking” for friends. What if there is something wrong with us though?

    • Amy says:

      I’m always wary of “but” sentences. “I’m sorry, but….(it was really your fault)” or “No offense, but…” or “I don’t want to sound judgmental but…(I’m passing judgment about X).

      I don’t think contacting mutual friends is rude at all, in fact, ignoring them might be considered rude (which I know you’re not doing intentionally, but they might not). She doesn’t own your friends (and neither do you).

      My analysis: you didn’t change. They did. Money between friends can be really awkward. I have friends who go out to eat several times a week, which is not in my budget. They ask me occasionally and I say yes when I can, but sometimes order the cheapest thing on the menu due to financial constraints. This is probably awkward to them as well as me. It doesn’t sound like this is the case with your friends, but coming into money might take a learning curve that your friends simply haven’t mastered. That would be my guess since you haven’t changed. Rather than feeling slighted by your friends, you might feel better if you consider they are clumsily handling the transition, that way they aren’t “bad guys” but imperfect. I always feel less like a victim when I view folks as lacking skills, rather than acting “mean”, because I think few people set out to be hurtful.

  6. Laura says:

    Great points, Amy and Irene. It’s so wrong to let things build up and not say anything, and for 4 years, so wrong! I have a long time friend (24 years)that was a friend before she was married. I find some of her husband’s comments offensive in the last few years (He was not like this when he was younger). I focus on making plans with her 1/1 and leave the hubbies out of it. I do find that if it’s a larger group, it’s okay with him there.

  7. Amy says:

    I agree with Irene that your former friends summoning you to their home to discontinue the friendship was unnecessary. So many times friendships fail due to poor communication, and if your partner’s behavior was so off putting, it’s too bad your friends couldn’t have been more assertive sooner by asking him not to light up or telling him when they found jokes inappropriate. It sounds like their frustrations built up too much until the relationship was in salvageable.
    I also wonder, if although inarticulate, your friends have a point about your partner’s coarseness. I wouldn’t want to be friends with a couple if one half was sexist, racist, intolerant (not saying your partner is) no matter how much I liked the other half of the pair. I would, however, still try to do things with the nice half of the pair. If you think your husband’s personality and/or views are off putting, talk to him.
    The other issue I see is that you’ve been so traumatized by the rejection, that you’re shying away from other couples you were friends with, probably because you fear a similar experience. Your former friends don’t speak for the entire community, and while I understand you don’t want a repeat experience, you’ve got to take some social risks if you feel isolated. In all honesty, your friends probably have so many things to talk about, you’re probably not the topic of conversation–kids, grand kids, travel, current events, entertainment, etc.
    Good luck!

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