DEAR NATALIE: I have been friends with “Shawn” for years and we have always had a good relationship. Granted, he deals with some mental health stuff that can make him challenging to be around, but overall, we have always had a nice friendship until recently. He has gotten really weird about women and dating. He claims he has been reading a lot of MGTOW articles online and has started spewing some really nasty stuff about how he feels about women and feminism. I care about him, but I really don’t want to support or enable this behavior. How do I tell him how I feel without alienating him further? As one of his few friends — and as a woman — I feel it is my responsibility to pull him back from the cliff. What do you think? -BACK FROM THE BRINK
DEAR BACK FROM THE BRINK: For those that may not know, MGTOW stands for “Men Going Their Own Way” and from what I have read online, it is a space where men are gathering to discuss anti-feminist thought and engage in seriously misogynistic conversations under the guise of men being marginalized by feminism. It isn’t based in fact, but rather in frustration. There are certain places we can’t follow people and this may be one of them. I’m sorry that your friend is deflecting from his own issues and blaming women. I would give him once chance to hear you out and then walk away. While he is entitled to “feel” a certain way, that doesn’t make it true. By perpetuating stereotypes, falsehoods and harmful information, he is setting up more space for women, girls and femmes to be harmed — or worse. Yes, this rhetoric can and does spill over into real life. If he scoffs at that — and considering where he is emotionally he most likely will — you have two choices: You can either try to “fix” him, which you won’t be able to, or you can walk away. It isn’t your responsibility to pull him back from the brink. I would create a hard boundary for yourself and let him know that until he is willing to engage in rational conversation and recognize other perspectives, there really isn’t a space for him in your life. I know he is your friend, but it will be harder and harder to stay friends with him if he starts spewing hatred towards you. Get out of this dynamic while your mental health is intact. Maybe one day he will recognize what he lost and reach out again with a more open mind.
DEAR NATALIE: My good friend and her boyfriend just split. They had been dating for about four months and things weren’t working out. I think that because of the pandemic, they just weren’t able to spend enough time together and realized they didn’t have enough in common. They mutually agreed to break up. It’s been about three weeks and her ex has been DMing me, saying that he wants to hang out. I think I might like him, too. I asked my friend if she cared, and she said she didn’t. Then I talked to another mutual friend of ours and she said that my friend is mad that I even asked her about her ex. “He should be off limits,” she said to our mutual friend. What do I do? Should I ask my friend about this? She may just lie to me again and say she never said that. I don’t want her harboring resentment towards me. Is this even worth the hassle? —WHAT ARE THE RULES
DEAR WHAT ARE THE RULES: If you asked your friend and she said she didn’t care, it isn’t really fair of her to go behind your back and say that she actually does care. Her behavior is petty and passive aggressive. I would confront this situation if you really like this guy. Ask your friend to just be honest with you. Tell her that you heard from your mutual friend that she really is hurt by you wanting to date her ex. Some people would say, “Always pick friends over boyfriends!” but I think life is a lot more grey. Each situation warrants its own examination instead of just blanket generalizations. If she feels so strongly about this, then she needs to express that to you. Maybe she was just embarrassed that he moved on quickly. Maybe she was a little jealous that it was with you. Perhaps this breakup wasn’t as “mutual” as she told everyone and now is feeling insecure. Give it time and space. If this guy really likes you, can he wait a little longer to let everything calm down around you? Can you respect where she may be coming from and meet her halfway on this? Can you handle the fact that she may not give you her blessing? Weigh this out. What is worth more to you in the end? I can’t tell you what to do, but I would think long and hard about my friendship and whether or not it is worth putting it in jeopardy for a potential romance.
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