how can I completely disconnect from a difficult former boss?

A reader writes:

I’ve been in my current position for two years. When I started I reported to “Marsha,” a woman not too much older than me (also a woman). I got along great with her, though I noticed some concerning aspects of her personality — she tended to be brusque, did not get along with several people, and bullied our IT support guy.

Her personality issues were becoming performance issues when, late last spring, she had a workplace injury that resulted in some physical incapacity. Her attitude completely changed. She refused to take time off for the injury, insisted on coming to work instead of telecommuting (which meant someone had to drive her, since her injury prevented her from driving), and did not manage her pain well when she was in the office. Pain turned her usual brusqueness into an extremely short temper. That meant awful treatment of everyone, including me — we went from a great relationship to her micromanaging me; forgetting to tell me things, then berating me when I didn’t know what she was talking about; and venting to me about all of the problems she was having with her boss, HR, workers’ comp… etc.

I tried to be sympathetic but quickly realized that she was being completely unreasonable. She thought that workers comp should pay for her to have a car service to get to and from work, accused her boss of racism and sexism, declared that she should sue for violation of ADA, etc. When I asked her to please stop complaining to me about her boss, she was offended. When I expressed sympathy for the pain she was in and how difficult it was making work for her, she got defensive. Our relationship, and my work, deteriorated quickly, to the point that I finally talked to her boss about her bizarre behavior and how it was affecting me. In the end she was asked to resign a few months after the injury. I chose to stop responding to her calls, texts, and emails as she had become so toxic to me.

Several months later, during which we had no contact, she now has a job in an institution related to mine. She has repeatedly reached out asking to have lunch or coffee, cheery and bright as if nothing had ever happened. I decided to give her a chance, but when I shared some health problems of my own, her responses were so bizarre (more outraged that nobody had told her than concerned about me) I couldn’t imagine any kind of relationship with her again.

I don’t believe that we can maintain a purely cordial relationship. I have been reluctant to tell her outright that I don’t want her to contact me, as she and I know several of the same people, and from past experience I know she will tell anyone who listens what a horrible person I am. But ignoring her does not seem to be working — and worst of all, she occasionally has a reason to be in my building and can (and will) drop by my office.

What can I do? The idea of having any contact with her is so stressful to me, but I don’t trust her to act professionally if I explicitly ask her not to contact me.

Yeah, explicitly asking her not to contact you is likely to come across as hostile, and if you’re worried about the damage she could do to your reputation, your better bet might be something just a step or two above that: minimal polite acknowledgement, combined with determined preservation of very high boundaries.


* When she invites you to lunch or coffee, reply, “Oh, I’m swamped these days so can’t get anything on the calendar right now. Hope things are going well for you though!” (And if it’s easier for you to respond via email where you don’t have to actually speak to her, you can respond by email even if she contacted you by phone.)

* If she stops by your office, greet her politely and then say, “So sorry, I’m just about to jump on a conference call” (or just about to head into a meeting, or preparing for a meeting, or on a deadline).

* If she sends you a social email or text about her life or anything else, wait a few days to reply and then answer with something short, breezy, and totally non-committal — “sounds like things are going really well!” or “lovely to hear from you — glad you’re doing well — things are great here too” or “ooof, sounds stressful, glad you’re hanging in there.” In other words, minimal polite acknowledgement without advancing the conversation.

For the record, if you weren’t concerned about her ability to harm your reputation, it would be fine to just basically drop the relationship — not respond to attempts to contact you, etc. But in this case, it sounds like it’s worth being minimally polite. The key is to realize that you can do that without resuming a real relationship with her. And this approach is likely to be sufficiently unsatisfying to her that her attempts to contact you will probably scale way back the longer you do it, to the point that they’re highly likely to stop altogether after a while.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP, keep in mind that anyone who knows her more than minimally knows how she behaves, and is unlikely to give the slightest credence to rants about what an awful person you are.

    1. Trying to disconnect*

      OP here – I’ve considered that myself! Goodness knows I had bought into her opinions of her (now my) boss until I realized how skewed her perspective was.

      1. LoFlo*

        If only there was a way to feel people out who empathized with you. I worked with two long term entrenched employees at old job who many people thought walked on water since they were the few that knew the system, but were pretty crappy at their jobs. Any questions about how things worked or the method to execute were met with you are to new to understand, and our company is “special”.

    2. Jaguar*

      Well, it’s also worth noting that OP had a good relationship with her at one point, so it’s also possible that others could have a good relationship with her and will trust her judgement.

      It’s awful that people have to worry about the opinion of people specifically because they’re terrible, for the record.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Sure, anything’s possible. But the OP’s relationship was good before OldBoss completely went off the rails. She doesn’t sound like one of those people who can put on a charming face.

        It’s really sad, because it sounds like her injury (and possibly the resulting treatment) inflamed all of the negative aspects of her personality. But that’s not something the OP can fix.

  2. Biff*

    Wow. That’s weird. I wonder if she’s been reaching out in order to apologize for her very strange behavior.

    1. Trying to disconnect*

      OP here. I thought the same thing, which was why I gave her another chance. I thought, well, if she’s realized how bizarre she was being last year, maybe we can repair this relationship?

      In my response email I mentioned that I would be taking medical leave soon and why (it was something I had chosen to be very public about), and her response was “WTF? Oh, [OP]. Nobody thought to tell me.” Nothing more. Later she had a card sent to my office expressing sympathy for my health issues, which would have been nice, had the tone she struck not still been more about her being left out from hearing about it than asking how I was doing. That was the point I decided to wash my hands.

      If she opened with an apology, I might consider giving it another shot. But my overall experience with her has been that she’s pretty self-centered and a perpetual victim, and I want as little of that around as possible.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Some people can’t bring themselves to say the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” they just start acting nice again. I’d rather hear them acknowledge the wrong and utter an actual heartfelt apology. It’s frustrating whether it’s a boss, coworker, friend, relative or significant other.

      2. Imnportant Moi*

        Is it possible you [OP] misinterpreted the tone?

        Consider it was just an off the cuff comment like “I used to work closely with [OP] and I no one contacted me just to keep me in the loop.”

        I have thoughts like that and I can see on the written screen it comes across rude even though it’s not my intent, but sometimes I just type the first thing that comes to my head.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          I had this same thought. It’s very easy to mis-“hear” someone’s intentions in an email. If I received an email worded like this, I would likely assume good intentions/bad social graces and give it the benefit of the doubt, especially in light of the kind card. But you know her and I don’t, and given your past experience with her, it’s perfectly understandable that you don’t want a redo!

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I get that, but given the context of OP’s other interactions with Marsha, I think OP’s interpretation of her tone is most likely accurate.

          1. Anna*

            I don’t think that’s automatically true, but I also don’t think the OP has to spend a lot time pondering it and can decide how to move limit her involvement with Marsha.

            (There are a lot of people I spend a lot time with that I still misread email responses from, so I don’t assume that when I have a bad reaction, I’m reacting correctly.)

        3. Cat steals keyboard*

          It’s a really inappropriate way to say it though. A more healthy response is to say she didn’t know (not that she wasn’t told) and express concern. It’s a subtle difference but speaks volumes. One is about concern for herself, one is about concern for OP.

      3. Biff*

        Hmm, while I can see a case for her repeating that she was out of the loop as a way to mitigate the fact that her well-wishes were somewhat belated, it does sound like she’s got other issues going on that don’t reflect well on her. I wish the best of luck in managing around this issue.

  3. Aurora Leigh*

    This is my nightmare! So sorry you’re dealing with this OP. My old boss was a lot like yours. She’s bouncing around a lot different jobs now — I hope you didn’t get stuck with her!

  4. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    Alison’s advice is spot on. This is what’s called “doing a slow fade” — kind of a subtle version of ghosting. You just keep punting on making plans (because you’re always busy!), you make the most minimal replies to all overtures for getting together (while remaining civil), and you take longer and longer to respond to things. Eventually the other person gets the picture or just gives up because you’ve stopped providing any sort of positive response to their efforts (or at least, that’s the goal). Good luck!

    1. Good_Intentions*

      Long Time Read First Time Poster, your “slow fade” sounds like an effective strategy for this particular case. However, I would suggest refraining from it under normal social circumstances and just tell the person directly with with tact and compassion that you wish to end the friendship/association/relationship. In my opinion as a random internet stranger, I believe frequent use of the “slow fade” will lead others to have social paranoia and develop anxiety. The majority of the time it’s best for all parties concerned to have an honest and level-headed discussion about terminating contact.

      **This is just the point of view of a person you don’t know, so take it with a pinch of salt.

      1. Aurion*

        I respectfully disagree, because a conversation about this basically signal a permanent termination of the relationship, whereas a slow fade–whether genuine or manufactured–usually leaves the door open a crack so that the relationship can be revitalized in the future should both parties choose to. But there isn’t the same finality as the conversation ending–because in effect, there never was a clear ending.

        I didn’t like slow fades when I was younger, but I appreciate them a lot more now, because a lot of times it’s not done on purpose, but a natural consequence of life being busy and drifting apart.

      2. Marisol*

        “I believe frequent use of the “slow fade” will lead others to have social paranoia and develop anxiety”

        While I think people should always make an effort to be kind, and ethical in their dealings with each other, I don’t think it’s healthy to assume responsibility for whether or not someone feels social anxiety. Politeness, yes; empathy, yes; responsibility? No. If someone develops anxiety or paranoia as a result of someone fading from their social sphere, then that person has issues that they need to address which have nothing to with the person fading away. Well-adjusted people know how to take a hint.

      3. MK*

        I am sorry, but no. Telling someone you want to end your friendship with them is a fundamental rejection (worse than a romantic one) that will hurt them, even if they don’t care for you all that much. As for tact and compassion, a) few people manage it, b) more often than not tact comes across as insincerity and compassion as pity and c) it doesn’t really soften the blow so much as make the person delivering the rejection feel good about themselves.

        In my experience, most people who say they would prefer a others to be direct if they don’t want to be friends with them (or others bad news,), react pretty poorly when they get what they wish.

        I am not sure what you mean by saying that frequent use of the slow fade will lead to social paranoia and anxiety. If a person does it a lot, they will usually get a reputation for flakiness; if a lot of people are doing it to a person, then it’s not being paranoid to think that there is a reason for that; in fact, they should consider why it’s happening to them. And I find it hard to believe a person with anxiety will benefit from a series of direct rejections.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          Yes yes yes. I’ve been hearing the “please reject people directly” advice a LOT lately, and I understand where it’s coming from, but I think the vast majority of people don’t realize what they’re asking for.

          I’ve been on the receiving end of the slow fade and been grateful for it. After several instances when the person was polite but in no way encouraging, I took the hint. It allowed me to save face and not feel rejected. I look back on these relationships without rancor or embarrassment. If they had gone with “I don’t want to spend any more time with you,” no matter how gently, I don’t think I’d even be able to think about it now with equanimity.

          Do people the favor of seeing if they can take a gentle hint before pulling out the big guns.

          1. Kai*

            I agree, and this is particularly true when you’re dealing with a person who is already a part of your social circle. It doesn’t make much sense to tell someone that you’re likely to see at other friends’ parties, etc. that you just plain don’t want to hang out with them.

            I had a friend that I got pretty close to for a while, but after about a year, for a couple of reasons, I realized I didn’t want to be so close to her anymore. That said, we’re friends with many of the same people, so she’s not someone I wanted to cut ties with completely. I did a slow fade on our one-on-one hangouts, and now we see each other occasionally but not anywhere at the level we used to. I think it was the kindest way to cool that friendship without causing a larger rift.

          2. neverjaunty*

            “Reject people directly” is great advice in response to a romantic overture. For dialing back on other social contacts, not as much.

        2. LoFlo*

          I had to end a romantic relationship a few months ago, and the slow fade was not an option. We were dating long distance about 18 months, and his moving to my city seemed like a good option. We were on the verge of moving in together, like he had the movers planned and most of his stuff packed. I really couldn’t see a future with this person on many levels after him spending some real time together in my home. It was a very difficult conversation. We had very different views and priories on significant issues.

          A clean break might not be an option for the OP, but perhaps she can drop hints on how she is working on her inner peace, and wanting to stay positive, etc when this woman ask how things are.

          1. mander*

            I think it’s different in a romantic relationship. Our expectation is that they will become closer over time and if that’s not where you want to go you have to be explicit. But friends and colleagues are often much more casual and opportunistic. It is easier and more natural to gradually pull back from a relationship where social norms don’t expect you to spend most of your time together.

            Having been rejected as a friend I find it feels horrible to remember the “I don’t want to hang out with you anymore” conversation in a way that my college boyfriend getting increasingly and deliberately involved in other stuff until I lost interest does not.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        In my opinion as a random internet stranger, I believe frequent use of the “slow fade” will lead others to have social paranoia and develop anxiety.

        If someone is prone to social paranoia and anxiety, telling them “I don’t want to be friends with you any more” is a lot more likely to cause problems than the slow fade.

      5. Unegen*

        In my opinion as a random internet stranger, I believe frequent use of the “slow fade” will lead others to have social paranoia and develop anxiety.

        I used to think like this, but then someone told me that that attitude really made it sound like the other person had no agency and that I had a lot more power over them than I did…that I *made* them feel that way, that it was all because of *what I did*, instead of assuming that they were functional people who could process their feelings for themselves. It was food for thought.

      6. TootsNYC*

        I -really- disagree w/ Good_Intentions.

        I think it is far kinder to leave the other person with the face-saving fiction of “we drifted apart” instead of deliberately saying to them, “I don’t want to even know you anymore.”

        There are certain times that I think you do owe it to the other person to be clear,a nd maybe even to give a reason. Like, bestest of friends.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Direct communication sounds nice in principle, until you think about what the exchange would actually involve.

          You invite a friend over for coffee. You say “Look, I think you’re a nice person, but I don’t want to be friends with you any more.” The response is very unlikely to be a polite “Oh. Well, thanks for being honest, and have a nice life.” They’re going to want to know why.

          Then think about how that exchange goes. “Honestly, I think you’re kind of self centred and emotionally flaky, and I’m tired of putting up with it.” or “You talk about nothing but your kids/how much you hate your job/your dating exploits, and it’s really boring” or “There’s nothing wrong with you, I just have a lot of other friends I value more, and I don’t have time to spend with you. ” The chances of this going well are about the same as someone responding well to an unexpected dumping by a romantic partner – they’re going to be angry, defensive, and hurt, and there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll either blow up at you, or storm out in tears, or retreat in hurt silence, even if they’re normally a calm, reasonable person.

          The time to bring up things that are bothering you in a friendship (or romantic relationship) is when you want to continue the friendship, not after deciding to end it. The slow fade leaves a chance that the friendship can be revitalized in the future, and gives the other person a change to believe your excuses and save face.

          Oh, and as an addendum – under no circumstances should you ever send someone a letter detailing why you’re breaking up with them, either romantically or as a friendship.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Letters are very passive aggressive. They don’t let the other person ask questions. They don’t let the other person clear up misconceptions. They are one sided, only allowing the passive aggressive person to have a voice. Without challenge.
            They are the cowards way of acting.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Not passive aggressive, but conflict-avoidant. Passive aggressiveness literally involves *not* doing something you’ve agreed to do (as a function of getting your own way while not appearing to argue about it). It is a conflict-avoidant tactic, but not a passive aggressive as having written and sent the letter means that you *did* act. (Passive-Aggressive Notes, while a wonderful collection of insanity, is woefully misnamed. It’s my personal theory that’s where most of the confusion about this comes from.)

          2. Whats In A Name*

            I once sent an email to a guy telling him I wanted to break up with him. Not my most classy moment and 15 years later I still remember it with a wince.

            To be fair, I had plans to break up with him in person that evening (he lived 3 hours away) and he kept peppering me with emails…”you seem distant” “is everything ok?” “your emails seem short”…after the “I’m just really busy and want to be sure to get out on time” and “I’ll see you in a few hours!” didn’t work I finally just answered “It’s because I want to break up with you and you are driving me crazy!”

  5. BBBizAnalyst*

    I had this issue with some coworkers from a toxic workplace. They were there so long that they didn’t even realize they were part of the cultural problem. When I left and they reached out for leads on new opportunities, I didn’t respond. I know it wasn’t the right thing to do but I needed a clean break and I can’t associate with people who were absolutely awful to work with. We’re no longer in the same industry as I went from very large awful company to a smaller, leading niche company in a somewhat exclusive sector.

    I, of course, don’t recommend this if you’re in the same industry…..

  6. animaniactoo*

    “Pain not well managed” oh man, I have so much sympathy for you. My husband was initially offended by my description of this as having been in “Cranky Bastard Mode” but then appreciated the shorthand as both accurate and informative. But “Pain not well managed” was what the nurse wrote in his chart. So… I feel you. Fortunately for me/husband, he was extremely appreciative of everyone who was helping him and apologized like mad for his outbursts which went a long way towards people continuing to put up with him.

    I’m not generally in favor of purposely doing The Fade, but I think that it’s the smart move in this case given her ability to impact your livelihood. I think I would have been really tempted at that lunch to say something along the lines of “This feels a little awkward to me. I know you were in a lot of pain, but I’m not sure you realize how hard it was for me to deal with you and the way that you were treating me then.” But for self-preservation sake, I might not have if I felt that it wasn’t going to be received well in this situation.

  7. TootsNYC*

    I like the phrase “be Teflon.”

    Just let all attempts to get her hooks into you slide right off. Pleasant, blithely noncommittal.

    Say to any inquiries from other people, “We worked together, but we’ve sort of drifted apart. We’re not close.” And then internalize that yourself.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Oh, if you do happen to end up on the phone with her, have a time limit–5 minutes. And then, “I’m sorry, I really need to go,” >click<

      If you see her in person, have a limit for how many sentences you can say to her–like, 15. And then choose them carefully. And a rule that none of them can be about your real life or your real job. They all have to be "niceties," like "that sounds like a challenge!" or "glad to hear things are going well." And then you have to go to the bathroom.

      1. TootsNYC*

        (sorry to keep coming back–disorganized today)

        I had a friend that I was trying to shed. But I didn’t want to hurt her; I just wanted to fade out.

        Having these external, pre-existing rules helped me hold my boundaries during the phone calls that got through the screen.
        And I ended up being very glad that I hadn’t been more direct, because when a mutual friend was dying, this woman was the only one to call me and alert me.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I also think the slow fade is good in situations where you don’t necessarily want to hurt the person but you also realize there are just not a fit in your life – no matter the reason. This is a perfect example of why burning bridges isn’t the best route.

  8. Aurion*

    Oof. I have some sympathy for Marsha because I’ve been in a similar position. Friend got promoted to my team lead and maybe a month later, I got injured. It was really hard for my friend to balance being my friend vs the work demands (hiring freeze, shortstaffed, very unforgiving workload, terrible management–she was plenty stressed herself), and I was frankly a nightmare to be around (pain, the aforementioned terrible management, red tape). The friendship cooled off considerably.

    I apologized to my friend after I healed/left the job, and we’re still friends, but the friendship never 100% recovered. Maybe we would’ve drifted anyway, but I always thought that had I managed my temper better and not taken out my pain on everyone around me, we might’ve weathered this storm.

    Alison’s advice is still sound, because OP has her own life irrespective of the reasons behind Marsha’s actions. OP doesn’t owe Marsha a relationship. But man, I can so, so easily see how things come to this.

  9. Milton Waddams*

    I sincerely doubt that any sort of polite excuses will help. I think there is a communication style mix-up here — it sounds a little like you work in an office where people are so used to non-confrontation confrontations that they are blown away by people who are just plain old Type-A aggressive.

    Do you know any of her other friends? How do they tell her to knock something off? People who aren’t used to talking to folks like that usually end up over-compensating — like they meekly dither through all sorts of stressful situations and then decide, “OK, I’ll be direct” and just completely snap. It takes practice to get used to that kinda crass middle ground, where people are always yelling but aren’t necessarily angry and are frequently pissed off but not necessarily serious.

  10. Been There - Done That*

    I’m seeing a lot of red flags that Marsha has some narcissistic traits, and if this is the case, doing things that reasonable people will understand is not going to work. Read up on dealing with narcissists and learn how to distance yourself from their drama.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      Are you diagnosing this person based on one letter written by someone else? Sorry, not seeing the basis for this.

      1. Been There - Done That*

        No, I wouldn’t attempt to diagnose someone, which is why I referred to them as red flags, and prefaced the statement with “if this is the case” – but becoming outraged that no one told her about a former co-worker’s illness to me sounds self-centered, if not more. As if the not getting along with a lot of people, bullying the IT guy, gaslighting, feeling entitled to rides, and threatening to sue, weren’t enough. What I’m saying is this may be a special type of “difficult (former) co-worker” who are better managed if you understand their MO, especially if OP is concerned that this person could cause professional harm.

    2. James*

      Signs? Perhaps. But then again, as someone who suffers migraines, I can assure you that unmanaged pain does fairly horrible things to your psychology. There is a psychological cost to handling pain, and the worse the pain the higher the cost. When you spend your day forcing yourself to stand upright through pain so bad your brain can’t handle it all as pain and lets some of it bleed off into smell and taste, your fuse shortens. A lot. It also affects your ability to rationally evaluate certain things, as your priorities shift–a rather large and immediate priority is “Make the pain stop”.

      This is not to excuse this boss’ behavior. Many of us manage to deal with pain on a routine basis without becoming like that. As someone with a pain management issue, I have very little sympathy for people who act like this manager does; I’ve been there, done that, and know that it’s not the proper way for an adult to behave. And you absolutely have a right to say “I’m sorry but I can’t deal with this”, particularly with someone you’re not close with anyway. All I’m saying is that before you engage in armchair psychoanalysis, you need to factor in the fact that this person is going through something pretty major as well. She’s NOT in a normal state of mind, and the normal criteria for evaluating such things as narcissistic personality disorder don’t apply simply.

      As for how to deal with it, a blunt approach has its advantages. “I’m sorry, but since the accident you’ve become a lot more harsh. I understand you’re going through a lot, and sympathize, but I just can’t handle it.” She won’t thank you at the time–in fact, you’re likely to become an enemy (and remember, this has nothing to do with you; it’s HER issue, specifically her pain management)–but once the pain wears off or she learns how to manage it, she may appreciate your honesty. Or she may hate you forever for giving up on her. A lot is going to depend on the personality of the person, and how introspective they are. Unfortunately, with these issues there’s no easy answer, and I’ve yet to see any real pattern to how the person before the pain relates to the person in pain.

      1. Been There - Done That*

        OP had concerns about Marsha’s behavior/personality conflicts before Marsha got sick/injured.

        1. James*

          Yeah, but those are hardly unusual. High D personalities on the DISC model are often considered brusque, for example. Not getting along with some people isn’t unusual either–ideally you want to get along with people, but some personalities just clash. Particularly for brusque people–often people described as brusque are trying to focus on the issues at the expense of the human element of interaction, and that annoys certain personality types. Neither person is wrong, it’s just different communication styles–and we can assume a brusque person is going to have such conflicts, so really this is merely a repetition of the first point.

          As for “bullying the IT guy”, I’d like to know more about it before I use this to form an opinion about the person. Unfortunately, interactions with IT are often going to be high-stress, as there’s no good time for a computer or printer or network to go down. And brusque people tend not to present their problems in the best ways. To put it bluntly, IT folks are going to be on the receiving end of some of the worst behavior in an organization, due to the nature of their field.

          It’s not that these aren’t potentially warning signs; however, everything described is saying more “This person has an assertive personality and less tact than I would like” rather than “This person has a mental disorder”.

  11. AccidentalSysAdmin*

    People like this are known as ’emotional vampires’ and it is a problem in many workplaces. Granted there are people who just have difficult personalities, and acknowledging that is part of getting along and not letting it affect you or your work. However, when people become so draining as drama magnets or repeat conflict agents they disrupt teams, productivity, and even cause good performers to start looking for another job. There was someone like this in my office. Everyone felt the same way about dealing with them.

    I would limit any involvement, particularly if you don’t have to work with the person any more.

  12. Engineer Girl*

    Google “low contact personality disorder” for techniques for going low/no contact.
    The techniques work even if the person doesn’t have a disorder. It keeps it safe for you, and doesn’t give them any ammo to take offense.
    You aren’t required to hang with someone that causes you pain. You DID talk to them about the issue and they ignored you.

    If they do raise the issue again, then talk to them. But if they won’t listen then enforce proper boundaries.

  13. twentymilehike*

    I’m very curious about the treatment of Marsha’s injury — it sounds like it’s entirely possible that she was (and maybe still is) on pain medication. I speak only from my experience being married to someone who suffered a permanent injury that left him with chronic pain, which was often managed with Percocet (ones that would knock me out and make me vomit if I took them). You could absolutely tell when he was on them, but only if you knew. If you didn’t know, you’d just think he was an emotionally volatile and angry ass. Truth was, he was an addict that needed help, and he was terrified and in pain.

    I don’t know if this would change anything in the OP’s mind about her relationship with Marsha, or AAM’s advice, but if it was the case, it certainly could explain how much crazier she got after her injury.

  14. Cat steals keyboard*

    OP, search online for ‘grey rock’ or ‘medium chill’ as this will give you some ways to set boundaries and keep your distance without provoking her.

    1. Chickaletta*

      “Medium Chill” – this is just about what I was going to recommend. I had read about it online before as a way for dealing with difficult family members during holiday get togethers. Sounds like the kind of technique that would be useful to OP.

      I’ve dealt with batty coworkers too and boy, they can really drain you. One woman in particular many years ago was just emotionally off-center and would engage me in long, drawn out conversations about all the people in her life and how they’re wrong and she’s right. I found the best way to deal with her was similar to the medium chill technique, which is basically just giving short, neutral replies to everything she said. Eventually I became a boring person for he to talk to and she didn’t bother me as much.

Comments are closed.