Oh Hell No: When Your Girlfriend Publicly Hates on You

I call it getting ‘sunned.’

too bad getting sunned doesn’t look/feel like this

sun: (v.) to shame, humiliate and or betray someone’s life secrets in public; to purposefully point out flaws or insecurities in another person to prove a point or make oneself look better.

reference: you “throw shade” behind someone’s back and “sun” them in public.

Ok so now that the urban slang dictionary has been utilized, let’s discuss some thangs.

First of all, no one should ever sun you and if they do, they need to be checked right then and there. Maybe you’d rather ignore it, that’s fine too. Blessed are the peacemakers and whatnot. But I think it’s crucial to respond to such treatment especially when it’s done by a lover, partner (s) or someone you’re in an intimate relationship with however it’s been classified. Anyone that’s obtained your trust, been given access to your body and has been debriefed on all the awesome and personal details on your life, should always respect those privileges and most importantly, they must respect you. They need never make you look like a fool in public or use the public space to tear you to shreds. As if we all weren’t the fragile-est of kittens.

But sometimes we are with people who have no boundaries, are passive aggressively abusive, don’t know how else to deal with their own anxieties/frustrations, they’re on drugs or they’re just fucking bullies. No one knows exactly when it happens, when the queermo of your dreams turns into someone who is gunning for you. It happens though and we tend to put up with more shit from someone we’re dating, involved with, like I said whatever you want to call it, then we do for the homophobic f*cks filling up our Facebook feeds and tv screens.

So the act of the sun will most definitely occur in front of friends, family, co-workers or even just the people at the bar. FYI, ninety-nine percent of the time no one will come to your rescue. It’s not that they haven’t noticed. Trust me, those hateful comments slice through every conversation as quick as a racist joke. They cause two immediate reactions:

1) The Deer in Headlights Wide-Eyed Pause

2) Shared Looks and Nervous Laughter

Half of the people in your circle will assume that this violation of trust is an understood method of joking between you and your significant other. The other half will know full well that you were just sunned and will look to you for the appropriate way to respond. They will take comfort knowing that this exchange was based on an issue in your relationship. They will keep their mouths shut because this is ‘not their business’.

Note: You may have one badass friend who immediately steps up and says something like, ‘Oh hell no, what did you just say?’

This super hero friend may then proceed to remove earrings/favorite accessory, crack knuckles and plant themselves right in your s.o.’s face. Pull them away, buy them a drink and then provide them with one ridiculous ‘i love you’ hug. Then you must go handle your business.

This is so your business. Your life, dignity and self respect are on the line. This is the moment to prove to yourself that better treatment is deserved and anything less will not be tolerated. So let’s slow down a bit. The thing about being publicly humiliated by someone you care about is that it occurs similarly to slight of hand magic. Here it is, right in the open, right in front of everyone’s face and yet, no one is sure of what exactly has happened. Questions like “Was that just a joke?” or “Am I overreacting?” spring up and stall any immediate response to the transgression. While those questions are valid, I find that they are also symptomatic of the fucked up way we are trained to ignore our instincts when being harmed by trusted others. So let’s test the waters.

Example of “Just a Joke” vs. “You Got Sunned”

Scenario 1

You: Yes, I love cookies. I eat them everywhere

S.O.: Now if only I could get this cookie monster to not eat them in bed.

–wink. nudge. everybody barf.-

Scenario 1 is a cute joke from someone who would like you to stop leaving crumbs in the bed.

mmmm coooookies, beetch.

Scenario 2

You: Yes, I love cookies. I eat them everywhere.

S.O.: Yeah, you better keep an eye on that cuz otherwise you’re gonna need that gastric bypass like your mom.

NOT A JOKE. Definitely a crack on you and your mom.

These were two low-key examples, the cuts are often way deeper. Not that fat-shaming isn’t high on the list of serious offenses because it so is and if anyone ever says something about your body, you definitely got sunned and they deserve a serious hip check into the glass (You know, in a non-violent sort of way). I digress. Anyway, cookies aren’t often the impetus for public humiliation. So what do you do when the person who shares your bed and maybe has your heart uses pieces of your life to put you down? And, how the hell are you supposed to navigate that in public?

Listen to your instincts; they exist for a reason. They are your guides through the fuck all of life and we are consistently told to ignore them. We often tell each other to allow room for the benefit of the doubt at all times and sometimes: that is bullshit. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m just a chick. This is life. We have to share the crazy, the gross and all of the uncomfortable things. Here are a couple of ways to respond to being publicly humiliated. You and your instincts get to decide what works and what doesn’t.

1) Walk Away. Compose Self.

Engaging in someone’s rudeness can create more rudeness and nothing is resolved. Step away with the intention to handle things with a clearer head. If the remark was something just a touch out of hand, maybe you and your partner can deal with it later in private. Maybe you need to step away so you don’t drop the c-bomb or stoop to her level. Take a paus-E.

2) Combo Pause & Pull.

Don’t laugh at the comment(s) or dismiss the offender. Stop talking, give your best “Oh Hell No” face and politely excuse yourself and your person. Find a private space (not directly outside of the bar or in the middle of the library) and discuss the harm they have caused immediately. Process. Be clear that it wasn’t cool. Very very clear. Feel free to regroup, let your person buy you a flower and maybe chill out for a bit.

3) Be Bold.

The offense was not a cute cookie slip up. Your S.O. just shouted out that you used to cut yourself or that you’re weak like your drunk father or something else completely out of line. Maybe they’ve been berating you all fucking night long and you are ready to dive off the edge into nothing because nothing would be better than this. Also, maybe they’re fucked up on drugs or alcohol and this already horrific night will end up in a brawl or a cop car.

* Do Not Go Home With Them

* Call Your People

* Find Somewhere Else to Be

* Do Not Engage – Ignore phone calls, text messages, carrier pigeons etc

* Activate Self-Preservation Mode at All Costs

* Sleep Somewhere Safe

* Make Big Decisions in the Morning by Yourself

I say by yourself because if drugs or alcohol are involved then most likely this person will not remember the offense they have committed. Thus, they will seem like a hungover kitten baby with big huge tears in its anime eyes begging for your forgiveness. Blackouts cannot be the sacred canopy that allows all of the abuse to continue. Also, if they’re not a user or an alcoholic, denial is strong like quicksand and you will be stuck in theirs scrambling to remember why you were hurt in the first place. So go it alone, young soldier of love.


Again, who am I to even dole out this kind out pseudo-advice? To be honest, like honest in a way that is making me want to puke, I used to be the perpetrator of public humiliation. Once, I was in a relationship with a charming, beautiful, super funny alcoholic/addict. She pursued me, effortlessly, and then I just chased her around everywhere. She’d bounce to find drugs, low lifes, and trouble and I’d be dying from anxiety and fear and all this fucked up shit. I’d find her in jail, on the floor of a bar, passed out on someone else’s couch or at our doorstep ready to tell me to leave her the fuck alone. Or I’d try to keep up with her and party just as hard as she did or even instigate the partying because I wanted to be part of her world and keep an eye on her and well, it never ever worked.

The drugs and alcohol became such a normal part of our relationship that it was hard to distinguish what was really me or what was me responding to all of our insanity. I loved her and I knew she loved me too. We just lost our way.

I cheated and lied using her addiction as an excuse when I should have just been honest with her.  I also pleaded with her to get help and to stop using and nothing. Absolutely nothing.

If it was going to be like this in private then I’d have to try and gain power/control back some other way.

I took to being the public asshole. I cursed at her and put her addictions on blast, in the public space just hoping someone would notice how much pain I was in. You know what they noticed instead? That I was verbally abusing and publicly humiliating someone and that just made me an asshole. It’s never ok to treat anyone like they’re beneath you.  Cuz they’re not, and my ruthlessness never ended our pain, so what good was it? It just made me more powerless, crazy and mean.  So, here are some words if you’re on the other side of it, especially if you’re responding to abuse with more abuse cuz that shit never works.


Right now. End that shit. If you’re treating someone like garbage because they’re an addict or because they’re abusing you in some other way, please just remove yourself from the relationship. There is no other recourse. Fuck couples counseling right now because you need to help yourself first. Also, their addictions or their passive aggressive jealousy or whatever is stuck up their ass against you won’t go away because you pray to Lesbian Jesus. You can’t change a person by wishing or being the best partner. At this point, things can only get worse. ABORT.

2) Get Some Help, Kid.

I wished someone would have noticed how bad it was and swooped in to save me/us. Maybe I didn’t ask for help in the right way, maybe we didn’t know we had to ask for it. So I’m imploring you to heal yourself after you get out of the fuck. I couldn’t afford therapy for too long — maybe a session here and there. Here’s what I did:

-let her go

-tried to be her friend

-realized we were still toxic

-promised to never again allow myself to be in a position that brought out the evil in me and allowed me to be consumed by the Devil in someone else

-wrote wrote write write keep writing

-surrounded myself with friends that didn’t party with us

-cut ties with significant other sympathizers

-deep breaths

-creative projects like directing/producing a web series, working with kids on a fashion doc, applying to a new job, going to the beach, not doing drugs or binge drinking and just a gentler, softer, sweeter life.

Also, I felt like I should share this story, these tips because to not share things is to allow them to happen to others. I love all of you queermos so much that I’d never forgive myself for not giving the right fucks. I know in my heart and deep in my guts that if it wasn’t for Autostraddle, the site, the staff and the readers, that I’d be cut up, bleeding or fucked up in some corner somewhere wishing life was over. So please feel free to leave comments but I ask that you leave them with love and respect. I ask that you honor the puke-inducing honesty shared and leave your words, pointed or otherwise, with the same love and care.

Bottom Line: Anyone that suns you is lost in the dark. Step away before their darkness swallows you whole and steals your light forever.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (tty)

Communities United Against Violence (CUAV)
415.333.HELP (4357)
San Francisco, CA
The nation’s first LGBTQQ anti-violence organization. Their mission is to prevent and respond to violence against and within the LGBTQQ community. They have a huge variety of resources and programs. Their safety line is one of their strongest resources.

The Network/La Red
617.742.4911(v) 617.227.4911(tty)
Boston, MA
This is a bilingual organization (English/Spanish). They offer services to LGBTQ people and anyone who is part of SM/kink and polyamorous communities. Their hotline is there for anyone who just wants to talk or is looking for safe spaces, temporary homes, and other resources related to leaving an abusive relationship.

The New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
New York City, NY
24hr bilingual hotline. Focused on NYC’s LGBTQ and HIV affected communities.

Survivor Project
Dedicated to the needs of intersex and transgender survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.


  1. This is beautiful. My friend’s (now ex-, hurrah!)boyfriend and best friend from school both behave(d) like this towards her and I just have to keep telling her that she’s worth so much more. I am going to send it to her right now.

    I feel like this should be compulsory reading for basically anyone who has a partner/friends/interacts with humans in any way.

  2. I don’t see how anyone could respond to such honesty with anything other than love and respect. Thank you for sharing.

  3. oh fuck, these feels. i have known these feels and i wish i’d had this article to guide me because it is the ever-loving truth.

    also “sunning” is the best term ever.

    • kate,

      you inspired me to write this piece. if it wasn’t for your honesty in the “queer survivor” post, i wouldn’t have had the guts to keep on writing this. thanking you just doesn’t seem like enough. i want to hug you and talk and probably hug you again. i don’t know you but i love you. please, keep writing everything and sharing because it inspires everyone around you, especially weirdo queermos like me.


  4. “…and my ruthlessness never ended our pain, so what good was it? It just made me more powerless, crazy and mean.”

    I absolutely loved this line. Not just because I am guilty of doing that towards the end/ends of relationships, but because it absolutely makes sense when written out like that. You really do give up any semblance of power you have to your anger and ruthless characterization of the other person when you put yourself on a pedestal above someone. Very well put.

    And Lesbian Jesus is alllllright with me.

  5. I feel like there’s been a lot of super-brave sharing on Autostraddle lately, and I just want to give you all a big squeezy hug (or, if you’re not into hugs, perhaps a firm, companionable handshake instead) because this type of radical honesty is hard and probably a little terrifying.

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing.

  6. this: ” Blackouts cannot be the sacred canopy that allows all of the abuse to continue.”
    may the church say amen.

    • Yes! Can we talk about how if you know that when you drink you regularly become abusive/an asshole, then at some point choosing to drink is choosing everything that follows, and you remain responsible for all of it. Strangely, abusive people don’t like hearing that.

      • word. yes to all of this. the blackout excuse just leaves the other person feeling wrecked and forced to choose between acknowledging the shit and just letting it go into oblivion, which only allows it to happen again.

  7. Thank you! I have a little bit of a backbone problem. This problem is primarily because I spent the last 24 years thinking that hurtful words came from a place of love and concern. That maybe the people I loved were in fact just looking out for me and they were trying to help because I was imperfect and in need of brutally honest and insulting advice and this advice should always come within earshot of unrelated bystander friends. My Mom used to do it a lot and I used to laugh it off, my girlfriend did it and I’d just swallow the insult and the pain would manifest in other ways (binge drinking, excessive sleeping, shower crying.

    I have been working on letting people know that it isn’t okay and walking away. It actually worked, I mean there was a legit apology and everything the most recent time it happened . People wont respect you if you don’t respect yourself and standing up for yourself isn’t a bad thing. All of this sounds really dumb or easy to do, but I have a shame based personality that I have to keep in check all the time so actually it is really fucking difficult.

    So thanks for reinforcing the positive changes I have been trying to make.

    • These things don’t sound dumb or easy to do, they sound brave. You are an amazing person and deserve to be treated as such. <3

      • <3 <3 …and you Mer are the wind beneath my wings :)If I could only remember my password I could like things and I would +1 million this!!

  8. I love you, Gabby. You are so brave and wonderful and your words always get right to my heart. Love, love, love.

  9. Gabby, every time you share something I think I can’t possibly adore you any more, like it’s not physically possible to respect another person so much. And then you go and prove there’s really no limit to my feels for you. Thank you for this, it resonates on approximately a million different levels.

  10. Gabby, you are amazing. Truly wonderful and kind. I have been on both sides of sunning and it’s good to know that it’s possible to break away and become such a great person.Thank you so much for sharing.

  11. Thank for this. I’ve been on the wrong end of this from a very close friend. It’s one of the most cutting things to have your history and your vulnerabilities used against you like a weapon. But there seems to be additional pressure to suck it up in the queer community. Like there’s a pressure to prove that same sex relationships aren’t prone to the same dysfunctional dynamics that occur in different sex relationships. Someone I love was nearly ex-communicated from the lesbian community for openly writing about an abusive relationship, she was accused of airing dirty laundry. So thank you for writing honestly about this kind of emotional abuse.

    • I wanna support and validate this experience because I have been there too, and having a trusted confidant and bff fling yourself doubt in your face in front of everyone is just incredibly shattering. Thanks for writing so honestly about this, Gabi, because I do feel that as women, whether it’s queer women or not, there is a certain pressure to suffer in silence.

      Abuse isn’t limited to romantic relationships, and friend abuse is scary and hard and I think we should maybe talk about that.

      • yeah definitely. and that goes for ex-BFF’s of your current partner too. i currently avoid the two close former friends of my partner.

        it’s anyone who’s had access to you in your intimate life and then uses that as ammo. period.

        • “it’s anyone who’s had access to you in your intimate life and then uses that as ammo. period.”

          yes. this.

  12. Well said. Getting out is tough. Sticking up for yourself is tough when you thought you were in a safe space.

    I wish I had had support like this when I was in that dark, abusive relationship.

  13. That is so deep to share this. It’s awesome that you came to this realization. I have been in a similar situation, although I have never sun anybody, and never will. I know how toxic that kind of relationship can be, and came to my own realizations. Nobody deserves to be treated like shit, or put up with it, so thanks for posting.

  14. Thanks for this Gabby. I love everything you write but this one hit really close to home for a lot of reasons. I think that becoming self-aware about your own destructive behaviours and than learning how to make those part of your past and not part of your identity is among the most difficult things one can do (and keep doing). Nothing impresses me more than someone who is doing that kind of work on themselves and I hope for myself that it is something I can keep doing too.

  15. Gabby, thanks so much for writing this article! It’s a very personal thing to write about – if it’s bad when it’s just you her and your friends, writing about it for everyone to see must be even harder. And I especially appreciate that there’s advice for both sides; it’s easy to vilify one party and see the other as a martyr, but more often than not it takes two to tango (as they say). Most people aren’t usually just spiteful for no reason, particularly to their significant others. It’s surpisingly easy to forget that.

    My ex used to do this about my geekery/OCD/unfemininity/shyness/lack of social skills (or rather, as a psychiatrist informed me about halfway through that particular relationship, my autism). I don’t know whether it was supposed to be the joke scenario or the bitchy scenario, and I’m not sure whether she realised how sensitive I was to criticism on those things. That’s the lack of social skills making themselves known, I guess.

    My actual question, though, as a sort of sub-topic of this, is how to deal with someone being more passive-aggressive about the hating on. Like, flat out refusing to acknowledge your existence for six weeks (possibly longer, I didn’t keep count). Including in public, which was a little humiliating. I put up with it for a long time, then spent a week trying to break up with her. She suggested we meet up to talk about it – which she put off four times – and then dumped my ass rather spectacularly right at the end of an otherwise quite enjoyable date (at which, I’m ashamed to say, I completely forgot about how awful she’d made me feel and tried to convince her not to. Including crying and pleading, much to my later embarrassment).

    Needless to say this was not my ideal resolution of the situation. Any advice (for me or potentially for others) on how to deal with something like this in a way that isn’t quite so hopelessly pathetic? I’d like to think it wouldn’t happen again, but knowing my luck…

    (sorry to ramble on like this in your post, Gabby, it was meant as a question not a pity-party but on second read-through it does look remarkably self-indulgent)

    • aw, no worries but i’m a little confused. are you asking what to do about someone who is your person but acts like you don’t exist when other people are around? or someone who won’t admit that they like you? or both?

      • Nah, we were together with no problems at all for about eight months and then she started acting like I didn’t exist for no apparent reason. It doesn’t matter anyway :) (and as far as advice for other people goes, it’s not exactly a common occurence, I hope, so it was probably a dumb question)

  16. “Blackouts cannot be the sacred canopy that allows all of the abuse to continue.”
    Agreed all over. The “I was blacked out so you should forgive me” rationale never made sense to me. If nothing else, blackout mistakes/abuses mean that only the non-blackout person has to live with all of the memory and the hurt. I’m sure there’s guilt for doing things that aren’t remembered, but…being the only one who is haunted and scarred by the memory of it? Oh hell no.

  17. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for calling out the always giving each other the benefit of the doubt thing. In my relationship, friend group, work environment, etc., I am ALWAYS the one to say hey, that’s not cool, we don’t need to extend that grace and generosity in this situation.

    It’s a lesson I learned being the victim/survivor of emotional abuse.

  18. Thank you so much for this. I really needed this right now.

    I agree with the person above – AS writers are some of the bravest people out there and you all are so inspiring.

  19. Thank you for this. It’s an especially tough situation to be sunned by someone who is doing it through her own insecurities/anxieties and frustrations, and honestly doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I’m becoming pretty good at the Combo Pause & Pull while she *attempts* to work through her own stuff, but srsly, the ice gets thinner every time.

  20. I love everything you write Gabby. thank you for your “puke-inducing honesty”, it’s always important to share these things.

  21. Thanks for the advice and for sharing your story.

    As someone who came out of the closet not to long ago, I had the “luck” of having a crush on a girl who treated me good at times and ripped me a new one (emotionally) when she felt like it. She played with my feeling and took advantage of me because I was in love with her. I was only imagining things & wishing that maybe she’ll change and truly return my feelings, but I finally realize what kind of person she was when she called me a “piece of shit” just because I refused to apologize for hanging up on her. (she stood me up in one of our last “date”). Reading this piece really made my day and further support my decision of dropping that girl off….

  22. Yes, when you get to the point that you are so mad at someone (often for legitimate reasons) that you would humiliate them in public, it’s time to not be around that person anymore.

  23. I’m one of those people who likes being the sunee(?) when it’s all fun and games, so knowing where to draw the line of utmost importance. Thanks for this. x

  24. It’s like you can read my mind. The period post was timely and now this comes up after I’ve been a total dick to my best friend… Thank you? I mean the situation sucks but the advice is good.

  25. This “sunning” situation pretty much describes my family growing up. Which is sooo weird because now my parents are the most supporting and loving people in my life. It’s like they just one day suddenly stopped treating me that way. I still think they do it to each other though which is sad, but habits are hard to break I guess.

    So growing up this is how I thought relationships actually worked, so I was a little fucked up. Over this past year I’ve been continually realizing that this type of behavior is not okay when people do it to me, and when I have sometimes done it to others.

    Thank you Gabby for helping me to solidify and clarify my resolve to only be a 100% positive person.

  26. This is probably the most moving first person piece I have read. Thank you for your puke-inducing honesty. Thank you for giving all the right fucks.

  27. Thank you for talking about a thing that is not only difficult to talk about, but also to actually admit your own involvement in some seriously unhealthy behavior patterns. You are brave to admit it and so incredibly respectable for owning up to your own flaws, and for letting us in on your self-reflection. THANKYOU SO MUCH.

  28. This. Ahh. My roommate/she’s also my ex/she’s also my biff (read, lots of love but we fight like sisters) does this out of her own insecurities. OY!

  29. Gabby I love this post so so so so much a lot of what you wrote are things my friend told me when I finally got out of a really bad relationship. Sometimes as much as you can feel you love someone they’re poison to you with their negativity, and it makes you poisonous yourself. These negative things can hurt a person so much, yet it can be hard to acknowledge that what someone we love is saying is actually abusive and not just a joke. If someone is truly hurting your feelings you shouldn’t let them tell you that you just can’t take a joke or honesty.

  30. This was so beautifully written. I think verbal abuse is one of the hardest things to deal w/ or know how to handle. You have really wonderful advice.

    As far as the fucked up relationship, we’ve all been there.

  31. (8) You’ll go along with it then drop it, and humiliate me in front of our friends.
    Then I’ll use that voice that you find annoying and say something like, ‘Yeah, intelligent input darling, why don’t you just have another beer then.’
    Then you call me a ‘bitch’, and everyone we’re with will be embarassed and I won’t give a shit.(8)
    This is the kind of Lite-Sunning me and my current girlfriend have. Kate Nash gets me.

  32. I had my friend read this article, since she’s told me about her SO saying stuff like this, and she didn’t even finish reading the article before she decided that it’s something “they would never do to her” and closed the window.

    i def wanted to thank Gabby for giving me a way to try to approach my friend about this without her getting super mad at me. I’m just going to try to keep my wits about me and react like a good friend would if the sunning happens around me.

  33. Oh sunning, how I hate it and how easy it is to get close to doing it…

    I have a father who almost never notices when a joke goes to far and when it is time to stop. He suns, and he never knows. I grew up with that being annoying but still normal, so I know that I have to watch myself oh so very closely. My own insecurities don’t make it easier.
    But sunning is never ever acceptable if it happens on a regular basis. I think it has happened to me, more in friendships – it sucks. Why would you have close loved ones that actively hold you down, who work on belittling you in public?
    (I am not speaking about once in a while or once only incidents, but on people who have to feel supreme all of the time)

    This piece was really honest and I love you for writing it this way!

  34. This article was beautiful, Gabrielle. Thank you.

    This is quite relevant right now because I’m concerned about a friend and would like some help on this. (Context: we’re eighteen/nineteen)

    A friend of mine disappeared out of social horizon for a while and then out of the blue, a year later, opened up to me revealing that she had begun to date girls and hadn’t been ready to have it known among our friend group (I’m the only queer girl).

    She’d had a tumultuous year-long relationship with a girl, known only to friends in her new school; during which she’d cheated and broken up twice. As she told me about the details, she kept mentioning she’d been ”a shitty girlfriend”.

    I asked her what she meant, and she answered that she used to ”put her down” in public. I told her there had to be a reason why she had felt the need to do that, and after some thought, se suggested that it might be because she ”needed to feel like the ‘smart one’ ”. I tried to coax the idea of therapy into her, mentioning how much it had helped me understand hidden reasons behind my own inexplicable actions, but she seemed fairly reticent.

    She’s keeping on a lively, spontaneous to say the least, queer dating life and I’m increasingly worried that she’ll keep acting the same way over and over. She’s a genuinely nice, open person and I would really hate to see her turn into a relationship monster, making herself and other people unhappy.

    Would anyone have some advice on what I could try to do?

    • stop trying to fix your friend.
      let her do what she’s doing until she hits that brick wall.

      some of my friends tried to tell me that i was being a jerk but i didn’t listen. i felt like they didn’t get me. so i just kept on with the bullshit until i had nowhere left to hide and we imploded.

      it is not your job to bring someone to revelation. they must have that moment in their own space.

      focus on yourself, wish her well and love her hard when she figures out her shit.

      • Thanks.

        (Sometimes it’s hard to swallow you’re not Superman with magical powers to solve everyone’s problems.)

  35. “to purposefully point out flaws or insecurities in another person to prove a point or make oneself look better”

    “using her addiction as an excuse when I should have just been honest with her”

    “You can’t change a person by wishing or being the best partner.”

    Ouch. I did not expect to read this article and recognize so many pieces of my own life in it. I was in a relationship in which my partner was less than respectful and cheated often. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my way of regaining a sense of control and power was to belittle her in public with “jokes”. There was a point where a good friend of mine pulled me aside and pointed out that what I was doing was unfair and not okay. It was like I didn’t even hear her. The destructive behaviors escalated until the relationship finally blew up. Looking back on the whole thing, I don’t feel good about what I did. In fact, I feel really really awful about it. I am not a bully, but I sure as hell acted like one. Not only did I put someone down constantly, I did it knowing full well that the person I was putting down was an easy target considering her history of abuse. Reading a story so similar to my own experience is helping me come to terms with actions of mine that I blamed her for, rather than taking responsibility for them myself. Thank you, Gabby.

  36. Never stay with anyone who puts you down or treats you badly. Everything they claim not to like about you…Someone else will LOVE!

  37. wow, this really resonates with me. i grew up with parents who constantly “sunned” and tried to publically humiliate me instead of using discretion and trying to protect me. i eventually settled for toxic friendships where people who were supposed to give a fuck about me constantly blew up my spot and sometimes disrepected me. i had to establish a baseline of respect, like this is the line and don’t fucking cross it and cross me.

    how i deal with it depends on the person: for some people i feel it can be a teachable moment, and i pull them aside and let them know the shit they said was out of pocket. some people i’ve publically checked so they know that 1. they better not try it with you, because some people like to test the waters to see how big of an asshole they can be before you react, if you react at all(doormat) 2. their asses will also be “sunned” and they probably won’t like the feeling of being embarassed and uncomfortable for no reason. i use that tactic with my parents now, and even though it doesn’t ALWAYS work, they know if they go there with me, i am MORE then willing to go there with them. and i think it’s put a stop to a lot of their bullshit.

  38. ***Anyone that’s obtained your trust, been given access to your body and has been debriefed on all the awesome and personal details on your life, should always respect those privileges and most importantly, they must respect you.*** THIIIIIIS

  39. Wow, this article hit a raw nerve. I’ve been on both sides of this situation, and it ain’t pretty.

    The sun-ee does a shitty thing, knows it was a shitty thing, and instead of apologizing for the shitty thing, or being confronted privately about it, they’re sunned. Which only makes them feel worse. Which makes them feel like a Bad Person. So they continue to do bad things, because that’s what people who feel like bad people do.

    The sun-er had a shitty thing done to them, knows it was a shitty thing, and instead of confronting the other person, passive-aggressively goes after them in public. Which makes the situation worse.

    Gah. Thanks Gabby. This article made me realize I have some thinking to do. This is a vicious, dysfunctional cycle and it takes conscious effort to break out of it.

  40. I was definitely in a very similar situation. My ex did this to me, and I responded by basically refusing to engage. We broke up, and we have not spoken since.

    I am personally torn between letting go and forgiving. I am the kind of person in that I usually always opt for the former and never the latter. I wonder if I should have been more forgiving, or even lose my cool. Instead I responded with silence and disengagement.

    The situation is different in that it occurred AFTER we broke up. If we were still dating, then I would probably have opted for a more honest conversation instead of silence.

  41. I had somebody who used to do this to me and my strategy of “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that because I am a gentle, sensitive creature and I don’t want to start a fight even though I have never felt smaller or more humiliated” did NOT work.

    If only this article (and perhaps a superhero friend) had come along a little sooner!

  42. This is such a well-written post full of good and totally necessary advice! Personally I’m not offended when my girlfriend cracks jokes about my weight. BUT 1) she weighs more than I do 2) obviously thinks I am the most gorgeous person ever 3) is completely in love with my body and 4) expects similar jokes in return. Plus, she doesn’t make these comments in public. So I guess this isn’t really related anyway! But but but my previous girlfriend would sometimes say things about my weight, also in private, and that was very bothersome to me. I think it depends on the person and the relationship.

  43. “Listen to your instincts; they exist for a reason. They are your guides through the fuck all of life and we are consistently told to ignore them.”


  44. This was courageous and wonderfully honest. It is such a gift for us that you shared your story so transparently as well as your insight. I had a couple moments like this earlier this year and handled the first one horribly (silent shock, hiding in the locked bathroom crying) and the second time with the respect I deserved and should have commanded the first time.

  45. I have never read such an honest article. People hide behind ‘propriety’ and things that need to be said often remain unsaid. It takes guts to admit you used to be a horrible person and I pray your friend is still around.Articles like these are the reason why I bother to read Autostraddle.

  46. what if it isn’t public, what if its verbal abuse in private? what if what she says and does makes you think that you just need to grow a thicker skin in order to stick it out? when do you give her up? and when you give her up, how do you not go screaming for her to come back?

  47. Thank you. I wish I had read this two years ago and had realised what was happening to me, as it is I building up my self esteem from nothing with the help of my new stunning women who brought also me autstraddle. I feel stronger everyday.

    Your story made me cry on a London bus…people now think I’m weird.

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