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My Girl's a Party Pooper

Dear Philippa,

My problem is how my girlfriend reacts to people when we've out socializing. One on one we get on great but something happens when she gets with a group of people. She turns everyone off with her one-upmanship and snide remarks. I don't get it and I don't know what to do about it. Please help.

�Donald, Little Rock, AR


Dear Donald,

Your question reminds me of the old Seinfeld series on television. George got on great with Jerry and his pals but when he was out at a party he inevitably offended everyone. He didn't trust others and he didn't think people liked him�so they didn't. George was the epitome of insecurity and paranoia. Now, I'm not saying your girlfriend is another George, but have you wondered if your girlfriend's behavior has something to do with insecurity?

I had a boss who used to literally drive people running from the room when he pulled his one-upmanship routine. It didn't matter what everyone was discussing, he always knew the latest statistics or some undeniable fact that would negate what anyone else was saying. He may have been right most of the time, but people found him so obnoxious they didn't care what he was saying.

One-upmanship is one thing, acting snide and putting people down is another. Your girlfriend's behavior sounds blatantly hostile. Have you noticed a pattern to her behavior? Is she this way with everyone? Is it just with your old friends�people with whom you have a past she might resent; or women with whom she feels threatened? Is she introverted and uncomfortable in large group situations?

Analyzing why she behaves this way is basically a waste of time because her actions are unacceptable whatever the causes because only she can change her behavior. The big issue here is how you communicate your discomfort to her, and depending on what action she takes, what you ultimately decide to do about it.

You can let her know how you feel when she acts this way. Keep away from pointing your finger and finding fault. You don't want her to feel defensive. Make it safe for her to open up to you by letting her know how much you care about her and how you want to help her. Then leave her verbal space to respond. She needs to let you know if she is aware of her behavior.

I know this won't be a comfortable conversation for either of you, but what is the alternative? You can accept her behavior and lose friends or you can dump her and she'll never know why or have a chance to alter her behavior.

Chances are that deep down she knows how she acts and she doesn't like it either. You may be the first guy who says he's willing to stick around if she wants to do something about it. But she has to want to change for herself, not for you. And, she may have to seek help from a counselor to help herself.

What if she doesn't see how her actions negatively affect people? What if she doesn't want to work on it? Many people suffer with partners who create isolating relationships by alienating all their friends. You must decide what's best for you. You deserve to be with someone with whom you feel comfortable and proud of, both in private and social situations.




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