Miss Information

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How do I deal with the unhinged predator circling my boyfriend?

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Dear Miss Information,

My boyfriend of almost four years and I got into the same Masters program. We are also in the same class. Our relationship is great.

Before the course began, we joined the university's Facebook group to meet others in the course. After a while, my BF mentioned how this particular girl (let's call her "The Bitch") always spoke to him. I didn't think anything of it, and once the program began, The Bitch seemed friendly and of no harm.

The three of us would hang out, but I began to notice that she was taking interest in things he liked and would talk to him almost every evening. I didn't want to jump to conclusions at that point, but one night in a van cab, she sat opposite my BF and, ostensibly to illustrate some point, she looked him in the eye, said, "I love you," and touched his knee.

I was furious. He also was taken aback by the gesture, agreeing with me that she was overstepping the line. I regret not saying anything in the moment, but I was just so shocked.

My issue now is that she's started inviting my boyfriend to things, either with just her or with others in the program, and not inviting me. While I know he won't go without me and always asks me to come (to her annoyance), I feel like she's doing this on purpose. (I haven't gotten an invite on more than one occasion, despite being polite and asking her to come to events I organize).

I told my BF how frustrated this makes me feel and that I'm sure she's trying to get him alone with her. But my BF says that since she is a friend, one of the first friends he's made in the program, he won't stop talking to her. He considers the cab incident "awkward" and "inappropriate," but not necessarily a threat. My BF also says that since he's clearly not interested in her, I shouldn't let her gestures get to me, because in the end that's what will cause friction in our relationship.

So, Miss Information, what do you think? How should I handle this situation? Should I call her out the next time she does any of the above things? I'm usually not confrontational but I refuse to be a pushover. Please write back. No one else has been able to help me out with answers.

Bitch Hunter

Dear Bitch Hunter,

If you're going to make up snotty epithets for someone, at least be specific. "The Bitch" is so vague as to be meaningless. Wouldn't "Unmuzzled Harpy" be punchier? Or at least make fun of her hair. Doesn't she have a stupid small dog or something? Yeah, that'll show her.

Here's the thing: you tipped your hand with your characterization of her as "The Bitch." (And, no, calling her "SuckTron" or "Hatemobile" or whatever else wouldn't make a difference.) Her real power is that she's gotten under your skin. It sounds like you are feeling pretty helpless and victimized in this situation, which is when sharp-tongued insults really tend to fly.

I don't mean to make excuses for this woman. And I certainly understand why you feel wounded by her behavior: it hurts to feel left out, it hurts when someone greets you with an icy wall of spite, and it's hard to watch someone nakedly and awkwardly make moves on your boyfriend. But you trust your boyfriend, right? When he says nothing is happening, you believe him, right? Then no amount of you sitting in a surveillance van with a periscope will help things. You need to let him make his decisions and feel comfortable in the knowledge that he is committed to you.

Ultimately, you can't control this girl's behavior, but you can control how you interpret it. Yes, it may be malicious — but beneath that maliciousness seems to be more than a little desperation and insecurity. People who are content and fulfilled in their lives don't try to "steal" boyfriends, alienate girlfriends, or manipulate relationships. Instead of seeing her as The Bitch, a lightning-spitting deity, see her for what she is: a fallible human with noticeable shortcomings. Like the rest of us. Bringing her down to actual size should help considerably.

As it stands, it doesn't seem like she's threatening your relationship so much as she is threatening your sanity. Energy you spend plotting against her is energy you're not spending enjoying (and strengthening) your relationship. Being around her may never be pleasant or even easy, but try your best to stay cordial. It sounds like you've got a lot of good things going on — why waste time sitting in the corner, bitterly snarking?