I wrote a post a while back about the quotes that make a frenemy. Things like “you look tired” and “are you really going to eat that?” Blech.
But recently a reader questioned my inclusion of this statement: “I’m so glad you broke up with that asshole. I never liked him.”
When I wrote this, I explained that “If you speak these words, know that it is a virtual guarantee they will get back together. And I assure you: She. Will. Not. Forget.”
I stand by this.
Reader, after seeing my frenemy post, wanted advice on what to say to a friend who she thinks is in an unproductive relationship. The friend isn’t getting what she wants and isn’t being treated as she should, Reader says.
But Reader doesn’t want to harm her friendship by telling truths her BFF might not want to hear.
It’s a sticky situation. We’ve all been there.
A good friend should indeed be honest if she’s worried about a bestie’s romance. The trick is figuring out how to share those concerns.
From my experience, saying, “He’s a jerk, you deserve better” never elicits a positive response. No woman wants to hear that her friend hates her boyfriend or disapproves of her choices. On top of that, the implication that we put up with bad treatment—we are empowered women!—can be humiliating. So instead of breaking off the romance, we sever the friendship.
This is a gross over-simplification of a falling out, but I’ve seen this kind of fight take place. It’s upsetting and uncomfortable and not entirely unusual.
So here’s what I wrote to Reader:
“If you think your friend is being treated badly, you’re right to want to talk to her about it. The trick is in how you tell your friend what you think. Rather than phrasing it in terms of what is wrong with her boyfriend, make it about how much you care about your friend. As in, ‘How are you feeling? From what I hear you saying, I worry that you aren’t getting what you want out of your relationship, and I just want you to be happy.’”
I realize how life-coach jargony this sounds. It sort of makes me want to puke up rainbows and butterflies.
But I think this is an instance when the self-help speak is spot-on.
Once you insult a friend’s boyfriend, she often shuts down and simply doesn’t acknowledge what else you have to say. So I told Reader to talk to her friend, but I steered her away from the “you deserve better” comments. In fact, I suggested not mentioning him at all. She will bring him up.
“Make it about how she feels rather than what he’s doing wrong.”
Do you agree with this advice? Do you have anything other words of wisdom for Reader? (And if you’re ever looking for friendship advice, feel free to email me. I’ll respond with my two cents, and open it up for discussion, if you want.)