Over the holiday weekend I was catching up with an old friend. I asked about some of her friends and how they were doing. Everyone was well, she said. But when I asked for specific updates on one pal’s love life and another one’s family, I was told, “Oh, I don’t ask them about that stuff anymore.”
These are sore subjects. One friend-of-my-friend is devastated about being single, the other has a newly strained relationship with her sister. They’re issues that have been brewing for a while now, and my friend has checked in on both topics plenty of times. But nothing seems to change, and it started to feel as if she was upsetting her BFFs rather than supporting them by asking the same question over and over. So she stopped.
And now the subjects have become taboo territory.
People say the measure of a best friendship is that you can talk about everything. Usually I think this is true. I generally don’t approve of having topics that are off-limits in a close relationship. How can you show you care about the important stuff if you’re not allowed to bring it up?
But maybe that’s the journalist in me. When I’m curious about something, I ask. Often to others’ disapproval.
I do think it is important to respect someone’s boundaries. Sometimes it’s more rewarding to have a friend you don’t have to talk about the big stuff with. Someone with whom you can escape your troubles, if only for a moment.
I have trouble toeing this line. I always want to show my concern if a friend is going through hard times, but I don’t want to be another person firing off the same questions, especially when the answer hasn’t changed. It can start to sound an awful lot like nagging.
Are there any taboo topics in your close friendships? What are they? How do you show you care without beating a dead horse?
6 responses to “Do You Avoid Taboo Topics With Friends?”
I think you can avoid the topic without it becoming taboo. After a respite in inquiries I’d probably say something like, “I haven’t asked about it in a while because I didn’t want to upset you if you in case you don’t like talking about it, but how is X going?” Then if the friend confirms that she doesn’t like talking about it you can follow up with, “That’s fine. I don’t mean to pry. I just didn’t want you to think I don’t care.” Then she knows you’re interested, but doesn’t feel pressured to talk if she doesn’t want to.
My BFF and I don’t talk about her boyfriend because he hates me and I am in no way fond of him but it sounds like they are going to get married so we just don’t really talk about him, unless she brings him up.
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I think how many “taboo” subjects, there are between 2 people is directly related to how close the friendship grows….
Sometimes you meet a person, and just from the get-go there is an understanding that they don’t like to discuss anything, that someone might have a differing opinion on….
As a single person who happens to be very happy being single, I get extremely irritated with friends (who consider themselves “caring”) asking me about my love life or lecturing me on how I can’t possibly be happy being single.
Friends like that don’t remain my friends for very long!
Anyway my advice on taboo subjects is this:
If the friend brings up a topic up for discussion, than it is okay to talk about it. If they don’t, well then don’t ask.
Also approaching a sensitive topic along the lines of:
“I haven’t asked about it in a while because I didn’t want to upset you, in case you don’t like talking about it, but how is X going?”
…as Gail mentioned is probably going to invite defensiveness from the other person.
It’s just best not to ask about certain topics unless the friend brings it up and talks about it in the first place.