Sometimes people decide it’s a good idea to ask me for advice, and I attempt to give it to them. Got a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone recently asked me what, if anything, he could do to alert his friend to the fact that his girlfriend was, as they say, “ruining his life.” I think this is a valid topic of conversation, so I’m going to try to answer it in a more general way, as I think many people have been in this situation before.
Say you have a friend who loves his girlfriend. (I’m using random genders here, but this applies to all gender configurations.) You think this girlfriend is a cool person, maybe even really cool. But when they are together, it’s bad news. Maybe your friend drinks too much and/or does too many drugs when she’s around, because she’s a nutty party girl. Maybe your friend drinks too much and/or does too many drugs when she’s not around, because they are fighting and he is sad. Maybe they fight bitterly about the stupidest things until you want to slap them both upside the head. Maybe they keep breaking up, but then getting back together because they’re stuck in a bad cycle and/or addicted to unpleasantness, and you think it sucks to see your friend suffer so much, seemingly powerless to make a good decision where she is concerned. What do you do?
Well, it’s obviously up to you, but when this happens with my friends, I generally try to bring it up with them at least once. Tread lightly, though. If your friend is not an idiot, chances are they already know that what they are doing is bad for them, they’re just not sure how to fix it. If it were easy to fix shit like this, your friend probably would have fixed it by now. You can’t cure someone’s deep-seated psychological issues in a single conversation.
You need to acknowledge that your friend might get mad at you, and that’s okay. Try not to be judgmental. Keep telling him how much you love him! He needs to feel that you’re not doing this to be a jerk, but because you care. It helps if this is actually true. It also helps if you at least appear to like his girlfriend, so he doesn’t accuse you of just being spiteful or whatever.
There’s a chance at this point that your friend will be like, “fuck you, I do what I want,” in which case you should back off and let him live his own life. At least you tried! There’s also a chance, though, that your friend will be eager to talk about it, in which case you should listen. Sometimes it helps immensely just to talk about a problem to someone. State your opinions, but don’t be pushy.
Of course, some people like to fight all the time. They’re always breaking up, therefore they’re never breaking up; this is normal to them. It makes their lives exciting! They only seem like they’re miserable; they actually love it. If this is the case, you should never try to “help” them again, as they will never listen and it will only drive you insane.
You should also allow for the possibility that you’re wrong. Maybe your friend’s girlfriend is not ruining his life, but it’s easier to blame her for it than to hold your friend responsible for his own actions. Or maybe your friend is actually fine and not ruining his life at all, in which case you need to listen to him and stop being such a paranoid weirdo. Or maybe your friend’s girlfriend is really just an awful nightmare person, in which case your friend will eventually realize it and thank you for trying to help, and the two of you will make jokes at her expense forever after, which will be fun. Only time will tell!
One final caveat: do not ever try to make a friend choose between you and the person they are fucking, because they will never, ever choose you. (This is especially dangerous if your friend is in an abusive relationship, as it will only drive them closer to the abuser.) But you would never do that, would you? You’re a better friend than that.
Feel free to post any additional insights in the comments!