When Friendship Meets Relationship Advice….
Ever had a friend come to you with a relationship problem that required the ‘break-up, don’t break-up’ kind of response? Should you simply be a listening ear, or should you give advise? And here’s my favourite, Is there something like a neutral ground??
The thing with family and friends is that they are there to be with you through thick and thin, to help shoulder your burdens and to give a listening ear when needed. Often, people will confide in a close friend or family relation about problems they’re facing in their relationships. Sometimes the friends will just listen to you cry, curse, threaten suicide or murder and simply give you a hug in response. Sometimes they might go ahead and give you advice if the situation calls for it…and this is where things get tricky.
I think many people have experienced moments…those terribly awkward moments when you just want to scream at your friend to just ‘dumb the bloody bastard for Christ’ sake, wont ya!?’ but you know you can’t out-rightly do that because you will be in deep shit if your friend decides to get back with the bagger in question. There are those friends who will rat you out to their other half that you had advised them to break-up because you thought they were terrible jerks who chewed a little too loudly.
“She even told me she never liked you from the get-go…she said she doesn’t like how you look at other women when we are at social gatherings. I don’t understand why she would say something like that.”
No, you didn’t?!!!!
This is exactly the kind of thing that should never be reported if you still plan on putting your friend in the same breathing space with your partner, ever! Unfortunately, it happens quite a lotta times!
Sometimes friends respond in kind – I mean; if you go to a friend crying your oesophagus off about how your boyfriend or girlfriend has been mistreating you, your friend will naturally feel inclined to side with you whether they agree with you or not. A good friend will show support for you but still tell you some facts you need to recognize in subtle ways but others will go all out and bring out all that stuff about your partner they had been harbouring because you finally gave them the opportunity to air their opinions out – honestly. And there is nothing wrong with that, to some extent.
When friends talk, it is always the hope that they can be as honest as possible and trust that you will keep those conversations within the confines of that friendship. However, the problem with dealing with relationship issues is that chances are that that information shared will very likely reach their partner who will end up hating you for life.
For me, the most delicate issue to talk about with my friends has always been about whether to advocate for a break-up or reconciliation or whether to let them go ahead with their decision to break-up or make them reconsider. A few years ago, I had a friend who had fallen head-over-heals in-love with someone and was preparing her wedding. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances around that time…including the wedding jitters obviously (and most importantly), she wanted to cancel the wedding. She ranted to me about all the negative things the person she was getting married to had and I was put in a position where I began to see the guy as the ultimate villain – you know, the Voldemort-like kind except with a bit of hair on the scalp.
I truly hated the guy despite the fact that I didn’t know him that well because I had never had any interactions with him before that could have given me a personal judgement of his character. Everything I knew about him, I learnt from his girlfriend who was my friend. A few times I ran into him, I would be thinking in my head, ‘what a douchebag, bloody nincompoop bastard.’ And yet a few weeks later…and this is the interesting part, my friend would be there ogling him and being all lovey-dovey. I cannot tell you how many times I had to regurgitate my own vomit in his presence.
The truth is, I was not responsible for coming up with that damning judgement of his character, my friend was. She had not given me the chance to get to know him on my own terms and opinions. Everything I knew about him was based off prejudice…prejudice that she herself created in me and all that my brain could do is get in sync with my schema and do even more social damage. That guy had no chance in my good books. However, because I didn’t want to jump too quickly into letting her give up on him during the times she felt like killing him, the only thing I could tell her was, ‘it’s just wedding jitters…soon he will get back to being the loving guy you fell in-love with…’ of course I never believed a single bullcrap of what I said but I felt it was something she needed to hear at that time.
There was no way in hell was I gonna tell her to break-up with a guy during a time she was obviously battling with hormones infused with all the drama that comes with wedding preps. Despite every fibre in me feeling like telling her to quit and find someone better in future, I bit my lips and hoped for a miracle. And yes, a miracle did finally happen! She got married to him and I got to know the guy on a personal basis and boy is he a good man! Not perfect, obviously, but he’s worth the fuss.
Fortunately, I learnt a lesson from this experience; that friendship is not an easy thing to maintain when dealing with relationship problems. To some extent, we are responsible for how our friends feel about our partners because they get impressions about them from what we say about them. Nature demands that if a friend is hurting from a bad relationship, whether she is telling us the truth or not, we are supposed to show them support.
The only time you can offer objective advice is if you know your friend’s character very well. I have a mildly short fuse. Fortunately, I have a best friend who knows this about me and every time I go to her ranting about how unfair to me my husband was during a particular time, she asks me to calm down and look at things objectively. Sometimes (maybe often?? Hehehe) she knows I am finding faults due to my own personality and that I am just blowing things out of proportion. And she is right most of the times – I tend to over analyse stuff, a lot. So she doesn’t jump to conclusions about advising me without looking at the situation critically. She will tell me to my face to calm my ovaries down and I do the same to her.
But not everyone has that kind of close relationship with their friends. Sometimes there are friends you might have trouble being honest with yet you still consider them friends. And so, every time you have to offer advice, you have to sugar coat stuff so much that by the end of the day, you would have done more damage than control to the situation. These are the kind of friendships that end up getting ruined once a relationship that was on the verge of collapse or had once ended is resurrected.
The fact is that as friends, we should take a major responsibility for how our friends see or view our partners because most of that judgement, we planted it in their heads. However, there will be times when friends will get a glimpse of a personality trait or character about their friend’s partner that she/he might not even be aware of…such as when they are displaying signs of dishonesty, cheating, or when they wish to end the relationship but can’t quite gather the courage to confront you about it. Very often, it is the friends in the side lines who are able to see things clearly because they are watching while you are taking part in the relationship. It’s difficult to see certain things when you are very closely involved in a situation. So the question is; do you make your friend aware of such a situation or is better to just wait and see…hope for the best or help pick up the pieces if the relationship crumbles?
Thing is, I don’t know what the right thing to do would be because all such situations have their own peculiarities that warrant special treatment. Sometimes you can clearly see a friend about to jump in a very wrong relationship with the signs screaming themselves higher than Mount Everest but because they are so invested in it, it’s hard to burst their bubble. And so you just cross your fingers and hope the water works never erupt.
I have personally learnt that I have to be careful about the things I say about my partner to my friends. Of course this doesn’t mean I have to be dishonest. Sometimes all you need to do is weigh the things in your head and see if they are really something you should talk about with a friend without them coming back to bite you in future. It is best to protect the dignity of your partner especially when dealing with certain special matters and maybe our friends might not always be the best people to seek advice from or vent…even harder when you are married.
Because you might be distressed and full of emotion, you might end up saying something about your partner to your friend and there is no undoing the damage in their heads once the seed has been planted. They are your protectors and always want the best for you, therefore, anything that hurts you, they will hate it.
Whereas you are in a position to judge whether your partner has changed or not and if you can trust them to be that way throughout, your friends don’t have that privilege and they will keep holding on to that perception you initially gave them. It won’t be easy for them to accept back into your life someone you once claimed mistreated or abused you. They saw how it affected you and they were the ones to help dry your tears. They don’t wish to ever see you like that again. It is not because they are jealous or that they don’t wish you happiness (well, not always), true friends will want the best for you.
Therefore, it is best to think certain things over – to gauge whether they are worth sharing with a friend or someone more experienced or older. It is unfair to put friends in a position where they have to side with either you or your partner and when they do side with you, you go and tell your partner all about it thereby putting them in a more awkward position.
As friends, it is better to accept that our friends won’t always take our advice. Yes you know that they are making a mistake and you tried to caution them in the most subtle ways possible yet they didn’t listen. Instead of piling up bitterness and resentment, the friendly thing to do would be to show them support when the time comes because you already did your part. You don’t need to shout; ‘I told you so…’ they already know. Everyone makes mistakes and relationship mistakes are the most common that cannot be avoided in one’s dating life. People don’t become better lovers/partners by simply reading books. The mistakes in themselves are teachers…very tough teachers, to say the least.
Photo Credit: (photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64607715@N05/16017060408″>Three On a Couch, Ethiopia</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>)