The Effective Way to Act When you Don’t Like Your Best Friend's Boyfriend
Many times, I have dated people that my family and friends didn’t like. Or, honestly, they hated.
My college boyfriend who stayed over at our house during winter break and wore wife beaters…my musician girlfriend who I fearfully introduced to my mom as “my friend that I met on Tinder”…or a tech guy who was decades older than me.
(I know, the main reason to read this blog is because I’m playing a weird version of Dating Bingo).
What I’m trying to say, is that you can trust me on this topic because I have a lot of experience with it.
On the other hand, many of my friends have dated guys I hated.
My college roommate dated a guy for years that I didn’t think was good for her, Bridget dated a guy in the army that I wanted to personally wanted to declare war on, and some of my girlfriends (that I have secret crushes on) date very nice men but I hate them all the same because I find their girlfriend cute and want her to myself.
Double experience on both ends! Double experience - all the way across the sky!
I used to think that the best way to handle your friend dating someone gross was to tell them honestly that the guy sucked. And if my friend was ever in a situation that seemed toxic or abusive, I would make my feelings known and tell her right away, and constantly, that she should dump the asshole and I would be there for her, and in fact - here’s my phone, you should do it right now.
Yeah, not the right approach. And I didn’t realize just how wrong this was until I myself started dating someone my family hated, and I realized how it felt to be on the receiving end of it.
It’s a hard thing for humans to accept - but you can’t change anyone’s mind.
You can offer them advice, you can show them facts and figures, and you can lead them to the answer you want, but you can never make them accept it. It’s a harsh fact, but the truth is, you thinking that something is right, doesn’t mean that it is. The only way someone can change how they think is if they do it themself.
So, let’s parlay this into how you’re going to help your best friend who is currently dating a Shrek-looking, serial cheating, unemployed, abusive asshole. (Or maybe you just have a secret gay crush on your best friend and want them for yourself).
Right now you’re probably filled with an urge to destroy this motherfucker. You want to sit your best friend down, pull out a list of things their partner has done wrong, and make a case for why she should leave him that’s so lengthy and detail-oriented that it makes filibusters across the country applaud.
But as my therapist always says: do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective?
If you complain about your friend’s boyfriend, or always nag her about how annoying he is - it might feel good and right in the moment, because you are right.
But odds are, you’re going to push her further towards him, and as an added shitty bonus, your friend will now not be coming to you for advice or support in anything regarding her boyfriend.
Remember that older guy I dated? My family did not like him. And while they turned out to be right in their thinking - at the time their reason for disliking him was “we know that he’s decades older than you, and he’s divorced”.
So I stopped talking to them about him. Every time I did, I was either given a conversation about how they didn’t approve of this, or there was uncomfortable silence, so I just started the habit of never talking to them about him. And in turn, I didn’t talk to them much about anything because I was wrecked with guilt over this, and whatever - long story - anyway the above quote from my therapist is because this whole situation put me deep in therapy.
So eventually, to make a long story short, I found out that this guy was bad news, and I was left pretty devastated by the whole situation.
And my family was wonderful. They never once had any air of “we told you so” even though, they most definitely had told me so.
My brother sent me deliveries of comfort food. My sister immediately flew across the country to spend the weekend with me. My parents flew up after and spent the week with me. Honestly I’m thinking about it now and getting a bit misty - my family is so wonderful. I’m really blessed.
The only problem was, I still wasn’t talking to them about how I felt. For nearly a year we had settled into a routine of don’t talk about this, and the habit had stuck.
But you know who heard about everything? My best friend Bridget. (You know her). Because for the entirety of our relationship, Bridget never gave any advice, suggestions, or anything of the kind.
She had her opinions, sure, but I only heard about them months after the breakup.
For a solid year, Bridget had listened, comforted me, and stayed silent. And in return, I was telling her everything. Details from before me and this guy started dating, when we were dating, and much longer after we had broken up.
And I can’t even begin to express how grateful I was for her. I was in a really dark place after our breakup, and knowing that I could talk to someone freely about what I was feeling without being given advice on how to handle the situation, or my emotions, or what I should do next…there’s no feeling in the world like the comfort that Bridget gave me. I can’t stress it enough.
This can be said of any girl in any abusive relationship, ever. They know they shouldn’t be in that relationship. They know it’s bad for them. They know, they know, they know.
You telling them that this boyfriend is bad news, is not a revelation for them. It’s something they know in the back of their minds, and they need to realize for themselves on their own.
And I know right now you’re probably frustrated with me and thinking Shannon your family could have saved you from this mess! I’m trying to save my friend from her mess! Are you seriously saying I should do nothing?
Don’t do nothing!
Here’s what you do. Listen. Give her support. Comfort her. And sometimes bite the shit out of your tongue when the urge to give advice comes over you.
Your new job in helping your friend is becoming a collector of goddamn data. Keep a mental (or, if you can do it subtly, physical) list of all of the nasty shit her boyfriend does.
So then, when she’s upset about “Max” yelling at her for dressing too provocatively on girl’s night or some other controlling shit, you don’t just go “Max is an insane douchebag, dump him,” but instead you can gently say, “I remember you say some similar things when he got upset at you for hanging out with your guy friends alone.”
You’re not interjecting your opinion. You’re not telling her to do anything. You’re just reminding her of a time that this happened before.
“So you think he’s too controlling?” she might ask you.
“Oh, I don’t know,” you say. “You know him best. I just remember you felt this same way last week about it.”
And then let there be silence. The silence is what hangs in the air and lets your friend make up her mind about how she feels.
Bridget might not know this, but she’s amazing at this technique. She’s an incredible listener. She’ll listen for hours without saying anything. She’ll ask questions about how I feel, and why I feel that way. And when I do ask her upfront for advice, she gives me advice based on what she thinks is best for me - not based off of her own personal experiences.
It’s a very effective technique to have someone reach their own conclusions, and that’s why therapists do it all the time.
So, to end this lengthy blog post, my advice is to do nothing but listen.
Oh, and just because it belongs it here: I did the opposite with Bridget’s army boyfriend. We all got drunk together one night and I started a full-fledged fight with him that led to him going into a rage and almost breaking up with Bridget because of something that I had said. So yeah. Wasn’t a great technique.
But also, fuck that guy. He was the worst.
I wish you luck with your friend and her horrible, shitty partner! Just remember - say nothing, give comfort, and keep a mental list. You are not Team I-Hate-Boyfriend. You are Team I-Love-My-Friend.
Until the next one,