A good friend with a poor track history in relationships has just taken up with a new partner and everyone who knows her considers this to be a disaster in the making. It’s common wisdom that one should never interfere in such matters, but surely an intervention now would save her months of emotional torture and keep her friends’ mobile phone bills at a reasonable level. What’s your advice?
You cannot live someone else’s life for them.
Of course, you can see that she’s making a disastrous mistake with this new partner. But if it wasn’t him, it would be someone else who you’d consider unsuitable. She needs this relationship. She needs to make this mistake. How else is she going to learn that people like this chap are not suitable? You and her other friends can tell her but that is not the same as experiencing it first hand. All of us need to go through the joy and pain of unsuitable relationships to discover who we are and who we want to be with. And some of us are slow learners. Your friend appears to be in this category.
You can see that the relationship will have problems, including distressing arguments and numerous ultimatums and breakups. You are dreading her tearful or frantic episodes and the late-night phone calls where she will want to conduct detailed post-mortems.
That is understandable. But what are friends for?
She obviously needs the help that your insightful, cool head can give her. Remember, she is on a steep learning curve here. Your job, as a good friend, is not to tell her what to do, or even to tell her what is happening in the relationship. You serve her best by being interested in her, by listening without judgement and by asking her self-reflective questions. Here are some suggested questions that could be helpful when she is puzzling over the problems she is having: How do you feel? What attracts you to him? What annoys you? What do you think you deserve? Who else has made you feel like this? Can you see any repeating patterns in your relationships? What about finding a counsellor to help you through this?
She needs to understand why she is taking particular courses of action. Her goal, like all of us, is to find happiness. Few of us are sufficiently self-aware to be able to take the direct route to happiness. Nothing is wasted. As long as we stop, pick up the pieces and reflect, we will learn. And knowledge, as they say, really is power.
If you find her grief, during this disastrous relationship, is upsetting to you, then you need to look to yourself. Whenever this happens, her situation is triggering off some painful past experience of yours and you need to work out why you are being affected
The best friends are those who are genuinely interested in us but emotionally detached from our dramas. And those, as you know, who have well-paid-up mobile phone services.
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