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 telephone bills at a reasonable level. What’s your advice?
You can’t live her life for her. Nor would you want to. You see her repeating the same disastrous relationships over and over again. She doesn’t seem to learn from her mistakes. Instead, she’s relying on you to help pick up the pieces. And you’re sick of the responsibility.
What’s really going on?
The problem is not her new partner. Sure, you can see they’re not suited. But that sounds like a prerequisite for your friend. She’s not attracted to emotionally healthy, confident and loving men. Instead, she choses men who will disappoint her. And after the inevitable breakup, you’re left to pick up the pieces.
Like attracts like.
Your friend is attracted to these men because she’s not emotionally healthy herself. She’s not confident. And she’s not loving.
Nonsense, you say. Maybe she’s not that strong, but she’s always been loving. If anything, she’s too loving. This is exactly my point. Falling for men who hurt or betray you is not loving. It might seem like love, but deep down your friend is revealing her neediness and weakness.
She needs help to overcome this which is where you and her other friends come in.
You can’t expect her to change unless you also change. In the past, you’ve run your mobile phone’s battery down trying to help her. You’ve always been available for her, at any hour of the day or night. You’ve drunk endless cappuccinos together, and conducted detailed post-mortums that would put Patricia Cornwall to shame.
Nothing has changed.
It’s time to draw some clear boundaries. Limit the time you spend on the phone to your friend. Don’t rush out to meet her at a moment’s notice. She has to learn to stand on her own two feet, and you have to preserve your health and sanity.
Before you can do this, however, you need to take a look at yourself. Why are you hooking into her suffering? Perhaps you’ve endured a couple of bad relationships yourself, and you identify too closely with her. If this is the case, you may have some emotional issues which you need to deal with. And until you do, you won’t be able to help your friend.
So get rid of your emotional baggage now. This sets a good example for her.
The next time she rings you and bursts into tears, try a different approach. Acknowledge her pain and anguish, but don’t hook in. Limit the time you spend with her. Give her something to reflect on. Tell her that you see the same destructive patterns repeating themselves in her relationships, and they must meet some need in her. Don’t let her rehash her relationship dilemmas or succumb to self-pity or anger. Keep her focussed on understanding the deeper needs and fears within herself.