Maybe they’re not right for you: should you give love advice to friends?

I am sure you are familiar with this scenario: your friend is dating a guy you can hardly stand. It’s not like you are not quite into his music taste or his hairstyle – you simply can’t tolerate his behaviour towards her. He treats her with no respect, hurts her feelings and makes her cry every few days. She runs to you to cry on your shoulder, which you happily offer… at least until you get tired of her repeating the same story over and over again and not doing anything about. But that’s not the worst part: she keeps trying to justify his bad behaviour and claims he is just a misunderstood/tormented/aching soul and he actually needs her to help him to get better. She is convinced she can save him. Hm…

A similar thing can happen to your male friend stuck in a relationship with a, let’s say – extremely high maintenance girl. You see it all happening, she has him wrapped around her finger and makes him follow her around like a puppy – but he seems completely blind to her manipulative ways. It makes you really upset to see your friend suffer – and you wonder how on Earth can they not see what their partner is doing to them?

Well – this is easy to say – when you are on the outside looking in. But when you are in the middle of it, it’s almost impossible to see things so clearly. We are much better at analysing other people’s lives and situations, because we are not nearly so emotionally attached. It’s like a watching a movie – you symphatise with the characters, choose sides, cheer, even cry a bit – but once you get out of the cinema you don’t care about them any more.

And you can’t really know how is it in other person’s shoes. Really. You can only guess what happens between two people and how much love vs pain gets exchanged while you are comfortably watching them from a distance, munching on your popcorn. Most likely, the relationship that looks bad from outside is honestly bad and it’s only a matter of time before it breaks, but sometimes people actually enjoy their love-hate ways and constant power games. Well, OK, maybe it’s not precise to call that love – probably it’s more of an emotional addiction, but they are hooked to it and they don’t know any better. And it’s hard to help them if they don’t see anything wrong with it.

Actually, your friend might even get upset with you if you try to point out that the relationship is not good for them. You could get accused you’re not a real friend and you don’t love them enough because – in their eyes – you don’t want them to be happy and in love. It’s hard to say whether it’s better to keep quiet or blurt it out – it depends from situation to situation, how close you are with this friend, and how much impact their story has on your own peace of mind.

My general rule of thumb would be – stay away from offering advice where it’s not asked for. It will most likely be interpreted as preaching upon, and you may genuinely be mistaken about how your friend feels in their situation. But – if it’s taking a toll on your nerves as you are constantly getting in the middle of someone else’s drama – you should draw a line to protect yourself.

You could lose the friend – that is always a risk, but if your friendship is strong enough, they will come back. You could also try and distance yourself for a while – stay away from this topic or see your friend less, which again might harm or end your friendship. It’s really not easy to choose a good outcome here, but – if you lose a friend because you were honest and wanted to help, that says something about the quality of your friendship as well. Real friends should be there to tell us like it is, even if we don’t like what they say.


What would you do? Were you ever in a situation like this? How did it turn out?
Were you ever on the other side – being that friend who was told his partner was not good for him?

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