Normally, best friends just get each other. You exchange articles, books, movies, and many, many opinions. And while your values and preferences don’t always exactly align (I mean, how boring would that be?), you know how to debate your different viewpoints with animation, friendliness, and honesty—and usually some good humor. But sometimes, when a new dude enters the picture and becomes part of her routine, all that computes is one giant question mark. Why him? Of all people! Him?!
“You can do so much better!” you might want to say—nay, scream—to her. You think back to the hundreds of conversations you’ve had about romance, love, and men. Heck, together, you’ve maybe even once outlined the ideal man for her personality. There might have even been Pinterest boards involved, or at least a few wine-induced heart-to-hearts.
So, after all that, all those talks, this is the guy she deems worthy of her time?
When one of my friends started dating this guy, I tried to keep an open mind. Yet I couldn’t help but think that she was making a mistake. He wasn’t a bad person, but where she was funny and friendly, he was solemn and, frankly, a killjoy. Where she was ambitiously working for a bright future, he was content with his dead-end job. While she had a myriad of goals and interests, we realized that the most interesting thing in his life was her.
Recently my concerns were compounded when we discovered they are talking about marriage. I wasn't the only person to cringe when I learned of this news—all our friends were nonplused by this new development.
That said—what's a girl to do?
“It's always a risk to stick your neck out unless a friend brings it up first,” shares Rachel Sussman, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “You have to remember that once you say something negative about the person he or she may [eventually] marry, your friend may go ahead and marry that person nevertheless and it could negatively affect your friendship.”
As Sussman says, “If you feel the relationship is dangerous or abusive, intervene. If you feel the person abuses drugs or alcohol—yes, intervene. If the person is cheating, intervene. If your friend seems unhappy—intervene.”
But if you just have a general feeling of dislike or simply a perpetual ‘meh,’ towards her significant other, and she oddly seems all happy and giggly about him, there’s no clear cut answer on what you should do. But what you can do is pay close attention and decide what's worth bringing up. Here are some things to consider.
Listen: What Is She Saying About Him?
Aside from describing that initial romantic attraction—He’s absolutely amazing! I’m on cloud nine!—how does she describe his personality? Does she provide anecdotal stories that actually describe his character? And when she spouts blushing admiration, does it go beyond shallow appreciation?
If her overall descriptions of him depict an upstanding man who seems reliable, kind, and willing to communicate and compromise—and you trust your friend enough to make these types of assessments—these are all good signs, whether or not you personally get along with him.
However, if her admiration does seem shallow, and she seems fixated on the wrong traits, or solely focuses exclusively on how he makes her feel, without any sort of objectivity, don’t be afraid to point out these concerns—gently. While these red flags might be obvious to you, remember you’re not the one caught up in the wind of romance—which can cloud all of our judgments.
Watch: How Do They Treat Each Other?
Sure, he might not be winning any points with you, but how well does he mesh with her? When you’re out with both of them, notice how they interact. Do they have mutual respect for one another? Do they laugh and tease? Do they challenge each other, but in good humor? Does she bring out the best in him, and likewise?
While you might not necessarily like his jokes, try to watch how they get along—as objectively as you can. Do they seem like they’re generally happy together, or do you notice anything strange or unusual about their relationship? Does anything about their interactions make you feel uncomfortable?
For instance, if you don’t think she’s herself around him, or if he seems like he makes her feel frazzled or insecure, definitely make note of it—and consider telling her. While it might seem like a small thing, if you’re seeing it, there’s a likelihood that this isn’t a rare instance.
Interact: How Does He Treat Others?
Obviously, men treat women who they’re romancing much different than the rest of the world. While that’s definitely a good thing (and a weird red flag if he’s treating everyone like he does her!), take note about how he interacts with others—including yourself. While you two might not necessarily get along, is he respectful of your thoughts? Sure, he might disagree with your politics or your opinions on heated topics, does he openly listen to you? Do you feel like he’s at least polite?
If he’s downright disrespectful to you or to other people, this is something you should mention to your friend when you find time to talk, as this could be a sign of how he treats her down the line, after the initial romance fades.
Assess: Remember That She’s Not You.
While it might seem obvious, when it comes to those who are closest to us, it can be really difficult not to project our own feelings onto the relationship. After all, everyone sees the world only through their individual perspective.
If you do choose to talk to your friend, remember to state your concerns, and illustrate why they’re important—but don’t belabor the point. Most importantly, be kind. I’ll never forget one of my friends who vehemently disapproved of a past relationship (and in retrospect, rightfully so). In a heart-to-heart, she shared her opinion straight-up with me once—and was objective and kind. While I didn’t exactly do anything with that information at the time, later on when I complained about my relationship with the man, she simply stated, “Well, you know my opinion on this matter.”
That, to me, was extremely powerful—and made me feel like my friend was letting me take the wheel to my own life, not trying to steer it for me.
So what am I going to do about my friend? Concerned, a couple of our friends are planning to visit her in the upcoming weeks. But, before we say anything about the giant awkward turtle in the room, we’ll let her talk, we will ask her exactly what she sees in him and listen to what she says. If her answers concern us it’s our duty as friends to present her with what we think, in the kindest way possible.
I realize that, ultimately, this is her decision. We as friends can only do so much. Doing what's best for your friend might mean having an uncomfortable, and possibly even painful, conversation. But consider, it might also mean smiling and being happy for her, even if her guy isn't your cup of tea.
Photo Credit: Xavier Navarro