How do I give advice to my best friend on a relationship that I don't approve of?


#1

My best friend is 20, baptized Catholic but does not practice her faith. She was never confirmed. She's been in a relationship with her partner for two and a half years, and has been engaged to him for a little over a year. She has also been living with him for the past year and having sex with him for the past two years. This isn't what bothers me the most, I also struggle with premarital sex. What bothers me the most is how they treat each other. They set restrictions and rules and curfews on each other. They refer to themselves as a family but I know that at the beginning of the relationship he cheated on her. I find it horrifying, but at the same time I would be able to look past it and mind my own business if she didn't ask me for advice when they have relationship problems, which happens frequently. She often becomes distraught and comes to me whenever her fiance and her have a squabble.

My biggest concern is that I don't know what to advice to give her when she vents to me.


#2

Ask her where she sees the relationship going and honestly what is her idea of an ideal relationship - what would have to happen in this relationship to get there? Then suggest a good Christian counselor and tell her that you will love, support, and pray for her no matter what because you care about her and you are her friend but not to ask if she doesn’t want to be told the truth.


#3

If she is not mature enough to settle these arguments with her boyfriend (shack-up) but must turn to you like you are in high school, she doesn't need to be in that relationship at all. Tell her to stop confiding in you - it's gossip. Let her figure out her own quandaries.

Very sad.

:(


#4

The next time she vents, ask her if she wants your opinion, or if she just wants you to let her vent and keep your mouth shut. Abide by that answer, knowing that she knows you have concerns that you would share if she cares to ask. She will also know that you respect her as an adult enough to butt out where you are not wanted. She deserves to know that.

If she says “yes”, she’s all ears, or “Why? What?” then tell her: “Stacy, you and Bob already have patterns going in your relationship that point the way to divorce. I think you would be happiest if you would see a counselor that specializes in marriage counselling and tell him or her what you’ve been telling me. If you marry Bob, you know he’ll be like a brother to me, but right now I am worried about your chances of having a happy and long-lasting marriage.”

What? What patterns? Their expectations of each other in terms of keeping tabs, which are far beyond what happily married couples tend to have. The way in which they handle disagreements. The amount of distress she goes through when they have an issue to work out. Just let her know that even if their parents handled each other this way, there is a better way, a happier way, a healthier way, and you want her and her fiance to find that.

By the way, remember that you also have the right to maintain a friendship in which you put a limit on the kind of venting she does. I think you would do well to limit her venting to those topics and ways of talking about them that she would use if her fiance were present: That is, that you don’t care to be a party to conversations that would hurt his feelings, if he were to overhear them. Talk to her as if you knew he were a fly on the wall.

I think she will respect you for doing that, because it shows that you also care about her fiance. It shows that you are a person who doesn’t say one thing to someone’s face and another behind their back. Assuming she agrees to those terms, you can use knowledge gained from books such as John Gottman’s *Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work * and/or Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage to guide you in terms of offering positive feedback that is respectful of her fiance. Those are definitely titles I would suggest to her, if she’s open to finding good books. They are very often available at libraries and in paperback form in book stores.

I also know more than one person who has several friends and family members who have let him know that they are “opting out” of his venting sessions, because he never does anything positive with them. The venting is draining on his friends and accomplishes nothing. You can leave that route open for yourself, as well. Some couples seem to want a certain amount of “drama” in their relationship. That’s their perogative, but they have no right to force any of their dear friends and family to buy tickets.


#5

Sometimes people just want to vent and other times they are truly ready to accept advice from a loving, caring friend. Is she venting or ready?

You are able to see things that are harmful to her in their relationship, because you have some objectivity. You can see that her faith life is missing and how this has an affect on her relationship with her boyfriend. But does she see it? Is her faith even on her radar, or is it something you wish for her?

Do you know what she wants out of their relationship? They are engaged. Engaged to what end? Does she want to be married, or are they engaged to maintain the same relationship they have indefinitely.

Abuse in the short term is not a good predictor of success for the long term. Abuse isn't always physical, but can be subtle as you have described. There is a basic lack of trust indicated when adults set curfews for one another. This is what parents do with a child to determine whether the child has reached a certain level of responsibility or trust. In this case it may be because neither feels they can trust the other out of their sight.

If your friend becomes distraught at every squabble, it speaks to a level of immaturity and insecurity. There is a diminished ability to resolve problems, so the relationship becomes mired in one spot. I don't recall whether you mentioned the age of your friend, but she may not be as emotionally mature as her chronological age.

You seem to genuinely want to help her, but conflicted about bringing these issues to the surface. You will need to assess her willingness to hear the message, and your own ability to work through any resistance or blame she may place on you.


#6

Personally, I don’t think setting a ‘curfew’ on each other is always a bad thing.

For example, if he cheated on her at the beginning of the relathionship, she has perhaps agreed to trust him again as long as he accounts for his time. ( A fair request) and perhaps he feels that if he has to account for his time, so should she.

You used the word ‘curfew’ but is that what is really going on? Perhaps it is an easier word to say than a long winded sentence ‘in order to regain the trust from my boyfriends mistake we have decided to be accountable to each other for how we spend our time.’

Our perhaps they have a lifestyle where they are busy in the morning so the curfew is to make sure they get enough sleep for the day ahead. There is not enough information to tell

However, you are obviously fed up with being her sounding board and don’t feel like she is making the best choice. For that, you do have a right to your boundaries. You can either tell her you no longer wish to hear it, tell her if she wants your honest opinion that is exactly what she will get (be prepared to loose the friendship over it but then is she worth being friends with if she shoots the messenger after asking for the truth?) or find some liveable compromise.

CM


#7

This is what my friends FIANCE told her “You have to be in bed by 10:00pm”

He was the one that I think cheated. He never admitted to it, but all the signs were there. When my friend brings it up to him he says, “I’m with you here, I’m with you now, we’re engaged, living together, etc and that was the past. It does not matter what happened.”

I mean sure, in some circumstances maybe a curfew or something of the sort would be beneficial. But not in any circumstances I’ve come across. Not saying I’m not open to it. Sure, it could be helpful to some.


#8

[quote="cmscms, post:6, topic:226083"]
Personally, I don't think setting a 'curfew' on each other is always a bad thing.

For example, if he cheated on her at the beginning of the relathionship, she has perhaps agreed to trust him again as long as he accounts for his time. ( A fair request) and perhaps he feels that if he has to account for his time, so should she.

You used the word 'curfew' but is that what is really going on? Perhaps it is an easier word to say than a long winded sentence 'in order to regain the trust from my boyfriends mistake we have decided to be accountable to each other for how we spend our time.'

Our perhaps they have a lifestyle where they are busy in the morning so the curfew is to make sure they get enough sleep for the day ahead. There is not enough information to tell

However, you are obviously fed up with being her sounding board and don't feel like she is making the best choice. For that, you do have a right to your boundaries. You can either tell her you no longer wish to hear it, tell her if she wants your honest opinion that is exactly what she will get (be prepared to loose the friendship over it but then is she worth being friends with if she shoots the messenger after asking for the truth?) or find some liveable compromise.

CM

[/quote]

Parents dictate curfews, not spouses. Spouses let each other know clearly what they need, and then try in good faith to meet each other's needs voluntarily, using mutual self-sacrifice, communication, a sense of humor and affection and, when necessary, compromise. There is a very big difference.

Your explanation of how the two friends might work out this situation is a good example of how adults set boundaries and make joint decisions. Even spouses get to set and enforce boundaries, after all.

This kind of thing doesn't just come up with offenses like infidelity. It comes up with how to use money, how to take care of our health and manage our careers, how to determine the level, frequency, and division of routine domestic chores, how to manage outside friendships, how to balance hobbies and entertainments that are not held in common, and so on. The list goes on and on.


#9

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