Monday, March 31, 2008

What's the Protocol?

In the past few weeks, I’ve read (on one of my favorite blogs, Variety is the Spice) and had conversations with multiple people about the proper course of action to take when you don’t like a friend or relative’s boyfriend. (Or girlfriend).

In theory, I want my friends and/or family to tell me if they don’t like who I'm dating. An outside perspective can be good and helpful and may lend insight to the relationship that I’m overlooking.

But when the situation has actually arisen in my life, it has…sucked. It’s no fun thinking you’ve made a big old mistake choosing your beau. And in some cases, I think your pride can keep you from listening to the people who care about you.

Sometimes you’re so blinded by love or lust or longing that you hold onto things that don’t suit you well—and when someone tries to tell you to let them go, it makes you want to hold on tighter.

Then, when you dig your heels in, it’s even more frustrating for the outsider who has identified a glitch in the relationship that you don’t see. They either have to choose to keep stating their opinions and observations OR keep their mouths shut and watch you go through whatever nonsense you’re going to go through.

If they tell you they think your significant other is wrong for you, it can create a maelstrom of resentment. This happened last year with my sister—she kept telling me I shouldn’t be with someone who I couldn’t get along and be happy with. And instead of heeding her advice, it just made me angry. It made me push her away. So what’s a concerned sibling, coworker or gal pal to do???

Do we take the “to each his own” stance? As I’m typing this, there’s a little ticker tape running through my head saying Keep Your Side of the Street Clean… Do we have to just keep quiet and have faith that the involved person will figure out their love’s shortcomings or inherent ickiness eventually? Or do we have a duty to do everything in our power to prevent our loved ones from making mistakes?

What do you all think?


Anonymous said...

Lessons are learned by mistakes made. I think you learned your lesson and have done your homework well. I see Mr. W as wonderful, just as you do. And he's quite nice looking too!

Lara said...

Having way too much experience in this department, I think that it's a caring outsider's responsibility to point out some potential problems. Of course you want to try and be supportive of the person, but you also need to point out the obvious (i.e. crying all the time is probably not a healthy thing). If someone had done that for me when I was 19, I wouldn't have spent 3 years trying to convince myself that a completely messed up relationship was ok for me, only to have my heart crushed in the end. The signs were there but those who mattered the most were too worried about saying the wrong thing.

Big Sister said...

Wow- you admited to the whole world that you should have listened to me? It's a miracle - Praise the Lord!!! I think I might just know you better than anyone, and just so you know, I have not gotten 1 bad vibe since you met Mr. Wonderful.

brookem said...

i have to agree with lara. ive been on both sides too. had a best friend/loved one, come to me and tell me that they are concerned about the dude im seeing (rightly so). i appreciated their input at the time, but it was, sometimes, frustrating. at the same time, i think it's our role as a good friend/sister/etc. to find a gentle way to address what is kind of a delicate situation. i wouldnt want to be all "he's a wicked douchebag!, what are you thinking?!?!".... there are kinder, tactful ways of getting (the same) point across, i think.

Mel Heth said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! AMOMymous, yours didn't answer the question, but it was nice nonetheless.

So here's my follow-up question: I understand the importance of being tactful and kind - but what about conversation quantity? How many times should you tell a friend you think she and her guy are wrong for each other?

I have a great friend who was very sweet in her approach to telling me my ex was a terrible fit - but despite her caring tone, I still resented her for it and felt awkward. Any suggestions for that situation? She kept gently drilling into me but it made me mad. Is it our duty as good friends to keep at it even if we're upsetting our gal pal?

Jane Moneypenny said...

Thanks for the mention of the blog. :P Like I said, I usually don't say much since they're usually guys that are fine to my friend, just not someone I would ever be friends with. But in those cases that it's clearly a bad situation, I've said it. And even though they don't believe me and are mad at me, they always come around later and admit that I was right.

Laura said...

Everyone hates being put in this position, but you need to tell your friends if you don't like their guy...even though they don't like hearing it, they eventually come around and admit you were right! The hard part is not nagging them about it...I have one friend who ended up marrying the guy none of us liked, only to get divorced 2 years and 1 child later and THEN admit that she knew all along her wasn't right for her.

I would definitely want my friends to tell me if they didn't like my guy...well, not now, because it's a little late for that, but say....9 years ago, I would've wanted to hear it! :)

Lara said...

I agree w/ brooke, jane and laura. You may resent the person who is repeatedly (although in a nice, productive way) pointing out the flaws in your relationship, but you need to hear them. Again, I know from personal experience that I would take the one good thing and almost obsessively remind myself of that, while trying to block out the 9 crappy things that this guy was doing. If someone would have gently reminded me of the 9 crappy things (and counting) on a regular basis, maybe I would have come to my senses a little earlier. You never know the outcome and need to be supportive, but I definitely think it's supportive and loving to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Think of Tolle (A New Earth, p102 under "Conscious Suffering"). "Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego."

Don't let your ego confuse your role and function of being a friend. When you see suffering in others, do what you can to help, but do not anguish yourself. If you feel a need to keep telling your friend you are right and they are wrong, you are letting your ego call the shots. If you live consiously, maybe it will rub off on your friend. They need to learn their own lesson.


Mel Heth said...

Wow, thank you all for such great - and varying - perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Wow - it's definitely a huge step in telling a friend (or loved one) that there is something about their significant other that you don't like. While intentions are good, I've found in my past experience it's always back fired against me. Maybe it was the approach, or the person. I don't know.

Hannah said...

That's a tough one... I dated someone who was a total ass but nobody ever said anything. And to tell you the truth if they did, I might have listened. Even though I KNEW he was an ass it might have been useful to have my friends wake me up a little. I just needed to learn on my own.

But then at the same time, my sister dated somebody who was awful and everybody told her to loose him and she didn't listen. She eventually came to her senses.

It's hard, you want what is best for your friend but it is really touchy when it comes to somebody they love, or think that they love. Ultimately, you have to look at how this person makes your friend feel. Is he/she upset all the time? Or is he/she really happy?

There is a big difference between not liking somebody for your own reasons and feeling in your gut this person is bad news for your friend. And I guess that is something only you can know.