Ask Shari: Friendships, Divorce & Dating
Q1.) Hello Shari: I am having difficulties with my best friend and would love some advice on the situation. Best friends for about 15 years now and although we have had are small tiffs here and there, this more recent issue seems to be putting a bigger wedge between us.
She has had a boyfriend for about 2 years; however, the last year has been extremely rocky and very much on a roller coaster of being together and not being together. I used to really like this person, however, he seems to be treating her worse and worse and yet she is still clinging on and holding onto the hope that they will get back to how they were during the first year of their relationship.
I have given her my advice and forewarnings of his behavior, and at first she was listening, but now it seems she has stopped asking for advice and is pushing me away in order to figure things out with him. I know she has to make her own decisions at the end of the day but I just don¹t really know how to react with her now, because she has been so cold the past couple of months about everything.
Any advice you could share on how to maintain a strong friendship where there are differences with one of their relationships/significant others would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
A1.) Hi Feeling Helpless: I am so sorry to hear that this is happening. It can be so painful having to experience someone you really care about getting hurt, while feeling helpless to stop it. It sounds like you know she has to make her own decisions, good for you for knowing that!
Unfortunately, I agree with you, there isn’t a lot you can do to make your friend behave differently at this time. Love can be an extremely powerful motivator and sometimes can look worse than addiction. We are usually powerless to stop it, but we don’t have to be enablers either!
If you love your friend, and it sounds like you do, you are going to have to let her go for now. I don’t mean completely, but you are going to have to set some very realistic boundaries around the relationship. I would make very specific plans with her, even structured things like shopping for a dress or seeing a movie. I would stay away from just hanging out and allowing a ton of chatting time where her relationship may come up more often.
Make a point to enjoy your friend whenever you do get to spend time with her. When it comes to discussing her love life, a good rule to go by is this: If she isn’t asking, then don’t offer! If her partner comes up in conversation, resist the inclination to give her advice and just ask open ended questions. I can offer some generic responses when trying to not engage:
“What do you think that means?”
“What are you going to do about that?”
“Huh, I wonder why?”
Taking a step back from your friend will allow you to focus on your friendship with her, different as it may be. I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid her, or him; I just wouldn’t go out of my way to hang out either. The most important thing to do is to preserve what you can of your friendship so that you can continue to be there for your friend. It is natural to have all sorts of emotions around this situation; I wouldn’t be surprised if you experience frustration or even anger.
The questions you will need to ask yourself are, “Am I willing to be there for her when this all falls apart?” and “Am I patient enough to wait in the background while she makes a mess?” If you are not willing to do this, that is OK! If that is the case, respect yourself enough to call it and walk away. I would communicate just that to your friend, you are not willing to stand by and watch her get hurt any longer.
If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then you have your work cut out for you. I don’t think your friend is able to do this work with you right now because it sounds like she is going through enough with her partner. So, more bad news, you may have to do this work on your side only. This is the point in time when it would be great if you could take inventory of your own support, who is there for you? I would make sure you can answer that question because this is really hard, no two ways about it!
If you feel as if there isn’t enough support in your life at this time, I would recommend therapy to help. There are many therapeutic skills and tools that can be helpful when it comes to setting boundaries, please consider seeking them out. I wish you the best of luck, be patient, hopefully your friend will get back on track!
Q2.) Hi Shari: I am just starting to date a man who has just recently gone through a divorce with his wife of 5 years. They had one child together – a little girl. Although things are still very new, they seem to be going well. We are still pretty casual, only seeing each other once every couple weeks and speaking with each other spontaneously in-between.
I feel like this man has great potential and I would like to see where this goes and if we can make it last, so I am wondering, if you have any general pointers as to deal with someone who has just recently divorced. I have never been in this situation and want to make sure I approach it with caution and am aware of his emotional state of mind. Any general tips would be helpful – thanks so much!
A2.) Hi Being Cautious: Thanks for writing in! Congratulations on what seems to be a really nice and mutually beneficial relationship that sounds really great. I appreciate your intuitively wanting to take it slow, which would have been my first pointer.
Divorcing, under most circumstances can be a challenging and painful transition. Grief is almost always a factor when going through a transition such as divorce and its “best practices” to take things slowly when grieving. I am happy to be able to give advice at this stage in the game, it’s a real treat! The best advice I can give is, be his friend!
The best relationships are the ones that grow from a trusting and accepting friendship. Be there for him, and give him opportunities to be there for you. Have fun together and get to know each other. It is really unfortunate, but dating usually implies so much pressure on both parties, I recommend going into the process with an emphasis on making a best friend for life (that you are also attracted to) instead of a long term boyfriend or more.
I am wondering if you have met his daughter yet. This will be a really important component, as children add a layer of forming a healthy relationship. I would emphasize understanding and a willingness to be patient when it comes to his daughter. This will be his first attempt at acclimating to a dating relationship as a father and a divorcee, let him call the shots and feel it out.
As always, I recommend open and honest communication about what you are feeling and your expectations so that guessing is kept to a minimum. It is only a mutually beneficial relationship if everyone is getting their needs met. Have fun and good luck!
Q3.) Hi Shari: I am here to ask you a question about the other sex, because let’s be serious, neither of us know what’s going on! So I have been dating this guy for about 3-4 months and he is wonderful! We are having so much fun together! We jive so well together, same interests, humor and we have been communicating extremely well. I just have one small gripe – when we are out he seems to have lingering eyes, a lot! He is constantly checking out other women. And not necessarily in a creepy or rude way more of just a general browsing, but still, is it wrong for me to be bothered by this when I am right by his side?
I’ve brought this up with friends, and typically they respond with “boys will be boys” or “oh no, that is so wrong, you should confront him about this”, and I guess I am just wondering where the line is drawn. Do you think it is natural for a guy’s eyes to wander, or do you think this is an issue if he is constantly doing it? How would I go about approaching this conversation if it continues and really does bother me? Please help me sort this out! Thank you!
A3.) Hi sorting it out: thanks for writing in and giving us a chance to discuss this very common situation. I am going to get to the point here, if this is a problem for you, it is a problem! Regardless of “boys will be boys” or any other opinion, if it bothers you than you need to address this with him.
It sounds like you guys have so much in common and really enjoy one another’s company; you also mentioned that you have good communication. I would recommend bringing the topic up with your BF in conversation. I know this sounds like it can be really hard to do, but I am happy to give you some advice on how to make it less painful and more productive.
First and foremost, if you aren’t sure how you really feel about his wandering eyes, than go into the conversation seeking more information to make your decision. You really can’t fight with someone when you are not sure what side of the fight you are on when the talk begins.
I can also recommend asking him if he agrees that he partakes in this behavior before telling him he does. For instance, tell him it is something that you notice and you are wondering what to make of it, rather than saying something like “you are constantly looking at other chicks, WTF?”. You will get very different responses from him based on how you initiate the conversation, remember, you are looking for information, not accusing him of something evil and demanding he stop immediately. You may find that he is not aware of this behavior, or that it is coming from somewhere really different than you expected.
Once you have talked to your BF, and you have more information about his behavior, you can decide how you really feel about it. If you need it to stop, I would hope you could be honest about it and help your BF make a change. Good luck and take care!
Shari Hardies, LCSW, is a social worker and contributor to Sono Bello Style, that has a true passion for improving the lives of others. She will be answering weekly user submitted questions on the topics of dating, relationships and live.