Bad News Beau
What You Shouldn't Say to a Pal Who's in a Toxic Relationship
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There's often that one friend who—whether by habit or happenstance–has gotten stuck on Mr. Wrong. (Of course, in some cases, that friend is us.) When you're watching her situation from the outside, seeing a close pal fall for a guy who doesn't treat her right can really test your capacity for not blurting out exactly what's on your mind. But saying the wrong thing can backfire. So before you broach the subject, here are six things you should definitely not say, along with expert advice on how to talk to your friend about her bad news boyfriend while keeping your relationship with her intact.
Relationships undoubtedly change people. Those we date influence us in various ways—and they can certainly take up a great deal of our (once free) time. So, before you blame your pal's new boyfriend for her new behavior, make sure that your judgment isn't couched in jealousy or feelings of abandonment. "You have to be careful about your motives," says Jan Yager, Ph.D., sociologist and author of 365 Daily Affirmations for Friendship. It's important to distinguish between actually being worried about your friend—based on concrete evidence—and harboring emotional concerns that have more to do with you than with her relationship, she says. "You are, after all, losing the security of a single friend who was possibly much more available to you for getting together or listening to you than your friend will be when she's a 'couple.'"
If you think your friend's relationship has, in fact, changed her behavior or personality in a negative way, then don't confront her with vague statements about how she seems "different" to you. Instead, be as specific as possible, and put your concerns into context, advises Irene Levine, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at New York University and producer of The Friendship Blog. "Perhaps give her one or two concrete examples of the problematic behaviors/issues that concern you and that suggest a negative pattern," she says. "If you can't tolerate seeing her being hurt or acting in self-destructive ways and she is unwilling to change—for example, if your friend drinks excessively with her new boyfriend—then you may have to tell her that you need to distance yourself from her. But this can have an adverse effect on the friendship, for sure."
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