My friend has been making bad decisions lately. She lost her job because of an ex-boyfriend she went back with, they broke up I don’t know how many times, she stopped seeing him finally a few months ago but she was also seeing another ex-boyfriend, both CHOSE to leave her without saying anything in the past which is why they broke up. She’s been on and off with this second guy. She’s been making progress in putting her life back together by going back to school but this guy is getting in the way. She told him to leave –he comes back and this repeats. A few days she went back to him after telling him to leave her alone once more because he was always at her place keeping her from her school work. I’m getting mad, because I don’t know how many times I spent the night consoling her because of these guys. Now she went back to him and it’s gonna be the same thing and don’t know what to say to her. I don’t agree with the relationship, her friends have told me the same also, but I don’t want to upset her. I’ve had enough of this back and forth. Every time she ends it he keeps going to her place, bangs on her door demanding to talk to her and she eventually caves. She told him to leave again and he told her to kill herself and said her kids don’t like her. Days later he demands to see her, she caves and the cycle repeats. I’m disappointed in her because the last time I spoke to her she hasn’t been to class and told me hasn’t done homework in a week because he’s there. Some of her friends have told me they’ve given up on her. I don’t want to do that but I’m close. We haven’t spoken since they got back together, one I don’t know what to say, two I feel like he’s controlling her. I want to be there for her but it’s just gonna be the same thing over and over. I’m at a loss, she’s gonna ruin her life again for an ex. (From the USA)
As a friend, you’re in a powerful position to help, but the kind of help may be different than what you’re thinking. It’s time to have a heart to heart talk with your friend and explain that watching her do self-defeating things is taking a toll on you. Let her know that as much as you care about her, and that her behavior is starting to affect you emotionally. This is a very common phenomenon. She is doing to you what is happening to her. Let me repeat and amplify that. She is doing to you what is happening to her by going to you for support and then goes away and the cycle repeats. She’s distracted and overwhelmed by the relationship and is losing herself and feeling frustrated. The same is happening to you. You were feeling frustrated and overwhelmed at her antics and it has become so much of a distraction for you that you’re not taking as good care of yourself as you should. You are in parallel with her and it is very hard to spot it when you are in it.
Let her know how much you care about her as a friend, but then let her know you can continually be there for her watching her do self-defeating things because it’s not healthy for you. My hope is that this honest conversation lets her realize that unless she starts making better decisions for herself you can’t let yourself get pulled down. This is EXACTLY what you want for her. What you’d be doing is role modeling what she needs to do. By setting a limit on how much energy and frustration you’ll put into this relationship you’re giving her the role model for what she needs to do with these boyfriends.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2019). Concerned About a Friend. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/06/10/concerned-about-a-friend-2/
Last updated: 10 Jun 2019 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 10 Jun 2019 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.