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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Friend in Need?

Today's answer comes from Linda.

A Problem:

I believe a friend of mine is in a bad relationship. I don't think it is going to go where she wants it -marriage, kids. He is younger, and less mature. Despite the fact that he has met her parents several times and they live in a different state, she still has not met his even though they live in the same city. It is an acceptance problem; he thinks they will have a problem with my friend because she is not from their home country. Yet he insists that 'when the time is right' he will introduce her. This has been going on for years. The parents don't even know they live together.

I could continue on about their problems, but I want to ask about mine. What do I do as a friend? I have tried being supportive about how she feels at the time -happy for her when she is happy, counselling when she is not. But this has been going on for so long.

She recently said she knows she needs to break up with him. I tried to restrain my excitement, saying yes if will be hard but she deserves so much more.
Next time I talked to her she said things were getting better.

Is there anything I can do other than wait?

An Answer:

How lucky your friend is to have you care about her so much. I can understand how exasperating her situation must be for you.

A simple initial reaction from me could be to gently, suggest that your friend's ‘problems’ are just that, i.e. her problems. As such, she’s the only one that can make choices around her life and solve them. But it’s never that simple when people we care about are involved. It's perfectly understandable that you feel uncomfortable witnessing her unhappiness. It’s so difficult to give advice to our loved ones on important life issues isn’t it? And affairs of the heart are a veritable minefield, likely to explode in your face if you tread too harshly. If your relationship with your friend is good, she may accept some feedback if it’s given kindly - particularly if she’s asked for advice. If she hasn’t, I’d tread much more carefully.

You asked what do you do as a friend, and I’m going to keep it very simple. Keep doing what you’ve been doing: Support her to the best of your ability in whatever she decides to do - whether you think that’s right or not. When we care about people, it’s easy to think that we ‘feel for them’. In reality we can only feel our own feelings. We then project what we might feel in that situation onto the other person. If you’re able to separate what you feel from what your friend feels, it might give you greater objectivity - so you feel less embroiled in it all. This will help you be supportive without having the emotional turmoil yourself.

Is there anything else you can do but wait, you asked? Well, yes, you could focus more on you for a while, so that when your friend does need you, you’re not too drained by her needs to be able to support her.

Good luck.

By Linda.

[There may be more answers to this problem here]

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