We’ve all been there. Cringing at the mention, the presence, and the actions of someone our friend is in love with. Whether you hate them, the way your friend acts around them, or just the two of them together, it’s a tricky situation that only gets worse as they get more serious.
It can be tempting to do nothing at all, and it can be tempting to do ALL THE WRONG THINGS. Often, we think we know what’s best for someone, and our desire to help results in unsolicited, obnoxious advice. It’s easy to go too far in this situation: your friend gives you an inch by complaining or asking for input, and you give her the “I know what’s best for you because BLAH BLAH BLAH” speech. Here’s what: You and your friend are different people. You may even (gasp) look for different things in relationships. And love is crazy, and unpredictable, and not something people have much choice in. With all that in mind, here’s how to broach the subject and survive the annoyance of someone you love dating someone you loathe.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: Does this person abuse your friend, emotionally or physically? Abuse isn’t just the kind that leaves bruises: it can come in all sorts of degrading forms, from manipulation and putting someone down to not respecting their sexual boundaries or emotional comfort zone. If this is the case, all bets are off. Say something, say it in a supportive way, and make sure your friend knows you are there for them, not judging them. But make it clear, if the abuse is physical or sexual, that you are going to contact an authority figure.
Assuming this significant other is not an abusive fuckwad and, instead, someone you just don’t care for, you can go two ways. Say something, or shut up. How do you decide? This requires a little introspection. First, ask yourself a simple question. Why don’t you like this person? Is it their clothes/taste in music/penchant for telling terrible jokes/inability to pitch in for the cheque at the end of dinner? Sorry, these are annoying but superficial complaints that go along with the territory of tolerating your friend’s crush. Keep your mouth shut.
If you’re going to say something, first some advice: I’ve known a few friends who have given real talks to close pals about the people they were dating. While I’ve (luckily) never seen this end a friendship, I’ve never seen it end a relationship, either, and it is way more likely to do the former. When it comes down to it, your friend is with this person based on a glorious chemical concoction of love and attraction, and there ain’t nothin’ you can say that will change that, no matter how logical your argument. “You should be with someone with goals and ideals that more accurately match your own” doesn’t mean shit when you’re so attracted to someone you miss bus stops thinking about them.
You and your friends are different people. Seems obvious, isn’t always. We love our friends, and tend to tolerate only the most upstanding of pre-Med-volunteer-fire-fighter-guitar-playing-part-time-underwear-model types dating them, because our friends rule and their lovers should too. But here’s what, again. Your perception of the perfect person is different than your friend’s, and you have to respect them enough to respect their choice in boo.
Unfortunately, our fabulous friends often don’t see themselves for being as amazing as they are. And this can result in Scrubs, the dating of. There is a way to talk to your friend about this that won’t put your friendship in jeopardy.
HAVING THE TALK
- Make sure your friend knows that their happiness is your number-one priority. Saying this over and over again, however, is not always the best way to emphasize it. As Lykke Li would say, “Words can never make up for what you do.” If you go into this with catty intentions, your friend will sense them a mile away.
- Ask questions. This is the number one rule, and it’s a good ice-breaker. This is a kind way to urge your friend to explore her relationship from a different perspective without being pushy. “You and — have been dating for a while now, right? How are things going?” is a good way to start.
- If AND ONLY IF your friend solicits your opinion, BE TACTFUL! Imagine as you formulate your response that your friend is going to end up marrying this person, and respond accordingly. Point out your concerns using examples, so it doesn’t seem like you’re trashing this person for the sake of it. And remember, this is about your friend being happy, not her significant other being an idiot. Don’t be insulting. “I was concerned you were upset when so-and-so did this,” can be a good frame.
- End the conversation by letting your friend know that you love them and respect whatever choice they make. Remind them that their happiness is their responsibility, and no matter what, you’re here for them. Because you will be. Even if you have to pay extra for a plate of nachos you barely even ate because their girl or boyfriend was conveniently in the bathroom for the duration of the cheque-haggling.
KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND DEALING
Argh. This is so, so tough. You are going to see less of your friend if you genuinely dislike being around their “person,” and that’s just the hard truth. But here are some easier ways to manage it.
- Stick to activities where your irritation will be curbed. If you hate their politics and always end up screaming at each other in the coffee shop, go to a movie or a concert with them.
- Play the couple card. It’s not great, but if you don’t enjoy spending time with the two of them together, a little white lie about how you hate being the third wheel can work wonders.
- Bring in reinforcements. If your irritation is truly warranted but not worthy of intervention, it can be great to have someone to roll your eyes at every time the object of your friend’s affection does something alarmingly stupid. It will help diffuse the tension.
- Be honest, to a point. No friend will take offense to a gentle “I’d love to hang with the two of you, but I miss the time you and I used to spend together. Could we make a date that’s just the two of us soon?” They will get the hint.