My best friend has always had the goal to have a husband and kids. Now that she’s approaching 30, it seems like it’s the only thing on her mind.
For the past few years, she's had a dramatic on-off relationship with a guy who seems wrong for her for so many reasons.
Every time he breaks up with her, she's thrown into a depression, each time worse than the last, and she tries to drink her sorrows away.
Last year, once again, he broke up with her. I had hoped it would stick. It didn't.
They’re now trying again. I'm trying to support her, but every time I speak with her all I hear are problems.
I feel that he's going to play her as he has several times in the past. I'm nervous about what the next break up will do to her.
How can I support such a toxic relationship? Is there any way to convince her that this relationship is toxic?
Watching a Car Wreck
The role of a best friend is both simple and complicated.
Simply, she wants your support – listening to her stories, caring about her feelings, etc.
But the complexity comes from not ignoring the problems or saying outright that he’s wrong for her.
Instead, after she’s vented to you, present her with leading questions to ask herself in order to do her own thinking:
“How did that make you feel?” “What are the changes he’s making?”
Say that you’re on her side, but only a professional counsellor can help her look at the relationship clearly.
List the facts: Her drinking isn’t helping, her depressions are getting deeper, and she needs to rescue herself.
Offer to help her find a therapist.
Reader’s Commentary “The "Mother In Pain’s" story of an addicted son is eerily similar to my own situation with daughter, age 20.
“My personal experience is that it feels so much worse when you confide in friends because, while they’re sympathetic in the moment, they then become radio silent toward you.
“These have been longstanding friends. This is worse than bearing the burden alone and makes me regret ever confiding my troubles.
“I’ve also been asked, "Why, why would she do that?" not only by friends, but by mental health professionals at our local hospital.
“This question, to which of course I have no answer, feels not only insensitive but also very accusatory.
“I’m asked to explain the unexplainable behaviour of another and it feels very judgemental.
“They’ll then say that my other two children are successful, so obviously it’s not something we have done. (Mental health professionals, too, have said this,).
“Well, thank goodness I do have two other relatively successful offspring or I can only imagine who’d definitely be blamed for my wayward daughter's choices.
“Of the people who have been helpful in their support, it does not take a lot. A caring text message or email goes a long way.
“What isn’t helpful (and I’ve had this happen twice, by two separate friends) is texting to see how I’m doing, and then when I briefly tell them that things are tough, again there’s silence.
“It’s just a simple matter of saying "I am so sorry" when you tell them of your pain, or as one friend wrote, "I wish that I could say/do something to help".
“Thankfully, my husband and I have a very good relationship and we are working through this together, mostly alone.”
FEEDBACK Further to the middle-aged sister who’s being excluded from her others sisters’ gatherings, including on New Year’s Eve (January 25):
Reader – “Get to a good counsellor and work on the issues that YOU are having with it all.
“Yes, they are excluding you. The reasons why don't matter. The "how you deal with it" does.
“Work hard on letting it go. It's THEIR problem.
“Your problem is to get over it and move on. Continue to treat them with respect, but don't trust them.
“I have seen this excluding behaviour in my family and my cousin, who is over 60, cannot get beyond the hurt.
“It has destroyed many parts of her personality and she cannot understand that SHE is the better of them all – she’s more compassionate, kinder, etc.
“Your sisters are the losers, not you.”
Ellie – This response from other people’s experience can be so helpful! Thanks for sharing.
Tip of the day:
Friends can be most supportive by raising questions that matter about a toxic relationship.