In a perfect world, our friends would always get romantically involved with people that we believe are good enough for them and fully support who they are. They would seem like two peas in a pod, and you could genuinely support the closeness of the relationship.
In the not-so-perfect world, you might feel neutral about your friend’s partner. They aren’t hurting anyone, although they are not exactly adding much to the equation either. In the not-even-close-to-perfect world, you might totally despise the person they have chosen to be with, and since you cannot stand to be in the same room with that person, question how your bestie even chose this person to begin with.
Our best friends are special folks, so it’s natural to be protective of them. Because you care so much about them, many friendships will experience tension and struggle to stay afloat in the not-even-close-to-perfect world.
So how do you navigate being a best friend to someone when you feel you cannot honestly support the decisions they are making? I have a few suggestions around how to re-orient your thinking if you who find yourself in this place:
- Five years from now, how do you want to look back on supporting your best friend in this situation? Do you want to think back and know that you disappeared or acted in some way that did not accurately represent your friendship? Get yourself in order, you and your bestie are in for the long haul. Accept that they are not making the best decision right now. With a little bit of love from you, hopefully they will come around.
- This is their life. It is about them, not you. Feel how much you want to protect them, and then let it go and trust they are living their life exactly how they are meant to. Pretty much any person that has had relationships, has had a not-so-healthy relationship. Hopefully some lessons were learned or wisdom was earned. Even in the worst of situations, if we do allow for reflection and self-growth, we can come out more connected to ourselves and what we want. Try to allow yourself to move away from wanting to protect them. Let it be clear you love them, that you are not going anywhere, and when things come crashing to the ground, you will be there to help pick them back up. I guess you could say, have faith. Faith that they will find what is best for them.
- You do want what is best for them in the end. Re-assure them of this as many times as you need to. In fact, reassuring them that you want what is best for them is much more helpful than bashing their current partner or ex. When they start to complain about how things are horrible, and your brain is going “yes, they are because he or she is blah blah blah,” stop yourself. Stop right in your tracks. Belittling this other person is not going to make your bestie leave them. It is just going to drive a wedge further between the two of you. When they start to complain, just say “you know my feelings on this relationship, though I really want what is best for you,” showing them how much you love and respect them.
- Share with your best friend how you truly feel you can be helpful. If you choose to do this, you must do it in a thoughtful and caring manner. Do not lash out, make passive-aggressive comments, or do it while you are wasted, tired, or pissed off. Make a time to talk, just like you would in a romantic relationship. Sit with them and share with them from your heart what is going on for you. They have probably already sensed you pulling away. Let it be acknowledged in your relationship. If you can, share what you have observed, such as how your friend has changed. Always remember to keep in mind the previous three points. If you get out of control in this conversation, you might lose them. That is not the desired outcome.
- Recognize that you are not bad for disliking this person. It happens to the best of us. It can be extremely difficult to feel your best friend involved with someone or engaging in behaviors you didn’t know was possible for them. You might even lose some respect for them and feel that maybe this whole best friends thing wasn’t authentic to begin with. Best friends are really important, and like it or not, you have one whose partner you cannot stand. There is nothing wrong with setting your boundaries. Maybe you want the boundary of when you get together with your bestie, you never encounter their partner.
Your needs around how you take care of yourself are just as important as everything else. If we go back to the first point on this list – how do you want to look back on how you took care of yourself in this situation in five years? – taking care of yourself the way you need to can also send a message to your best friend that they can do the same.
Worst case scenario: your best friend decides to marry this person. Well, you are screwed! Just kidding, kinda. If this happens, you might have to go to the next level: negotiating with your friend’s partner some sort of truce or understanding. Try to talk to this person and see if you can work out your differences. Maybe even have a mediator, a therapist or another good friend that can help you assess and move through the challenges. It looks like this person is going to be around for the long haul, too.
If you are in this situation, try your hardest to not blow up your friendship. All relationships can be hard from time to time, your best friend is worth your love.
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