She’s your best friend, let’s call her Michelle, and you’ve known each other since Elementary School and you tell each other everything. Well, almost everything. There’s one thing you haven’t told her. You think she is making the biggest mistake of her life by marrying her current boyfriend.
Michelle is very intelligent, successful, financially secure and kind. Unfortunately, she is engaged to a total loser. Her fiancé is out of work and has no ambition. He appears to love her, but you see the disrespect he shows her and the way he tries to control her life. Michelle does everything for him, cooks, cleans, and she pays his bills while he sits around playing video games all day. He pretends to be ambitious with his pie in the sky dreams. Early in the relationship you casually shared some of your concerns, but Michelle said “he is a great guy who is just misunderstood.”
Sounds familiar? Some women put blinders on when it comes to the man they love and shut out their family and friends’ comments and concerns. Unfortunately, most women feel that they shouldn’t speak up. They’ve been burned when they tried to help before, and they don’t want to risk losing a friend, or they just don’t know how to broach the subject. But you owe it to your friend or loved one to speak up. If she is truly someone, you love then you need to be real and honest with her, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for you.
So how do you handle this situation? You have two options:
Option 1: Don’t say anything. Result: You now have a not-so-real friendship because you have to pretend to be supportive of her choice in a husband. You make excuses for not wanting to spend time with them because you see him for the loser and user he really is. You slowly drift apart, and the very thing you were trying to avoid by not saying anything (losing her as a friend) happens anyway.
Option 2: Tell her your concerns in a caring and compassionate way. What do you have to lose? Your friendship will be impacted whether you tell her or not (see option one). Besides, maybe she is looking for an out. It’s possible she may thank you for giving her the excuse she needed to call off the wedding.
Here’s how to have that difficult conversation. By approaching the conversation in this way, you might have a better chance of being heard.
1. Speak up. What do you have to lose? There is a good chance your friend will ignore you (or, even worse, end your friendship), but you owe it to her to say something. Yes, she might get defensive, or it may damage your friendship. But think about it this way—if she does end up marrying the wrong guy, your friendship will most likely be impacted anyway.
2. Start out positive. Point out some of her best qualities. For example, “I have always admired your compassion for others; you deserve to be treated the same way.” Start with a compliment, and she may be more receptive to what you are telling her.
3. Be nonjudgmental. You know what sets her off so avoid pushing her buttons. Try to sit down with her and share your concerns in a way that does not come across as judgmental. Don’t say, “We can’t believe you are going to throw your life away by marrying this idiot.” Instead, you can say, “It’s difficult for me to be honest with you because I am afraid it might damage our friendship.” This may give her permission to be honest with herself and open the door for further communication.
4. Shift the focus to you by using “I” statements. This approach is used a lot in therapy, and it is a wonderful tool for defusing difficult conversations. Frame your concerns by starting with “I.” For example: “I feel so uncomfortable when he puts you down and calls you names.” Or say, “I worry about how isolated you have become since you got engaged to him.” She is much less likely to become defensive with this approach than if you tell her, “You are dating an asshole!”
5. Offer concrete help. Help your friend by eliminating any excuses she has for not ending the relationship. For example, if she is living with her boyfriend, invite her to stay with you for a few days. Tell her you will help her find a new place, and call in the troops to help her pack and move. If wedding plans are under way, tell her that you will cancel the party—and she can cancel the relationship. Say, “I will call all the vendors and try to get your deposits back, plus, I’ll work with your family to take care of the rest of the wedding details.” Lifting these practical burdens may be all she needs to send her boyfriend packing.
No matter the outcome, by speaking up you would have done all you could to prevent your friend from making a terrible mistake. And if she decides to go along with the wedding try to stay friends with her. She may need your shoulder to cry on before too long.
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