Help! Need advice for giving friend advice!!
November 29, 2009 4:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I tell my friend the truth in a way that she can hear it, then take what she can from it and do what feels right to her?

One of my closest and dearest friends believes me to be insightful and intuitive. I believe the same of her. She's been dating someone who she hoped I would meet and give her my "take" on because she feels I will not only be honest but be correct in my assessment. I met him this weekend. I LOVE her, she is my dog, my ace, my girl, the person I can tell all kinds of crazy shit to without judgement (I am very lucky to have her as a friend.) Love for the dude, not so much. Well, not that I don't like's the story, backwards. My first impression is he's her. He is very attentive, stares at her with stars in his eyes and clearly wants to be a husband and daddy. It's obvious he wants to fill her every desire or need. To me, he's trying way too hard and that it might come from a place of desperation. Spending time with him, I feel he thinks she will save him in some way. From his demons or fear of being alone....I don't know. My issue is that I'm not sure whether his desire has anything to do with my friend as a person or if that's his goal and he's gonna get it however he can. I know she has the same concern but it's difficult to turn down someone who wants to wash your dishes and make love to you until the cows come home even though you are not sure whether you want that with them in the long run.
The thing is, my friend deserves to have someone look at her with stars in his eyes. She deserves someone who wants to make babies with her. She deserves all that she desires but.....homeboy seems a little off to me. He seems to have a fantasy in his head about whatever it is he thinks a relationship should be and, to me, that's not fair to my friend. She is fantastic sans fantasy and deserves someone who sees that. I get that we all have an idea of what it is we think we want when we think about loving someone for the rest of our lives but shouldn't that be based on the actual person whom we are thinking of spending the rest of our lives with? ("Starry Eyes" has expressed his love for her, his desire to live with and make a life with her....all good things if both people feel the same way. Not to mention they've known each other for about 6 months. The 1st few wrought with some drama, see below.)

OK, some of the messiness:

Their shit:
-My friend got out of a 2.5 year relationship shortly after meeting "Starry Eyes". (like literally a few weeks. She wasn't looking but apparently he was and he persued her consistently)

-She still has unresolved feelings for her ex and has made that clear to "Starry Eyes". She's been working through it but for the past months also beginning a relationship with "Starry Eyes".

-"Starry Eyes" was engaged in an open relationship when persuing my friend. (but apparently "open" meant just fucking, not falling in love)

-When he got caught with my friend by his fiance, he ended his engagement-the confrontation ended it, went into therapy and moved out. (He has subsequently made other decisions for My friend, complying to her wants and desires. Good on a whole but troublesome in that he didn't make these choices on his own , prior to meeting her)

-My friend has been honest with him about where she's at in terms of being in a relationship. He has told her he will wait.

My Shit:
-I'm fresh out of a stream of jacked up relationships, some involving infidelity on both ends. I'm pretty sensitive about the subject and can smell shenanigans a mile away now that I recognize the hows and whys to relationships involving such behavior.

-I'm a little jaded right now and not really feeling like I know jack shit about how to make a healthy relationship happen (in therapy thank you very much.)

-I've been in situations similar and have since realized that although shit like this happens, is bound to happen in your late 30's, it doesn't mean that you HAVE to build a relationship based on such shit. And, if you do choose to, all parties need to be clear and communicative.

My friend wants my input and advice. She asked me what I thought when "Starry Eyes"wasn't around and I told her not to ask just yet. She knows me and I know her-well. It's gonna be a long conversation. She's been grappling with her thoughts about this relationship for a while now. I love her and want to be honest with her but am trying to figure out the best way to say what I mean given my own issues right now. I know life can be grey and messy. Things are not always clear-cut and tied with a pretty bow. But I am still working through my own shit to discover what that all means to me.

I tend to romanticize in general but am in a real realist mood. How can I communicate to her what I sense about "Starry Eyes" yet express to her that it is clouded by my own sense of romantic relationships right now? Who knows, they may make it through and decide to move on in relationship. I just don't want my input to make her make a decision that might not be right for her but I also want her to pick up what I'm putting down. Oy! Help!!!
posted by Hydrofiend to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You have to have a serious sit down conversation and tell Friend: "I know life can be grey and messy. Things are not always clear-cut and tied with a pretty bow. But Starry Eyes seems a little off. To me, he's trying way too hard and that it might come from a place of desperation. Spending time with him, I feel he thinks she will save him in some way. From his demons or fear of being alone....I don't know. My issue is that I'm not sure whether his desire has anything to do with my friend as a person or if that's his goal and he's gonna get it however he can."

Friend is a grown person, and is fully capable of making their own decisions. The fact that they're asking means that they've already likely got some little sense of 'something is off here'.

Good luck.
posted by sperose at 4:34 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm not convinced your intuitions about "S.E." are just sublimated fears and anxieties you have about losing some attention from your friend. I don;t see any real alarm bells here, and you're worrying too much about something that is beyond your control. It is possible that at least part of your worry comes from a wee bit of unrecognized jealousy or anxiety about losing some attention from your friend as she enters into this new relationship with "S.E." It seems like you may be unnecessarily suspicious of him, so I would recommend you step back a bit and give the guy a chance with your friend; you may even end up liking him. In short, you have to let go of this for now, and let your friend sort out her affairs for herself.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 4:45 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've met him for a few days/hours on one weekend... why not tell her (honestly) that you haven't had enough time to make up your mind? Tell her he seems nice, very devoted to her, all the good things you said here. Honestly, the first meeting w/ a S/Os bosom buddy has to have been intimidating from his side, too, and maybe he didn't represent himself perfectly exactly as he normally is. Maybe he was trying to make a good impression, because he knew/felt you were judging him? (You were!) It is perfectly fair to tell your friend that you aren't sure about him yet... Let her know know that as long as he makes her happy, for the time being, you've got no major objections – but that you remain ultimately unsure.
posted by mr. remy at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

When talking to friends about their relationships, the most important thing to keep in mind is that their happiness might look different from yours. Plenty of my friends date people I would never pick for them. A few even date someone I can't stand. But if they are truly happy, I am happy. I think the best thing to do in a situation like yours is to act as a sounding board- ask questions that will help your friend hear herself say how she really feels. The last thing you want to do during a conversation like this is give your personal opinion. I've made that mistake before. Your opinion on this guy does not matter- you don't have to date him, after all. Focus on your opinion of how your friend seems to feel.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:55 PM on November 29, 2009 [9 favorites]

"He seems to really like you."
posted by bingo at 4:55 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exactly what sperose said.
posted by pised at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2009

@ HP LaserJet=She asked for my input. I'm not offering it up willy nilly. This is prime fodder for conversations we have regularly. So, a conversation about this will definitely be in the near future. You might be right about unrecognized jealousy and/or anxiety but, I didn't feel that way in her recent past relationship or any prior (I've known her for over 10 years) not to mention she and I don't live in the same state...neither does she and Starry Eyes. So, attention taken from me isn't really that much of an issue since a lot of our communication happens technologically. But, we all did spend Thanksgiving together. But, I am more that willing to check myself for any of those aforementioned issues.
@ mr. remy=i am definitely considering the nervousness=meeting close friends situation. I can't say I would give my best in a situation like that. I hope to meet him again to see what happens. I think given all of what she told me and what I observed (whether he thought I was judging him or not-I didn't ask any inflammatory questions but I can't imagine what was going through his head when around me) I feel some pressure in giving My friend information that she will take too much to heart. I am nervous given what I'm working through right now not to mention that I want the best for her.
posted by Hydrofiend at 5:02 PM on November 29, 2009

I think you need to meet the guy in a few different situations before you can form any opinion of him. Knowing your own issues going into it is a big headstart, but those issues are probably going to be stronger when you're asked to judge someone just once, rather than hang out at a bar, at a game, the movies, whatever.

That being said -- my gut reaction to the fact that he was engaged to someone else when he met her, and *broke off the engagement*? If he can do it once....
posted by tzikeh at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

From your post, you and your friend are mid to late 30's, right? To me, that signifies enough relationship experience to know what's what. Your friend maybe knows there is a problem and she is probably looking for your confirmation.

Here's what I would do:

When you have the big convo, ask her first what her impression of the relationship is. Then, really listen to her answer. If appropriate, I would print/repeat the first part of your question verbatim - it's kind, concise, and it highlights potential problems for your friend without being judgmental.

That's it.

She asked for your honest opinion. In your askme, you say you haven't known the guy for long and you can stress this when you give your "first" impressions. You can offer your intuition/impression with a grain of salt, thus leaving the door open for a change of opinion down the road if situations become more down-to-earth. She asked, you may answer. In fact, you must answer if your impression/intuition ends up confirming her gut feelings.

posted by jbenben at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2009

Crikey, she started dating him like ten seconds after a long term relationship and you've met him once. You're reading an awful lot into a lunch or whatever. Put away the crystal ball regarding how he _might_ see her, and how he _might_ act in the future. He seems to treat your friend with deference, respect and affection, which she seems to want right now - he's certainly someone she feels emotionally 'safe' with.

Forget about what it might be like in the future, if he's 'the one' etc (he could very well be a great rebound). Is he making your friend happy? Did he do anything that would make you think he would harm or hurt her? If the answer is yes, no respectively, than give it the rubber stamp. It's her relationship, not yours, let her assess the value of it to her, whatever her pleas to the contrary.
posted by smoke at 5:12 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Something that your friend really needs to think about: Can he be monogamous successfully? Is that what your friend wants? Is that what he wants? Is he going to be monogamous for a little while with your friend because he's trying to mold himself into what she wants (someone monogamous) but then be unable to live up to that promise? That would be my major concern. Is he going to be able to transition from an open relationship to a closed relationship?

I wouldn't automatically hold it against the guy for getting feelings when he's just supposed to be fucking. It happens, although it's not ideal. So was it cheating? How did he get "caught"? If I were you, I would tread carefully when making assumptions about this particular information. Or did he just agree to/ask for an open relationship because he was unable to communicate that he wanted out of the relationship?
posted by kathrineg at 5:18 PM on November 29, 2009

And yeah, other than that, I'd say that your concerns seem a bit over the top considering you don't know him that well.
posted by kathrineg at 5:20 PM on November 29, 2009

I agree with the others who say you should probably try to meet him a few times

It's not that you shouldn't be honest with your friend. It's just that all of your impressions are very vague - he might be desperate, he might be... etc. Honestly, having read your suspicons I'm not even really sure of what you're trying to say. It'd be one thing if the moment she left the room he started verbally abusing you. As it stands, I'd wait to form a second impression.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:29 PM on November 29, 2009

I think your post says everything you should say to her. If she wants honesty, be honest. You're a little unsure, she's a little unsure. It seems like both of you need time to warm up to the idea of him, so I don't see that there's any problem with what you have to say. You don't have to have a definitive opinion right now, so tell her you don't have one.
posted by greta simone at 5:30 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

You just can't know yet -- and neither can she -- who this guy is, how he'll act over the long haul, is it just Starry Eyed Love or not and, if it is Starry Eyed Love, can it, over time, roll into The Real Thing, in sickness and in health, etc and etc. It'll all unfold, over time. But you just can't know yet.

First impression? You bet -- tell her what you saw. But you'd best tell her what you've also told us -- that it was in fact just a short visit, and at the very least he had to be concerned about the impression he was making upon you, which may have skewed things considerably. Make sure you tell her that you're a bit jaded yourself just now, and that could be influencing your first impression.

Just tell her what you've told us.

Why not have her read this thread? It's not like you've called either of them out on anything; you've written fairly, or so it seems to me. Here's the deal: You show her this thread and she's going to get what she really wants from you anyways -- the knowledge that you care about her, that you take the responsibility of your friendship with her very, very seriously, that you really do want to do what is best for her, what will help her. In short, you show her this thread and she'll know you love her, which is what we are all looking for anyways. Mr. Starry Eyes may come or go or whatever, but you're rock-solid, she can lean upon you. You are Her Friend.

Just some rainy Sunday evening thoughts.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2009

You don't really know if he's a good guy or not (you certainly don't have any real evidence to say he is a bad guy). She is wary enough of him to ask for a second opinion.

But who the hell knows? Ask her if in her heart of hearts she wants to be with him or with someone else. Would she be disappointed or relieved if you told her to break up with him?
posted by inturnaround at 6:11 PM on November 29, 2009

jbenben put it well: she might have that same "off" feeling and is looking for her best friend to acknowledge that it isn't just her. if this is something you two do regularly in regards to relationships, then ignore this advice, but i generally don't ask anyone what they think of someone i'm interested in unless i've already seen a few misplaced pieces.

really it's the whole "open-relationship-engagement-but-not-really" thing that's throwing me off - are you sure that that was the status of their relationship or just something he said to help hide his infidelity from her and justify there being another woman in the background to other girls he pursued?

what's the worst thing she's going to do if you're honest? tell you that you just don't know him? stop talking to you? go to vegas and marry the guy immediately? if you two value each other as much as you outlined and she asked for your opinion, if she doesn't like it she can just say "thank you, but no thanks; i'm going to see where this goes."

would you stop talking to her if she ignored your advice?

if you really can't stand the guy enough to be around her when she's with him, i'd probably say something like, "hey x, i am really happy that you're happy, but this guy isn't really my cup of tea and i don't want my feelings get in the way of you two having a good time. you still mean the world to me and if you'd like to talk about this in detail, we should grab some coffee."

i'd try to give the guy a few more chances, but don't hesitate on the response that she wanted from you. she wouldn't (or shouldn't) have asked for it otherwise.
posted by june made him a gemini at 6:20 PM on November 29, 2009

This is tricky, but based on what you wrote here, I think you will handle this conversation with grace and caring. You wrote a very balanced assessment of the situation in your question, and your friend knows you well enough to know that you really want her to be happy and any reservations you may voice will come from a place of caring, not jealousy or meanness. That said, you do need to tread a bit carefully and not be too harsh or say anything overly negative at this early stage.

I would say something like, "Friend, Starry Eyes clearly thinks the world of you and is treating you very well. You deserve someone like that, and I hope he continues to be that person for you. I am a bit concerned that some of his enthusiasm is being fed by an underlying desperation to have a relationship with someone as great as you, but I just don't know him well enough to make that call, and as you know, I'm dealing with my own cynical feelings about relationships right now, and I'm afraid that might be coloring my reaction. I just want you to be happy, and I will always speak up if something is obviously awry, but right now, it's just too soon to say." Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:29 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think your biggest danger is what you regard as the "truth". You need to be clear that all you have to offer is a first impression based on your one meeting with the guy, and you have all sorts of other emotional 'stuff' tied up in this as well.

There is nothing wrong with two friends chatting about their impressions, but be careful about making your hunches, suspicions of fears into the truth. The only truth is that nobody knows exactly how this guy will act in the future, including people who know him much better than you do, and that can be a good thing too.
posted by meinvt at 6:43 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think your concerns are out of line at all; in fact, you sound exactly how I'd want my best friend to sound if I was in your friend's shoes.

Or, on preview, what katemcd said.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:51 PM on November 29, 2009

You know, there are far worse fates than to spend time with a partner who is nice, very attentive, and stares at you with stars in his eyes. Hey, that's why people get Labrador Retrievers.

They're in a new relationship and have some issues to resolve. You've got some issues of your own. You think he might be desperate. Even if he is, what do you want her to do with that? Break up with him? Not get involved? Send him to therapy? Maybe he was desperate for you to like him since your his new love's best friend. You just don't know.

Sometimes your best course of action is to simply wait until you've got something concrete to discuss. If you're right, then there should be some evidence of a problem soon enough. If your wrong, you put a good friendship at risk by being negative on the guy.
posted by 26.2 at 7:04 PM on November 29, 2009

She asks for your opinion, and as a true friend, you should give her your opinion. Accept that you might be wrong about the guy (and you might be bringing in all types of subconscious projections and previous romantic baggage), but that's *your* truth, even though it might not be her truth after all. If she didn't want your opinion, she wouldn't have asked for it. If she wanted you to sugarcoat things, she would have phrased her question differently.

The world would be so much simpler if people just said what they felt.
posted by moiraine at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2009

She asked for your honest opinion- give it to her. Add the relevant qualifiers (you only just met him, you're dealing with your own relationship issues, etc.) and then just tell her what you told us- he seems to really like her and treats her well, but something about him seems a little off- he seems a bit too needy/desparate. Then turn the conversation back to her- is she happy? does she have any concerns about the relationship? As mentioned above, she may have some reservations and is sort of using you as a sounding board, someone with whom she can bounce off her ideas or concerns.
posted by emd3737 at 7:55 PM on November 29, 2009

i've had situations with friends where i have not thought the relationship was best for them, and have told them so. (upon request for my advice, might i add.) i've had that same intuitive feeling that something wasn't quite right, and i could have justified it by citing various behaviors on either of their behalves - where they'd come from, how they were interacting etc. i found that ultimately my friend's feelings would take precedence. and the relationship would form and dissolve. in various cases it took months, in others, years.

and it frustrated me to no end when my advice wasn't heeded. but, it was my friend's relationships, not mine. and it helped them to evolve, like relationships help anyone to evolve, but they have to go through it themselves.

so, having gone through similar circumstances it has made me aware that all i need to do with my friends is support them, regardless of the situation that they have got themselves into. good/bad/ugly, i just want to be around to share their lives. your shit, her shit, whatever shit, just be there to be happy when she's happy and helpful/sympathetic/understanding if it all goes to shit. i think that's the most important thing. not the advice in itself. if you were to say 'i support whatever you do, and i'm here for you whatever you do.' well that's far better than advice in my books.
posted by skauskas at 5:18 AM on November 30, 2009

Tell her this: "I hope you respect him more than I do, otherwise he deserves to be let go so he can find someone he can love in his own way."

Because, ultimately, your problem with him is that you don't respect his idea of how to love someone -- for reasons that probably seem pretty valid to you -- and if she feels the same way then she's just wasting his time in order to get her dishes and herself done. Your opinion is colored enough with disrespect and suspicion for loving, giving behavior that you can't really give a clear-eyed assessment beyond stating your issues.

For the record, doing the dishes and making love until the cows come home sounds like a damned fine way to express love. Unless you really think he's full of shit, saying he's "trying way too hard" says more about you than it does about him. If you do think he's full of shit, tell her that and listen to what she says.
posted by majick at 6:06 AM on November 30, 2009

Personally, I think you sound like a crazy person who's dragging your own baggage into your friend's relationship. I see absolutely nothing in your description of him that raises any warning flags at all; everything negative you're saying about him seems to be stuff you made up in your own head.

Just to throw a data point in there.

If you can come up with something concrete about him -- not vague stuff you think he might be possibly maybe thinking, but some actual real thing that he's done or said that seems unworthy of your friend, then tell her that. Otherwise, this really seems like it's more about you than it is about your friend or her boyfriend.
posted by ook at 7:28 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanks all for your feedback, it is greatly appreciated. Especially those who just answered my question and not project judgements.

@Katemcd=you're right on point, thank you. It is tricky in that she and I are close, we talk very intimately and don't generally pull too many punches with each other but she asked point blank and I knew she expected me to be really honest. I felt a need to be delicate and realized I couldn't just let a big brick like 'I don't like your boy" fall out given the sensitivty of the situation. I wasn't ready to be objective, I am now.

@ook=really?? you really felt that first sentence was necessary? I hope making that comment helped you exercise some stuff, glad to be of assistance. Did you actually read the post? geesh.

@majick: I don't know about you but myself, along with most of the people I know drag their baggage everywhere. What I try to do, and thought I did in my post, is acko,wledge when it's playing a role and how in given situations. Apparently you don't experience this, kudos to you!

Thanks again.
posted by Hydrofiend at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2009

I know I could have put it less bluntly, but yes, that was a sincerely meant answer to the question.

It seems you're mostly interested in answers that support what you wanted to hear in the first place, so go have fun with that... but I believe based on what you've written here that you're acting more based on your own bad relationship history than on anything supported by this guy's actions.
posted by ook at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2009

(If nothing else, take this as evidence that you need to come up with a clearer explanation of what you think is wrong with the guy before you talk to your friend. Because far from making him sound like a problem, you've made him sound here like absolute gold: he left his fiancee for her! He does the dishes! He's starry-eyed head over heels for her! Maybe if you spend some time trying to better articulate what exactly you feel the problem is, you'll be more successful in expressing it to your friend.)
posted by ook at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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