How do you tell someone you're dating their lifestyle is hurting them?
April 11, 2010 4:20 PM   Subscribe

[relationship filter] How do I tell the person I'm seeing they drink and sleep too much without sounding demanding or preachy?

[relationship filter] I feel like the girl I'm seeing drinks too much.

We met while I was under a lot of stress at work, and was drinking a lot more then, too. But the work dust for me has settled and not for her.

Very often she'll have a lot to drink at gatherings and then get quieter as the room thins out, then won't talk to me or walks away from me when she's alone. I tried to talk to her once while leaving an event and it resulted in shouting on the street. She associates drinks, friends, music with good times, but by the end of the night she's short with me. By the next morning it's just the headache and memories of good times.

We're only dating, not bf and gf, she suffers from depression and is almost three years older than I. She has more relationship experience than me. A lot more. I care about her, but I think the drinking and sleeping 12-13 hours a day could be detrimental to her health.

What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's because her life is only bearable when drinking or sleeping. She needs to adjust her treatment somehow because the depression is winning. I know this state.
Please approach her kindly, as you would if you could tell that some other disease was getting the best of her, and tell her you can see it, and that she should talk to the doctor.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:24 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Since you aren't in a relationship, you don't have many levers to pull. Start with something like "you know, I have a lot more fun with you when we don't get shitfaced drunk..." and see where it takes you. If you don't like the way the conversation goes, you should seriously think about dating someone else.
posted by BobbyVan at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2010

Treat her with compassion, but not pity. Treat her with respect, not condescension. Treat her as someone who is ill and may not see the subtle day-to-day spiral. Most of all treat her as a friend. Be a shoulder to lean on, a hug on a tough day, a kind ear when she feels like spilling her emotions. In other words, listen.
posted by netbros at 4:33 PM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm your not-girlfriend.* Please don't think that you know better than me. I know that drinking to excess and sleeping it off isn't healthy. Maybe I'm depressed, maybe I just make bad choices, but a) I'm aware of it, and b) you're not even my boyfriend so if you don't like my lifestyle you should get out of my life.

My friends or partner can tell me they don't think I'm treating myself well, but some dude I'm just dating? Take me or leave me as is.

*not factually true
posted by (Over) Thinking at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't have advice about the drinking, but people who sleep a lot generally aren't doing it because they're lazy. They do it because they need to. There is an underlying problem that makes it necessary for her to sleep 12-13 hours a day (and may also contribute to the drinking); that is what matters here.
posted by k. at 4:50 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The best you can do is to just talk about the factual impact of her behavior on you and on your relationship/friendship with her. However, this sounds like a major problem. (BTW alcohol is depressant, drinking while taking antidepressants is a bad idea, undermines the benefit of the meds) So, she is probably struggling with life, depression and alcohol (and losing). A concerned talk from a friend is not likely to make a dent in her issues.

Go ahead and have the talk - no one can know the impact - but then decide what you need to do for yourself. Sticking around will no doubt be full of grief. This early in the relationship you might want to look for dates that have better potential to turn into healthy romantic relationships.

But the bottom line is that what she does is her choice, your response is your choice.
posted by metahawk at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2010

You met her at a low point in your life when you two had more in common. Fortunately for you, you have been able to resurface enough to be able to have an awareness of what she is doing to herself; unfortunately, talking to her about her problems is not going to help her. She's likely been well-aware and completely apathetic to them since before you came along.

You note that she's drinking heavily at social events and then as she sobers up/people dissipate, she slinks back into a social shadow. As someone that can relate, it sounds like she may have social anxiety issues that are gnawing at or otherwise the primary cause of her depression.

The best thing a friend could do for me at a time like that was to sincerely ask me how I was doing and what was going on in my life. Don't stage it like an intervention, don't go over to her place with the only intent to talk about this. If it's anything related, it's probably best you two have a few drinks in the privacy/comfort of one of your homes, wait until you're relaxed and you've just had a good conversation about something nostalgic or silly, and then bring it up.

Hear her out, but if she doesn't say much, be sure to tell her exactly what you said here -- that you care a lot about her. Hell, if you think she isn't too weirded out by it, tell her you even asked it here. The cause for concern will be deeply appreciated, and as long as you are absolutely sincere in what you say, it will never come off as condescending or preach-y.

Good luck.
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay, I shouldn't have posted that so outright, but you're not in a "relationship" yet and already she seems to be pushing you away. Trust me, from years of experience, this does not bode well for future prospects.
posted by johnnybeggs at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2010

You want to change her? Hmm, sounds like you either need to go see a therapist or get out of the relationship.

So she has to conform to your standards, well then find someone who's more of a pushover and willing to do/act the way you say/want.
posted by TheBones at 5:31 PM on April 11, 2010

Do yo feel like the silence and brusque manner would be unacceptable, say, in a non-drinker? If so, talk to her about those things. Bring it up when she's sober, and emphasise how it makes you feel. Not, "You shouldn't treat me that way," but rather, "When you treat me that way, I feel like crap." This, plus what BobbyVan said. You notice he worded it "I have a lot more fun with you when...", which makes it more about you.

I also agree with what others have said about compassion. Still, you don't have to hang out with her at all if she treats you in ways you don't like.
posted by wryly at 5:37 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not just do other kinds of things with her, that won't bring things you don't enjoy into play? A movie, rock climbing, a play, whatever.

Trying to tell someone else how to live? Not a great idea. Patronizing, presumptuous, rude, boring (for the receiver of the so-called advice), crosses boundaries into none-of-your-stinking-business territory.

You couch this as being concerned for her ("but I think the drinking and sleeping 12-13 hours a day could be detrimental to her health"?) but to me that looks like a rationalization you've come up with to stick your nose where it doesn't belong. A few benders and lazy days is pretty normal for MANY people. If you don't like that, don't be around it.
posted by mikel at 5:51 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm with (Over) Thinking. This is the sort of thing that you just deal with, or you stop seeing her. As a guy she's just dating, you are not in a position to give her lifestyle advice. You are basically in a position to keep dating her, or not.

Your description also sounds suspiciously incomplete... "she walks away from me when she's alone"? A lot depends on whether these are events that you're attending as a couple. It sounds like the two of you are in some kind of situation together already, like work or a mutual group of friends. If that's true, and you are dating but not a couple, then maybe she wants to avoid acting like a couple with that group. And you don't say how those nights actually end, e.g. after she gets quiet at the end of the night, do you go home together, or is her walking away from you an indication that that isn't going to happen?

Anyway, think of it like this: The problem to solve is whether or not things are working out between you, not whether or not she should keep drinking and sleeping.
posted by bingo at 6:01 PM on April 11, 2010

This is really hard. I have a couple of friends who are pretty similar and I have to say that I don't think they are ever really going to change. They tend to organize their lives around opportunities to drink and surround themselves with people who are accepting of that lifestyle. You are probably right about it not being healthy. You can certainly raise the fact that her drinking affects you too and that you are concerned about her but she is likely to just break it off with you and find a new guy who won't say anything. For a while anyway. But maybe shell be open to a change of lifestyle, she might be sick of feeling like shit all the time. The best thing to do might be to try and organize dates around non drinking activities and see if she's even open to that.
posted by fshgrl at 6:12 PM on April 11, 2010

As someone who has just come into her life, you are not the right person to help her.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2010

Although drinking is often both a cause and an effect, I think you need to look at the drinking and excessive sleeping as symptoms of her depression (and/or anxiety, etc.) I can't see confronting those symptoms directly having much positive impact, since she's using them to cope.

I don't think there's a whole lot you can do given your status with her. You have every right to insist that she not treat you badly after she's been drinking and you do not have to stick around to be treated like that if she continues, but you just can't waltz into somebody's life and tell them that they drink and sleep too much like it's never occurred to them.

What she probably needs is better or different professional treatment for her depression. If she's not in therapy, you might suggest it (or a visit to her primary care physician) if you think she might take your suggestion seriously, but even convincing a depressed person to get therapy can be a hard thing to do. And even if you succeed, it might be months and months before she starts to get better.

In the meantime, I think you have to decide if you want to date her given that she's probably not going to change any time soon and perhaps not ever. Changing her is probably not something you can do.
posted by callmejay at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2010

i disagree that there's no way to approach this without being bossy.

as others have suggested you can talk to her about the way her drinking bugs you out when the two of you get together. just give her your observations and the way it makes you feel. Perhaps she will react as Overthinking and others have suggested. If so, fairplay to her, she isn't interested in your opinion. But there's no need to suffer in silence just because y'all aren't going steady. Perhaps she will appreciate the perspective as coming from a trusted friend.

it is possible though that her reaction at parties is to your negative judgey vibe when she's trying to have a good time--and if you decide that you want to specifically only date someone who drinks less intensely, you should break it off with her and move on to someone more your speed.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:55 AM on April 16, 2010

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