Is it my responsibility to help my friend make peace with his family?
June 28, 2008 10:32 PM   Subscribe

This question is about my best friend, who seems to get into trouble with his family regularly. Is it my responsibility to help him out? Or should he sort it out on his own?

As said above, this question is about my best friend who seems to get into problems with his family almost every month. He still stays with his family, studying and helping his dad out with the family business. Seen from the outside (my POV), his family is lovely and I'm really happy for him when they're all happy. The only problem they seem to have with him is his girlfriend. She's sweet but very possessive too. And they think she's going to get him into trouble someday. They don't like him being with her at all. For whatever it's worth, I think it's about them being insecure and not wanting to let go of their kid; as far as I can see, the girl won't do anything to get anyone in trouble.

So anyways, they had a fight this morning and he's been 'grounded'. He doesn't get grounded often, but when he does, all his modes of communication with the outside world are locked down or taken away. I'm the only friend who has a very-good rapport with his family too, and I don't know if it's my responsibility to do something about it. They trust me and would listen to me if I told them to do something. So, hive mind, help me out! Should I talk to his family or should I let them sort this matter out? If I should talk to them, offer me suggestions on what I should tell them. A few do's and dont's would rock!

A bit of relevant info: I've done this once before, a few years ago (nothing to do with the girl then). And back then, it helped them out immensely. They don't seem to be very good at telling him that they love him, and vice-versa.

Thanks for reading! :)
posted by cyanide to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is your friend over 18? If so, how the heck do they "ground him?"

If he's over 18 and he allows his family to keep him incommunicado, then you might have to accept that he is allowing this to happen. It might be more constructive to talk to your friend and help him discover why he would allow his family to have this type of control over him.

If he's not an adult, then there's not too much you can do. I would recommend - more for your sake than for anyone else - that you don't get involved. Feeling the need to fix other people's situations for them is not healthy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:44 PM on June 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

It might help to say more about the culture where you are, and how old you both are. Is the friend a working adult who could choose to move out of his parents' house?

My first instinct would be: it's up to your friend to work this out with his family, and it's not your place to butt in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:46 PM on June 28, 2008

Forgot to add that he's 17, we live in India (where the kids generally stay with the family until they're 23-25). It's incredibly difficult to get a job in india unless you're a graduate, which he's not, yet. So getting a job is out of the question for now. And because of that, he cannot really move out of his parents' house.
posted by cyanide at 10:53 PM on June 28, 2008

Can you give some examples of the "something" you would be able to tell them to do? How well do you know his girlfriend? Why isn't your friend able to reassure his parents on his own? Does he even want to be helped? Maybe he secretly enjoys this drama.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 PM on June 28, 2008

In that case, I think you should leave it up to the family to deal with. Unless he's being abused in some horrible way (being grounded from time to time doesn't sound too terribly harsh), then allow him to navigate his own family politics on his own. You can be a better friend to him if you aren't entangled in family dynamics.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:16 PM on June 28, 2008

Is it my responsibility to help him out?


Or should he sort it out on his own?

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:30 PM on June 28, 2008

The only problem they seem to have with him is his girlfriend. She's sweet but very possessive too.

If the GF is being possessive, then it's ok for the family not to like her.

As to the fight, you don't say why he was grounded or describe the situation leading up to it, so it's hard to really offer an opinion. Add in the fact it is, for Metafilter, a foreign culture and little understanding of family dynamics and you've got an excellent opportunity for getting bad advice, so it would help if you clarified things for your largely non Indian audience.

First off, in India, is it normal for 17 year old males to get grounded? Is it normal for their friends to speak to the family to clear matters up? What was the fight about? What lead up to it? What do you hope to accomplish by talking to the family? Is your friend generally a good guy with too strict a family perhaps? Or is his family justified with being that strict because of previous incidents?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:41 AM on June 29, 2008

I can't help but wonder whether the girlfriend is possessive, or the family is possessive. But I see the situation colored from my American view, and I have serious issues with authority. To me, the situation with the family seems unhealthy, and not unlikely that the girlfriend has the right idea. Families can seriously suck the life out of a member who wishes to break free.
posted by Goofyy at 3:33 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

You do realize that if you help him (and them) that you're getting them to depend on you? That you're actually preventing them from figuring out their own harmony in their relationship (or lack thereof?)

You're acting as a crutch; if you fix this now, the next time, they'll still have the problem (which, I'm assuming is the 'overreaction' of grounding him.) By 'helping out' (if you truly could), you're helping with the immediate problem, but not truly healing their relationship. In other words, they have to figure it out for themselves.

If you want to be a good friend, be supportive. If his parents tolerate you at such a time, go over, be nice. If he moans and complains, be a sympathetic friend. Even if he asks you for help, he'd be taking a shortcut in the relationship with his own family.

Be a good friend, don't try and be a mediator or therapist.
posted by filmgeek at 4:14 AM on June 29, 2008

It's not your responsibility, but there is no reason you can't intervene if you think it will be helpful
posted by Mr_Chips at 5:59 AM on June 29, 2008

Echoing what people above said: offer support as a friend but don't get involved in family dynamics unless you really enjoy having a lot of drama in your life. Focus on your own life.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 7:11 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you don't want to intercede, and I would trust your instinct. I wouldn't expect a friend to bail me out if I was "grounded." In your shoes, I would offer my support and advice to my friend but not intercede with the family directly. The exception is if there was actual abuse or endangerment going on, in which case I'd consider doing what I could (while staying safe myself) to protect my friend.
posted by salvia at 2:09 PM on June 29, 2008

Is it my responsibility to help him out?

Yes. This is what friends are for

Or should he sort it out on his own?

posted by P.o.B. at 5:05 PM on June 29, 2008

He'll live. Better to keep it up your sleeve for something more important. Like escaping the parents while simultaneously ditching the girlfriend :) Now that's what friends are for!
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:26 AM on June 30, 2008

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