Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Elul 22, 5774

The Rules of Distraction

August 17, 2006 By:
Adina Matusow, JE Feature
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When a close friend starts dating someone new, it tends to alter your life, too. Your life obviously won't change as much as your friend's, but your regular routine is going to be altered. Now, he or she won't always be available for a Saturday-night outing or a Sunday matinee.

Even if the new relationship is great -- and you like the significant other and are happy for your friend -- you can't help but feel a little envious and sad because you hang out together less and miss the way it was.

But what if you just don't like the significant other, or he or she is just a snob, or even a creep? What if your friend's personality totally changes? What if your friend almost completely stops going out with you and your other mutual friends?

What if you strongly question the significant other's integrity? What if your friend just doesn't seem happy? When is it okay to say something, and when should you simply keep your mouth shut?

If you are questioning your friend's relationship and wondering if it's right, there is the chance your friend is questioning it, too. More often than not, it's best to wait till she comes to you. Either way, choose your words carefully because no matter how unhealthy you think this new relationship is, depending on what you say, you have a greater chance of harming your friendship than ending this twosome. When a friend comes to you, he or she usually wants an ear, not advice. Your friend just wants to know you care by not being judgmental or opinionated.

But how is it that you can love a friend so much, and yet abhor her significant other? If she loves him, you'd think that you would at least like him, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. Maybe you think he's boring or a little mean, or you think she's ignorant or annoying. Wouldn't it be nice if you could tell your friend her boyfriend sucks and she would respond, "You know what, you're right. I'm breaking up with him tomorrow." Slim chance of that ever happening.

What would be the point of telling your friend you don't like her significant other? In this case, it's best to keep your mouth shut. Who are you to judge? If this person makes your friend happy and you care about your friend, you shouldn't say a word.

It sucks to not like your close friend's significant other for personal reasons, but do you dislike the significant other so much that you want to risk loosing your friend over it? Because in the long run, if your friend really loves this person, he or she is going to choose the significant other over you.

This keep-your-mouth-shut policy should remain in place even if your friend breaks up with the guy because you never know if they'll get back together. If they do, the friend will resent you for what you said.

I remember when a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend. Almost immediately everyone started saying what they didn't like about her. When he got back together with her the following week, he didn't talk to us for a while. It wasn't until the couple officially broke up a few months later that he wanted to hang out again. But what would have happened if they stayed together?

It's one thing if you just don't like him; it's another if you think that there's more to it than that. I think one of the worst situations is when you can tell your friend just isn't happy. And if you tell your friend he looks unhappy, it's often almost as bad as telling him you don't like his girlfriend.

You have to remember you don't know everything about their relationship; and there are constructive ways to get your point across or to give advice -- if you are asked. But be careful about giving advice. If you point your friend in the direction of a breakup, he may think that you are being manipulative and then won't confide in you again.

If your friend says, "I hate it when my boyfriend cuts me off when I'm talking" or "She always excepts so much of me," say, "I can imagine that feels crappy," or "I hate when that happens." However, if your friend says, "I hate it when my girlfriend calls me 'stupid' or belittles me in public," you should start off with, "How does that make you feel?"

If the actions of the significant other constantly leave your friend feeling miserable, still try never to say, "I think you can do better." That type of comment will probably cause your friend to close up towards you. No one wants to hear that his or her significant other isn't good enough, and no one wants to be judged.

Your friend needs to realize for himself that he can do better. You can tell your friend that a little teasing builds a stronger character, but if it gets to the point where you know your friend is starting to feel bad about his partner, it's okay to acknowledge the way you feel.

It's also okay to speak up if you're not seeing your friend as much as you did in the past. Just make sure to put the focus on you: "I miss spending time with you," or "I'd love to get dinner with you more often."

Obviously, you should always speak up if your friend's well-being is at stake, though this sort of thing is also never easy. You need to be prepared that it may end badly between you and your friend.

The most important question to ask yourself in all this is: Is this about me or is this about my friend? If it's just about your own hang-ups, it's time to move on.  

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