How to Give Relationship Advice Without Making Your Friends Hate You
Four important things to keep in mind the next time you have a friend crying over her dirty martini or blissfully announcing her engagement to Mr. Wrong.
I suppose it has something to do with the law of averages that, while one of your BFFs is getting hitched, inevitably the other is going through a heart-wrenching break-up. One friend is searching for love, while another has fallen smack dab into it, and you’ve all wound up catching up over a glass of something or other. Sound familiar? Well that’s how my summer, filled with joyful wedding celebrations and epic break-ups, has gone down.
This phenomenon has me thinking about the best ways to offer up advice to someone on the other side of the relationship fence. So I asked some ladies in my life to reveal what they do and do not want to hear when it comes to love counsel. Here’s an unscientific compilation of the four most prominent things that came up. Hope they help!
1. No, really, it’s not all about you
Don’t relate everything back to yourself. Is there anything more annoying than when you’ve been dumped or dissed and your friend launches into how they went through EXACTLY the same thing once? Twenty minutes later they come up for air from telling you what they learned, or worse, how it lead them to find their perfect husband. And you’re left thinking—what the eff does this have to do with my break up or the guy who never called back?
Absolutely nothing. Identifying is one thing, folks but making it all about you quite another. Please refrain.
2. The rom com delusion
Don’t assume your coupled friends are in a bubble of happiness and perfection. Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship or married knows that finding love isn’t the happily ever after part of the story. It’s the beginning. Staying happily together takes work! Yes, Tom and Marsha may now share a bathroom and own a Kitchen Aid Mixmaster, but their lives drum on. Don’t take for granted that your friend is in constant bliss and can no longer relate. The involved still want to hear your relationship woes and discuss their own.
Petty as your friend’s squabbles over laundry or daycare may seem in the face of your latest online dating debacle, they’re the fabric of her equally nuanced life.
3. Respect your friends and their choices
This is a tough one, for I don’t know anybody who hasn’t at some point disagreed with a friend’s choice in partner. Maybe you have reason to think your friend needs to reconsider someone they’re involved with. Perhaps quite rightfully so. If your friend asks for your no-holds-barred opinion, well, that’s one thing—tread delicately. But watch out when doling unsolicited advice that could come between you and a friend. Nobody ever knows what happens between two people in a relationship, and short of helping a friend out of an abusive or dangerous situation, it’s the consensus among my gal pals that we’re not there to judge (at least out loud).
Female friendships are important—so important, in fact, that they’ve been shown to reduce stress, contribute to healthier lifestyles, and even prolong our lives. And heck, since we ladies outlive men you might want to keep your girlfriends around for when you’re in tandem wheelchairs. Ideally, you get along swimmingly with your friend’s mate. But if you don’t, hopefully you’ll find a way to support her and tactfully avoid double dates.
4. Listen up!
This one applies to everyone, coupled and single. Let’s be honest, chances are you don’t have a clue why your friend hasn’t found Mr. Right yet. Maybe you’re dumbfounded as to why she, of all people, was cheated on. Or happily surprised that she stumbled upon the love of her life at the grocery store. Though there’s nothing we gals love more than to sit around and theorize over martinis, most of us aren’t actually psychologists or relationship experts. And as friends, we don’t always know why some relationships never lift off to begin with, some end, and others stand the test of time.
Luckily, the ladies I asked didn’t seem to care much who gave the best advice through the ups and downs. More importantly, they wanted friends who’d always be there to listen to their rants, sobs and laughter. Even if we don’t always have the answers why some things work out and others don’t. That one’s a question for the ages.
Here’s to lifelong girlfriends who’ll be there to weather it all.
Emily Southwood is working on a memoir called Prude and blogs at imarriedapornographer.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Emily is the author of the “I Married a Pornographer” series on BettyConfidential.