Friends with limits; adjusting to change
Q: One of my good friends doesn’t have good judgment – her life is always a disaster. Recently, she has been trying to make a terrible condo purchase. We all advised her against it, and things have already gone wrong, but she ignores reality. We are left to make her feel better when everything falls apart. It’s frustrating and my sympathy is running out.
A: What does it look like when she “falls apart?” And are you too quick with the glue? Might you be exaggerating her neediness out of annoyance? (No one’s life is “always a disaster.”)
I’m guessing that a good conversation is in order – one that doesn’t condescend to her or put her on the defensive, and one that expresses concern about her well-being more than irritation at her immaturity.
Say that you see patterns of self-sabotage. Then offer your help in averting some of these mishaps, after asking her if she really wants your opinion. When you’ve respected her enough to have this dialogue, if nothing changes, then you get to decide whether for your own sanity you need to build in some distance.
Q: Recent talk in your column about caring for appearance made me wonder. I’m a late-30s male, and for the first time in my life, I’ve gotten into taking care of my appearance. I dropped weight and built muscle and spent money on clothes. This bothers my wife. At first, she jokingly accused me of having an affair, but now she just seems to resent the changes. So sometimes too much care causes problems, too.
A: I can’t tell if you’re looking for advice, but I’ll give you some anyway. Whenever there is a significant change in a relationship, it can be jarring. And it’s up to you to at least try to understand where your wife is coming from.
Might she be scared she won’t seem as attractive to you anymore? Frustrated with the time or money now spent on your appearance that wasn’t spent before? Jealous that you’re becoming more attractive than she is? Worried that there are – or will be – other personality changes that go along with the changes in your pecs? Yes, I get it, you’re feeling great. But when your partner’s not, no matter what the reasons, it’s up to you to work on it.
(Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, is author of “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, visit drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @drandreabonior.)