Father Tony

What Your Friends Will Never Tell You

Filed By Father Tony | January 14, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay advice, new boyfriend, relationship advice

Dear Father Tony,

[....]and then as soon as I let everyone know that we split up, all my friends are like "We never liked him. We always hated him. We knew he was a jerk. We knew it wouldn't last"[....]So my question is why didn't my friends, my REAL friends, tell me all this before I wasted two years with this jerk? Shouldn't real friends speak up and keep you from doing something stupid?

Stupid in Steubenville.

Dear Stupid,

It's really hard to tell a friend that you think his new lover is a mistake. In fact, even if it were easier, I would not do it. Here are ten reasons why:

1) You could be wrong.

2) You don't want to jinx something that could work. You don't want to be the spoiler.

3) You don't want to plant seeds of distrust at the onset.

4) People don't really change, but some learn to improve their behavior. Some acquire skills that make them less repulsive. Your friends want to hope for this.

5) Your motivation for telling your friend the facts might be questioned and misconstrued. You could lose your friend in the process. He could think you are meddlesome or jealous.

6) We all want to see our friends smiling, even when we know it won't last. Who knows? They could get hit by a bus before the relationship sours.

7) You don't get many points for being right and saying "I told you so", but being wrong can be as bad as a bad tattoo.

8) If you keep your mouth shut, both parties will still be friendly with you even after the break-up. Why should your friends needlessly earn enemy clans?

9) Sometimes our friends know in their hearts that they are getting into a bad relationship but do it anyway for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being "port in a storm" or horniness. Your friends can only guess at your real motivations for a dumb move. Rest assured they will discuss it among themselves but never to your face because they respect you.

10) The most challenging aspect of this is when you know something really bad about the new lover that your friend does not know. Maybe you know he is a liar and that the person he is presenting is a fraud. Maybe he sleeps around. Maybe he hides an addiction or a past. These are things that friends probably should tell you, but because no one wants to be the messenger of bad news, your friends should find some way of anonymously tipping you off.

Oh and by the way, if you meet another loser and fall for him, don't expect your friends to warn you. Don't expect them to tell you that you are repeating your stupidity. They will talk about it among themselves, but even when you ask them for their honest opinion, they will hug you and say "Are you happy? If you are happy, then we are happy."

If that is what they say, drop the guy immediately.


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Here's one: It's none of their business.

Great list!

Also, I have found that I and most I know learn these kinds of lessons mostly through life experiences, rather than being told or instructed.

... but even when you ask them for their honest opinion, they will hug you and say "Are you happy? If you are happy, then we are happy." If that is what they say, drop the guy immediately.

Father Tony, you are a saint for giving clear advice like this to young people, and I wish I had had someone to teach me how to interpret "discrete" responses like this one. Instead, it took until my 40's before I figured out why my friends sometimes seem to say roughly the opposite of what they are actually thinking.

There's nothing better than keen social skills that develop naturally --- but for those of us in the slow learners' class, they can be taught explicitly if we are willing to pay good attention.

Wow. Great column, Tony. I wish someone had laid it out for me that bluntly many years ago.

Great advice, Father Tony.

It sounds like 'Stupid' was projecting a lot of their anger/frustration at having the bad relationship experience on to their friends.

"...why didn't my friends, my REAL friends, tell me all this before I wasted two years with this jerk? Shouldn't real friends speak up and keep you from doing something stupid?"

Just let it out, take a breath and put the poison away, because interjecting in others relationships is not a qualifier for 'real friend' status, in fact it's usually a sign that your friend has ulterior motives or their own issues to battle.

Again, great response Fr. Tony.

Hell yeah. I was in an abusive relationship for two and a half years, and everybody had doubts about my then-boyfriend, but only one of them (my ex-girlfriend) shared them with me while the relationship was still going on, and she was very hesitant and worried about expressing them. I don't blame my friends for not raising it - at least they supported me when I needed them, and plus they didn't say negative things about my boyfriend back when I would've been too defensive to listen.

Since I've gotten out of it and vowed never to fall for any of that bullshit again, it frustrates the hell out of me to see friends and acquaintances going down similar paths - but raising it is a minefield, so if I actually do say something, I'm going to be extremely cautious about it. Seeing this kind of stuff going on in other people's relationships has shown me that actually, my friends generally had the patience of a saint.

It's the old "shoot the messenger" syndrome. It doesn't take but one experience of trying to discuss such a topic with a friend, to find yourself without that friend...and even after the ultimate breakup, they don't usually come back to you and say, "you were right, and I'm sorry." You usually remain on their s$*t list.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 14, 2010 9:17 PM

I would add that one's friends have no way of knowing the real dynamic of anyone's relationship. Once home, once alone, what was it that kept you together for whatever period is yours only.

Fr. Tony, I would add that when couples break up it falls into two categories of being able to keep both parties as friends. If you are in a relationship and met the other couple as a couple keeping a friendly relationship is fraught with land mines because there is an assumption by both breakup participants assuming that the "other" of them is your true friend and that you take their side. There is also that variable known as your partner who may have his or her own opinions.

If you know one party, who then couples and breaks up, you will have an easier time in keeping the original friend and a much harder time keeping the other. They will each have their network of "real" friends and you are likely in the group of one of them and not the other. This is because there is always a need to find the fault rather than acknowledge some people should not be together even though individually they can be fine people. If you are a "lone wolf" you actually have a less complicated time of keeping more friends.

So your advice above casts a wider net than perhaps you anticipated. It is great advice, but if you are a couple (knowing a couple) you have FOUR variables (squared!). :)