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Should I tell my friend she's wrong

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 25, 2011 08:40 AM

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Forgot to mention yesterday that there were two updates in Wednesday's chat. If you fish through it, you'll find updates from Drunk With Love and Monday's March Madness letter writer.

And, if you're a theater person (or a Love Letters person), come to Tuesday's performance of this. I'll be doing a "talkback" after the performance. It will be fun, and the play is right up our alley.


Q: Dear Meredith and LL community,

I am a major lurker on the LL scene and I truly think that this is a great place to come for advice. Like most others, I never thought I would be writing in, mostly because after a few failed relationships I decided it was time to focus on me rather than on boys. My reason for reaching out is that I'm worried my best friend is making a terrible mistake and I don't know how to stop it/if it's really my place.

My friend "Kate" has constantly been in relationships since she was a teenager. She's a naturally flirty person and attracts a lot of guys, so while I've never seen her as a liner-upper, I've also never known her to be single for more than a month or two. We used to joke about this and laugh it off as it didn't seem like a really big issue.

She's now in her mid-20s and in a new relationship. He's in the military which means he's deployed for six months at a time and moves around, so they've only ever spent about a month actually together. He also has kids and is going through a custody battle. I tried not to judge these parts of his life (she's a lot more spontaneous than I am so I guess she can handle these sorts of things). What got to me is that she's now rearranging her life and goals to be with him and I think it's wrong.

Kate's always had dreams of getting more degrees and has worked her butt off to get all the necessary internships in place to do so. She told me that her next internship was going to be in the state where the guy in question was going to be stationed for the next few years. When I asked her about this, she promised that she wasn't making the decision for him and that it was just a lucky coincidence. Now it turns out that he's going to be in a different state and she's decided to follow him. She also tells me they are hoping to get married so he can help her pay for her schooling.

I've told her in a very non-confrontational way that I feel like she's losing herself in her relationship and that I’m worried she's giving up on her goals for the wrong reasons. I'd like to believe in love at first sight/finding your soul mate but, being a more cautious person, I think it's important not to make major life decisions for a guy (especially early on) or you wake up down the line with a lot of regret.

My question is: Am I imposing my own fears/worries on the situation? Should I just go with the flow and see how things turn out? Or should I tell her about my concerns in a more forceful way, knowing that it might do nothing more than distance her from me?

– What Would Meredith Do?, Somerville


A: What would I do, WWMD? Well, I'd want to tell Kate not to move. I'd want to tell her that she's taking a huge risk and ruining her future. But I wouldn't say those things. I'd ask her if she has any concerns about the move so that she could talk about them on her own terms. Then I'd tell her that I'm here for her, no matter what. It wouldn't be easy, but I've learned that that's what friends are for. They're supporters, not advisers (says the advice columnist).

You don't know what's best for Kate. The two of you designed life plans for yourselves when you were young. Not surprisingly, one of you is veering off track. Maybe Kate doesn't want grad school as much as she used to. Maybe she wants it, but not as much as she wants to be with this specific partner. Really, moving and settling down with a guy she adores might turn out to be an awesome decision. Who knows?

You're allowed to be concerned, but your level of stress about this does suggest that you're projecting. You're probably afraid to lose her, which is understandable. You're also probably afraid that Kate's decision says something about your own place in life. I'm not saying you're secretly jealous of Kate, but I do think it can be difficult to watch a close friend jump on a path that opposes your own. In your 20s, other people's decisions mean too much.

This is how life goes. At some point, somebody puts off work to have a kid, gets divorced and goes back to school, or winds up on a reality show. Somebody was bound to make a spontaneous decision. Just keep asking nonjudgmental questions and tell her to be safe. That's all you can/should do. And remember this: You're on your own right track. Kate being right doesn't mean you're wrong.

Readers? Would you tell Kate what you think? Is the LW's angst more about her own place in life? What would be the point in telling Kate? Thoughts? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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