Q: Dear Meredith
My friend Emily and I have known each other since we were 10 years old, and we have been inseparable ever since. As with any girlfriend relationship, over the last 25 years we have spent many a late night analyzing, consoling, or just discussing the various guys that have come and gone from our lives. A little over a year ago when Emily and I were out for a much needed girls night, she met Kyle. They hit it off right away and began to get serious really fast.
Kyle was not the type of guy that Emily usually went for, but she admitted that she fell head over heels for him and instantly knew she loved him, something she had not experienced in her last few relationships. Because Kyle made her very happy, I was happy. However, one day shortly after their one-year anniversary, Emily came to me almost embarrassed and ashamed. She loved Kyle very much and had never felt more of a connection with anyone in her life, but after over a year of dating they have never been intimate. As a woman of the 21st century, Emily realizes that is an important component to any healthy relationship and has even admitted that he turns down her advances. She confided in me that over the course of their relationship she has tried to broach the topic many times and has conveyed to him that it is an issue for her. He admitted it is not for religious beliefs that he is not intimate, however when she probes harder or tries to get him to open up, he immediately shuts down the conversation.
His reaction had made her hesitant to continue to push him to talk about it. She admitted to me that her self-confidence and self-image had plummeted because she did not feel desired by her boyfriend. In retrospect, I should have picked up on the signs, as my once super confident, independent, vibrant friend had started to change, doubting herself and being hard on herself. As one of her best and closest friends it pains me to see her suffer like this. I think she is now more afraid of losing Kyle than anything else. I need your advice on how to handle this, I would like to help her wake up and realize that maybe Kyle isn't her soul mate, especially when he causes her so much anguish. How can I constructively point out to her that she is wasting her time without losing my best friend forever?
– Desperate for a friend, somewhere in Rhode Island
A: The best thing you can do as a friend is to ask questions, DFAF. You can ask her how she feels. You can ask her what she plans to do about her relationship if it doesn't improve. You can ask her about the good things. What does she like about Kyle these days? Are they still laughing and having fun? Give her space to talk about all of it.
It's so difficult to watch friends make mistakes (especially when they continue making them for more than a year), but they have to go through their own process at their own pace. We can only hope that our questions help move things along.
Just remember to keep your tone supportive and to make it clear that you're on her team no matter what. And remember to listen to all of her answers. Like, really, really listen. There's probably a lot about her relationship that you just don't understand.
Also feel free to give compliments. It wouldn't hurt to remind your friend that she's cool and that she looks nice. Sometimes we forget to tell our friends how awesome they are.
Readers? I always advise friends to ask questions, but is there something else she can do? Any insight about what's happening with the friend? Help.
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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.