Q: Dear Meredith and LL Readers,
Over the past year (more so lately) I have had trouble being supportive to a friend I’ve known all my life.
Some background info: Last year, she ended a 6-year relationship with her fiancé who she was scheduled to marry that summer. He was her first boyfriend. According to her, he just wasn't able to meet her standards, and while she tried to deny or overlook the issues, she just couldn’t go through with it in the end. It was a very long process for her to come to her decision (as is expected when ending such a long relationship) but everyone around her already knew the answer. Yes, she loved him. Yes, he loved her. But she just wasn't happy. We were all very patient with her and tightly buckled our seat belts for the long roller coaster ride as she went back and forth. We were honest with her every step of the way, trying to give an outsider's view of the situation. At times, I guess we were too honest and said some things that hurt her.
Now, almost a year later, she is in a much better and happier place finding herself. But this happier and much bolder person is purposefully keeping her ex in limbo. She says she's just being friendly with him because he will take her back just in case she doesn't find anyone else. But her behavior is beyond friendly and is creeping into relationship behavior. For example, she recently told him flat out that she was not interested in having a relationship with him in the near future. Yet, literally two days later they went on a date. She said she was being nice. I guess she was also being nice when they fooled around, too.
I’m not OK with her purposefully keeping him in limbo; after 6 years, he's also become somewhat of a friend to me, too. It just isn't fair to him or her to put their lives on pause for a relationship that she admits she doesn't want. And if she's not purposefully leading him on, she's lying to herself -- which she insists she's not. I should mention that I am glad they are not together and think that they should remain apart (at least for now). I don’t want to say anything that pushes my bias on her but I want to be honest at the same time. Ever since I found out she was hurt by some of my opinions, I scaled back and censored myself only to find out that this hurt her even more because true friendship needs no censorship. I just don't know how to talk to her about the issue. I try to just listen, I try to reassure her that she is an adult and can make her own decisions, but for her, that's not enough. So, what do I say to her?
– Nauseous from this Never-Ending Roller Coaster Ride, Boston
A: This is Love Letters, so I can't help but wonder what this problem has to do with your love life. You have every reason to be annoyed with your friend -- her situation sounds awful and monotonous and you're being forced to watch -- but I want you to ask yourself why this stresses you out so much. Are you allowing her choices to mean too much? Have you been sad about your own relationship status while observing hers? Has watching all of this made you cynical about why people stay in long-term relationships?
For all I know, this is just about your friendship. But sometimes when we get angry and confused about other people's decisions, it's because we're projecting and worried about our own lives. Please remember that your friend's choices are her own. They have nothing to do with your future or relationships in general.
My advice for communicating with this friend is to be honest about your needs. You can say, "As someone who has become friends with your ex over the years, this is difficult to hear." Or, "I'm having trouble giving you advice about this -- I've been too close to it for too long. I can support you and care about you, but I've lost some necessary perspective over the years."
Also, give yourself breaks. Spend time with new friends. Maybe even bring your friend out with a new group so that you're both experiencing a different scene, far from the roller coaster.
And again, please make sure that you're not allowing this friend to be a symbol of anything. I might be doing some of my own projecting here (double projection!), but I fear that one of the reasons you've hit a wall is that her decisions are bumming you out about relationships. Remember, they're just two people. You're on the outside and you know better.
Readers? Is she growing out of this friendship? Is she projecting? Am I projecting? What do we do when we accidentally board someone else's roller coaster? Advise.
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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.