Thursday, 01 November 2012
One of my best friends from childhood was two years younger than me. We were two artistically-inclined girls who couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make candles, paint pictures, or make t-shirts. As luck may have it, we also ended up attending the same university, and lived in the same dorm her Freshman year. Living in the same dorm meant that we got to see one another on a regular basis. My friend was a very caring, creative, intelligent, happy person, but there was one problem: her boyfriend was a complete jerk.
She began dating her boyfriend in her junior year of high school. I had met her boyfriend a couple of times when I was home from college. When I initially met him, the two of them were “just friends,” and I found him to be awfully immature. He had no ambitions for the future, often rambled on about all of the girls he thought were “hot,” and kept making self-deprecating comments as a means of fishing for complements from others.
On top of that, although he knew that my friend was romantically interested in him, he had told her that he had no interest in dating her, yet he had no problem acting flirty towards her and leading her on.
I often contemplated why such an intelligent, beautiful girl with ambitions to become a doctor would pursue such a shallow, dim-witted guy, but I did not feel that it was my place to say anything about the situation - especially after they began dating. What did I know about the nature of their relationship, anyway? I was away at college most of the time and was not observing their relationship first-hand.
Maybe my initial impressions about the guy did not paint a complete picture of who he really was. Ultimately, I wanted to trust that my friend had a solid sense of judgment in terms of her dating life, since she displayed a solid sense of judgment in all other facets of her life, and if something really was off about her boyfriend, one of her other friends at school would talk to her about it. The guy appeared to make her very happy, so he couldn’t possibly be all that bad, right?
Flash forward to her freshman year of college. One evening, my friend knocked on the door of my dorm room. I opened the door to find her in tears. She came into my room and told me that she had just broken up with her boyfriend. She then revealed a number of new dimensions of their relationship that she had previously never discussed with me.
Her boyfriend was being emotionally abusive to her and trying to guilt her into driving three hours to visit him at his university every weekend. He also made her feel guilty when she told him that she could not talk long because she had to study for classes and told her she was useless and a failure. He constantly stalked her Facebook page and yelled at her whenever she communicated or took a picture with another guy, even though they were always just friends.
He threatened to break up with her if she attended the salsa dancing event that our dorm was hosting because she’d be dancing with other guys. He told her she was useless without him and that if she left him, she would have to be content with being alone forever because nobody else would ever want her. Not only did I feel immensely sorry for my friend, but I was also hit with a surge of guilt.
It is often not obvious when it is and is not appropriate to have an input in a friend’s dating life, especially if you are going to be critical of the character of the friend’s love interest. What if your friend does not take your well-intentioned criticism lightly and cuts off all contact with you as a result, stating that none of this is your business? Are you really doing the right thing by speaking up? What if speaking up prevents an awful situation from taking place?
Could these situations have been prevented if I had told my friend about my initial impression of her boyfriend a couple years before? If you are not fond of the person your friend is dating, at what point do you decide to express these concerns to your friend, or is it really none of your business?