Most every Tuesday I answer questions submitted by readers on my formspring.me account. I invite questions or insight anonymously on the site and answer them in a post the following week. Submit your questions for next week’s edition by clicking this link. Link opens in a new window.
How do you deal with friends who have monopolizing/controlling significant others? How do you avoid being that person yourself?
I am sorry to report this, but I suppose I should be honest… I was that person. I was 16, though, and sort of not really in the most healthy position. So I would say that now that I have grown up over the past ten years..I’ve seen what a shitty relationship can do to two people, how miserable you become (especially within yourself), and I just know that I don’t want to be that person again. So..I suppose that’s how I’m avoiding being that person—I just know that I don’t ever want that again.
I see that your question asks about a friend. And I truly believe that it is perfectly normal to care about your friend and want the best for them. When we see something happening to our friends, especially at the hands of another person, it makes us rightfully angry and upset. Someone we love is being hurt! Who wouldn’t have a strong reaction to this?
The way I see it, when someone we care about is being monopolized and controlled, you have two options. You can either say something to your friend, or you can keep quiet. Each option has pros, cons, and consequences.
Saying something to your friend is a slippery slope, but sometimes it’s necessary I suppose. When you speak up and tell your friend that you feel like their S.O. isn’t the best match for them, you run the risk of driving the friend away from you and into the arms of the controlling and unpleasant significant other. Sometimes, if the person isn’t ready to hear this honesty, you actually fuel the controlling fire more. You create this strange “the world is out to get us” scenario for the couple and they turn in for support.
On extremely rare occasions, friends might be receptive to hearing your opinions on the nature of their relationship or the characteristics that you feel make the S.O. less than a perfect match. However, I must warn you. Be gentle with your words. Making strong statements like “I hate her” or “He’s an awful person” might actually turn the friend away from you even if they know what you’re saying is the truth. It’s hard to come back to someone if you’ve made another mistake and you assume they might give you the “I told you so” speech. Be gentle, and realize whatever you say is permanent, at least in your friend’s mind. Saying things gently will at least open their mind to the possibility that they are in a bad situation. It’s not your job to make up their mind for them! It’s your job to give them the facts and let them come to the best conclusion on their own.
If you say nothing, you will probably be miserable because it’s hard to watch a friend. But maybe you can support them in other ways, by encouraging them to come out of whatever it is that is keeping them in a bad relationship. Remind them of their best qualities, what makes you value them as a friend. It may require effort to be this supportive, but I think this is probably good energy you’re putting into this friendship, rather than negative energy required to either talk about them behind their back or nag them to their face. (Yes, I need to take my advice sometimes..sigh).
In the end, I think how you interact with a friend with a controlling/monopolizing significant other depends on the situation. You’ll know whether it’s right to step in and say something, or let it ride and foster a friendship in other ways. It sucks that there are people out there in relationships that are toxic, or individuals out there that are hurting people we care about. But you can get through it, I am sure.