Straight Talk Advice

Jul 22, 2014

Keep mouth shut about friend’s loser boyfriend — unless!

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 18 and my best friend for 10 years is dating someone with a lot of mental health and drug abuse problems. Even after he said terrible things to her, she still took him back. I'm always there for her when she's upset about him, but then she takes him back and blows me off. I've told her he's not good for her and she just defends him. Our last conversation turned into a huge fight and I don't know if we can be friends if she keeps dating him. She's made it clear they are staying together. But I worry because she's doing things she'd never do before they met. I'm not good at keeping my mouth shut, so what do I do? —Lillie, New York, N.Y.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

What I've learned about friends dating idiots, the idiot is perfectly capable of severing ties on his own, whether it's cheating, hitting bottom on drugs, or worse. Wait it out. High school girls love bad boys, but after graduating they usually want better than a professional cannabis taster. Graduation is also when you learn who your true friends are, which is why I recommend sticking with her. Shooting off about bad partners is a losing battle. Now, if you suspect her life is in danger, let her parents know. But if he's just some deadbeat, he'll dig his own grave. Your arguing makes her care even more for the “tormented soul” who needs rescuing.

Maddie 15, Cotati, Calif. Ask me a question

My best friend was dating a loser. I learned that harping on it just made her want to rebel and date him even more. Your friend most likely knows deep down she deserves better, but she has to be the one to break it off. Best: Remind her that you're there for her and you'll accept him if that's what she wants.

Katherine 17, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I've been on the other side, where my friends don't like my boyfriend. Try her shoes on. Her boyfriend isn't treating her right and her best friend is accusing her of being with the wrong guy. It's a lot of stress, plus deep down, she knows. Voicing your opinion just makes things worse, so be supportive and avoid the boyfriend topic, or if she brings it up, stay neutral. This is her lesson to learn.

Carmela 15, Davis, Calif. Ask me a question

My best guy friend started dating a girl who constantly flirted with other guys, cheated, told his secrets and trash-talked him. He was completely addicted to her and always made excuses. Eventually our friendship deteriorated as she took my place. A year later, we began talking again and I decided to keep my opinions to myself and only hang out with him when she wasn't around. Finally, after three years and a cheating episode he couldn't ignore, he broke up with her, saying he was tired of being kicked around. But now they are fooling around again! Clearly he's still obsessed. We've drifted very far apart, but all I can do is wait. It's not my place to tell him what to do. Of course, if a friend is really in trouble, you must tell an authority figure.

Dear Lillie: What I'm hearing from the panel is that if you value your friendship, you shut up and wait it out. (I can vouch for this at all ages.) The exception: If she's in trouble. Then you open your big mouth loud and clear. Knowing her boyfriend is a drug abuser, it doesn't take a mind-reader to guess what's worrying you — and if you're worried, I'm worried. Tell her parents, anonymously if you must. Let THEM break them up.

  1. By N.R., age 16, from Toledo, OH on 07/23/2014

    I agree that you should usually keep your mouth shut when a friend or family member has a loser of a boyfriend, as in my experience it just causes them to defend them and dig in their heals and its best for them to learn the hard way on their own.  However, I’m in a difficult situation and I don’t know what to do as I know that my stepsister has been physically abused by her boyfriend, but she doesn’t me want to tell her mom since she knows that her mom won’t let her see him any more.  We share a room every other weekend and have become good friends.  I learned real quick not to say anything negative about him even though he has a very bad reputation at the school we both go to, as it just made her mad.  However, recently I couldn’t help to notice bruises on her body when we were sharing a room and I saw her nude.  I don’t want anybody to think I go out of my way to look at her body when she’s nude, but when you’re sharing a room it’s hard not to notice certain things unless you close your eyes.  She admitted that her boyfriend did it, but says that he apologized and she forgave him, and everything is fine now.  She’s says that it’s between them and none of my business to tell anyone.  She says that she’ll make sure her mom doesn’t see her undressed until the bruises go away which won’t be difficult since her mom avoids coming in her room when she’s undressed anyway and hardly ever sees her nude.  On the one hand, I think I should let it be her business and let it be between her and him.  But if he hurt her worse, I would feel partly responsible for keeping quiet.  However, she’ll be really mad at me if I tell her mom and it would probably destroy our friendship and make things very difficult sine we’ll have to continue sharing a room every other weekend.

    N.R.

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    1. By Sarah, age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 07/27/2014

      I found a way to inform my stepmom about bruises on my stepsister in a very similar situation without her knowing that I was responsible.  I didn’t say anything to my stepsister, but it wasn’t hard to figure our that her boyfriend caused the bruises I saw when we were sharing a room and I saw her nude, especially considering his reputation and what a jerk I could see that he was.  I told her mom but told her that I didn’t want my stepsister to know that I was the one who told her.  So we came up with a plan that I would say a certain phrase when my stepsister was nude in the room we were sharing, and her mom would come up with an excuse to come in the room unexpectedly.  The plan worked perfectly and her mom demanded to know where the bruises came from and she confessed that it was her boyfriend, and my stepsister never suspected me.  At first she was very angry and depressed that her mom wouldn’t let her see him any more.  However, in time after she met a decent guy she realized that her mom had done the right thing.  I then told her what had happened and she actually laughed and told me that she appreciated what I had done and that we came up with such a smart plan.  We are now closer than ever.

      I recommend that N.R. try something similar.

      Sarah

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      1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/27/2014

        Sarah—I am so grateful for this! And I’m sure all our readers are too! It is a fantastic idea and I will share it from now on. I especially like that you ended up telling your stepsister once she had moved on, and you are closer than ever now. This IS how it goes 99% of the time. The person IS grateful. They DO eventually meet someone who treats them well.  When a person is left in an abusive relationship, the longer they are there, the lower their esteem sinks, and the more likely they are to attract this kind of relationship in over and over in a pattern. For a high school girl, or even a college girl who is in a relationship like this the best gift you can give them is to tell on them immediately and end the relationship as soon as possible. Thank you a million times for sharing this good idea. You and your stepmother are both very smart, please tell her I said so.—Love, Lauren

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  2. By Debbie, age 17, from Monterey, CA on 07/24/2014

    Similar to N.R.‘s stepsister, my boyfriend abused me and I wouldn’t listen to anybody who tried to tell me he was no good.  I had a very low opinion of myself and was afraid of losing him as he was the only guy who ever had shown interest in me.  My sister whom I share a room with saw the evidence of the abuse when I was undressed, but I begged her not to tell our mom so she didn’t.  However, my best friend’s sister saw the bruises when I was there for a sleepover in their room and was naked after taking a shower.  She didn’t say anything to me, but she told her mom who told my mom who is a friend of hers.  My mom made me undress down to my thong for her so that she could see.  I was really mad at the time and said that she was invading my privacy.  I’m not a good liar and she can always tell when I’m not telling the truth, so I went ahead and admitted that my boyfriend had done it when we had an argument when he was drunk.  She said I couldn’t see him any more and I was devastated.  However, it was a good thing in the end as I met a really nice guy whom I’m now dating and he is not someone who would ever do such a thing.

    I agree that it is pointless and counter productive to tell someone her boyfriend is no good no matter how hard it is to keep your mouth shut.  However, if you see actual abuse, you should tell someone.  I’m very glad that my friend’s sister did so.

    Debbie

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  3. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/24/2014

    N.R. & Debbie—N.R., I hope you take your cue from Debbie’s comment (Debbie, thank you so much for taking the time to write in about your experience). Most everyone who gets “told on” when they are in a bad situation is grateful eventually. The person who “tells” has to have faith in that!! It can feel like a leap, but what else are you going to do? Lose sleep over it, night after night hoping nothing bad happens? And if it does? Feel awful forever? It’s not worth it.

    This is what friends are for. I love that that your friend’s sister saw your bruises Debbie and just went ahead and told your parents! Simple, right?! There is no need for saying anything to the person! I love this style, actually and am really glad to recommend it from now on. You see the problem, you go tell someone in charge. End of story. “Discussing” something like this, usually leads to threats from the person which only put you in a muddle. No discussion or warning needed in cases like this!

    So, N.R., I can’t urge you enough to tell her mom. In most cases, parents are more than willing to hold confidence. However, holding your head high and admitting that you told could eventually bond you even more after she’s recovered and with a really nice guy, as happened to Debbie. You don’t want your friend to spend a second with a abuser. This behavior tends to repeat itself and the girl’s self esteem just gets lower and lower. Spring her out of this by telling her mom NOW while she still has the bruises. I’m rooting for you! Let me know how it goes.  Love, Lauren

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    1. By S.G., age 15, from Santa Rosa, CA on 07/25/2014

      I sure hope your right Lauren that the person whose told on eventually is grateful.  I told on my sister cause I thought it was the right thing to do and I’m really suffering for it.  We share a room so we can’t help but see each other naked which has never been an issue for us as sisters.  When I saw the bruises she first denied that her boyfriend did it and said she “fell down” but I could tell that she was lying and I already knew her boyfriend was no good, but like everybody else says it did no good to try to tell her.  I told our mom who made her strip so she could see and she got her to admit that it was her boyfriend who did it so our mom made her break up with him.  We used to be really close, but now my sister hates me for ratting her out which is very difficult when we still have to live in the same room.

      S.G.

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  4. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/27/2014

    S.G.—Hold your head high. She WILL come back, all the testimony here shows that , especially knowing you’ve been close. I wish you had been able to see Sarah’s idea about how to keep your anonymity (2nd comment above), but please know that you get extra points on the bravery meter for doing the right thing anyway—taking a stand like this will help you throughout life.  Sharing a room in the aftermath is understandably challenging. Everyone’s forgiveness process is different and takes time, and only you know her personality and can discern the best approach and psychology for easing the tension. I guarantee, though, it is not going to be helpful to hang your head or act sheepish about what you did.  I recommend not bringing up the subject at all, and just go about your business with unconditional warmth, love, and even humor if it’s appropriate and fits her personality. Most especially don’t get mad, huffy, or passive aggressive at her for not “snapping out of it.” Just give her all the time in the world. A lot of girls will respond to small token like buying something you are SURE she would love and giving it to her with a simple note saying, “You are lovable and beautiful and deserve good things in life.” Again make no reference to what happened and have no expectations for change. Unconditional love always works its magic eventually. If you can’t afford to buy something, ask your mom to help. She should certainly understand the need. Let us know how it goes. I’m VERY proud of you!—Love, Lauren

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  5. By Emily, age 15, from Vacaville, CA on 07/27/2014

    My mom and sister did something similar with me, but with me it was cutting, not physical abuse.  However, I knew exactly what was going on and wanted to get “caught.”  My sister and I share a room and have never been shy about nudity in front of each other as I assume it is (and should be) with most sisters.  However, I went out of my way to be “extra casual” about nudity in our room to make sure she saw the cut marks, and also hoping that our mom would come in and “catch” me which she did after my sister told her.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Sarah’s stepsister knew what was going on like I did and played along, and even if not, I’ll bet that deep down she wanted to be “caught” as there are ways to hid your body even when you’re sharing a room.

    Emily

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  6. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/29/2014

    Emily—So glad you shared this! I think ALL kids are unconsciously (or in your case, consciously) TRYING to get caught, trying to have someone tell on them. It’s so hard to admit when we need help. It’s such human nature to WANT someone to discover the problem and handle it for us, MAKE us get help. I love the way you’ve described that here. It’s so profound, I want to use your letter to spring forth a whole column on exactly this! It will help so many who are afraid to tell… when it’s exactly what the person wants!! I’m curious if you then acted mad at your sister? Human nature is so fascinating. Hope you’re checking this thread… would love to hear if you acted mad for awhile… you know, to play the part?  lol

    I’m so glad you saw to it that you’d get help and so glad your sister took it up. I hope you are doing better now and not cutting anymore. —Love, Lauren

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