Dear Wendy: “My BFF Is In A Controlling Relationship”
Wendy is on vacation, so we’ll be posting some of her more popular past Dear Wendy columns (that some of you may have missed!) to get you through the week.
A year ago my best friend “Erin” fell MAJORLY in love over a long distance relationship with someone in Europe and this summer she moved there to be with her girlfriend. The girlfriend is still in school in another country, though, so Erin lives in her girlfriend’s hometown and they’ve only seen each other on vacations. I’m happy Erin is happy, of course, but the stuff she tells me about how her girlfriend, whom I’ve never met, for the record, treats her frightens me. She’s apparently pretty jealous and gets upset when Erin hangs out with other lesbians. She also has access to Erin’s Facebook page and email account, which means she can read all her messages. I told Erin it sounds controlling, especially since I send her emails about stuff in my personal life that I don’t necessarily want her girlfriend to read. Erin got really defensive and insists the email-reading doesn’t bother her because she has nothing to hide. I said it bothered me, though, because she shouldn’t have someone snooping through her private emails. Erin got frustrated with me, said she’s got “bigger things to worry about,” and completely changed the subject. I’m worried because Erin moved to Europe to be closer to her girlfriend and now she’s a little bit isolated from her friends and family. If this girlfriend continues to do these weirdly controlling things, I’m afraid we’re not going to know or be able to do anything about it. What more can I do? What more can I say? — Hates Snooping
If Erin’s girlfriend continues doing weirdly controlling things, it’s possible you won’t hear about it, but if you continue badgering Erin about it, it’s an absolute given you won’t hear any more information about the relationship and you risk alienating yourself from your friend’s life. The best way you can be there for Erin is simply by being there. Don’t criticize her girlfriend, don’t question Erin’s sanity, don’t lecture her, nag her, or counsel her without her asking for it. And for God’s sake, don’t tell her how she should be feeling. Just be there. Be receptive to her phone calls and IM chats and listen without challenging her too much. If Erin’s girlfriend is as controlling and manipulative as it sounds, you don’t want to give her any ammunition that could help turn Erin against you. You can — and should — encourage Erin to make friends and a support system for herself in her new city. Tell her she always has your support if she wants to take a break and come home for a bit. But whatever you do, resist the urge to say negative things about her girlfriend.
For whatever reason, Erin has fallen under the spell of her girlfriend and it’s not your place to break it. The more you try, the further you risk pushing Erin away from you. We can’t protect our friends anymore than we can protect ourselves from getting hurt. Part of living a full life means taking risks, and part of growing up means learning from our mistakes. Unless you are truly worried for Erin’s physical safety, you need to butt out and let Erin make her mistakes so she can learn and grow from them. You have to let her get hurt so she understands the consequences of bad decisions. Short of getting killed, whatever she’s experiencing with this relationship won’t be anything she can’t survive. In the end, it’s her journey, not yours — let her make it on her own.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.