She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to…Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions, about anything at all.
I need to know if I am being a bad friend. I have a good friend, who is also my roommate; she has been having a lot of issues with the guy she’s seeing. And I mean A LOT of issues. Whenever we are both home, that’s all I hear about.
In the beginning, I didn’t mind listening and giving advice to her. However, it’s getting to the point where I am flat-out annoyed and frustrated, because she is constantly asking me for advice about THE SAME THING!
I give her my advice, then she comes back the next day whining about everything and asking for the same advice, again! I’m telling you, the past week, it has been every single day. Sometimes, after work, when I just want to relax, watch TV, whatever, she'll sit there bugging me about her problems. I have tried ignoring her or just giving her very short responses, but she still doesn’t seem to get it.
Am I being unreasonable? Am I a bad friend? How do I get her to stop??
It’s driving me up the wall. Help!
Most of my life, people have come to me for advice. Even when I’ve been a complete mess myself, I have managed to adequately assess situations and have been able to give what I hope is helpful and valuable advice.
The biggest lesson I have learned from giving all this advice? Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth.
You have probably heard the clichéd definition of “insanity” (possibly, debatably attributed to Albert Einstein) that is often cited in the recovery field: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
It’s easy to see how your friend is acting this out, live, before your very eyes. But you are, too.
If you keep participating in this cycle, nothing will change; or by the time it changes, you will indeed have been driven over the edge of frustration, to say the least.
This is not your fault — but you can change this dynamic. You have to change the conversation. She might not like what she hears, but sometimes, telling the people we love the truth — truths that can help and change them — is what being a good friend is all about.
The next time she comes to you for advice, sit in front of her, look her in the eye, and tell her what you see happening in the hamster wheel of dysfunction that is her relationship. Tell her the truth — that she has asked you for the same advice day in and day out, and that you cannot continue to repeat yourself, as she is not changing her actions.
Tell her that you are her friend and that you care for her, but you are not equipped to fix this for her. Help her find some therapeutic help in your area. This can easily be done online. For those who are financially-challenged, there are some (albeit limited) resources out there as well. Validate her feelings — that she must be feeling like she’s going bananas over this. Reiterate that she needs to focus on herself and her actions — rather than the actions of her guy.
Now, you have no control over whether or not she will listen, but you can set a healthy boundary for yourself. At the end of the conversation, clearly state that although you are her friend and will be there for her, she cannot keep coming to you for help about the same problem if she refuses to change anything about her situation.
Say all of these things from a place of love, rather than frustration. Really emphasize therapy. She sounds like she could use it — because, really, we could all use it.
If you have a question for me about love, life, pets, breakups, April Fool’s Day, parenting, sex toys, ballet, or anything at all, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo