The other day, my friend Morgan* told me she was falling for a guy she'd been seeing casually for a few weeks, whom we'll call John*. John was sweet to Morgan, sent her flowers, took her out to dinner, and seemed to genuinely care about her. Still, when she told me about him, a flash of angry pain seared through my mind. "You could do so much better," I wanted to blurt out.
I don't know why I think like this, but I do. No matter how great a guy is, I always think they're not good enough for my friends.
The most painful example of this was when my best friend of six years started dating a guy I shockingly did not approve of. Don't worry, he didn't like me either. In the end, they stayed together, and our friendship faded. I don't want to say she "picked him," but that's what it felt like when you get iced out after six years of friendship...
But back to Morgan.
Her new guy seemed sweet enough, but I wonder: Is he really enough for her? She's gorgeous, hilarious, smart as hell, an accomplished lawyer, and has one of the biggest hearts. What I don't want is for this amazing, giving person to lower her standards enough for this other dude to come into the picture and possibly disappoint her. Of course, no one wants to be a judgmental-wet-blanket-bitch hating on their friends' happiness. So what do you do when your friend starts to date someone you don't approve of?
"It speaks highly of you when you adore your friends, think they are amazing, and feel they deserve the best partners ever," says Deborah Cohan, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina. "At the same time, when you slip into feeling judgmental of their partners, you risk that it could come across to your friends as overly parental, protective, and paternalistic."
What do you do when your friend starts to date someone you don't approve of?
In other words, no matter how good your intentions may be, who your friends choose to date is not your decision to make.
Plus, you may be projecting onto your friend without even realizing it. "We sometimes have the tendency to put ourselves in other people's shoes, but we don't always fully know what our friend wants and needs from a relationship," says Alissa Schneider, MA, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor.
This makes sense to me because, when I'm dating someone, I want my friends to give me the same dose of harsh realism as I give to them... well, in theory. In reality, I'm a dumb hypocrite, so what I say I like rarely applies.
Case in point: There have been times when my friends have pointed out that something in my relationship is unhealthy, or it's time to cut my losses and move on. But do I listen? No. On the off chance there's something still there, I want to explore it. I'll pursue something past the point of common sense and make stupid decisions that I know my friends don't support. And then, when it's all over, I'll go crawling back to those very same friends who tried to steer me right and ask to be comforted. The good friends—the ones that I trust and feel safe and loved by enough to make mistakes around—always do.
Perhaps this is why Cohan suggests the much better alternative to judging your friends' partners is to simply ask your BFF questions about them in a non-critical way, and stay open and curious about their relationship (think of the Buddhist philosophy, "Not too tight, not too loose"). "You can't and shouldn't cling to or get too enmeshed in your friends' lives and choices," Cohan says.
And so, with that resigned realization, I guess all I can really do for Morgan in the meantime is support her happiness and butt out. Being a friend and loving someone means loving someone enough to let them make up their own minds about a person.
But seriously, John*, if you're reading this: if you ever hurt her, I will ruin you.
*Not their real names, so no one sue me! xoxo
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.