• Resolving Problems

Hesitant to judge a friend making bad decisions

Published: January 18, 2017 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
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Good friends need to say something when a friend is making bad decisions.


Hi Irene,

My good friend has been having a rough year. She turned 40 in May and ever since, she has been going out every weekend, neglecting her four-year-old daughter, and treating her husband poorly.

My husband and I are very close with the couple. He is a wonderful guy, and it is upsetting to see the way she treats him. Even worse, she won’t discuss her problems with anyone. All she wants to do is party, sugar coat her situation, and tear down everyone else to make herself feel better.

I understand this is just a coping method. However, her actions are hurtful to everyone surrounding her and it’s putting a strain on our relationship. She keeps inviting me to go out with her divorced friends to party, and I have no interest in supporting her behavior, or feeling like I have to keep her actions a secret for her. The situation makes me uncomfortable.

The friendship has become toxic, but I feel guilty abandoning her if she needs support right now. How do I confront her, without making her feel like I’m judging her?

Signed, Emma


Hi Emma,

It has to be tough to watch a friend act in ways that are hurtful to her family, especially to her young child. Making it worse, it sounds likes your friend’s husband is your friend as well.

If you haven’t already done so, you need to let your friend know explicitly that you are uncomfortable with the way she is treating her family, have no interest in being party to her behavior by getting together on weekends, and don’t want to be placed in the uncomfortable situation of having to keep secrets from her husband or yours.

Good friends shouldn’t stay silent when they see their friends engaging in destructive behaviors. Being honest is a way of being supportive to your friend without being supportive of her behavior. Let her know you are concerned about the consequences of her actions and hope she’ll find a more constructive way to overcome her “rough year.”

Your friend may get angry in the process but it’s hard to remain friends with someone whose values and life choices are so discrepant from yours.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: RESOLVING PROBLEMS, Secrets & lies

Comments (8)

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  1. Sandra says:

    What a tough situation for everyone involved! It’s hard to sit back and watch friends hurt their families, and behave in ways that are not in sync with your own values. I agree with Irene’s statement that most of us want friends who share our core values and morals, and that it’s hard when our friends swerve off course.

    You mention in your letter that your friend keeps inviting you to “party” with her and her divorced friends. Clearly, to me, this an opportunity to express your feelings about the situation. Since she has “invited” you to participate, tell her that you’re not comfortable with what’s going on, nor would you be willing to “keep it secret.” That isn’t being “judgmental” — it’s simply stating your own position.

    Another option: If you’re not comfortable talking it over with her, you might want to distance yourself from this friend for a while. By taking a break, you won’t be continually exposed to the behavior that is making you uncomfortable. This isn’t the sort of situation that will suddenly get better, so you need to have a plan for how you will deal with it.

  2. Amy F says:

    You have taken a side in the issues between your friend and her husband. His. Unless you’re in a marriage, you really don’t know what’s going on between the intimate details of a marriage. Even what you observe is only part of the story. Much of your angst with the relationship seems to be coming from you. Your judgments. Your feelings about wanting to keep your friend’s behavior secret (unless she’s asked you).
    I agree that good friends are honest when friends are in trouble or self destructing. That honesty needs to come from a place of love, not judgment. Nothing you’ve written seems to be destruction. Neglecting her daughter? Is she not feeding the child, taking her to doctors when she’s sick or leaving her alone? Then she’s probably not neglecting the little girl even if she’s distracted and not giving her full attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating being emotionally inattentive, just illustrating where your concern seems more judgmental than helpful.
    If she’s not receptive to talking about how you think she’s on the wrong track, your approach may be part of the problem. If you decide to talk to her, do so from a place of concern and not moral superiority and judgment.

    • Socialite says:

      I agree 100% with you, Amy.

      Emma (OP), you need to realize that your ideas about how one should live their life only reflect your own feelings, needs and values. These are not the same for everyone and a lifestyle that seems right for you might cause depression for somebody else. People have different needs and values and some people need socializing more than others.

      Some people may feel perfectly content navigating their life only between family and work. Others have higher needs for being social and if these needs are not met, this could cause mental health issues in the individual.

      Do you know that there are couples where both partners enjoy partying and socializing a lot? Somehow we accept that if both partners are on the same page about having fun, then it’s perfectly ok. But if only one partner needs socializing, then it’s a sin and neglect of the family.

      There is nothing wrong if in a relationship one likes going out more than the other. Problems arise only when the less social one tries to pressure their partner into staying home, or the more social one pressures their SO into going out when they don’t feel like it. People need to acknowledge their different needs. Restricting somebody from having their own needs met will only bring further problems to the relationship.

      Going out and having fun obviously make your friend feel happy. I don’t see how this fact alone suggests neglect of her family. As Amy said, if the child is otherwise well taken care of, the fact that her mother likes going out doesn’t mean neglect.

      As for her husband, you really have no idea what’s going on in their marriage. Your friend might be feeling emotionally neglected by her husband, you don’t know how she’s feeling. And maybe the reason she’s not telling you is because she’s afraid of being judged as you obviously see your values as the only true values to live by. I suggest you try to work on being less judgemental and more accepting of the fact that many people are different from you and need different things to feel happy.

      • Shaz says:

        I think that’s pretty judgemental. The lady is clearly concerned about a friend who seems to be having a midlife crisis and specifically said she doesn’t want to cones across as judging her friend. She knows this couple better than you do.

        • Socialite says:

          She doesn’t know the couple better than her friend who is part of it does. Help is only appreciated when it is asked for. Otherwise it’s rude and intrusive. If OP doesn’t want to come off as judgemental, she should just back off unless her friend specifically asks her for her help/ opinion. In friendship (and any other relationship) we can only have requirements about how the other person treats us and what they bring to the relationship with us. We can’t have requirements about what choices they make about their own life. We don’t have the right to ask somebody else to change who they are. That’s a serious boundary we shouldn’t cross.

          Also decisions that are universally “bad”, are forbidden by the law. Anything else is a matter of personal judgement.

          Often when a woman feels emotionally disconnected and neglected by her husband, she will turn to her friends to alleviate her needs for feeling loved, appreciated and supported. I guess this is a softer solution than just finding herself a proper man.

  3. Irene (the other one) :) says:

    Emma, I wonder how your partying friend would react, if say, her husband and child went away for a week by themselves? She can only behave in this way because her husband is at home with the child. Would she miss them if they’re not there?

    In England we have a saying regarding unacceptable behaviour – “you have to call their bluff.” Meaning, either act precisely on their demands, or do the same as what they do – in her husband’s case removing himself from her for a while.

    Many years ago I gave this advice to an American couple, whose fostered daughter threatened to drop out of college if her unreasonable demands were not met. I told them, next time she threatens you, just say, “that’s fine with us – you drop out of college and you’ll not live with us. You’ll have to find your own accommodation.” Some months later I was told that this girl backed down completely, and finished her course without argument. I’ve known this to work in a few cases – her husband could try, see how it goes.

    • Shari. n the two this has hapoen 6 yrsdrinking pot smoking they have two children they put threw hell every day what would u do?? says:

      I need some one. Advise

      • Irene (the other one) says:

        Shari – I think this is a job for professionals, who know how to deal with people like this. I would suggest you ask Irene Levine if she could throw some light on this – it looks like a very bad situation.

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