THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Can I Catch My Friend Before She Jumps Off a Cliff (Again?)

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I recently spoke with a good friend of almost 20 years with whom I went to high school. Essentially, she wants to get married and have kids. Recently, she met a guy who is twice divorced with two children. That's a lot of baggage--even my friend will admit that.

They met at a restaurant/bar and had their first date last week. All was going well until he dropped a bomb on her. He told her his second ex-wife was living at his house because he needed the income, but assured her they have no interaction. My friend asked me if I thought this was a deal-breaker. I directly told her that is a very awkward situation and asked why he needs to have his ex-wife renting a room at his place that he could rent out a room to anyone. After talking a bit, she said she was going to talk to him directly about this situation.

Well this morning, she sent me another email saying they had a candid conversation and he assured he had no feelings toward his ex-wife. My friend has decided to give this guy a chance. While I am glad he has been honest with her, I think she is getting herself into a risky situation. My issue is she has been hurt so many times from poor relationship decisions. I know she's an adult and she is the one who has to live with her decisions but I'm tired of hearing about it. I told her she needs to be careful but it's her choice.

It frustrates me when friends ask for advice, then do the opposite of what I tell them and want me to feel sorry for them from the consequences. I have seen her in so many situations like that. I feel bad thinking that way about my friend, but can't help it. I am not getting involved, because I don't want to put our friendship on the line. How do I handle a friend who makes bad relationship decisions without ending the friendship?

Signed,
Liza


ANSWER

Dear Liza:

Sometimes it's hard to fathom why our friends make the decisions they do but in this instance, you know that your friend is eager (or perhaps, overly-eager) to marry and mother so her motivation to nab a guy is high while her threshold for acceptable candidates may be low.

But maybe you need to give this time. They've only known each other for a week and she isn't marrying him yet. She may conclude next week that he's not for her. Or he may turn out to be a perfect match (despite his rap sheet) and evict his ex-wife.

It's virtually impossible for outsiders (friends or parents, for example) to understand exactly why two lovers connect. Hopefully, things will work themselves out one way or the other without her getting terribly disappointed.

You've done what you can do as a friend: You've offered her an honest dose of your own sense of reality but what's that saying about, "You can lead a horse to water...?" Your friend has to reach her own conclusions on her own timeline. And if she makes bad choices repeatedly, all you can do is point that out to her too.

In terms of your friendship, how annoying has this pattern become to you? Does it outweigh the bonds and shared history of a 20-year friendship? Or maybe you just need a break while she finds herself.

Best,
Irene

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.