Girlfriend Needs to "Cover up"
Q: My friend at work keeps dating guys who treat her like crap. She claims she doesn't understand why she's attracting these guys. She dresses kind of trashy, though, and so I can tell that's part of the problem. I'm not sure if I should just tell her to cover up more and say no to guys unless they seem more respectable, or if I should just stay out of it. I've tried to tell her when a guy is treating her bad and that she should stop dating him, but she just gets mad at me. I hate seeing her act so stupid, but I don't want to lose her friendship either. - Melanie,43
Dr. Pamela: It's wonderful that you want to help a friend in need. I know it's difficult to watch someone you care about engage in self-destructive behavior. How and if you should intervene depends on the friendship. For an office pal who you don't see socially, I'd suggest that you listen without getting too involved. If she's one of your BFF's, that's a different story. But there are some things you need to know before you come to anyone's rescue.
First is identifying the underlying problem. Your friend isn't attracting the wrong kind of man by the dress she selects to wear on a date. She's accepting the wrong behavior from the guys she selects to date. It is her tolerance and inability to recognize abusive behavior that keeps her stuck in bad relationships. She hasn't set or doesn't adhere to healthy boundaries based on what she wants in a relationship. This is where you can help the most.
If she continues to tell you awful things about a relationship without mentioning how she's trying to make it better, then be honest. Let her know you care about her overall happiness. Then, without judging her or her boyfriend, set her straight. Tell her how she's accepting behavior she doesn't need to and what she can do about it. Remind her that she's a smart and capable woman, one who deserves to be with someone who treats her well. Finally, tell her she has your support and no matter what she decides.
For your well being, you must accept the possibility that despite your presenting an iron clad case for dumping the guy, your friend may choose otherwise. If so, continue to be there for her (unless, of course, this friendship becomes unhealthy for you). Keep in mind that your friend is entitled to make mistakes. When she does, she is fortunate to have a friend who is there for her. Good luck!
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.