A Lesson on Giving Tough Love to Your Friends

I love my friends so much. SO MUCH. Truly, there is not a thing in the world I wouldn’t do for my beautiful best friends, and I know they feel the same. We talk about everything, and I always feel comfortable venting with them over a glass of wine after a long day, week, or month. 

Venting, in fact, is SUCH a normalized part of friendships. We call our friends to vent about our jobs, our schedules, our bodies, our bank accounts, our parents, our other friends, and countless other things. It forms camaraderie, and it is genuinely really nice to have a shoulder to cry on when life just gets annoying as hell.

THAT BEING SAID, HOWEVER, sometimes my friends and I are just not on the same page. Sometimes I have something to vent about, and they think I’m being totally whiny. Sometimes one of them wants to bitch about something, and I think they’re being utterly ridiculous. It’s a fact of friendship: we don’t all have the same experiences, so there are plenty of times when one of us simply cannot relate to or empathize with an experience held by a friend — even if it’s a friend we love and adore.

So what’s a girl to do? Allow your friend to wallow in self-pity with your own pseudo-empathy? Or say nothing — slowly letting your annoyance at their perceived ridiculousness reach an unhealthy level as you sit in supportive silence? Guess what. You should do neither. Because there’s a way you can give tough love, keep your sanity, and maintain your friendship all in the same breath.

 

1. The friend who makes more money than you do but is “worried about money.”

In defense of your ~wealthy friend~, he or she is honestly probably trying to make you feel LESS bad about making less money (“See, I’m just a normal person like you!”) — but of course, complaining about their finances gives off the opposite effect. In this case, don’t be afraid to lay down the law: “Yo, it’s hard for me to hear about this when you know I’d love to make as much as you do.” (Or worse, if you’d love the parental handouts they receive…) “Do you want some help with a budget?”

 

2. The friend who makes less money than you do and therefore makes you feel like a piece of crap about yourself.

This one is SO tricky, as it can often stem from several different situations. Consider the following.

  • Does the friend make less than you do because he/she is ~a little bit lazy~ and doesn’t want to work as hard as you do? If so, then don’t feel bad. You work hard for your money, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. Listen as they complain, then offer options for how they can make more money or improve their situation. Don’t judge, but don’t let them judge you either.
  • Does the friend make less than you because his or her field simply pays less? Maybe you make similar amounts, but he or she has massive loans to pay off — and you don’t. If either of these is the case, it’s time for you to shut up. It’s not your friend’s fault that you’re in a better financial situation, so you’re only hurting yourself and your own relationship if you choose to make their own stresses about you and yours. If your friend is doing the best he or she can and still can’t make ends meet, it’s not your job to feel bad about it — but it is your job to see how you can help.

 

3. The friend who can’t pick just one guy damnit.

In high school, my best friend was this beautiful dancer named Alyssa. She’s a great girl — super sweet, smart, and talented — and she’s also jaw-droppingly gorgeous. She would CONSTANTLY complain about how hard it was to juggle how many guys wanted to take her out. UGH, Alyssa. Just ugh.

The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to remind yourself how freaking great you are. Participate in some self-care, wear your favorite clothes, and listen to some confidence-boosting music (When I need to feel like a BAMF, I listen to Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater.” Works every time.). Key takeaway: The fact that your friend has a lot of dating options does not mean that you do not. Don’t compare your situations — just hop on Bumble and get to swiping (you’ll feel flush with options in no. time. flat.)

 

4. The friend whose boyfriend is being clingy/annoying/needy BUT AT LEAST SHE HAS ONE, OKAY.

I can’t stand when my friends complain about their boyfriends. Of course, if a friend was telling me that her significant other was abusive, or in danger, or needed help, that would be a different scenario — but if the problem is that his or her partner literally just LOVES THEM TOO MUCH, ain’t nobody got time for that. Remind your friend how awesome their partner is, then feel free to share all the EVEN WORSE things your past partners have done. “Your boyfriend won’t stop calling you? Boo-hoo. Remember when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named broke up with me after I had already booked that expensive flight to go see him? And then I found out he was cheating on me the whole time? And then told everyone I was the most irresponsible choice he’d ever made? Yeah, IT COULD BE WORSE.” Your friend will feel better, and you’ll get some sympathy for yourself. Double score.

 

5. The friend who complains about having to travel for work, the poor thing.

It must be really hard for you to travel to new and exciting locations to meet new and exciting people!! NOT. Okay, I can see why this is annoying. It’s frustrating to hear that while you’re sitting at a desk with a brick wall for a view, your friend is galavanting around a resort playing host to business execs. It sounds unfair.

But try to be realistic. As amaaaazing as traveling is, it’s often exhausting. It’s hard to go for a long time without sleeping in your own bed or using your own shower. Traveling is most fun when you get to pick the location and plan your own itinerary, but it can be a major bummer to have to spend time on a cramped airplane only to land in an unknown destination and put on a happy face for your boss and clients.

As much as you’d like to spend your time on the clock in a fun location, remember that your friend might wish he or she got to enjoy the creature comforts of the consistency of home. The grass is always greener, my friend.

 

6. The friend who feels unappreciated in a job she’s held for about five minutes at a max.

One of my absolute biggest pet peeves of all time is when someone complains about their position at their company and says that they feel entitled to a raise or promotion. There is such a simple solution to this. 1. Do you (the person who wants a raise or promotion) have evidentiary support (thank you, Elle Woods) to back up the claim that you deserve more money or more power? If not, then get back to work. If you do have evidentiary support, bring it to your supervisors and ask for the raise you deserve. If they say no, then you can complain (and start to look for work elsewhere). If not, you got what you wanted. No need to bitch about it.

As the supportive friend, the best thing you can do is to remind your friend of the above sequence of events. If it hasn’t been long enough for the discussion to feel warranted, remind your friend that hard work will pay off once dues are paid. I have no patience for entitlement, so sometimes it’s in everyone’s best interests to remind your friend that they’re acting a little spoiled.

 

7. The friend who always complains about her weight — when she’s in better shape than you are.

“Ugh, I look SO fat,” said every skinny girl ever. When you’re the friend she says it to (and you’re bigger or in worse shape), it can come off as straight-up offensive. The best thing you can do for them is to tell them how great they look, but don’t dwell on it. Oftentimes, women talk like this as a way to mask their own insecurities. She’s probably not speaking maliciously, so cut her some slack and remind yourself that we all have our own crosses to bear. If she IS speaking maliciously, she’s probably not the kind of friend you want to keep around.

 

Overall, the fact of the matter is that we all have our own unique sets of experiences, and we all have problems, insecurities, and issues that plague us. A part of adulthood is supporting your friends through all seasons of life. Sometimes support means lending a listening ear, and sometimes it means doling out some much-needed tough love. Whatever you choose, always remember to practice the golden rule: If you’d feel hurt hearing the words you’re saying to a friend, you probably shouldn’t be saying them.

 

How do you act when your friend is going through something you can’t relate to? Share your experiences in the comments!

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