“Love and friendship exclude each other.” —Jean de la Bruyere
Common wisdom is that long-term relationships are based on solid friendship. I agree. But I do ponder where is the line between how you’d treat a friend and how you treat your beau.
For example, with my very best friends I can talk about anything. Yes, anything. My fears, doubts, insecurities. I can boast about a recent success and they won’t think less of me. I can vent about some recent interaction. I can share my hopes for the future.
I’d hope I can say these things to a long-term partner, too. The challenge comes with knowing the line — if there is a line — of what to share and what not.
For example, if a friend is considering doing something I think is ill-advised, I feel I have the right, and in the cases of very good friends, the responsibility, to say something. Some less-than-good friends would say, “Butt out. It’s none of your business.” But I expect my friends to point out if they think I’m overlooking something important. In other words, if they think I’m about to do — or maybe even in the middle of doing — something stupid, they speak up.
Luckily, my friends are socially adept and don’t blurt out “You’re being stupid,” or “Don’t you have a brain in your head?” or “What could you possibly be thinking?” These phrases are more likely to come from family, not friends.
But I’ve been unsuccessful, no matter how gently I think I’ve phrased it, to suggest to a beau that his course of action may benefit from some additional thinking. No. When I’ve tried this a few times, I sometimes hear that I’m treating him like a child.
So what to do? Some say to just let him do what he planned and fall on his face. Or live with the consequences. Or maybe it will pan out to his satisfaction, even though you know it would be even better with your added input. I know, this sounds arrogant. But the beauty of two heads is they often are really better than one, and better solutions are created by melding two good minds.
Could you watch a friend do something you think — perhaps know — is dumb, without saying something? Would you stand by if a friend was going to dive off a bridge into what seemed like a deep pond without first checking if there were big rocks under the surface that could crack her head? What if she got excited about joining a new multi-level marketing venture and decided to quit her job, even though she was sole support of herself and her 2 kids? What if she decided to go to Vegas this weekend to marry that man she’s known only 4 weeks? Could you not at least discuss it with her or him?
A friend long ago counseled me that men don’t want their sweetie’s input. They want to be successful without any of her suggestions. They can feel emasculated if she contributes ideas he didn’t think of. My friend said to just let my ex do what he would do and praise him whatever the result. Now talk about infantilizing! This seems like something you’d do to a small child.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I envision my mate being someone who asks for and welcomes my input on his plans. Not everything, of course, but big issues. I often seek others’ input — including those I’m dating. I’m not put off by their ideas, even if I’ve thought of them all before. I appreciate their willingness to noodle on the situation with me. And I welcome someone’s suggesting there might be issues they want to make sure I’ve considered. To me, this is a way they show they care. As long as they do it without the aforementioned condescension.
The rub happens when there is no request for help from the other, if you just jump in unasked. With good friends, I think there is an implicit — and sometimes explicit — permission to jump in anytime you see something you think would be useful to the other. My more evolved friends have a standard practice of asking, “Do you want my input?” or “Would you like to brainstorm this?” or “Would you like some more ideas on how to accomplish what you want?”
I always say yes when asked, and have yet to be refused when I’ve asked this of my friends. So what is the big deal when it comes to someone in which you’re having a romantic relationship? You’re friends as well as dating, right? So why can’t you treat him the same way you treat your good friends?
Share your perspective on this issue. Do you find you can treat a beau as you would your friends? Or are there some areas that are verboten?
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