Do you treat him like a friend?

“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?

Technorati Tags:,,,,,,,, , , , ,

Got a topic on dating after 40 you want Dating Goddess to address? Send your issue to


8 responses to “Do you treat him like a friend?”

  1. Cupertino Avatar

    I don’t think friends have the same attachment to looking good in front of you as a beau does. So they can be more open to input. And yes, I think it’s mostly a guy issue. I think women are more comfortable accepting advice.

    You say that your more evolved friends ask, “Do you want my input?” or its equivalent. I wish my sweetie would ask like that. She doesn’t. When she simply tells me what I should do, because she’s trying to be helpful, without either of us asking for her input, I’ll admit I often don’t feel helped. I feel criticized.

    You say, “I envision my mate being someone who asks for and welcomes my input on his plans.” Asking for input is one thing. Welcoming unsolicited input is another. I know my ego can be fragile; I’m working to recognize the difference between helpful advice and criticism, even when they feel the same.

  2. Casey Dawes Avatar

    It’s taken me a long time to stop offering unsolicited advice to children and husbands. I still do it sometimes, but becoming a coach has taught me two important skills — deep listening and powerful questions. Questions are much less intimidating as long as they are thoughtful and not confrontational. If I feel I want to offer an insight, I can also ask, “May I offer a suggestion?” Then if the answer is “no” which it rarely is, I can offer it.

    And, frankly, I bristle when constantly offered “advice” as well!

  3. Ellen Avatar

    My life has become much more calm and peaceful since I’ve stopped giving advice. I’ve learned that my friends really just want to vent and have someone listen. Sometimes, if I am asked for my opinion or if I think a friend is about to jump off that bridge, I’ll state my opinion and no more. No pleading, no saying it again in a different way, no asking if they understood me, just nothing more. But then I think of the times when I made a mistake (like a bad marriage) and my friends only said they didn’t like the guy until I was divorcing. Would I have listened if they had spoken up early on? Still, I go for the peaceful way, just being a good listener. Some people don’t want to change what they’re doing and some people just want to have something to complain about. Not feeling responsible for having the right solution to others’ problems has been a huge relief!

    xo Ellen

  4. Bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    IMHO a prospective life partner SHOULD be one’s best friend, as a deep and enduring friendship is the cornerstone of almost all lasting love relationships. Therefore, I don’t believe any subject should be off limits and that you shouldn’t have to handle a man with kid gloves in order to win his love and affection. Any man who needs to be handled so delicately in order to prop up his fragile ego is not a man I’d want anything to do with long term, either as a lover or a friend.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  5. Fred G Avatar
    Fred G

    Well- giving advice to friends… to my buddies – most of them feel it as a competitive thing by the recipient. To my female friends – seen as another well indended opinion. Quite a difference. Of course it is always offered with as much sensitivity in both cases. So I understand the frustration one experiences in giving friendly advice to a man they care about. Note that I would probably have the same problem if I were his friend and tried to advise him.

    Some of us are more aware of our tendency and work to address this issue – with varying degrees of success.

    I have noticed (since I am older) that women who have raised sons usually have techniques that are more evolved in giving advice in the ways a friend should be able to.

  6. Deborah Avatar

    I don’t generally offer unsolicited advice to anyone, close friend or not, unless s/he is about to do something dangerous or completely irrevocable AND it seems they haven’t thought it through. If I’m going to give unsolicited advice, I’ll say something like “I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but I’m concerned about X.” If it’s a less serious issue, I might ask “can I offer a suggestion?” This attitude comes the realization that a) I don’t have the answers any more than anyone else does; and b) everyone has their own process for change. Even if you see a friend making the same mistake over and over again, your telling her she is making a mistake is likely to generate resentment, not change. I personally do not like getting unsolicited advice; I’m perfectly capable of asking for advice when I want it!

  7. Dating Goddess Avatar


    «I have noticed (since I am older) that women who have raised sons usually have techniques that are more evolved in giving advice in the ways a friend should be able to.»

    Perhaps you will share with us some of these more evolved techniques so we can learn to employ them with our adult male friends/lovers? I’m sure we’d all want to know how to share our suggestions positively.

  8. Guy Gets Girl Fan Avatar

    Nice post. I think friendship is important to any serious relationship. In fact, I think it’s like the foundation that everything else is built on.