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Your Friend's On-Again Off-Again Relationship, & His Complaining - How You Should React

Updated on August 13, 2010

Dear Veronica,

I have read your Hubs and I think you're great. I wonder if you can give me some advice. This is about how to deal with a friend of mine.

I'm a guy btw, and this friend of mine is torturing me and all of us with his relationship. He has been dumped by this same girl 4 times now. She's a nutcase. She fucks with his head, she doesn't know what she wants. She's possessive and jealous one minute and cheating on him the next. He keeps taking her back. This has been going on for years. He's old enough to know better. He's not a bad guy. I think he could find a good girlfriend if this one was out of the way. Some of the guys we hang out with have started excluding him from stuff because everyone is so sick of hearing all this drama and shit. For 3 years now he's been miserable. Everyone has been honest with him and said if he's this unhappy to move on. Everyone tells him that they hate her. But no one is being honest about being so sick of hearing it all the time. He found out that we all went to the races for a weekend in June and was so upset no one invited him. But it would be a disaster to invite him. If he went, he'd complain and bitch the whole time about her. He wouldn't enjoy himself and he'd ruin everyone's time. Or she'd call and make him come home or not let him go at the last minute.

Only one time did someone say something to him. My cousin was visiting from out of town, hung out with us for just one night and after about 4 hours of his nonstop conversation about this fucked up relationship, my cousin said out loud, WTF is wrong with you? Break up with her, or shut the hell up! Everyone was floored, but he was totally right. My friend didn't even get it then! He said to me the next day, dude what is wrong with your cousin. Like it was my cousin's problem. 

Even the couples in the group won't invite him to anything because of her. This summer me, my girlfriend, and a few other couples in the group went camping. Each time we picked weekends we knew he was working so he wouldn't be able to go. The girls won't hang out with her and you know what, we can't blame them. There are only 2 long term couples in the group, but there's lots of changing couples, and even the new people don't want to be with his gf because of all the things he says about her. 

We hang out at this one place almost every weekend if we're around and the bartender and cocktail waitresses have a name for him I won't say because I really don't want to hurt his feelings. But it's the truth! He is such a pain in the ass to be around. So it's not even just the friends, it's the girlfriends and it's total strangers in bars too. It's everybody. No one can stand to be around this guy. In a way I feel sorry for him. But in another way I feel like punching him the face sometimes! I'm kidding but I mean, to knock some sense into him. It's so frustrating. I'm about an inch away from screaming SHUT UP!! every time I see him! 

How do we tell this guy enough with the torture?


Dear Roy,

I'm sorry to hear your friend has put you and your group into this position. 

One thing I want to say right off the bat is, please be careful if you decide to set him up. I'm sure people are telling you that if you introduce him to a new great girl, maybe he'll have an easier time making a better decision. Maybe but maybe not. And then this great girl you set him up with stands to get hurt. And that's really not fair.

Another thing I would like to point out is, there is a chance your friend doesn't want to be happy. If he's been back and forth with this relationship for 3 years, keeps taking her back and doesn't stop talking about the torturefest maybe it's because he thrives on this drama.

I know that doesn't feel like it makes sense. I've seen this a few times. There are people that would rather be in those passionate volatile dramatic relationships, than a nice happy supportive one. Every day people make choices that aren't the smart ones or the popular ones. Eating deep fried bacon and for lunch instead of a salad - not the smartest choices. Having that 7th shot of tequila - not the smartest choice. Cutting class or banging off work for a hangover or to play Xbox or to go see Korn. Bleaching the crap out of your hair, driving by your ex's house at 2 in the morning, betting on the Islanders - lol, you see where I'm going. This is just another version of that.

Being in this all encompassing hell of a relationship, obviously isn't the smartest choice. But we don't all always make smart choices. Sometimes we don't think with our heads. We think with our heart, or our stomach. Sometimes we do things we know we're going to regret, because this moment feels worth it. Sometimes we can't resist something that makes us feel alive, even when we know there are smarter choices out there.

Your friend may be addicted to this relationship. He may like the constant adrenaline rush, and the feeling of immediacy that it has. He may not have any idea why he's so into this girl. But the thing is, it's his choice, whether it's a smart one or not.

But that doesn't mean you have to stick around for it.

Friendships fade for all kinds of reasons. People change and grow, they part ways for all kinds of reasons. This one is as good as any. I wrote a Hub recently about best friends breaking up, discussing the idea that one of you has changed. It's pretty clear here that your friend has changed. You said he's been miserable for 3 years, which seems to suggest that he was not miserable back when you and he were forming a friendship. The same seems true about your group of guys, who've taken to excluding him from events to avoid having to hear him go on and on about this relationship drama.

Since he's found out about get togethers he's been left out of, I do think you need to say something to him. I think it's a little mean to leave him guessing about why his friends are ditching him. Even if he has an idea why, someone really needs to go ahead and confirm it. Let him know the him that he was before her and the drama, is the him that you all made friends with, and miss. And if he ever gets back to that headspace it would be a no-brainer. He'd be included in everything.

But that it's really hard to be around him anymore, while he seems obsessed with this relationship that looks toxic. It's hard for people that care about you to watch while you do self destructive things. Let him know that's how this feels to you guys. Let him know everyone wishes him the best, and that everyone hopes he gets whatever it is he wants.

He may have seen it coming. He may realize he's changed. Between your cousin, the racing weekend, all the camping trips that happened to fall on days he had to work... he may be putting things together but doesn't know what to do with them.

And then again, he may be shocked to hear this. This may be very revealing for him. This may be an ah-ha moment, where it all starts to make sense. He may open his eyes to the reality of this situation in a new way. And that could result in a few different reactions.

He may break down, he may deny it. He may walk away to deal on his own. He may feel defensive, and he may lash out. There isn't too much you can do about that, but try not to let it escalate. "I'm sorry you feel that way," is usually enough of a side. Don't forget, most things that are volatile eventually find their critical mass. Eventually, even if he keeps choosing this, it may blow up and not be there anymore. 

Of course I'd like to encourage you to be a fully accepting friend, even through this type of situation, try to be honest and direct. Let him know you'll only go shoot some pool with him if he promises not to bitch or complain about vampira. But I have the feeling your wrote your email as a last resort. 3 years? Sounds like you've probably tried to talk to him. Letting him know how everyone in the group feels about her may have been a very significant thing. Just as he chose to have this volatile relationship remain in his life, he may have chosen not to let your opinions about her influence him. It's his choice, whether he makes is consciously or not. 

I think it indicates something here, that he is aware of how the whole group feels about her, but still talks about her all the time to everyone. It leads me to believe he isn't clueless about the reality of the situation. Honestly if that's true, he's putting you all in an even more difficult situation. He doesn't sound like he's being a very good friend.

Something in his life has to change. Maybe he can pull it together and start being a better friend. Or maybe he will lose his friendships in this group. Or maybe he will see his way to ending a relationship that is so toxic and cost him so much.

Whatever the change is, I wish you all the best.


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