Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
My best friend recently became engaged. I should be overjoyed; however, I am very afraid for her. She has never had great self-esteem and is not a great judge of character. Her chosson does not appear to be a good person at all. He doesn’t treat her with respect and is constantly making demeaning remarks to her in front of everyone. You can tell a lot from the way others talk about him as well. I feel like she just has such a low opinion of herself that she will marry anyone who is willing to marry her. I tried engaging in a conversation with her about him but it doesn’t go anywhere. I don’t feel like it’s my place to get involved and I don’t want to come across as the jealous friend. She doesn’t really have a close relationship with her parents and there isn’t really anyone else I see that would get involved. Do I come right out and tell her what I think and risk our relationship? Will she even hear me? What if she breaks off the shidduch because of me? That isn’t a responsibility I feel ready to take. On the other hand, how can I sit back when she is clearly making a terrible mistake?
It sounds like you’re a good friend who genuinely cares. You don’t want your friend to wind up in an abusive marriage, but are concerned about the impact of your involvement. You mention a number of concerns, most of which you relate directly to concern for your friend’s welfare. I think, however, that your worries can be separated into two categories: concern for your friend’s well-being, and concern for your relationship. Though there is overlap, it can be helpful to consider these categories separately.
You seem to have only one fear about your friend’s well-being. You’re concerned that her lack of self-esteem is leading her into a bad decision. The other concerns seem to center around your relationship with this friend (and perhaps your feelings toward yourself). Your fear of being viewed as jealous, your sense that she might not listen, and worry about changes to your relationship are all related to your feelings and to how your relationship might be impacted.
The emotionally-driven aspects should (theoretically) be removed from your decision-making process. If your true concern is simply for your friend’s welfare, your own emotions should not play a part in your decision. However, life is more complicated than theory. We can’t completely separate our own emotional needs from our logical focus. Additionally, if your relationship is adversely affected by your involvement, your friend can lose the most valuable resource that she has—your friendship.
As you mentioned, your friend doesn’t really have anyone else in her life. Your close relationship can be a double-edged sword. Your words and opinions can have a significant impact on your friend, but can also lead to her being badly hurt by her perception of your meddling in her affairs. You also don’t know whether your words will have any effect, in which case you may risk your relationship with no reward.
There are two areas in which you seem to have contradictory thoughts. You don’t feel like it’s your “place to get involved,” but you clearly state that you’re the only person who can (and should). You’re worried that she might break off the shidduch, but that’s exactly what you believe she should do. It appears that your logic is telling you one thing and your emotions are telling you something else.
It’s important to identify all concerns and weigh the risks against the rewards. In order to properly do this, you need to identify those aspects of your concerns that relate to your own emotions and needs. Once you remove these—to the best of your ability—from the equation, the correct decision will likely become clearer.
-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
psychotherapist in private practice
Brooklyn, NY | Far Rockaway, NY
author of Self-Esteem: A Primer
www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317
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