Should you ever tell a friend that their partner is bad for them?
The desire to reach through the screen during last night’s Love Island and give Millie a good shake was very strong.
As she continued to give Liam the time of day, even after telling him she didn’t see a future with him anymore thanks to his dalliances with Lillie, it became increasingly clear that they were going to recouple sooner or later.
While most of the other girls in the villa were appropriately furious with Liam for a time (shout out to Faye and her middle finger, the best couple in the villa), there’s currently a noticeable lack of Millie’s friends reminding her of how she felt and what she said just days ago.
Sure, they too may have been won over by Liam’s public speech and flirty texts, but even if they are secretly skeptical, how would they even begin to go about sharing that with Millie?
Can you ever really convince a friend that their partner isn’t right for them? Or are conversations like that always destined to backfire?
According to psychotherapist Noel McDermott, the answer to the latter question is, sadly, ‘yes’.
He tells Metro.co.uk that sharing doubts with a mate about their partner is ‘a minefield’ and you’re better off staying ‘neutral’.
He says: ‘We cannot control or change anyone unless they have the motivation to change, and people we have power and control over are not genuine healthy relationships.
‘Adopting a caretaking role in someone else’s life is not healthy for yourself, and it’s important to look at your own motives for that. Caretaking in relationships is doing for someone what they can and should be doing for themselves.
‘You may get a backlash from your friend involving them rejecting you… or, more risky for yourself, they could become dependent on you making these types of decisions for them.
‘We all need to make mistakes in life and learn from them.’
Senior therapist Sally Baker concurs that in these types of situations, it’s best to wind your neck in.
She tells us trying to change your mate’s mind about their paramour is ‘prone to serious backfire,’ even if you’re right about the partner being rubbish.
‘Having a negative opinion about someone’s partner is a conversation that is rarely kept between just the two of you,’ she adds.
‘Your friend will most likely share your criticism with their partner and use this to justify and validate their doubts.
‘You’ll always be viewed as a traitor by them and your opinion will never be forgiven or forgotten – by both of them.’
If your issues with your friend’s partner are far more serious than a simple ‘I don’t like them’, Noel maintains that we need to accept our mates’ choices.
Even if we’re worried they’re suffering abuse, by starting a conflict with them over their relationship, we could well be playing into the hands of their abuser.
‘Additionally to be factored in is that in cases of serious dysfunction (where controlling and abusive behaviour may exist), the abuser may be actively trying to remove all support from their victim’, Noel tells us.
‘Creating friction with friends leading to angry breaches is part of the modus operandi to be able to better control their victim.
‘In these types of situations, attacking the abuser may well make the victim very defensive and ashamed, leading to a breach in their relationship with you – this will leave them more exposed.’
While you should be careful to avoid conflict with both parties in situations like this, you don’t necessarily have to stay silent.
Noel says: ‘It depends on what’s happening. Ultimately, you can involve the police, and you should if you feel your friend is at risk of harm.
‘Being supportive, non-judgemental and getting informed about the topic are the keys here.
‘Speak to a professional in the field of intimate partner abuse and get advice on courses of action. Don’t allow yourself to be put at risk by being alone with the abuser or in situations you can’t escape from.’
So, in less extreme cases, if you can’t share your true opinion with your friend, what can you do?
The only thing Sally recommends is that you continue to ‘hold your tongue’, and wait for the day your friend realises their partner’s flaws for themselves so you can be there for them.
She says: ‘Bide your time by having their back when they need you most.
‘When their patience has run out, and they’re ready to kick the ne’er do well to the kerb, you can secretly gloat but even then, it’s best not to openly share too many downer opinions.
‘At best, your friend will think you are judging their poor choice of love interest and, worst case, they get back together.
‘If that happens, you’ll be an uncomfortable reminder of reality, and neither of them will want you in their life, watching and judging them.’
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