November 15th, 2012 by Amy Estes

How to tell a friend she’s dating a jerk…

A few years ago, one of my best friends started dating a guy who I thought was a jerk. The first time we met, he made a few inappropriate jokes (not the funny, dirty kind — the dirty, overly flirtatious, make-everyone-at-the-table-uncomfortable kind), got drunk and wouldn’t stay off his phone. He also didn’t treat my friend the way I thought she deserved to be treated. He made fun of her in a way that was mean, not endearing, and at the end of the night, he didn’t bother to figure out how she was getting home — he just bailed and barely said goodbye.

As their relationship progressed, it was evident that this guy was just plain awful. I spent so much time listening to her cry about what a horrible man he was. Mean, inconsiderate and unfaithful — and yet, she continued to go back, time and time again.

At first, I resisted, not wanting to be that friend who rained on her parade, but after months of listening to her complain, I finally said something.

I didn’t do it well. I was frustrated and fed up, and instead of being polite, I first told every one of our mutual friends that I thought he was awful and she ended up asking me directly what I thought. I was on the defensive and instead of thoughtfully explaining my side, I went for the jugular and told her what I knew all of our friends wanted to tell her but hadn’t yet: she was dating a total jerk.

I wish I could say that this was a “happy ending” and she forgave me and broke up with him. But no. She broke up with me and married him. So.

Here’s how to do it right (or as right as you can in these situations):

  • Tell her only.  Whenever I say anything about friend and they’re not present, I try and ask myself if I’d say it to their face. I’d say this goes double for your friend’s significant other. If you’re not sure you like her new beau, find a way to discuss it with her, and her alone. Avoid the crap talk fest that is tempting when someone is dating something awful.
  • Check yourself. Is he really awful? Or is there a part of you that’s jealous? In my situation above, the guy was clearly a jerk, but there have been times I’ve been just a wee bit jealous and therefore willing to catalogue the faults of every man in a 500 mile radius interested in anyone other than me. Don’t tell me you haven’t done that. Before you go ripping into your friend’s boyfriend, maybe ask yourself if this is happening to you.
  • Give examples and use I-statements. No one likes to hear that someone is concerned that someone they’re dating is a jerk. So, don’t go in with a general “I don’t like him.” Try an I-statement, with an example: “When I see ___________ roll his eyes when you speak, I feel upset and protective, because I want to see you with someone who thinks what you say is important” or “The other night, when ___________ made fun of your outfit, I felt sad because I could see that your feelings were hurt, and I want to see you dating someone who treats you well and makes you feel beautiful.”
  • Be there, but set limits. There is nothing wrong with a few cry sessions over a bad dude, but if it goes on for a long time, you can choose to tell her that you’re not willing to listen until she’s ready to make a change.
  • Help with the fallout. If she does decide to end things, be there to cheer her up! Drinks, flowers, chick flicks, a listening ear. Be there.

Have you ever had a friend date someone awful? Have you ever had a friend tell you they thought you were dating a jerk? 


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Amy

Amy is a writer & teacher living in Sacramento, CA. She writes at Coffee & Sunshine & tweets at @amy_estes

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