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How do I tell my friend/daughter/sister she is dating a loser?


“Help! My best friend is dating a loser! What should I do?” As a therapist, that’s a question I hear again and again. Whether it’s friend to friend, mother to daughter, or a sister to sister—we’ve all been there. What do you do?

I recently got a phone call from a woman who was panicked about her sister’s upcoming wedding. “My sister Katie has lost her mind! She’s engaged to a total loser and is about the make the biggest mistake of her life. She’s a brilliant researcher, talented musician and a wonderful friend. Her fiance is out of work and has no ambition. Katie does everything for him. She cooks, she cleans, and she pays his bills while he sits around playing video games all day. I have shared my concerns but she says she loves him and that I simply don’t understand what a great guy he is.”

Unfortunately, Katie’s response is typical. Women put their blinders on when it comes to men and shut out their friend’s comments and concerns. Does that mean we should just keep our mouths shut? Absolutely not! Do you think your friend is dating a loser? Here are five things you can do to help her see the light:

1. Speak up. What do you have to lose? There is a good chance your friend will ignore you, but you owe it to her to say something. Yes, she might get defensive or it may damage your friendship. But think about it this way—if she does end up marrying the loser, your friendship will most likely be impacted anyway. Who wants to hang out with an unemployed video-game addict?
2. Validate, then activate
It’s easier to see the truth from a position of strength rather than weakness. Start off by pointing out some of her best qualities. Say, “I have always admired your compassion for others; you deserve to be treated the same way.” Start with a compliment and she may be more receptive to what you are telling her.
3. Be non-judgmental. You understand your friend’s strengths and weakness. Avoid pushing her buttons. Try to sit down with her and share your concerns in a way that does not come across as judgmental. Don’t say, “We can’t believe you are going to throw your life away by marrying this idiot.” Instead, you can say, “It’s difficult for me to be honest with you because I am afraid it might damage our friendship.” This may give her permission to be honest with herself and open the door for further communication.
4. Shift the focus to you by using “I” statements. We use this approach a lot in therapy and it is a wonderful tool for defusing difficult conversations. Frame your concerns by starting with “I.” For example: “I feel so uncomfortable when he puts you down and calls you names.” Or say, “I really worry about how isolated you have become since you got engaged to him.” She is much less likely to become defensive with this approach than if you tell her “You are dating a jackass!”
5. Offer concrete help. Help your friend by eliminating any excuses she has for not ending the relationship. For example, if she is living with her boyfriend, invite her to stay with you for a few days. Tell her you will help her find a new place and rally the rest of your friends to help her pack and move. If wedding plans are underway, tell her that you will cancel the party—and she can cancel the relationship. For example, “I will call all the vendors and try to get your deposits back, plus, I’ll work with your family to take care of the rest of the wedding details.” Lifting these practical burdens may be all she needs in order to take action.

It’s hard to watch someone you care about date a loser. One woman who married the wrong guy confided, “I wish my friends would have said something to me. I know they didn’t want to hurt my feelings and were afraid to tell me what they really thought. I’m sure I would have been defensive about it, but deep down I knew it was a mistake. Their concerns might have helped me tap into the courage I needed to get out of that misguided relationship.” So take it from someone who’s been there — if your friend is dating a loser, you need to speak up! Your relationship—and her happiness—depend on it.

This post appeared on BettyConfidential.com. Check out their website!

One Response to How do I tell my friend/daughter/sister she is dating a loser?

  1. Gail December 20, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    I truly relate to this. In my case it is actually my daughter. It seems there is absolutely nothing that I can say that is not wrong. She is bitter and fights anyone who does not see things her way. As such, none of her friends are saying anything to her – even though they have said things to me. They know this is a bad relationship but will not speak up. So as the mother, I am the bad guy and according to my daugther, ‘I am the only one against their relationship.’ I just do not know what to do and my heart is breaking.