Should You Tell Someone You Care About That They’re Not with the Right Person?

andrew-garfield-peter-parker-emma-stone-gwen-stacy-amazing-spider-man5The above title is a bit misleading (or incomplete, rather), so let me explain before you jump to the poll:

Today I got an interesting e-mail from a college friend who I haven’t seen in a while. She (we’ll call her “Hypothetica”–she’s Greek) has a very close friend–we’ll say “Peter”–who has been dating a girl–“Parker”–for about 7 months. Peter is completely smitten with Parker and has mentioned to Hypothetica that he could see himself ending up with Parker.

The problem is, Hypothetica doesn’t think that Parker is a good fit for Peter. She sees a few key areas where they do connect, but she also recognizes a few major areas of disconnect, and she doesn’t know why Peter can’t see them.

Based on what Hypothetica knows about the relationship, Peter and Parker are well beyond the blind lovebirds phase–they’ve had ups and downs. They’re in a solid relationship. Which makes it even more bewildering why Peter is still blind to some major areas of disconnect.

I should also note that Hypothetica is happily married and is not interested in Peter, in case that thought came to mind.

I’m being intentionally vague about all of this out of respect for these people. Plus, I’m trying to ask this as a broader question, not just about Peter and Parker. The proper question I’m trying to ask is: If you really care about someone and have their best interest at heart, should you tell them if you think they might be with the wrong person? Or at least bring to their attention what they’re overlooking?

On one hand, I think a good friend should respect their friend’s choices. Peter is choosing to be with Parker, and Hypothetica should respect that. She knows that Peter will make mistakes in his life, and it’s not her place to butt in every time she thinks he’s about to make one. Plus, Peter hasn’t asked for Hypothica’s input.

On the other, isn’t a big part of friendship being blunt and honest with your friends? In the end you should still be supportive of your friend’s decision, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a part of the decision-making process. Plus, marriage is a huge decision. If there’s any time for a friend to speak up, isn’t this the time?

I’d like to hear your thoughts to help Hypothetica. If you have a clear-cut answer, feel free to respond on the poll below. I have a feeling that the “right” answer is a bit of a grey area.


13 Responses to “Should You Tell Someone You Care About That They’re Not with the Right Person?”

  1. Kara Dean says:

    I had to vote Spider-Man only because I feel both ways. Sometimes you tell people you care about that his/her potential mate is not good for him/her because you can see as the outsider looking in. Other times, you cannot say that because it may push him/her to remain with that person. Those types need to learn on their own. Either way, you must be a supportive friend no matter who your friends choose to date.
    I would definitely want my close friends to let me know their opinions. When we date, we often wear rose-colored lenses. It’s nice to have outside perspective.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Kara: Well said. I think your point about rose-colored lenses is spot on. I guess sometimes it’s hard to tell as an outsider if they’re the type of lenses that they’ll always wear or if they’ll take them off right after it’s too late.

  2. joe says:

    I think that if it were me, I would have that discussion but I would couch it with a lot of support and tact. I think the best way to do it is to reassure them of your support, gently state your concerns and reasons (I think that your suggestion of objectively viewing is a good one) and again tell them that they have your support no matter what.

    I don’t shy away from communication if I can help it. Two things are capable of ending relationships, death and poor communication. A *lot* of people regard me as a bit of a “relationship whisperer”…even though I’m single at present. A big part of this is a dedication to communicating well. It’s something that sounds easy and is anything but.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Joe: That’s a great point about how the phrasing and presentation make a big difference. The reassurance that they have your support goes a long way.

  3. Katie says:

    I too answered “Spider-Man!” because while I understand that you’re trying not to reveal too much, I feel like there’s a lot of unknown factors that would influence my decision.

    And also because the answer should always be Spider-Man, no matter what the question is.

    Unless one of the other choices is Captain America.

    But enough daydreaming about men in spandex….

    First of all, how does Hypothetica know that Peter can’t see Parker’s flaws? Perhaps he is well aware of them and doesn’t mind. Maybe their perceived areas of disconnect would be dealbreakers for Hypothetica, but they aren’t for Peter. There are plenty of cases where “opposites attract” and can live happily together.

    For instance, maybe Peter is an introvert but Parker is very outgoing and social and frequently goes to parties without him. But Peter doesn’t mind because it gives him much needed alone time.

    So, how does Hypothetica know about these areas of disconnect? Is Peter complaining to her about it – because that would mean he is aware of them, but perhaps it’s something he and Parker are working on as a couple? Or is Hypothetica ascribing these problems to them because she knows Peter so well?

    Let’s just say for the sake of argument that she is certain that these areas cause tension in their relationship. I wouldn’t risk potentially coming across as the bad guy trying to break up their relationship by being so straightforward as to question their problems out of nowhere. But she can bring up questions in normal conversation that might get him to open up, giving her a chance to make it more of a dialogue than a confrontation.

    For example, if Peter is telling her about a fight they recently had, Hypothetica can comment that she finds it surprising that Peter is with someone who is so hot-tempered, since he’s usually so level-headed (assuming this is one of the things she’s noticed). They can talk about it and it will allow her to naturally express her concern, which will probably be taken better than having it come out of the blue as its own, separate, “we need to talk” type of conversation.

    I don’t know–there’s all sorts of advice I would give, depending on the exact situation, but that’s the best general advice I can dole out for this. Maybe Peter truly doesn’t mind that Parker is dumber than a box of rocks because she’s funny and kind and fantastic in bed. Maybe he sees it but is willing to settle or doesn’t think he deserves better. Maybe he’s in a bit of denial and talking it over with a friend is just what he needs.

    So yeah…. Spider-Man!

    • Katie says:

      The tl;dr version of my comment is that relationships are often different behind closed doors and Hypothetica shouldn’t assume that these areas are problems for them.

      If she knows they are, don’t force a separate confrontation about it; mention it during the natural flow of conversation so it won’t be so awkward. He’ll be more likely to hear you if he doesn’t feel put on the spot.

      Also, I heart Captain America.

      • Emma says:

        I completely echo Katie’s sentiment. Someone constantly complaining about their misery is very different than you thinking you know better. And bringing some items up in discussion to help that person work through things is very different than an “intervention”. I think you have every right to facilitate a conversation with a friend if you think they are unhappy. I don’t think you have a right to declare your lack of support if they have not asked for advice or expressed unhappiness.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Katie and Emma: Well said. I like the idea of not framing it as an intervention. Emma, I get the sense from my friend that it’s not so much a matter of happiness–Peter seems happy–but moreso that she thinks he’s not seeing some big areas of disconnect, and she thinks they might impact the relationship in the long term. I’m sure we’ve all had relationships where one really good aspect–good sex, great conversations, etc–blinds us to other areas where there are major shortcomings.

  4. I can speak from experience in this arena as an almost married man.

    I think it is the responsibility of a friend to say what they need to, if they really feel it’s necessary, then support whatever decision is made by the individual.

    You see I had a problem with my friend, let’s call him Harry. Harry doesn’t like my fiancée who we will call MJ for me. He thinks she’s a good person, but he doesn’t think it’ll work out between us. The issue is Harry is my best friend, and best man. It really hurts that he hasn’t been much a part of our dating life and never has much positive to say.

    As my best friend it is his responsibility to look out for me even when I don’t do so myself. I’ve made some errors in the romantic arena for sure. But at a certain point what I really want is support. I find his discouragement, and sometimes his lack of encouragement, well discouraging.

    I’m not the type of person to play things safe. I think he wishes that for me sometimes. Rather my motto is no regrets, and I don’t think I could look back on my life without regretting every moment if I didn’t marry MJ. I know I want to marry her, I know it more everyday, and at this point the lack of support is becoming a strain.

    Maybe he thinks that because he was right about some of my previous relationships he is right about this one. The thing is he really doesn’t know MJ and hasn’t made much effort to know her. If he did he would know why so many other people sing her praises to me.

    MJ isn’t stupid. She can see what’s going on and it’s discouraged her too. She’s even said that they’ll never be truly friends now. It’s a shame because I think they never gave each other a chance. Maybe someday things will change, but probably not before the wedding. We’ll never be engaged again and they’ve missed out on a wonderful friendship they could have developed

    I remain hopeful that will be friends someday.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      sarcasticrobot: That’s a really interesting perspective–I’m glad you shared it. I can definitely see how saying something like that could damage a friendship. I don’t know exactly how much time Hypothetica has spent with Peter and Parker, but I’m guessing it’s not all that much. It’s really tough to tell what’s going on in a relationship if you’re not in the relationship.

  5. Sara says:

    I know I’m super late to this game, but I left the article on my screen to remind me to comment. I absolutely think you should say something – assuming you’re that close to the person in question and have that kind of social currency. Don’t expect it to work, but absolutely say something. My friend of 30 years married a jerk. She knew he was a jerk beforehand. I told my friend that if she married him anyway, I didn’t want to hear one peep from her about his latest rantings. I told her if she married him knowing what he was, that meant she was signing up for it and liked it. I also told her not to ask me to be in her wedding and that I hoped upon hope that she wouldn’t get pregnant. She’s a great girl and could do SO MUCH BETTER if she wasn’t so afraid of being alone forever that she grabbed onto this guy and won’t let go.

    I no longer try and give her advice about what to do about him. I just sit back and wait for the divorce. Not that I’ll be “telling her so” or gloating, but I will absolutely do the happy dance on the inside if those two ever break up.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sara: It’s never too late to chime in, and I’m glad you did! Would you approach the situation differently if your friend’s boyfriend was a good guy, but you just didn’t think they were a good match?

      • Sara says:

        Well, I might – depending on the circumstances. If there was no deal-breaking activity going on, I might let things play out. If there were complaints of any kind from her side, I would suggest that perhaps they’re just a mismatch. Basically, if neither side is complaining, you really don’t have an appropriate way to bust out and comment on the topic. If someone’s engaged and frequently complains about their intended, well, things aren’t sounding very good. If they’re complaining about little things, I say that and tell her to lighten up. If they’re big things, I will say so and suggest (or flat out say) that I detect the strong smell of divorce and that I really wish they’d think on it more and/or at least extend the engagement another year to see if things work out.

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