Thoughts on leadership and caring from a real shepherd, part 1
What if I don't like the person my best friend is dating?
When a close friend is dating someone you don’t like, what do you do? The answer is easy: you step in and do whatever it takes to break them up. Next question? Okay, we know that answer won’t win the million-dollar prize. The truth is, when it comes to dating and relating, there really are very few black and white answers. Many times the answers lie in the gray areas, and in the deeper questions. We talked with some friends who have experienced this and shared their insights with us.
What is it about this person that bothers you? Is the boyfriend or girlfriend a bad influence on your friend? Or is it a personality clash? Are you feeling left out and neglected? If you’re afraid this new romance will have a major effect on the relationship you have with your friend, you may feel confused, disappointed and frustrated. It’s hard to know whether to be supportive or not. Figuring out where the dislike is coming from is a good place to start and it can help you know how to pray for the situation and respond to it.
Under the influence
Do you think your friend’s date is a bad influence? If someone has a different set of values, or lifestyle choices, you may think your friend is doing harm to mind, body, or spirit. Obviously, abuse issues are a huge red flag and need to be dealt with directly. Or, sometimes the boyfriend or girlfriend may appear to be overly controlling, demanding, or demeaning. If your friend is in a relationship that diminishes self-esteem, rather than enhancing it, pray earnestly and look for ways to build up and encourage your friend. Look for an open door to discuss the dating relationship and what you see that may be harmful.
At first, Julie didn’t like her roommate’s new boyfriend. “I didn’t like the way he treated her. He didn’t take her seriously, and I hated seeing her unhappy and disappointed a lot,” Julie said. “I thought she deserved better.” Gradually he changed, and the relationship grew in a positive direction. Julie was maid of honor in the wedding.
Often a Christian who is dating a non-believer will be dragged down by the relationship. Christi tells about a close friend who fell in love with the “perfect” guy: tall, athletic, good-looking and fun to be around. He treated her well, but had little interest in furthering his relationship with God. Christi said, “God had been at the forefront of my friend’s heart, but he was getting overshadowed by the new boyfriend and all his wonderful personal qualities. It became clear to me that her own spiritual growth was suffering greatly, and I made the choice to talk to her about it.”
“The words were painful for me to say and for her to hear,” Christi remembers, “and I wondered about the future of our friendship as I gently spoke my observations and feelings.” For the next few days, her friend spent some time talking with God and examining her own heart and motives. Shortly thereafter, she broke up with her boyfriend. A few years later, the friend met an incredible man who had all the qualities of her previous boyfriend, including love for God. “This man loves my best friend so much and, even better, he loves God with all of this heart, mind, and soul,” says Christi. “Fortunately, my friend chose to forego what was good to wait for God’s best.”
You’ve heard it often: “He is such a jerk!“ or “She is so annoying!“ Some people just rub us the wrong way, like those who are chronically late or pop chewing gum.
Jeff weighs in, “My buddy’s girlfriend drives me crazy, but she is clueless about her overbearing personality.” Jeff wondered why his friend stuck with her, until he realized that his friend always needed to be in a relationship. “She meets a need in his life, and there is nothing I can do to change that,” Jeff says, “so I just make the best of it when I’m with them.”
As Hebrews 12:14 says: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone” (TNIV). That includes resisting the urge to talk about what a loser this person is to all of your friends. Walking on the gossip treadmill won’t get you anywhere.
“It’s frustrating when my friends date people who are not my choice for them in a million years,” says Sarah. “I have to take a step back and look at what it is that attracts my friend to this person in the first place. Often my friend will see qualities in this person that I don’t see. I try to see the positive characteristics and minimize the negative. Sometimes people are simply wired a certain way by God, very differently from me.”
It’s very painful to lose your best friend to a dating relationship. “When my roommate started dating Ryan, our relationship changed dramatically,” says Ann. “She spent all of her time with him, and I felt like I was invisible. The worst part was that I was friendly to him, but he wasn’t friendly to me, so I was very uncomfortable around both of them. Not only did my best friend disappear, but I thought her boyfriend didn’t like me. Outwardly I was happy for her, but inwardly I was miserable.”
If your best friend is dating, and you’re not, is jealousy an issue? It’s natural to want to have someone special in your life, and react with jealousy when it happens to others, not to you. This may be an opportunity to let your loving heavenly Father into those deep places of your heart, honestly praying through here-and-now areas of anguish, and trusting him for your future good.
Jeff adds, “When I hang out with my best friend, his girlfriend is jealous of me, but I know Jason needs time with the guys. It’s hard for him to be caught in the middle.”
One of the realities of life is that relationships change over time. Like Ann discovered, it may take a major effort to stay connected with your friend. Friendships don’t stop simply because one person develops a romantic relationship with someone else. But if you truly feel that you’ve been forgotten, speak up and let your friend know that you want to reconnect. You might discover that your friend has also been aware of the distance that has grown between you.
Trust God to act
Remember that your best friend’s dating relationship is in God’s hands, not yours. Praying for both of them is always a good response. God knows the intricacies of their relationship and will move them closer together or apart. This is an opportunity from the Lord to examine yourself and see what God is asking you to deal with in your own life. It may be easier to focus on the external realities of your best friend’s relationship, rather than on your own internal realities. While examining yourself may be the harder road, it is the better road.
The apostle Paul provides a prayer in Philippians 1:9-10 that is applicable to all relationships: “So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush” (The Message).
It’s possible that you are doing everything you can to accept this person, but you still don’t like them. They will always have that weird sense of humor, or strange personality, or a behavior that disturbs you. You may offer your advice to your friend, and it may or may not be accepted. Ultimately, it’s your friend’s call. Clearly they see some value in this unusual individual, something you may never see. Before you exhaust your energies lamenting your friend’s incredible lack of personal taste, however, remember this … your friend also chose you.