Q: I have a friend who came out of the closet and moved from a creepy husband (alcohol, crawly hands, very parental, controlling) to a live-in girlfriend with a similar personality. It’s like the husband had a sex change. I know that what my friend goes for is not my business, even if it makes me worry. But every time I see her, she asks me if I like her girlfriend. And since I don’t, I’ve evaded the question or lied. I don’t think I should insult my friend’s girlfriend. But now she’s reminded me that her friends never liked her husband, either, and didn’t say so until after she’d broken up with him. She would never have stayed with him if she’d been given honest feedback. She has asked, openly, for me to give her my honest opinion. Should I?
Seeing a Pattern
A: Yes, absolutely — about everything but the girlfriend.
You don’t have to like your friends’ mates. But you do like your friends, and for that reason alone any friend who seeks your opinion deserves more than your careful evasions. (Even people you dislike deserve better than outright lies.)
Plus, as a friend, you’re in a position — close, but not too close — to see things she might have missed. Useful things, like her being in a live-in lesbian relationship with her ex-husband.
The trick is to skip the pointless “nope, can’t stand her” and the insensitive “it’s kind of like your husband had a sex change” (though you’d set a new standard for pith) and stick to what counts, which is whether she’s happy.
If she were, she wouldn’t be fishing for feedback. You can say that to her, and that you’re worried, and that her love dynamic seems familiar, and that you’re deliberately not saying anything about her girlfriend, since you’re right: It isn’t your business.
Which brings us to the sum of all honest opinions: She shouldn’t count so much on friends to form her opinions. How does she know “she’d never have stayed” had her friends been honest? Because she already had major doubts of her own, apparently.
It’s one thing for her to solicit outside perspectives; it’s another to grill everybody she knows till she gets the answer she wants.
If her instincts are telling her once again that something’s not right at home, then the better answer is to trust them, and not wait for her friends to weigh in.
Washington Post Writers Group