I want to help a friend who’s having a hard time, but my mom says she’s just another one of my ‘stray dogs’. Who’s right?
I’m with your mom on this one, says our elder. Let her vent – but don’t intervene.
Q. Dear EWC:
Hello. My friend is going through a hard time right now. She’s in a relationship and has a little girl just two years old. Some background that might help understand the circumstances she’s found herself in. We grew up in the Appalachian trail of North Georgia. Surrounded by abject poverty. I’ve known her since early high school. She had her daughter out of wedlock, with a man of let’s say unbecoming standards. She comes from a long line of people that find themselves stuck where they are. Her mother, her grandmother, her aunts, her father, grandparents on the other side. They’ve all found themselves in one way or another stuck in North Georgia through drug use or abusive relationships. Her boyfriend she’s been with for about a year and some change lost his job about a month and a half or two months ago. They’ve been having a hard time as she’s the only one that’s been working.
Today, they were arguing about finances. They went into the car to drive to a store. That’s when her boyfriend uncharacteristically and irrationally became aggressive. She said he almost ran into a dump truck and crashed the car. Her daughter was in the car in the backseat. She was very upset, understandably. Knowing this knowledge it’s no surprise that she finds herself in a scenario here again. Having a long lineage of role models that make poor decisions. As well as herself were following in their tracks. I’ve asked my grandmother about what to do next. I care very much for her and her daughter. She told me to, very intuitively and very tactfully ask my friend what she wants for me and what to do. Possibly sitting her boyfriend and her down and maybe mediating conversation? On the other hand, I asked my mother who knows in-depth the ends and outs of her familial background. Taking her usual abrasive tone, my mother said to stay out of it. Stating that if she wants to change, she will, or she’ll have to want to change. This is something that I painfully agree with. These are two dichotomous opinions that I find to be true or helpful. My mom always says I have a knack for finding ‘stray dogs’ as she calls it. I’d appreciate a third opinion. Maybe something I want to hear something I don’t wanna hear. As long as it’s an honest answer. This is an issue I know that won’t go away anytime soon but I’m taking each incident as serious as the last. I don’t want to overstep my bounds or assume too much responsibility and what my grandmother suggested. But I also don’t want to alienate my friend with a ‘spare the rod spoil the child’s mentality.
A. Elder Good-Listener:
First off, you sound like a very caring friend, who sincerely wants to help your friend and understands a lot of the underlying influences and reasons of why she is in this predicament. I applaud your concern. I tend to agree with your mom on this one. This could end badly for you and your friend if you intervene. If you were a relative, I’d say you have more of a leg to stand on… maybe. I also can see that it pains you to see your friend in so much conflict. Your grandmother also sounds like a very caring person who may not really understand what you’re up against and why you’re trying to mediate may not be wise or appropriate. I would, however, take her advice in being there for your friend when she wants to talk or vent. Try not to judge. It’s often hard not to jump in – I’ve been guilty of wanting to do that at times in my life, but I’ve learned that adults need to take responsibility for themselves and often we can only be supportive as long as it doesn’t put us or anyone else in jeopardy.
You also seem bright and perceptive, so you know you can’t control anyone’s life or the choices they make. You can let them vent, occasionally throw in your two cents, if appropriate, but not interfere. This is a life she has chosen, and if she continues to make poor decisions, that’s her business. I’m not trying to sound cold at all, but being a friend is often being supportive but not controlling or interfering. What I’d hate for you to do is overstep your bounds and alienate her or get yourself in some kind of physical danger with the guy who, obviously, can be physically abusive. She needs your support and if you push too much, she may not be as comfortable talking to you. As I said, this is a very difficult position for you to be in and a fine line. I know in the end you’ll do the right thing… and your friend is lucky to have a friend like you. Good luck!