My best friend has been with her boyfriend for a few years, and for the last year all she's done is complain about him. He doesn't abuse her, it's not that. She's just always bitching: Either he doesn't pay her enough attention, or he's smothering her or he's annoying the crap out of her talking about his life. She never says anything positive. I try to be a good friend and listen, analyze and provide feedback, but it's getting tiresome. I tell her she clearly doesn't want to be with him, but I think fear of being single keeps her from leaving. It's affecting my willingness to spend time with her since conversations always turn into a bitch-fest about her man. I'm not sure what to do for her anymore.
— Frustrated Friend
I'll never understand people who always want to complain about their partner. Isn't this the person you welcomed into your life because he or she enhances it? Just griping about him or her shows a huge lack of respect, and I don't understand staying with someone you no longer respect. I've found that often it doesn't matter what the partner is doing, there are just people who always need drama and something to complain about.
You say this behavior is affecting your relationship with your friend, so that's a good jumping off point for a conversation. You've been yanked onto her merry- go-round and you want off. Understandable. You also want to preserve your friendship, so be gentle here.
Tell her that all you want is for her to be happy, and that since a majority of your hangout time is spent listing the ways in which her boyfriend is displeasing her, it's hard to believe that she is. Maybe she hasn't evaluated that for herself yet. It's easy for people to stick with what they know rather than make changes and jump into the unknown. So start there, but then be prepared to offer up some tough love.
"Friend, this constant complaining is draining to our friendship because it's eating up our quality time together and nothing seems to change. I will always be here for you and help you through anything, but for my own sanity and the health of our relationship, I'm going to have to ask you to cease the griping. It's not serving you or us. If you would be happier without him and decide to break up, I will buy the ice cream and rent the movies, but until then, let's spend our time talking about something else."
She might not even know how much mental energy she's spending on negative thoughts about her man, or how much it's affecting your friendship. Reinforcing that you'll always be there for her but need the merry-go-round to slow down will hopefully help her see what she's been missing.
Last week I was enjoying a delightful afternoon visit from my boyfriend. Emphasis on the afternoon and delight. Then — right in the middle — my phone rang. It was my management company telling me about a noise complaint from my neighbors. A very graphic noise complaint. I apologized and noticed my bathroom window was open. Fast forward to this week and another delightful afternoon. Another phone call. Except this time the window wasn't open, neither of us were particularly loud and I'm baffled by how my neighbor could even hear us, since our houses aren't attached. I barely see my boyfriend as it is, and damn it, I love my afternoon visits! I pay rent here! That nosy neighbor should just get some earplugs, right?
— Delights Denied
Oooo, this is a tricky one. Regardless of the time of day, nobody wants to hear other people, um, being delighted. It doesn't sound like you woke this neighbor from a nap, but he or she just wanted to go on record as having heard you and not enjoying it. It is curious how that's possible if your windows were closed and you're not in an apartment, so it might indeed be that your neighbor is nosier than necessary and has little else to do. Not too delightful, eh?
Clearly you deserve privacy since you're adults in your own home. You also probably don't want this to continue. I'd suggest cranking up some music, keeping those windows closed and seeing if that stops the noise complaints or shifts the focus to the music. If it's an option, you could also move your delights to another part of the house — farther away from the overactive ears of that neighbor.
Jessica McGuinty, founder of Jessicurl and master of the joyful laugh, doesn't really think she has all the answers — but she'll give it a try. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.