DEAR KELLY: My friend and her boyfriend do nothing but fight. It's so annoying, and she complains about him all the time but does nothing about it and stays with him.
They either seem to be fighting or all over each other acting lovey-dovey. It's so confusing and it makes all of her friends angry because we listen to her say what a jerk he is, how stupid he acts, how much she's done with all the fighting and how she wants to be single and not have all the drama.
But she never breaks up with him and stays with him when everyone tells her that they should break up.
Every time she texts me with, "need to talk," I get so mad because I know it's about him and something he did to make her mad. Then when I text her the same thing, she sends back, "Can't talk. With the BF."
I'm tired of being her counselor and then she doesn't listen to any advice anyone gives her. What do you do to help someone like this?
DEAR AT: One of the hardest things to learn is that you can offer advice, but there is no guarantee someone will take it.
The truth is that many people ask for help, but they really want to figure things out for themselves. It can be frustrating because from the outside looking in, the solution seems so clear and simple. But to the person on the inside, everything seems murky and confusing.
Until your friend is ready to take steps toward change, you need to be the one who sets boundaries and doesn't allow yourself to continue to be disappointed by her lack of movement toward ending the relationship.
So the big question is: What to do when she calls or texts and wants to complain about her boyfriend?
You have a few options; it all depends on what feels most comfortable to you.
If you really want to set firm boundaries, politely let her know you are at your limit with all her boyfriend bashing and that if she isn't willing to take any advice, then she should stop asking for it and telling everyone what a bad guy he is. Let her know you care about her and her happiness, but you also can only take so much of hearing what a jerk her boyfriend is. Be supportive of her but direct about the limits of what you are willing to listen to.
She might be hurt or even upset with you, but perhaps she will get the message that everyone is tired of all the talk and no action. Let her know you support her but don't support the ups and downs she seems to constantly experience in the relationship.
Another option is to listen when she complains, then simply say, "Yeah, that stinks. I'm sure you will figure it out" and change the subject. By not engaging or offering advice, she will be forced to figure it out for herself and work through her feelings.
If she continues to try to talk about him, let her know you have to go and can't listen anymore. Perhaps she will find someone to grumble to and you won't be put in the counselor role anymore.
One of the hardest parts of being a good friend is seeing someone you care about in a situation that seems to bring them so much unhappiness. You can listen, you can offer advice, you can help them make a plan, you can offer a shoulder to cry on or you can give her tough love that may upset her, but may also open her eyes to the vicious cycle she is in with her boyfriend.
There is no magic solution, and you need to try different options until you find the one that works best for you.
However you decide to move forward, make sure that when you talk to her you remember that she is your friend and treat her the way you would want someone to treat you.
Try to focus on things that made her a good friend to begin with. Don't lose sight of her strengths just because you are frustrated with her at this moment.
This is her journey and as crazy as it may seem to you, she has to figure things out to be able to walk away from the relationship.
She may hurt and she may get hurt, but in the end she makes the decision on how to live her life.
It's a lesson, and it's one you can learn from as well.
Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.