DEAR KELLY: I’m a high school senior and I’ve had four friends from elementary school (Girl Scouts) that I still stay in contact with. We’ve all gone our separate ways, go to different schools and do our own things but we still meet like twice a year for lunch, shopping or to go hiking or something. About two weeks ago we met for dinner and something seemed weird about one of our friends. She seemed really quiet and not the same. We asked about her boyfriend and if they were still together because she used to put a lot of pics on Instagram of them, but there hadn’t been one in a while. She said they were still together, but her parents don’t know that because they don’t like him so she can’t post anything of them. She told us how her parents hated him and how it was so stupid. Kelly, I know her parents and they are such chill parents, so I was surprised.
About 15 minutes into our dinner, guess who shows up? – her boyfriend. He sat with us for a few minutes and I could see why her parents didn’t like him. He was flat-out rude to her and made fun of her and was so cocky. He asked if they could go outside and talk, so she left us – the whole rest of the dinner. They went outside and sat at their own table and were laughing and talking the whole time. One of my friends went to check to see where she was and she said our friend seemed totally happy just sitting with him and had no plans to come back to join us. We waited and even texted her to see if she was coming back, and she just said to eat without her that she wasn’t really hungry and that she would come back in a few minutes, which never happened! After three hours of us eating and talking and her never coming back, we left. We texted her that we were leaving and she just texted back and said, “Bye.”
The next day one of our friends started a group text without our friend and shared that her mom had talked to our friend’s mom and the reason they don’t like her boyfriend is that he’s super controlling and started pulling her away from her friends and family because he liked to have her all to himself all of the time. We all said how much we didn’t like him and how we think they might have planned that whole thing just so they could hang out without her parents knowing. So in our group text we talked about if we should tell her mom because we don’t think he’s really good for her, and I can see why her parents don’t want her with him. Two of the girls don’t want to rat her out, but two of us think it’s the right thing to do. What do we do? Should we tell her parents or butt out? She might hate us forever if we tell, and it would honestly be sad to lose her friendship after all these years.
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DEAR ADVICE: Your friend put you in a very uncomfortable position. She wanted to see her secret boyfriend, so she used her time with old friends as a decoy so her parents didn’t know. So you are expected to accept the 15 minutes with her and not question the other three hours she spent with her underground boyfriend? If any of this sounds or feels selfish, it should. What your friend did was unfair and dishonest and she owes her friends a heartfelt apology.
Since you girls experienced firsthand the way he treated her, you can understand the concerns her family has. It sounds like he could be emotionally abusive through controlling her, including pulling her away from your dinner that evening. She may be blind to his manipulation and not see his behavior as controlling, but if you got a creepy feeling from him and how he treated her, odds are your gut is right.
Instead of feeling like one of you girls need to speak with her mom, why not have one of your moms do the talking? By having a mom share what happened, it wouldn’t be like her friends were ratting her out but rather one mom talking with another. Pick a mom you think would be a good ambassador to tell your friend’s mom. Maybe she shares like “the girls really weren’t impressed with blah-blah when he showed up at their annual dinner.” That way the friend’s mom can find out he came to dinner without it seeming like you were telling on her.
If she reacts with anger that you shared what happened, don’t feel bad. You didn’t lie and what you shared was simply the facts. He showed up uninvited and crashed your dinner. Whether she planned on seeing him or not that evening, the fact she left your meal and spent the rest of the evening with him was unacceptable and rude. She should apologize to you all, not be defensive or upset with you. Her parents need to know they are still seeing each other and he is continuing his behavior of isolating her from friends and family. From there it is up to her parents to decide how to handle the situation.
You can’t save your friend from this relationship if she wants to be with him. But what you can do is be supportive of her and let her know that you are free to talk if she ever needs to.
The next time you pick a Girls Night, don’t be afraid to let her know that her boyfriend is not invited and you would appreciate it if she kept the date to just the girls. She may choose not to come, but that will be her choice. Sooner or later she will realize he is not healthy for her and hopefully she reaches out to either her parents or her good friends for help when this finally happens.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.