For some people, the world is one big support group and advice for good. They bring strangers, acquaintances and co-workers into their most personal challenges. Others are pickier, and they ask very close friends or family members to support them through their tough times.
No matter who it is or how you select them, I am here to break it to you: Your BFF or your sister or Brandon in accounting (or even your favorite bartender) are not relationship experts, and you should be cautious when treating them like your own personal therapists.
Now I know what you are saying. “My friends know me best, so they will know what’s best for me. They have the best perspective to tell me what I should do or what I should say.”
And this is exactly why it’s a bad idea.
Hear me out.
Because your friends and family know you best, they use their perception of you and experiences with you to make judgments on your relationship challenges. When someone knows you, especially when they are very close to you, it’s hard for them to be objective. Why? They are instinctively on your team!
Yes, they may even see how you are wrong in a situation, but their first priority will always be to comfort you and make you feel better.
You know this is true. Especially when your sister or friend says something like, “Yeah, you probably shouldn’t have thrown your boyfriend’s clothes on the front lawn, but I get it. I would’ve done it too! Please, I would’ve turned on the sprinklers.” Or maybe, “You might want to apologize, but girl, I know you. That’ll never happen.”
She is validating you and your actions — because she is there for you. She has your back. She occasionally makes some good points or shares experiences that help you feel like you are not alone in your relationship troubles.
But your friends and family are too close to you and your situation to challenge you to take a deeper look at your actions. And that is what you need. It’s what we all need. We all need to grow, and we can only grow through honesty.
For the most part, it is difficult for your family and friends to hold you accountable for your actions and words. That may be because they fear your reaction if they did. Or they don’t have the skills to do it in a caring and loving way, so they just leave it alone.
And let’s be honest, they do not know the full picture of your relationship — what is really going on behind closed doors — to give you a fair analysis.
And that’s a biggie because, believe it or not, we usually only tell our friends and family what we want them to hear to provoke the response we want to hear. We leave out vital details, we make ourselves into the victims or the heroes, and we make our partners out to be the bad guys … uh huh, you know what I am talking about.
Here is something else to consider: It’s hard for family and friends to forgive your partner for their wrongdoings. Because even when you have forgiven your partner for lying or cheating, they will not.
Then when you are ready to let go of your partner’s wrongdoings, your friends or family members will bring up “the last time you forgave him, he did …” or “Remember, when he said …”
Or they may even say the most dreadful statement: “I told you so.”
So if your family keeps a library of your partner’s wrongdoings, mistakes, misunderstandings and miscommunications, and they play them back every time something new happens, then you are constantly being put back into the mindset of remembering old moments and feelings — even when you and your partner are working hard to move past them. This is not helpful to your healing, and it’s not fair to you or your partner.
And that is not all. Your friends or family can hinder your relationship’s progress or personal healing by just given bad advice, lol!
To show you what I mean, here are a few really bad pieces of advice that friends or family commonly give, versus my response:
Friend or Family Member: The best way to get over one man is to get underneath another.
Me: Uh no. This is the fastest way to jump back into an unhealthy relationship. You definitely cannot start a new healthy relationship when you have not healed from the last one.
Friend or Family Member: All men cheat, so if he is paying the bills, working and not hitting you, then stay where you are at.
Me: Uh no. For one, all men do not cheat. And if the only reasons you are staying with someone is for financial stability, then girl, we need to talk…like now!
Friend or Family Member: Take your time to settle down. Women are a dime a dozen.
Me: Uh no. Well, maybe yes and no. There are a lot of women, and when you do the numbers, it seems like there are more women seeking a man than the other way around. But men, when it comes to a good woman — a woman who is kind, down to earth, not superficial, supportive, faithful, loving, honest AND is a “love your momma type” woman — well, there are not a lot of those. So, if you find her, you better think twice before letting her go.
Does any of that advice sound familiar?
Your friends and family mean well, but they cannot help you if they are still clutching to old belief systems about relationships. They can only tell you what they know and what they have experienced. And listening to friends and family is how some people stay stuck in negative generational relationship patterns; you keep doing the things that your mother, sisters, uncles and aunts did.
In therapy, you get a fresh perspective on your relationships and patterns. A therapist can guide you toward the type of relationship YOU want and not the kind that your friends and family want for you.
Now, let me be clear, I am not saying that all of your family and friends should be off limits. But make sure the person to whom you are going for support is trustworthy, is going to give you objective advice, will sometimes just listen and will not hold your partner’s actions over you. It is important to have someone who will be there for you through tough times.
However, this person cannot be a counselor or coach because you cannot work through tough relationship challenges on the go, not on the phone or through text. Happy hour counseling sessions are not gonna get you through infidelity, pain or healing from heartbreak.
Yes, you a need a support system and maybe occasional happy hour sessions, but to work through the tough stuff, to do the hard work to overcome trauma and to make the difficult decisions to save your relationship, you should sit down with someone who can be objective. You should find a safe place where you can let it all out, where you do not feel rushed or judged.
You should talk with a professional coach, counselor or therapist if:
● A relationship challenge has come up multiple times, and although you have tried to work it out yourself, you can’t find any solution or relief.
● You have mixed emotions about what your partner is doing, and you feel confused.
● There are details about your relationship your family and friends do not know, and you want a safe place to discuss it.
● Your relationship is affecting your mood, daily activities and perception of life.
Do you see why this takes more than a phone call to work through?
Therapy allows you to work through deep internal emotions, external life challenges and then leave it all with the therapist. You do not have to worry about it being thrown back up in your face or told to others. You can leave the office feeling a little bit lighter. Everyone has a role in your life, and sometimes allowing your friends and family to be your therapist can cause a strain.
If you feel like it is time to talk with a therapist, I encourage you to book a session with me. Our sessions will be a judgment-free zone where you can talk it all out and overcome unhealthy relationship cycles and patterns. If you want to book an appointment with me go here.