DEAR NATALIE: My best friend has been in a bad relationship for years now and no one understands why she stays in it. He treats her poorly, is rude to her in front of her friends and can be very controlling. She shies away from spending time with us since she is with him because I think she is embarrassed. I don’t know what I can do to help her. She seems so down ever since she started dating him. She has so much going for her, no one is really sure why she is putting herself in this situation. Any ideas as to why good people stay in bad relationships? -SNAP OUT OF IT
DEAR SNAP OUT OF IT: I wish I had a solid answer for you, but there are a lot of reasons people stay in less-than-healthy relationships. She could be working through something that impacted her in her past. She may have insecurities about relationships and herself. Perhaps she’s modeling her parents’ relationship or those close to her. Maybe there is a sense of security in being with him -- even if he is mean to her — because she is afraid of being alone more. She may think she “can’t” make it on her own. People sometimes find comfort in dysfunction and chaos if that is what they are used to. This can be a challenging cycle to break. Maybe she thinks she can “fix” him and wants to be the savior in the relationship. Whatever the reason is, just try to keep the door open to her. Invite her for coffee, just the two of you. Go take a walk together. Do something that is low-key and won’t put pressure on her. She may feel relaxed and open up. If she does bring up the fact that she is unhappy or unsure of the relationship, use that to get your foot in the door and discuss her fears and dreams for the future. Who knows? She may start to see the situation for what it is. If not, don’t take it to heart. Relationships are complicated and you can’t possibly know what is going on inside her head. Just being there for her as a friend — not a mother or a therapist — is the best thing that you can do.
DEAR NATALIE: My best friend and I both (coincidentally!) got engaged about two weeks apart and she hasn't once congratulated me on my ring. In fact, one of our friends said she was making fun of my "small" ring and how hers was so much better. I was so upset, I cried over this. She and I have been friends for 15 years and she knows how this was such an important moment for me. I sent her flowers when she became engaged. I don't know if I should confront her about this or if I should wait for her to reach out to me. I have no idea what is making her act like this, but it is devastating to me. How can I ask her to be my maid of honor with her treating me so badly? Any advice on how to deal? —BADLY HURT BFF
DEAR BADLY HURT BFF: I am so sorry that this person who you considered your best friend is treating you like this. She should be showering you with love and sharing in your joy! It’s hard to imagine that this woman is your best friend and acts this way. She may be harboring some resentment towards you and you just need to clear the air. Sometimes people bottle their feelings and don’t actually share what’s on their mind or heart. I would call her. Tell her what you heard. Ask her if it’s true. Give her a chance to explain herself. What she said behind your back isn’t just hurtful, but it is petty and rude, too. Maybe this person isn’t who you thought she was. Maybe she’s covering up some of her own insecurities by projecting her garbage onto you. But you have every right to tell her how you feel and ask for an apology if she needs to give one. If not, how can you move forward and enjoy these special times together? It isn’t fair to you or your friendship. Hear her out, but also remember this. Now that you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. So perhaps protect yourself a bit and put a little emotional distance between you. It may be safer and healthier that way.
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