When a friend dates a jerk it’s the worst. Even if the relationship only lasts a few months, it can feel like an eternity for you, the friend. Do you tell them how you feel? What if they ask for your opinion? Are your feelings valid? I’ve given the worst excuses as the girlfriend, and simultaneously I’ve become known as the difficult friend to win over. Here’s my breakdown of when to rent a skywriter to express your ire, and when it’s best to just shut up. (Spoiler alert: usually shut your mouth.)
Jerks come in all shapes, sizes, genders and dietary restrictions (yes, vegetarian freegans can be jerks, too). Hallmarks of this run-of-the-mill jerk, also known as the leech, include ignoring phone calls, flirting in front of a significant other, and always leaving a friend with the bar tab. The major issue with handling this breed is that there is little hard evidence of their jerkiness other than their irksome personality. From experience, I can tell you it’s best to keep your comments to yourself. There is a high chance that if you do, your friend will form a stronger bond with this person to prove their love.
If you really can’t help yourself and your friend asks for your opinion, only give it once. They won’t forget what you said. My friends once staged a He’s A Douche intervention for me. It was a great success for me, because I can’t handle subtlety and we value each other’s honesty. My favorite argument for why I should oust the guy was his chinstrap facial hair. It was another two weeks before I ended it.
Some jerks are dangerous. You should never ignore it if a friend is dating a physically or verbally abusive or manipulative jerks. There’s always a chance you could lose your friend by expressing discontent, but for their sake and safety, it’s worth it. Female jerks in this category often get away with their heinous actions for longer than men, so speak up! Ethicist Bruce Weinstein at the Chicago Tribune explains, “If you have solid evidence that this is the kind of person they are, you not only have a right to tell your friend, you have an obligation.”
Cheating jerks can fall into this category, too. Forget about your moral stand for a moment and get some perspective about your sexual health. Fact: The more you have sex with this jerk, the more likely you will get an STI. Your unknowing friend could be exposed to lifelong health problems if their partner isn’t being careful. It won’t be a pleasant conversation, and it’s hard to get proof, but it’s a valid concern. I’m 0 for 5 when it comes to friends believing me, even with proof.
‘Til Death Do Us Part
Some jerks get past the dating stage and become a permanent fixture. Married couples are family. A divorce is not the same as a breakup, and therefore my advice is to tread lightly. Your friend probably already knows about their significant other’s behavior and has chosen to tolerate it. Until the situation falls into the 911 category, I’d advise silence.
How to deal
Even if your gut instinct is to scream your discord from the rooftops, don’t repeat your feelings unless they’ve changed for the better. Even after a couple breaks up, you don’t want your interim haterade to come back to bite you in the ass. Bide your time and the problem will probably sort itself out. If you’re lucky, the relationship won’t last, anyway.