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“My best friend has been married to a man for five years, and from the very beginning the marriage has been a very bad one. My friend is pretty sure he has cheated on her, she has found evidence that he was discussing sex with other women, she found out he’s a drug addict, he refuses to look for a job, and he does absolutely nothing but sleep all day and play video games all night. My friend spends virtually every day complaining about him to me. Yet she will not leave him. She seems absolutely baffled as to why she can’t bring herself to do this. She is constantly asking me “Why can’t I just end it?” She really doesn’t seem to know the answer, and neither do I. Thoughts?”
Your friend is either an incredibly negative person who ignores this guy’s good qualities or she has her own issues preventing her from leaving him. I suspect the latter is the case as he does sound like quite the loser, assuming all that you say is true. There are several reasons why she might be staying with him. She might naively believe he’ll change, even though he isn’t making efforts to do so. She might have rescue fantasies and see him as a project. His drama might distract her from dealing with her own life and issues, i.e. career, intimacy. And quite simply, change is sometimes anxiety-provoking.
Related: 13 Signs He’s A Selfish Lover
People sometimes get comfortable being uncomfortable. In her case, as bad as it is, she knows who he is, knows the routine, and knows his pathology. In her mind, this familiarity might be a whole lot easier to deal with than being single or facing the prospect of getting to know new people. As the saying goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know”. Once she realizes she has given it her best and he isn’t her responsibility, then she’ll be in a better place to focus on the things that she has control over (her life, her actions, her feelings) and less on those things beyond her control (his unhealthy, unproductive, and destructive lifestyle).
Related: 8 Signs Your Partner Is Lying
Finally, consider the role that you as her best friend play in this situation: she complains, you listen, she complains, you listen, and so on, and so on. By listening, you provide relief to her anxiety, but only temporarily. You give her the attention she needs and make it easier for her to maintain this unhealthy cycle of dependence and enabling. You’re in a powerful position to help. Tell her you care, reiterate your support, and offer her help once she decides to leave him – then be supportive but with limitations.
Jonathan Alpert is a Manhattan psychotherapist and author. He appears on national TV commenting on sex and relationship issues as well as lifestyle, mental health, and hot-button issues. Get more of Jonathan’s great advice in his new book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, on sale April 24th wherever books are sold. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @JonathanAlpert