Why You Should Always Take Your BFF’s Love Advice With a Grain of Salt
In every Sex and the City episode, there’s a standard anecdote reel that leads into the story: Carrie and her party of four reunite at some fancy restaurant for expensive drinks and dump all of their relationship issues and sexcapades onto each other.
As they play an adult game of Ring Around the Rosie with their stories, one woman’s issues seem to be highlighted, as that will be the lesson for Carrie’s latest sex and love column. Then, after the drinks start kicking in, the girls candidly dish out their own advice or reactions, usually drawn from past experiences or belief systems. Needless to say, the one in the hot seat either eats her friends’ comments alive or brushes them off, while subconsciously internalizing every word of it.
This anecdote has often found its way into my girls’ nights. We love to give advice to our girlfriends when it comes to just about anything. The only problem is, there’s a good chance our friends don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, and taking their advice will only lead to disastrous outcomes, especially when it comes to relationships.
This past Valentine’s Day, one of my closest friends and I were swapping V-day plans over the phone when she revealed that she and her boyfriend at the time decided they weren’t going to do anything this year because he had a busy work schedule. Instead, the two were saving the romance for the following week. On the phone, she seemed totally okay with that plan, even after I shared mine. But after the holiday came and went, I checked back in with her and she and her BF had broken up. They had gotten into an explosive fight that involved my friend throwing a major bitch fit.
Valentine’s Day, of course.
My friend began telling me about how she had gone out with some of her other girlfriends and when she told them she had no Valentine’s plans, they basically said her man was no good and that he didn’t deserve her.
My friend has since moved on from that guy for other reasons, but that sequence of events still seems so relevant. Maybe that relationship was doomed from the start, but I couldn’t help think that her friends played a significant role in ending it prematurely.
“You can ruin a friend’s relationship with bad advice,” Dr. Jenn Mann, lead therapist of VH1’s Couples Therapy and author of The Relationship Fix, said. “A lot of the times, it’s not intentional. There are times that your friend is dating someone who is bad news, and you want to get them out for your friend’s wellbeing. But there are a lot of times where good intentioned friends give bad advice and it is harmful to the relationship.”
We often have a pretty high standard for our friends’ significant others, so we’re always ready to kick a friend’s new guy to the curb off when we think he’s done something wrong.
“When a friend tells a story about a fight they had with their boyfriend, it pushes our buttons. It may or may not be insecurities, but it triggers us,” says Dr. Jenn.
Most of the time, we imagine what we would do in that situation. But that’s just it: we aren’t in that situation.
While it’s always fun to compare stories or complain about similar issues, it’s difficult to give advice to someone when you may not know both sides of the issue or the relationship. Yet, for some reason, we continue to thrust our own opinions on each other, thinking we have the perfect remedy to handle any situation.
“The problem is that our friends don’t see the bigger picture,” explains Dr. Jenn. “It’s really easy to take a simplistic view, but it’s really important that friends try to not just look at one side of it.”
At 24, I haven’t mastered the art of combing through my friends’ advice or even censoring the advice I give to others. Truthfully, I love being a part of the conversation, but I’m starting to learn that it comes with consequences.
“We have a tendency to share too much information and when we do, to not set boundaries,” Dr. Jenn says. “You do it with caution, with the understanding that your friend is not a licensed professional, that this is someone who probably feels super protective of you, and also has their own agenda,” she adds.
This is not to say that girls’ time will ever be erased from our weekly routines though.
In my own version of Sex and the City, at home with a few friends and a bottle of wine, I still welcome the comments of my friends and equally offer words of wisdom. But now, when it comes to extreme advice on my relationship, I have no problem telling them to STFU – nicely, of course.