I work with a wonderful woman, Trisha. As women typically do, Trisha and I often gab about our love lives during the work day. Trisha has dated some real losers over the past three years, including a guy that I am pretty convinced had a drug problem (i.e., he carried unmarked pill bottles in his backpack and fell asleep at 7pm regularly.) While I have rarely approved of Trisha's choices in men, I have tried to hold my tongue. Her most recent boyfriend, Frank, is making me re-think my strategy.
My boyfriend and I went on a double-date with Trisha and Frank last weekend. Five minutes after ordering, they got into an enormous fight, storming out of the restaurant to air their dirty laundry on the sidewalk out front. My boyfriend and I debated leaving, but we were both hungry and the food was on its way! At one point, I saw Frank jabbing his finger in Trisha's face while screaming, "Do you understand???" Trisha sat on the curb, dejected, and violently sobbing.
She opened up to me later when we were alone. Apparently, Frank puts Trisha down on a regular basis, making derogatory comments about her job, weight, friends and and social skills. He told her, "Deal with it. You're lucky to have someone like me love you." I asked her why she would put up with such treatment. Her response? "Because I love him."
As any self-respecting woman would do, I retched at her response. Then I put pen to paper to seek your advice. Can I tell Trisha that Frank is a zero? Can I tell her that she needs big girl panties and self-esteem? I love Trisha deeply and do not want to alienate her as a friend. I also don't want to have to sit and listen to this bullshit.
Chafed in Chelsea
Dear Chafed in Chelsea,
You don't like a little telenovela at work? You are a bigger person than me. I'm small in that regard, damn near microscopic. Bring me your personal drama, the more outrageous, the better. But unlike you, Chafed, I will throw in my two cents and voice my opinion regarding the drama. I suggest you start doing the same.
How you have sat through hearing about a string of losers without uttering a peep is beyond my comprehension. "Get rid of him" are some of my favorite words of advice to utter. Along with "leave him," "he's a loser," and "are you kidding me with this sh*t?" Now, I suggest you show a bit more tact than I may, especially because this will be your first time offering an opinion to Trisha. Choose your words carefully. Be tactful. Be kind. But be real.
I must warn you upfront that your friend may not be open to hearing your opinion and/or advice. If she's hostile, don't back down. You're not required to be her sounding board. If she wants to cry about her boyfriend, but get no feedback, tell her to go talk to a mirror. Or to someone who gets paid to listen (i.e., a therapist).
A more likely scenario is that your co-worker will thank you for your advice and then refuse to follow it, coming back to you later to cry about the same nonsense you already advised her about. It's kind of like being a doctor dealing with that patient who refuses to do anything to improve his health. You know the scenario, the patient is 50 pounds overweight and complains at his annual physical that he's always out of breath. His doctor tells him to exercise and change his diet. The patient nods his head in agreement and shows up at his next annual physical 75 pounds overweight and complaining about pain in his joints. His doctor tells him to exercise and change his diet. The patient nods his head in agreement and shows up at his next annual physical 100 pounds overweight and complaining of diabetes.... You see where this is going? Unlike the doctor, you can walk away from the relationship. Or at least tell her you are no longer comfortable hearing about her personal life.
On a serious note, building self esteem is a long process that requires a lot of work. If you co-worker has not achieved it at this stage of her life, she may need some professional help. There's nothing wrong with referring her to a therapist or some good self-help books. If she not into either one of those, may I suggest she watch Iyanla: Fix My Life? One hour with Iyanla can be extremely therapeutic. That woman speaks nothing but truth and she lets no one off the hook.