Naturally, there is a lot to consider in your decision. It is important to examine the potential consequences of sharing your thoughts and how your words will affect the friendship. You might consider the strength and history of your relationship, and think about the likelihood of your friendship being strained. You might consider how your feedback will be interpreted and received by your friend –based on your friend’s ability to be receptive to views other than his or her own.
It is also important to consider the origin and nature of your desire to share your feelings. For instance, are you trying to protect your friend? Do you feel that your friend is in danger of physical or emotional harm? If there is a safety risk at hand, your best bet is to speak up in a loving and non-judgmental way. If something about your friend’s partner irks you, annoys you, turns you off or is just plain irritating, it is probably safest not to share your thoughts if your friend is serious and happy in his or her relationship.
It’s most important to speak up if you have genuine safety concerns or notice behavioral or mood changes in your friend that are concerning. If your friend no longer sees you and other friends due to the controlling nature of her boyfriend, for instance, speaking up in a respectful and honest way is a reasonable option. Your delivery is important, though, as your friend might defend her boyfriend and take it personally that you have concerns about the partner she selected for herself.
It is critical to choose your words wisely and look for openings to honestly share your thoughts. A great time, for example, might be when your friend complains about her guy’s controlling nature or that she misses social time with her friends. You could start by asking open-ended questions and then delicately validate her feelings and add in your own observations about her relationship and what you notice.
Pointing out what you observe is also a good strategy. For example, you could say something like, “I know how much you love a delicious meal and I notice that you have been eating less when we are out together. I don’t want to pry, but wanted to check in because I remember that you previously mentioned that your boyfriend gives you a hard time about your weight. How is that going for you? I’m here for you if you want to talk about it.” Or, “Although it did not work out with Mary when you dated her, you were more your outgoing self and now with Ellen, I notice that you are really quiet and reserved with her. Just wanted to check in and see how things were going.”
The hope in both examples is that your friend will take the opportunity to open up and then you can provide more feedback. However, it is imperative that you don’t force them into discussing the relationship. If your friend is important to you and ends up with this person, it will be important to give your support and not let the small stuff get in the way of your bond.
Again, this is a tricky subject with a lot to consider as you can’t predict the future in terms of your friend’s response, his or her relationship and the effects on your friendship. With any difficult conversation, remember to act in loving ways while scripting how you want to be and being intentional in your delivery. Trust yourself and your intuition about your choice to step in or let it be.