6 Reasons Giving a Friend Love Advice May Blow Up in Your Face

A good friend of mine is dating a douchebag.

Our social group refers to this woman (very, very quietly) as the Washing Machine, because she's always agitating.

If we plan an evening out, she nixes the restaurant we chose because it's "trying so hard to be hip" that it's too crowded, or it's "so last season" and no one goes there anymore.

When we're all out together having a great time, suddenly she stands up and pointedly tells our friend that they need to go. On the rare occasions he tells her he wants to stay awhile longer, she sits steaming in the corner, making everyone miserable until the party breaks up.

And all of that is if we can get him to come out with us at all.

We have cabals among the rest of our group where we discuss the way this woman manipulates and controls our friend. We float various strategies for helping him see for himself how high-maintenance and self-centered she is, for how to encourage him to move on, for conducting an intervention.

And then...we do nothing.

The truth is, that's the only thing we can do. Sad to say, no matter how close you may be, there is a line you can never cross--and it's the one connecting your friend to whoever she is in a relationship with.

Here's why:

1. Your definition of a good relationship may not be someone else's.
Maybe you think your friend's girlfriend is a gold-digger, but he likes showering her with gifts to show how much he loves her.

Or you see neon signs of commitment-phobia, but their separate-houses, weekends-only relationship may be exactly what your friend loves about her relationship.

One woman's cheating is another's polyamorous.

Tomato, tomahto--you can't presume to know what works for someone else's love life.

2. You don't know the whole story.
When a friend's wife suddenly locked him out of the house and he called me crying, I felt horrible for him--only to learn he'd been coming home blind drunk every night. Unless you're one of the people in the relationship, you can't know everything that's going on--and sometimes behavior that seems unacceptable to you may have an entirely understandable explanation you find out only after you've stuck your nose in places it has no business sniffing around.

3. Your warnings may bite you in the ass.
The biggest bad guy after a broken relationship is often the one who pointed out the cracks. If your friend stays in the relationship, or they get back together, guess who their new common enemy may become?

I made the mistake of sending a friend an article about narcissists when I told her I was certain she was dating one. She's still dating him...and we haven't talked since. Sometimes when relationships blow up, they take out everything in their blast radius. Which is also why...

4. You don't want to alienate your friend when she may need you the most.
Your pal is going to need a friend when he finally figures things out on his own (hopefully). If you've alienated him, then you've not only helped blow up his romantic relationship, but you've taken away his prime support network to get past it.

5. Your friend is not a child.
We all have to learn our life lessons for ourselves. If someone else could learn them for you, our parents would have saved us from every bad decision we've ever made--and we'd be far less wise, careful, and mature (and probably have had a lot less fun).

6. It's none of your damn business.
What all of the reasons come down to is this simple fact--it's not your life.

A dear friend of mine married a compulsive gambler--a fact I suspected the very first time I met this guy. It killed me not to point out what to me was red-flag behavior, but she was crazy about the man--and no theory of mine formed from a single meeting would have made a difference. Years later his gambling nearly destroyed her family until my courageous friend got out.

I wish I could have saved her from that experience. But my saving her would have negated the many happy years she did have with her husband before things got bad. It would have negated her two sons--as well as the man she subsequently met, fell in love with, and married after her divorce, with whom she's now extremely happy.

When I told her of my early-warning system about her ex and how guilty I felt for not telling her, even she told me, "You couldn't." Everything that happens to us--the good, and often especially the bad--is our path, and makes us who we become.

Of course, one of the main functions of a close friend is to hold a mirror up so we can objectively see things we might be blind to in our lives. So there are times when you can offer an opinion about a friend's romance--if asked, and then as gently as the doctor wielding the scalpel at a circumcision.

There is one exception where you're not only encouraged to intervene, but obligated: abuse. Abusers are notorious for isolating their victims from the people who might help them see that what they're going through isn't right. You can't rescue anyone--only she can do something about her situation. But if your friend is being physically, mentally, or emotionally abused, value that person and your friendship enough to speak up and let her know you're worried about her (no shame or blame!), you support her, and you will be there for her whatever she decides to do.

Phoebe Fox is the author of the Breakup Doctor series (from Henery Press). You can find her at www.phoebefoxauthor.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.