Dear Dr. Date,First-time writer, long-time reader. I have a problem, but not with me. Lately, a few of my good friends of three years have been in steady, monogamous relationships. I’m happy that they are happy, but I’m concerned that they are losing their own identities and becoming molded into someone else. I’m not talking about personal growth here. They are changing their likes and dislikes for their significant others. Time away from their boyfriends is minimal. I fear that what seem to be healthy relationships are based on other things than love. I also believe they expect me to be there when these “relationships” finally blow. I am hurt and feel used. How can I communicate my wants and needs without stepping over boundaries? — Me
It’s fairly disgusting to watch a couple slowly melt like wax into a puddle of spinelessness and then harden in that shape. This problem is generally caused by spending too much time together, but some people seem to be inherently disposed to adopting the morals and opinions of the person with whom they are sleeping. If either of your friends is the impressionable type, then be sure to ask yourself if you are not just jealous that another person is molding your friend. It’s very easy to believe that your friend is a free-thinking individual when they agree with everything you say.
Still, this sort of loss of oneself happens all too often in relationships. It worries me for the same reasons it worries you: What happens when the person wakes up and finds themself married to a person with whom they don’t really mesh? Most likely, unhappy things will transpire. That’s my pessimistic approach. My optimistic side leads me to believe that some people want or need someone to tell them what to do and how to think. Somehow, they will be better people due to this guidance. Reality probably lies somewhere in between, and your role is to keep your friend rooted in reality.
If you truly believe that what your friends are doing is damaging them, then tell them so. Avoid accusing them in a way that will cause them to be defensive and hurt. Pick a time when such comments are warranted. Usually a warranted time comes about when your friend asks you for advice. Once they ask you what you think is wrong with them, you have a blank check with which to tell them bluntly everything that’s on your mind. Try to hang out with your friends minus their significant others. Go out for beers or coffee and just talk. If the opportunity arises, then seize it, but there’s no need to push it. Getting your friends out without their sweethearts is a great start.