There is a stop on the Chicago Red Line train with a mosaic of passengers’ thoughts, photographs and stories expressed on individual tiles arranged on a cement wall. While browsing the collage the other day, the following remembrance struck me: “I’ll never forget this stop. This is where my best friend told me she didn’t like my boyfriend and we have never been the same since.”
I had two reactions to this: one, you’re an idiot for opening your mouth; and two, you’re an idiot for letting it ruin your friendship. Upon further review, however, this situation is a little trickier, and a little stickier, than I originally thought.
We have all been in this situation: one of your friends is dating a total jackass. Standard procedure is to discuss his McDouchery with the rest of the group, nickname him something awesome like “fart stick” or “lady balls,” then wait a couple months until he’s out of the picture, and she too can laugh about his pompous political discourse.
But what about the girlfriend who has is still dating that jerk? When is it appropriate – and wise – to tell your friend that her boyfriend sucks?
Here a few crucial factors to consider before opening your mouth.
1. How good of a friend is she?
This is really the granddaddy of determinants. It goes without saying that you don’t need to inform your new college roommate that her boyfriend should be more judicious with the “that’s what she said” jokes. The same goes for acquaintances and anyone whose birthday you don’t know (without looking on Facebook). When it comes to your closest friends, however, the plot thickens. It’s a catch-22: while the last thing you want to do is hurt someone you care about, the first thing you want to do is rid them of their a**hole boyfriend. This is why you should limit the “your boyfriend kind of sucks” conversations to your very best friends. These are the girls who trust your judgment and character, and who, if nothing else, will respect your initiative and the deliberation behind it.
As for the rest of your galpals, it’s not worth it. Sure, most of us embraced the girl power movement brought to you by groundbreaking feminists like Baby Spice and Posh, and we also like to think we are ranking members of the chicks before dicks club. The truth is, however, a long-term boyfriend trumps marginally good friends. Sorry, Tyra, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
2. Is he really a rotten egg? Or does he just eat with his mouth open?
This is crucial and should be easy to identify. If he has an annoying laugh, skimps on the dinner bill, or wears jorts, this does not make him a bad guy. If his habits start to infringe on your contentment, AKA, he is eating your food and offending your moral code, then by all means, offer some constructive criticism like “I wish Jeff would stop housing my cheese curds” or “do you think he could watch the midget porn at his place?” Otherwise, save the boyfriend intervention for more serious issues. After all, you don’t want to ruin a friendship because you told her his jokes suck.
3. Is she in it for the long run? Or is this just a phase?
This is a tricky one, as it is can be hard to gauge. Making this determination, however, can be the difference between biting your tongue and taking the plunge. If you are fairly certain that she is just killing time and enjoying free dinners with the D bag, I say keep mum. Let the joy ride run its course, and use the “I told you so’s” sparingly. If she starts talking about her future with this guy, consulting him about major decisions, and spending more and more time with him, she has entered the danger zone, and it’s time to wave those red flags, and fast. The last thing you want is to be standing at the opposite end of the aisle, watching your best friend walk into the arms of a guy with whiskey on his breath, panties in his pocket, and gambling debt up to his ears.