“Help: My friend’s behavior is upsetting me-so she’s hiding it”

Dear Sarah,

One of my very best friends (she’s 19 and I’m 18) has stopped sharing things about her romantic life. When she tells all our other friends something, she asks them not to tell me. But of course they do anyway.

The things she hides from me are not minor— like a guy asked for her number or something. It’s be more like she’s falling in love with someone and I have no idea about it. She meets all these guys on Tinder, and she knows that doesn’t thrill me. I think it is unsafe, considering she goes to their houses sometimes instead of being smart and meeting in a public place.

She thinks I’m judgmental, but I only want what’s best for her. Sometimes her behavior concerns me, and I can’t seem to get my opinion across without her thinking I’m judging her. I don’t know what to do—whether to confront her about keeping stuff from me, live with the fact that she refuses to share certain things with me, or have a best friend breakup with her. We’ve known each other our entire lives, so I don’t particularly want to throw all of this away! But it is really hurtful and something needs to change. I need a mom’s wise words!


—Desperate Friend in Illinois

Dear Desperate,

It has taken me a really long time not only to understand but to accept that you can’t change a friend. You can influence them, be honest, supportive, give them love, etc. but ultimately, they are going to do what they are going to do. So, you are right, when a friend acts in ways that you deem dangerous, unhealthy, disagreeable, or whatever, sometimes you do have to decide whether you can deal with that behavior or cut the cord.

Can you live with her going on blind dates in a way that you feel is risky? Ask yourself that before making any other decision and be super honest about the answer. My guess is that you would like to make it work, and I always think it’s worth trying at least trying to preserve a good friendship, one that’s lasted many years.

What I suggest is that you write down the reasons why her behavior concerns you. Be very practical, do some research to back up your opinion. Then schedule a time with just the two of you to hang out. Honestly express that you aren’t judging her about the details of her life that she keeps from you and also how her deception makes you feel. Explain to her calmly (that’s why your got your facts together first) why you are worried. Very importantly, listen to what she has to say without being defensive.

The catch is—you only get to do this once, at least for now. Part of having the “big convo” is assuring her that she can be totally honest with you and that you will be there for her if she does need help or support—without being judge-y or critical. If she keeps up her behavior, you can’t hammer away at if you want her to remain open. At some point, you might indeed get fed up, and that’s totally legit (listen, I don’t love hearing that she’s going to strangers’ houses either!). You can always reevaluate your relationship at another point.

Hopefully you guys can have some real talk that will help you reconnect.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

Filed Under