Is It Ever Okay To Judge Our Friends’ Relationships?

So at the Billboard Music Awards, Taylor Swift was caught sticking her tongue out as Selena Gomez gave a quick kiss to ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber. This is, in my opinion, sort of the most adorable way you can express your dissapproval for your best friend kissing an ex who has, in the past few months: worn a gas mask in public, made questionable remarks about Anne Frank and lost custody of his monkey. It does raise an important question for those of us who don’t date pop stars: Is there ever an appropriate way to comment on your friends’ relationships?

Let’s face it: we all judge each other’s relationships (even if and when our own are far from perfect). But is it ever appropriate to share our opinions? Conventional wisdom says no, and I’m generally inclined to agree. It only takes losing one friend after commenting that I didn’t think her boyfriend was good for her to realize that I’d rather keep my mouth shut and keep my friendship, even if I do think the guy she’s dating is a complete idiot. One of my most regrettable decisions was sending a scathing email to a friend after learning from Facebook that she’d gone on vacation with her on again, off again ex. I gave her my opinion of the guy in no uncertain terms, and felt like a complete jerk two weeks later when I realized it was no ordinary vacation; they’d actually eloped. They are now happily married with a beautiful baby daughter, and I am amazed and so thankful that this girl still talks to me after what I said. The experience taught me many lessons, chiefly among them: we really don’t know other people’s relationship situations, and as such, it’s usually best not to comment on them.

It’s a hard urge to resist, though. So before you go speaking your opinion, here are some things to consider:

Why am I judging this person? I find a lot of the time, we judge our friends’ relationships out of jealousy, either because they’re dating someone and we’re not, or because we’re jealous of all the time our friend is spending with her new significant other. If this is the case, it’s best to step back and try and look at the situation objectively: is the person they’re dating really a tool, or are you trying to find fault with them on purpose? If your main issue is something superficial (dresses weird, likes some band you hate, or has a funny laugh), you’d best keep it to yourself. If the person is actually awful (kicks puppies, has a drug problem, hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years), you may have a legitimate beef. (Also, if you’re concerned your friend is dating someone truly terrible and might be in an abusive relationship, it is definitely okay to say something. Some suggestions on how to help in that situation can be found here.)

How serious is this relationship? If your friend is just casually hanging out with someone who’s not the best influence, it might be best to just let things run their course. It’s not worth risking your friendship over something that’s likely to be short lived anyway. If, on the other hand, she’s about to marry someone who actually lies/cheats/steals/is actually bad news, it’s perhaps time to have a heart to heart with her about what she wants out of her relationship, and making sure this person is providing it.

Am I prepared to have my love life criticized? If you do decide you should say something, you should be prepared that your friend might get defensive. After all, you’re calling her out on someone who’s really important to her. Are you ready to hear what your friend really thinks of your relationship (or lackthereof), or would you rather your friend not say anything? If the latter’s the case, then perhaps you’re not in the position to criticize. As the saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

What do I think will come of this? Questioning anything about a friend’s relationship isn’t just making conversation. You’re essentially suggesting that they change or end a relationship that technically has nothing to do with you. If you’re going to do this, you need to be prepared to deal with the fallout, whatever form it might take. Is what you have to say so important you’re willing to lose a friendship over it? Are you okay with being the catalyst for a friend breaking up with their significant other?

If you’ve thought about all of this and still think you should say something, then I suggest you think carefully about how you want to frame the conversation. There’s a huge difference between “Ugh, why would you kiss that loser” and “Hey, I know it’s none of my business, but I just wanted to check and see how things were going with you and Justin, I know it’s a lot to deal with when he’s threatening paparazzi and passing out at concerts and losing custody of his primate in a foreign country. I just think you deserve to be with someone who has time and energy to really focus on you, but no matter what happens in your relationship, I’ll always be here for you.” Above all, you need to come across as supportive, and not judgmental; if you’re saying something, it should be because you think it’s in your friend’s best interests.

So what do you think? Is it ever okay to comment on someone else’s relationship? Have you done it, and had it go well? Or horribly? Do you support Selena maybe getting back together with Justin, or is Taylor totally right?

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