Q: My close friend recently shared about her multiple sexual partners with great pride and boasted about a threesome she was a part of. I felt revolted listening to her description, and was particularly disturbed knowing she was stringing along so many boys, out of which two are my friends. Her casual approach to boys who seem genuinely interested in dating her seriously, is something I disapprove of. She’s been an old friend. Should I tell her how I feel? Would I not be inauthentic if I held back my thoughts and feelings? I also worry for her sexual health given her multiple partners. She could be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. I feel conflicted in my feelings when I’m around her. What should I do?
A: You have used the term ‘close friend’. This is a loose term. Ask yourself if you are close enough to her to have a discussion on her private sex life from an ‘advise giver’s’ perspective – or you may be unfortunately seen as the ‘uninvited moral police’ which would defeat your purpose of opening the discussion with her on her behaviour. Sometimes, friends share details of their private lives because they enjoy the theatricality of it all and love having an audience to narrate their adventures to. This can be commonly seen on social media as well.
The narrative medium has evolved a lot in the past few years. A lot of people hate feedback as they secretly know what they should be doing that would feel ‘right’ for them. Do you still want to give her feedback? Do you think it would help her? If yes, are you OK with being seen as more an interference rather than someone offering an insight? Having stated the above, let’s address your concerns for her and the men she is involved with.
Your worry is understandable. You wish for their well-being comes from your desire to be a ‘good friend’ who puts in a word of ‘caution’ and what you see as ‘corrective action’. However, you also need to know that not every story has a ‘happy ending’ and people have the right to ‘shape their own destinies’ even if that means doing something they later regret. You also need to know that the role one can play in someone’s life can be ham-stringed by a ‘vision that they have for themselves’ and their ‘openness to change’. You simply aren’t part of their grand scheme that even they may not have ‘fully realised’ yet.
To feel ‘revolted’ is to let your emotions control you. If you are uncomfortable, that is a more rational way of looking at the situation. To discuss one’s sex life publicly disrespects the privacy of those involved & may also reek of a desire to ‘boast of the kind of stuff one gets away with’. This could indeed be seen as childish.
Know that your disapproval of your friend may possible not change her reality in the long term. Intelligent people find a way to usually get what they want or think they deserve. It takes a certain degree of intelligence to convince several men that she is romantically involved with them.
If you think that she’d be open to your honest and empathetic feedback about her behaviour about giving ‘false hopes to men’ or engaging in ‘risky sexual behaviour’, then you could certainly warn about the danger of STDs and tell her that you’re worried about the emotional state of the men that she is ‘stringing along’.
If you sense a defensiveness in her behaviour or a desire to continue as she pleases, I would suggest you back off from starting a debate that may go nowhere, save your time and perhaps strongly re-evaluate if you would still like to consider someone a ‘close friend’ who is this comfortable with ‘wilfully causing hurt’ in men who are serious about dating her. We need to curate the people we give our precious time to as sometimes months and years go by and never get around to doing the things we always dreamed of – because we’re too busy playing ‘nice guy’.
The question of fairness is a universal one. Everyone deserves a fair chance at finding happiness. If your male friends mean so much to you, you may want to consider letting them know that they may be in for a ‘ride’. Also know that in doing so, you may be wilfully breaching the trust of your ‘close friend’ whose entire arrangement may be shattered after you spill the beans. How do you feel about being in such a precarious position? Whistle blowers become unpopular pretty quick.
Getting involved would mean taking a side and not getting involved would be getting comfortable in the spectator side-seat position and not getting this roused by someone else’s behaviour. You will have to decide which position suits you better. What do you feel strongly about?
Are you willing to take it on the chin by picking a side? Whatever you decide, know that you can’t keep everyone happy at the same time. As agendas differ, so does our participation or lack of participation in a situation.
To resolve your internal conflict, ask yourself if you worry more about ‘inauthenticity’ or ‘the desire to make people feel good around you’. Whatever you decide, know that you have to be fully prepared for the consequences that come along with the assumed position of ‘moral gatekeeper and well-wisher’.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)