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How can I be sure my friend is in a happy relationship? Add to ...

The question: There’s a couple who are both friends of mine, but they want very different things. As a woman, I understand my female friend’s desire for marriage, kids and the house in the suburbs. He’s not that into it, but follows along. I’m concerned he’ll end up miserable in a life he didn’t really want. Should I talk to him about my concerns, or just let it go?

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The answer: I have some questions that you need to be honest about answering: First, why do you think your friends have not considered these differences in their decision to stay together? Second, why is there a stronger loyalty you seem to feel toward your male friend? (Perhaps that is the friend you have the closer bond or longer history with?) Third, what you are trying to achieve by potentially raising these concerns with your friend?

It is important for you to, very candidly, consider what your motive and intent is in having a conversation with your friend. Can you truthfully say that you have no hidden agenda or malintent in having this conversation? If yes, then keep reading.

The issues that you may potentially raise (and I emphasize with, potentially), and the manner in which you raise them, are going to be dependent on a number of factors, not least of which relates to the history and nature of your relationship with each partner. You want to be mindful of not being disrespectful to either friend, and also not judge a situation without all the information.

Have you considered possible explanations for why your friend is ostensibly just “going along” with things he may not want? Perhaps he’s shifted his perspective about what he wants in his life and what is important to him. Maybe the pros of being with a partner he loves and cares for – and compromising by living in the suburbs – outweigh the previous cons he felt about moving out of the city. Remain open to the possibility that there may be considerations both have had which you are not aware or privy to.

Keep in mind that any time two individuals join lives in a partnership, there are inevitable personality and life-goal differences that must be dealt with, reconciled or overcome. This can include things such as the manner in which the relationship is formalized. It is not uncommon for people to feel that they, for example, never before considered kids or marriage, but then changed their mind when they met the right person.

It sounds like you are concerned about your friend and simply want him to make life decisions that are the right decisions for him. As a friend, your role is to unconditionally and non-judgmentally support him. You may want to check in on how things are going and how he’s feeling. You could, for example, ask him how things are going between the two of them, or how he’s feeling about the direction their relationship is going. (“Wow, lots of changes you are making; how are you feeling about the big move to the suburbs?) Ask open-ended questions where you aren’t making any assumptions or judgments. That way, you open the channels of communication and allow him to talk to you if there really are things he’s concerned about.

My experience is that when friends, even very close friends, get in the middle of relationships, it rarely ever turns out well. Be respectful of his partner (remember, she is also your friend!) and their relationship by not making any assumptions. Just make yourself available to be a listening ear if needed.

Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra .

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