May 11, 2012

The Problem with the Best Friend

Following from our previous blog, women using their best friends to vent their relationship problems to can be a form of conflict avoidance and can increase problems within the partnership.

Women often tend to spend time with their girlfriends complaining about their partner. While this may let off steam and help the woman feel better in the short term, it does nothing to address the issues in the relationship.

The partner needs to be told of the woman’s frustrations so that they can make alterations in their behaviour or work with their partner to form a partnership where both parties are feeling loved and supported. Remember – if the partner has no idea then they have no ability to remedy the situation.

If the woman does not directly address her difficulties with her partner, nothing can change. In fact, at times, venting with friends can actually increase anger towards the unassuming partner.

I remember working with two couples years ago. Frequently I would see them back to back in my practice. I would always know when the two women had had lunch together as they would work themselves up with anger about their husbands, making the situation worse as it became harder for them to talk calmly with their husbands. Their husbands however had no idea about what was going on and did not have the opportunity to change.

I had this discussion with some of my female colleagues and spoke about how dangerous only venting to friends, rather than talking to their partner can be for relationships. The best friend can become like a short-term safety valve – they allow steam to be let off, but change nothing in the problem. My colleagues replied, “Well if we don’t talk about our relationships, what do we talk about?”

Again I encourage you to bite the bullet and deal with the issues head on. This way you empower yourself and liberate your partner as well. In fact true intimacy is based on honesty.

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Dr Fishman is the author of 'Enduring Change in Eating Disorders – Interventions with long -term results' (Brunner-Routledge 2004).

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