How to Handle Tricky Friend Situations

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Denise Schipani,

You love your best friend—but you can do without her offensive husband. Or maybe you adore spending time with her—but are getting tired of all the times she "forgets" her share of the bill. If you find yourself swallowing your true feelings in order to keep the peace, you're not alone. "Often, women have a hard time being direct," says Debra Holland, PhD, a Los Angeles–based psychotherapist. Instead, we tend to absorb the anger, annoyance or whatever until we get upset—but that's not healthy for you or your relationship. If you value your friend and want to keep her in your life, it's important to learn how to be honest without offending her. Below, check out eight tricky situations you can get into with friends, and how to resolve them without losing the friendship.

Situation #1: She's Judgmental of Others

You two are at a party together, and your pal comes out with comments about others that make you cringe, like, "What the heck is that woman thinking wearing that dress?" What's worse, she's often judgmental about people you're both friends with. Friendship-saving strategy: Speak to her, in the moment, with genuine curiosity (rather than using judgment yourself), by saying something like, "Did you mean to be so critical? Because you sounded that way," suggests Dr. Holland. "That gives her a chance to save face. She may not acknowledge it, but she's now aware of it."

Situation #2: You Always Pay the Bill Did she forgot to stop at the ATM again?! After covering the tab for the umpteenth time, you're getting sick of ponying up for lunch. Friendship-saving strategy: First, think about what your part has been in this situation, says New Jersey–based psychotherapist and coach Beth Tunis. "If you've been letting it go over and over, she may have no idea that it's a problem." Then, consider what you're going to say to her the next time you two make plans. Try something like, "The last time we had lunch, I ended up picking up the check, which was fine at the time, but I can't always do that. Do you maybe want to go somewhere less expensive?" That gives her space to admit that she felt bad last time, or that she actually didn't notice, or that she is having financial issues. Whatever her reasoning, clearing the air is best, because resentment can be toxic to a friendship.

Situation #3: She Puts You in the Middle of Her Fights Your friend is in a snit with another friend, and she's trying to drag you over to her side. Yet you know just enough about the situation to realize that your pal is not 100 percent in the right—or the wrong. Friendship-saving strategy: Nothing good can come of you playing monkey in the middle, says Tunis. "Pull yourself out of it by saying, ‘You know, I think this is between you and Sarah,' then change the subject." Hopefully that will send her the message that you don't want the blow-by-blow of their argument. That said, a good friend will respond to her feelings about the fight: "I know you're frustrated by the situation with Sarah. That must feel awful." The idea is to support her without getting intimately involved.

Situation #4: You Heard Her Spouse Is Cheating This is a toughie, for obvious reasons—you don't want to be the messenger who gets shot for delivering bad news, but you also can't bear the thought of your friend being unknowingly betrayed. Friendship-saving strategy: "Think hard about what you would want if you were in her shoes," says Dr. Holland. "Chances are, you'd want to know." In that case, you have to tell her, gently, with something like, "I have something to say that's going to be difficult for you to hear. This is what I've seen/heard." Then be prepared to support her no matter how she reacts—she may already know but not want to face it yet, or she may be angry with you at that moment. "If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, leave it there until she's ready to," says Dr. Holland.

Situation #5: She's in Debt but Keeps Shopping One day, she's moaning to you about how tight money is and how she's juggling multiple overstretched credit cards. The next, she's telling you about her hot new boots. Friendship-saving strategy: "There are two schools of thought here," says Tunis. "One, that it's none of your business; two, that a good friend needs to intervene." So first decide how you want to act. If you feel you have to do something, "don't tell her what she should do, but make yourself an example: ‘I saw these shoes and love them, but I'm on a budget,'" advises Tunis. To keep yourself from getting frustrated while watching her shop and holding your tongue, avoid shopping with her, Tunis adds.

Situation #6: You Don't Like Her Husband

He's a boor, he drinks too much, he makes racist or sexist remarks…pick your reason, but the fact remains that you have no desire to spend time with your friend's significant other. Friendship-saving strategy: Choose to spend time with your friend without her husband, says Tunis. If she calls to invite you to go to dinner as a foursome and you can't stomach it, say something like, "How about we go get a manicure and lunch, just us, instead? I feel like we're always going out as couples and I want to spend time with you alone." However, if you're close to them as a couple and her hubby says something offensive, "you may want to speak up, saying, ‘I find comments like that upsetting,'" suggests Tunis. You might have to deal with your friend's disapproval or anger, but some things need to be said.

Situation #7: She Dresses Inappropriately

Did she show up at your very conservative sister's bridal-shower tea in a slinky mini-dress and stilettos? Yikes. Friendship-saving strategy: If you know she has a penchant for embarrassing herself with poor fashion choices, give her the tools beforehand to make better ones: "I've heard that the office holiday party is business dress. What are you wearing?" This may be especially important if it's your function and it's important that she dresses appropriately, or if you know it'll harm her in some way (say, at that office party, if you know the boss is disapproving).

Situation #8: She's About to Make a Bad Decision

Your pal calls you excitedly to tell you she's about to plunk down half her savings on what you feel is a dubious investment, or is thinking of having a fling with her married coworker. Friendship-saving strategy: You want to give her information that she may find useful ("I've read about that company; I don't think they're on such solid ground"), but not judge her. Instead of busting out with "Are you crazy?", try to come across with concern, not criticism. Share what you're worried about, says Dr. Holland: "I'm concerned that if you do this, XYZ might happen."

Stories You Might Like:

Provided photo

How do YOU handle tricky friend situations?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: woman's day


Sorry if aspects about people put me in awkward positions time to move on and associate with new people! Anyone whom does leave me with the whole bill and the agreement was half and half deal is out the door first time- I don't have money to take my kids on holidays or fancy outings needless to say extra for free loaders! Report
*sigh* The timing of this couldn't be more appropriate; just got a BUNCH of drama from a local friend. She told me she is pregnant and I'm concerned for her. She interpretted my concern as not being happy for her. I feel bad for hurting her, of course, but now she thinks I'm depressed and need to see a doctor. This is coupled with her having no concept of the struggles I encounter on my road to being healthy and not succumbing to emotional eating. Thankfully my beau and some other truly great friends have been a wonderful support, but I agree with the comment about asking myself "is this person truly a friend". Report
RE: Situation # 1 -
Instead of the above strategy, I use:
That is funny you say that. She said the opposite about you. Report
My friend always puts me in the middle of her fights with her twin sister, and anyone even her disagreements with her mother. I can no longer be a party to it, I recently cut her off because she wants me to always agree with her, and I have explained to her that my agreeing is not doing her any good, she needs to hear the truth, and only a true friend will be honest and let her know when she is wrong. We haven't spoken in about 3 months, but I feel better this way rather than lie to her. Report
My friend recently lost weight. Congrats!!! Well, she likes to make comments to me about my weight. We have been friends for years; and I chose not to say anything because I'm sooooo shocked by it. She says things like I should try shopping at Lane Bryant because there is no way I can fit into a size 14. (She just got into a 14.) I'm really active and have alot of muscle (under the fat). I'm just built differently than her. Regardless of what the scale says, I'm still more fit than she is. I don't feel I should bring up how upsetting her comments are. Maybe it would be better if I did. Right now, I'm using it as motivation and keeping my mouth shut. I just think everyone has there own weight issues to battle and everyone's body is different. Report
I had a friend who asked me not to have "ANY OPINION" of anything that she was unloading onto me...... If she was having trouble with her 27 yr old son... "Thank You... For not having any opinion"
So when push came to shove.... Guess what??? I let the b**** have it.... And I walked out of her life.... I don't need negative people in my life. If you don't want my opinion then "Shut up" And go get Therapy.
And if my husband was mucking around.... "Hell Yeah" I want to know.... I'd be out of here... Or he would.... ;-) Report
Thinking I should send my friends all a thank you card that none of these fit! Report
I am SO in this situation right now. My best friend of 30 years, husband is getting touchy, feely lately...and not with me...with my husband and it totally creeps us out. He comes over and rubs all over my husband and when we go there he is very touchy and kisses his 13 year old son constantly. We don't want to be around him, but I can't see us avoiding him forever, what should I do? I do see her alone for coffee frequently. Report
I have a friend that does the same as number 5. I try to help her see that she doesn't need to shop all the time, but she is addicted. I think she is finally seeing that she has a problem and has tried to reign herself in a little. Report
As regards to No 4 - husband cheating. If you just hear it, it would be better to wait until you get a more reliable source or further confirmation that it is not just a rumor. It is kinder to determine the truth before you rock her world. Report
I have a friend that fits in to the judgemental and the debt but keeps shopping category. It really does frustrate me and I always wondered how to deal with the situation. Report
Most of the things in this blog just aren't your business. Who are you to tell this other ADULT anything about her clothes, money, or anything else? No one likes to get unsolicited advice. The only thing I saw that WAS your business was "having" to pay all the time for your outings together, but that's not something to discuss with the friend, you either say no or yes, it's a choice you make. Report
There two items mentioned in this blog that would make me take a step back and ask myself "is this person truly a friend". Situation #2: You Always Pay the Bill and Situation #3: She Puts You in the Middle of Her Fights - In my opinion, a true friend wouldn't do that. If it happens once or twice and you point out how you don't care for this type of behavior and he/she stops the behavior, that's acceptable. If it continues, I would see that as this person using me and not being a true friend. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.