Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend is going on vacation with a guy she just met. This is a terrible idea, right? I feel like I’m crazy because no one else in our friend group is concerned. She says she wants to be spontaneous for once and deserves to have fun. Obviously no one is trying to stop her from having fun, but you would think they’d go on a few dates first. The whole thing just seems weird to me, but no one else is worried. How can I tell if I’m overreacting?
I’d be remiss not to ask: are you worried for your friend’s safety? If you’re writing because you get the creeps from this guy, then you should absolutely have a serious conversation with her. She might choose to ignore you, but at least you’ll have registered your worry. And that does make a difference—because if she ends up getting a weird vibe from him later on, even if it’s subtle, your expression of concern might help her to trust her gut rather than pushing the feelings down and explaining them away.
However, if you don’t have the feeling that your friend is in danger, I wonder why her decision is bothering you so much. Do you think her feelings might get hurt? Is it jarring to see her try something that’s so different from what she’d normally do—or from what you’d normally do? Is there a part of you that fears that her new relationship might interfere with your friendship? If none of your other friends are concerned, then this situation may be revealing more about you than her, and figuring out what exactly you’re feeling—and why—might be a chance for you to learn more about yourself.
It’s possible that your friend’s met the love of her life, and she just knows. And it’s just as possible that she’ll have a disastrous vacation, and will tell you all the awkward, hilarious details when she gets back. Most likely, her experience will be somewhere in the middle. But being spontaneous—and even making silly mistakes sometimes—is one of the great joys of adult life, and either way, she’ll come back to you with stories. Cheer her on, root for her to have a great time, and be there for her when she gets back. And no matter what, don’t say, “I told you so.”
I’ve loved hiking my whole life, and when I met my current girlfriend, I taught her about it and we used to go hiking together all the time. I still go at least weekly, but she has now drifted into other interests and rarely joins me. I was bummed at first when she stopped coming, but I know I can’t force her to be into something, and at least she tried it for a while.
Now her best friend is visiting from out of state, and they’re making plans together. She’s excited because they rarely get to see each other. And guess where they are going on the first day of the visit? Yes, you guessed it. Hiking. My girlfriend told me a little apologetically, but I just said have a great time and tried to be encouraging for the visit. However, I am a little sad that my girlfriend would want to go hiking with her friend and not with me, even though she knows it’s something I love. I can’t help but fear there’s something underneath it.
I think you nailed the reason here: your girlfriend and her friend rarely get to see each other. It’s not that she secretly wants to go hiking as long as it’s with someone else; it’s that she’s excited to see her friend, and is probably happy to do just about anything in the short time they have together. In other words, she’s hiking with her friend for the same reason she used to hike with you: when time with somebody is new, or scarce, then just about every activity with them is thrilling, even if it’s not something you’d normally enjoy.
You’re right to stay encouraging, and to try not to bring this up during her friend’s visit. Emotions are high right now, anyway, and your girlfriend’s mind is elsewhere. But when things have settled down and her friend has left again, it’s worth talking things over. I think you’ll have the most success if you go into the conversation with a positive attitude; instead of focusing on the irony of the fact that she’ll hike with her friend but not you, talk about how you used to really love hiking together, and ask if there’s anything you could do that would help her feel enthusiastic about it. Maybe her preferences were simply different from yours—like you hike quickly, and she wants to take it easy, or you stop to check out nature along the way and she’d rather move fast and get a workout. If she makes suggestions, be open to trying them—even if it’s not the hiking you’d normally do.
And if she’s like, “Hey, I went hiking last week because my friend really wanted to, but it made me remember how much I hate it,” don’t push it. Ask her if there’s another way she’d like to spend quality time together, and then commit to making it fun. Preferences change with time, and people do, too, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find an adventurous date that you both love.
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