Are You a Good Friend?

August 9, 2010

Often times friends, partners and family are reluctant to get too involved in a loved one’s life, because we are afraid that loved one will get upset and maybe ostracize us. We are taught that we should respect a person’s right to make their own decisions.  But what if that person suffers from a personality disorder that impairs their ability to make good decisions? Suddenly, the rules of engagement change.

Everybody needs a good time buddy or someone who can offer a shoulder to cry on. But when that somebody suffers a serious disorder, then it’s time to go above and beyond the call of duty. When you are dealing with someone who has deep emotional scars, hugging it out and saying “everything will be all right” no longer fits the bill. Acting like nothing is wrong is making things worse. And if you are covering up for the loved one, then you are in danger of becoming an enabler.

Yes, the dreaded E word, it doesn’t just apply to alcoholics and drug addicts. You are enabling that person to continue hurting themselves and others. You are allowing them to repeat their dysfunctional patterns. You are perpetuating their suffering. When a friend witnesses another friend acting out and dismisses it by saying things like “Oh they’re just young” or “They love drama… What are you going to do?”, they are essentially looking the other way. As an enabler you need to ask yourself- what’s in it for you? Are you afraid of losing a friend? Are you afraid of confrontation? Are you avoiding your own issues? Are you getting a false sense of empowerment from being the caretaker?

Realize the only thing that matters is the well-being of your loved one. You’re not doing your friend any favors by ignoring their problem. A problem that most likely includes meltdowns, anxiety attacks, and severe depression. Don’t neglect your moral obligation to make sure a loved one gets the professional help they need, because you’re afraid of overstepping boundaries. Sometimes people need more than just a person who will listen to their problems. If those problems include a serious mental disorder, action must be taken. Sometimes help must be given whether it’s wanted or not.

Bear in mind, people with personality disorders are very good at manipulating others, keeping people in check. Part of their dysfunction includes lashing out at those who care about them the most. They will accuse you of being judgmental. They will accuse you of being controlling.They will play the victim and portray you as their attacker. They expect you to be ok with their drama and nonsense, when it is not. As a real friend, you have to be strong enough to weather the short term abuse you might receive, in hopes of life-changing gains. Nobody said being a good friend is easy. That’s why good friends are hard to find.

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