Author Topic: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?  (Read 1939 times)

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sarahj21

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A good friend of mine, Ashton, is in a rel@tionship with an older woman, Demi. (Yes, these names are fun but obviously fake.) All my information is second-hand, as told by Ashton, because I have never had more than a brief conversation with Demi. Anyway, Ashton said that at first Demi wasn't so sure about being in a rel@tionship with a younger man, but in the past few months he has had fun being the much younger/more attractive half of their rel@tionship (imagine Demi with kids older than Ashton for a better comparison). He loved her from the start and she has come to love him, and they are used to spending most days/nights together.

Now it's been about eight months and the novelty has worn off for Ashton. He knows she doesn't want more kids or to get married again. In her divorce, she was left with no property and little money. Her work brings in some money but it's unlikely she will ever have her own property or more than a modest income. Ashton doesn't really care about money (his job pays enough for the bills) but the scrabble games are far too infrequent for him and he has been thinking that he would like to grow old with someone and could never have that with Demi. He's also a bit embarrassed to be seen with a much older woman when all his friends are d@ting ladies their own age with no scrabble troubles.

Lately, Ashton has been feeling a bit suffocated. He feels that Demi is too attached to him. Although at the beginning of the rel@tionship, he would call her all the time and organise to see her a lot, now that Demi's calling and inviting him over everyday he's annoyed and wants some space.

Anyway, now that that's over with, here's my question. As Ashton's friend, how can I respond when he says all this to me? It's been twice now that we've talked about it. He also talks to a mutual friend and I don't know what he's told him.

As much as I want to tell him to make a clean break, I don't feel like he's asking for advice. The other day he said he felt guilty about leading Demi into a rel@tionship then wanting to back off. I told him to think about it more, and if he had doubts then breaking it off ASAP would be best for both of their feelings.

As for my own rel@tionship, both friends love to start on me with advice as soon as I open my mouth about my BF. I don't really listen because they've known me for less than a tenth of the time that BF and I have been d@ting. I listen to my BFF who has known me for many years before I met BF. She has told me several times that BF is a good guy. :)

So IMHO, Demi and Ashton won't last. Without Demi, Ashton has a chance of meeting a nice young lady who is a better match. With Demi, Ashton is miserable and guilty because of it.

I guess my big question is: should I gently tell Ashton my real opinion, or should I just politely nod and smile? I don't mind listening but I don't want to miss an obvious cue to give useful advice.

ilrag

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2012, 09:45:13 AM »
Why don't you ask if he wants advice or if he's just venting?

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2012, 09:46:11 AM »
Nod, smile and drop in the occasional comment such as "Well, it sounds like you already know what you really want to do."

Twik

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2012, 09:52:02 AM »
I'd wait to see if he asks "what do you think I should do?", and answer him if he asks it. If he doesn't, he's just venting.

BTW, if the ages were reversed, would you think that Demi should drop her older boyfriend for some "nice young guy who is a better match"? Considering the fact that women live longer than men, the odds are better that they can grow old together if the woman is somewhat older.
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cicero

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2012, 09:55:09 AM »
ask.

say "ashton, i don't want to step on any toes here or ignore your pain. but i really don't know if you are just getting this off your chest, or do you want advice? i can go either way on this - if you just need a shoulder to cry on, then you know i'm here for you. but if you want to discuss where you should go from here - i'm here for you too"
A good friend of mine, Ashton, is in a rel@tionship with an older woman, Demi. (Yes, these names are fun but obviously fake.) All my information is second-hand, as told by Ashton, because I have never had more than a brief conversation with Demi. Anyway, Ashton said that at first Demi wasn't so sure about being in a rel@tionship with a younger man, but in the past few months he has had fun being the much younger/more attractive half of their rel@tionship (imagine Demi with kids older than Ashton for a better comparison). He loved her from the start and she has come to love him, and they are used to spending most days/nights together.

Now it's been about eight months and the novelty has worn off for Ashton. He knows she doesn't want more kids or to get married again. In her divorce, she was left with no property and little money. Her work brings in some money but it's unlikely she will ever have her own property or more than a modest income. Ashton doesn't really care about money (his job pays enough for the bills) but the scrabble games are far too infrequent for him and he has been thinking that he would like to grow old with someone and could never have that with Demi. He's also a bit embarrassed to be seen with a much older woman when all his friends are d@ting ladies their own age with no scrabble troubles.

Lately, Ashton has been feeling a bit suffocated. He feels that Demi is too attached to him. Although at the beginning of the rel@tionship, he would call her all the time and organise to see her a lot, now that Demi's calling and inviting him over everyday he's annoyed and wants some space.

Anyway, now that that's over with, here's my question. As Ashton's friend, how can I respond when he says all this to me? It's been twice now that we've talked about it. He also talks to a mutual friend and I don't know what he's told him.

As much as I want to tell him to make a clean break, I don't feel like he's asking for advice. The other day he said he felt guilty about leading Demi into a rel@tionship then wanting to back off. I told him to think about it more, and if he had doubts then breaking it off ASAP would be best for both of their feelings.

As for my own rel@tionship, both friends love to start on me with advice as soon as I open my mouth about my BF. I don't really listen because they've known me for less than a tenth of the time that BF and I have been d@ting. I listen to my BFF who has known me for many years before I met BF. She has told me several times that BF is a good guy. :)

So IMHO, Demi and Ashton won't last. Without Demi, Ashton has a chance of meeting a nice young lady who is a better match. With Demi, Ashton is miserable and guilty because of it.

I guess my big question is: should I gently tell Ashton my real opinion, or should I just politely nod and smile? I don't mind listening but I don't want to miss an obvious cue to give useful advice.

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 10:10:29 AM »
I've straight out asked, "Is this a vent thing or do you want my opinion? I'm fine with either, I just want to know which."
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jimithing

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 10:26:56 AM »
My friends and I have a code for this kind of thing. We call it a "1, 2 or 3" conversation. If it's a 1, it's strictly just venting, listening. If it's a 2, some advice is welcome. If it's a 3, we want each others advice. It works well for us. If my friend says, "This is a 1.", I know not to say anything, and just be an ear for her.

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 10:52:58 AM »
I would ask if Ashton wanted advice or not. It's the simplest way unless you have an established code like Jimithing and her friends do.
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TheVapors

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2012, 05:25:42 AM »
I've straight out asked, "Is this a vent thing or do you want my opinion? I'm fine with either, I just want to know which."

This is exactly what I have done in the past. Sometimes they want advice... sometimes they just want the ear. Either really is fine.

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2012, 11:49:21 AM »
I'd just ask: "Ashton, do you want my advice?  If not, I'm happy to just lend a kind ear, but please tell me what you have in mind."

blarg314

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2012, 03:15:22 AM »

For me, this would be a case where, as a good friend, I'd feel obliged to say something.

My understanding from what you've said he said is that Demi was uncertain about dating a younger man. He convinced her to give it a try, had his fun, has now realized that dating an older woman really does means dating a woman older than he is and is tired of her, but hasn't broken it off because he feels guilty.

As a friend, I'd be inclined to smack him upside the head, and say "Dude  - You convinced her to date you, used her for the novelty value, got tired of her, and now you want to dump her for the exact reason she was reluctant to date you in the first place. If you *weren't* feeling guilty now, you'd be a pretty horrible human being.  Break up with her now, so she can go off and find someone who likes her for who she is, not as a new experience. And next time don't be such a [unprintable word]."

Sometimes one of the difficult but important things a good friend can do is tell you when you're being a complete [unprintable word], particularly when you're doing something that is hurting someone else due to your own selfishness.


sarahj21

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Re: How to know when a friend is looking for advice or just a kind ear?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2012, 05:25:32 AM »
As a friend, I'd be inclined to smack him upside the head, and say "Dude  - You convinced her to date you, used her for the novelty value, got tired of her, and now you want to dump her for the exact reason she was reluctant to date you in the first place. If you *weren't* feeling guilty now, you'd be a pretty horrible human being.  Break up with her now, so she can go off and find someone who likes her for who she is, not as a new experience. And next time don't be such a [unprintable word]."

Yes! This is exactly my opinion of their relationship. Ashton avoided Demi last week, even to the point of rushing off when he saw her at a distance then returning about 20 minutes later (after she'd called and he'd told her he wasn't nearby, and she'd left). I told Ashton that he should let her go to find someone more suited to her age/lifestyle. I don't put all the blame on him because Demi initiated the rel@tionship with an invitation for dinner at her place, and then afterwards tried to never see Ashton again (a change of pace for Ashton, who isn't usually kicked out so quickly).  ::)

Since reading the first few replies, I've spoken to Ashton once more. He repeated how guilty he felt and not wanting to talk to Demi about it - I told him that a rel@tionship was a partnership. If he talks to her, he's put his cards on the table and it's up to Demi to either talk him back into the rel@tionship or agree and it can be a calm break up. I also told him that I think they should break up. And I asked him how he'd feel if they didn't break up, and he was resentful of having such an older partner when all his friends had partners their age, and all the activities he'd miss out on (having kids, marriage, skydiving, trying to improve an already poor and infrequent scrabble game...). Probably not the best list there but I had to think on my feet. He's still enjoying the drama and how everyone's talking about him and Demi. I will try to give my opinion and not feed the drama llama. :)