I have a big problem. My friend has been dating this guy "Joe" for a year now, but he's horrible to her. He won't hold hands with her in public. He calls her ugly/stupid/fat until she cries, for fun, and then assures her that he's "just kidding". He flirts all over the place with other girls all the time while completely ignoring her (just a few days ago he went around hugging every girl in the hallway except her). Despite this, she thinks he is the BEST PERSON EVER. It's fairly clear to me that he just manipulates her so that she will do the HND with him.
I've talked to my guidance counselor about how to deal with this, and she told me just to wait it out until he graduated (which was a few days ago; my friend and I are both rising seniors) and to criticize his abusive behavior but not to criticize him directly, so I wouldn't alienate her (after a year of All Joe, All The Time, I'm pretty much the only friend she has left).
But recently, she's started to talk about how they want to stay together next year and how she wants to pick a college near his because they are *cosmic soulmates*. She's flying him out to her lake house for the summer so they can spend more time together, and she used to really want to go to [redacted], but now she's not even planning to apply because he's going to college in [redacted]. Help me, Auntie! Should I just butt out of their relationship and leave her alone? Should I suck it up and pretend to be happy for her? How can I tell her that she shouldn't sacrifice her dreams to be with this jerk?
I hate to say this, Sparkler, but I think you know what's coming: If your friend is truly determined to torpedo her friendships, her college career, and her personal ambitions for the sake of her juicebox boyfriend, then there's not a person on the planet—not you, not me, not the passionate, howling denizens of the interwebs, not even BATMAN—who can stop her. (Or, well, okay, maybe Batman could stop her. But his method of doing so would probably involve a whole lot of punching, so let's just move on.)
And you know what? As painful as it'll be to watch, it may well be for the best. Because some people, for whatever reason, really do need to blow up their whole entire lives before they notice that something isn't right. This is her crappy choice to make; all you can do is let her make it, and hope the bad experience begets better judgment.
Which is not to say that you should pretend to be happy for her, or that shouldn't raise your concerns—only that it's best if you do so diplomatically (for the sake of your friendship), and expect exactly nothing to change (for the sake of your sanity.) Here's how:
Ask instead of telling. When she says that she and Joe are "cosmic soulmates," resist the urge to mime puking in your purse and instead ask her: "How so?" or "Why do you say that?". You can't make her change her mind, but you can make her think about why it's made up the way that it is.
Change the subject. Ask her about her other interests, do fun things one-on-one, and engage her on topics other than Joe. It'll help keep her connected to the parts of her life that don't revolve around her romantic relationship, and it'll give you some relief from the onslaught of nauseous emo-goo.
When pressed, be honest, but gentle. Repeat after me: "If you're happy, that's great. But as your friend, it's hard to get enthusiastic about you making so many sacrifices to be with a guy who doesn't treat you respectfully." (And speaking of honesty: if her parents aren't aware of Joe's bad behavior and/or your friend's reasons for changing her college plans, you might want to quietly clue them in.)
And finally, have faith. Because jaded as it sounds, Joe isn't a special kind of master manipulator; he's a garden-variety high school jerk. Your friend isn't the first girl (or guy, for that matter) to fall in love, lose her mind, and throw herself at an undermining butthead whose appeal is evident only to her; it happens all the time. And while she may manage to delude herself about their meant-to-be-ness for long enough to screw up her summer, her college application process, maybe even her freshman year, their enforced separation during the coming year puts chances highly in favor of her figuring out that she's being a cow-eyed dumbass. (And, as so many of us must, she'll learn early on the very important lesson that subverting your own dreams in order to chase a guy—even if that guy isn't a giant, steaming bag of donkey wieners—is a terrible, terrible idea.)
That is, if he doesn't dump her the moment he gets to college—which, just to be really blunt about it, he probably will.
And in the meantime, all you can do is what any of us can do when our friends fall in love with buttheads: grit your teeth, trust that sense will eventually prevail, and resist the urge to say "I told you so" when it does.
Have you ever cringed while your friend dated a jerk? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.