How To Handle Your BFF Going Back To Their No-Good Ex (& Why Support Is Key)

To a certain extent, it's normal to become emotionally invested in your best friend's relationships. Most of us have been there, where we feel almost as excited as our BFF when they fall for someone new, or feel nearly as heartbroken as they do when things don't end well. When you love someone, the things that are important to them simply become important to you.

Being there by their side for the journey can be an experience that brings you closer to them, but when they make decisions you don't necessarily agree with, it's frustrating, to say the least. And there's nothing quite as frustrating as watching your friend going back to someone that you know isn't good for them, especially when they've already been hurt. Because while you're right next to them for the experience, feeling the pain and wanting the best for them, you're also pretty powerless in the situation. As someone's best friend, it's not up to you to authorize or plan their love life (even if you feel like you'd do a much better job at it than they are!).

You can't demand that your friend dump their ex, but you can open up about how you feel and support your friend in ways that may help them to see the truth on their own.

Accept that your friend has free will

The sooner you accept that your friend is their own person who can make their own decisions, the better. You probably have the very best intentions for your friend and are just trying to protect them by telling them not to go back to their ex. But good intentions don't mean anything if you're taking away your friend's ability to control their own life. If they're an adult, they can make their own decisions, for better or worse.

You might not be able to force your friend to stop seeing their ex, but a lot of people employ other manipulative techniques to the same end. They might make threats (I'll tell everyone how pathetic you are if you stay with him) or give ultimatums (if you want to keep me as a friend, you won't see him anymore). Or maybe they'll give their BFF the silent treatment or be short with them until they break up with their ex. Avoid all of these. Threatening or bullying your friend into doing what you want is not the way to forge or maintain a deep and healthy friendship, even if it's for their own good.

You can open up to your friend about how you feel, but you can't dictate what they do with their life. Being there to support them rather, even if you don't agree with what they're doing, is likely to bring you closer together. 

Be honest (without verbally bashing the ex)

Honesty can feel like a double-edged sword because, on one hand, you don't want to lie to your friend and feed their delusions that their ex is good for them. But on the other hand, you don't want to hurt their feelings or make things tense by admitting that you hate their ex. Try to find the line between, where you can open up about how you feel without trashing the person they have feelings for.

It helps if you keep the conversation cool and calm, rather than letting your emotions get out of control. Yes, it's frustrating that your friend has gone back, but resist the urge to use insults, name-calling, and loaded language. Explain that the situation is confusing to you, and then use facts to back it up. Instead of saying, "I'm furious with you because you've gone back to an absolute tool who couldn't care less about you," try something less confrontational: "I respect your right to do whatever you want with your love life. It just doesn't sit right with me because this person cheated on you last time, and I don't want to see you get hurt again."

Avoid personal attacks, both on your BFF and their ex. Remind your friend that they can make their own decisions and you'll always be there to support them, but you wouldn't feel right lying to them about how you feel.

Discuss the impact on your friendship

In the context of your friend going back to their ex, you are playing a supportive role rather than a central role. You should voice concerns with your friend's best interests in mind, not your own. For example, if your friend really is happy with their ex, but you object because you feel like you're losing them, that's a self-serving attitude that isn't fair on your friend. As the BFF, what should matter the most to you is your friend's happiness.

That said, in the context of your own life, you are playing the central role, and you have to look after your own feelings, too. It's reasonable that your friend going back to their ex is irritating to you, especially if you've spent a lot of time helping them get over the last breakup. That classic "Sex and the City" episode comes to mind, when Carrie agrees to have lunch with Mr. Big, and Miranda, having lost her temper, tells Carrie that she's not holding her hand through it another time.

Ultimately, your friend is allowed to make their own decisions. But you're allowed to feel drained by the impact those decisions have on the friendship. When you have the discussion about their ex, you can also mention how it's exhausting for you to have to pick up the pieces again and again. The solution may be that you take a little time out to deal with your feelings and recharge your energy.

Help your friend realize their self-worth

Often, people return to relationships that don't serve them out of insecurity. They fear being alone, or believe they aren't good enough to have a healthy, happy relationship, so they cling to anything they can get. If that's the case with your friend, you may be able to help them build up their self-esteem and sense of worth. By supporting them in this way, you can guide them to realize on their own that they can do better.

Obviously, telling them that they're stupid for getting back with their ex, or that they can't make their own decisions, isn't going to help anything. Rather, remind them that you value their place in your life (via University of Michigan). When they do something for you, let them know how much you appreciate it. Celebrate every success they have, and encourage them to chase the things they want in life. Give them real, meaningful compliments.

If you feel that your friend does struggle with their self-worth, let them know in your discussion about their ex that you believe they deserve better. Try to find a moment when you are both calm and have time and space to talk, preferably in private.

Turn up your support if the situation is serious

There's a difference between an ex that you just don't like and one that's actually going to threaten your friend's safety and wellbeing. If your BFF is heading back into a relationship that involved domestic violence or other similar dangerous experiences, you'll have to be even more supportive. You still can't make their decisions for them, but try not to tap out of the friendship because you feel frustrated with them, either. Check in with them constantly, give them access to the relevant hotlines and resources, and make sure they know that they have loved ones and support outside of their relationship.

When you're having that discussion with your bestie and domestic violence is involved, avoid blaming them for going back. Abusive relationships are notoriously difficult to leave behind for good because many victims don't actually recognize themselves as victims.

The only time you should actually intervene is if your friend is in direct danger. Let the authorities know by calling 911, even if you think your friend may get angry with you later. Crossing boundaries is okay when someone's life is at risk.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.