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Here's the situation: My boyfriend and I have been dating for around 1.5 years. At first, when I met his friends I liked them a lot, but as time has gone on I've noticed a side to their relationship that makes me uncomfortable. While his friends always joked about my BF being the "dad", I have started to notice that they really do expect him to clean up after them all the time, both literally and figuratively. He does so much for them for essentially nothing in return, other than them occasionally spending time together. He puts his entire life on hold when they "need" help without so much as a thank you.

I really want to encourage him to stand up for himself, because he deserves more than this. I want his friends to at least start acknowledging what he does and stop taking advantage of him. He complains to me about it fairly often, and even when he doesn't, I can tell it bothers him. But whenever I nudge him to confront them (on the few occasions that I felt his friends really took it too far), he makes excuses for them or says it isn't a big deal. It's starting to drive me crazy how selfish they are, and how they can just get away with it. Whenever he asks for help, they won't give it or are extremely reluctant.

TL;DR: How can I encourage my boyfriend to stand up to his friends that are taking advantage of him, without causing conflict between us?

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    What kind of help are we talking about here? Financial? Small favors? How old are these people? – apaul Aug 16 '18 at 2:20
  • We're in college. It's never financial, but it's more just trying to make him do whatever they want him to do without consideration for his feelings. Often big favors. – user20951 Aug 16 '18 at 2:28
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    You said that he complains to you often, has he every confronted or mentioned (even as a off-handed comment) this to his friends in the past? If so how did they react? – Violet Flare Aug 16 '18 at 9:18
  • You say you can tell it bothers him, but are you truly sure? It can sometimes be fun or a point of pride to do things for other people and then complain about them later - he might be looking for some praise or appreciation rather than looking to vent. I say this mostly because "he makes excuses for them or says it isn't a big deal" when you urge him to confront them. I could certainly be wrong, just offering an alternative to consider. – Bryan Krause Aug 16 '18 at 21:17
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I've been in a vaguely similar position, where I was given good advice, which I knew was good advice, but was unable to act on it because the root reason for my actions was not generosity:

Let's say I'm worried my roommate will lose his job because he sleeps through his alarm, so I wake him up every morning... and eventually this leads to him not setting an alarm and expecting me to wake him.

Telling me he shouldn't be relying on me doesn't address the base issue: I don't want him to lose his job (if for no other reason than he would then be unable to pay rent... which would be worse than having to wake him up every morning).

Yes, I shouldn't be doing it for them. Yes, they are taking advantage of me. Yes, I don't like doing it. And yes, I'm going to continue doing it (because it's the better option in my mind).


The point is there may be an underlying issue which is why he does what he does and that is the root issue if you want the behavior to change:

  • He may feel indebted to them (has he known them for 10+ years? I do a lot more for long time friends)
  • He may think they are unable to take care of themselves and if he doesn't do anything they'll fail (If I don't clean their dorm no one will and they'll be kicked out of housing/school)
  • He may be maintaining a social position (I have a reputation as a reliable person and I don't want to lose that)
  • He may just have trouble saying no to people.

The only way to know is to ask why. Maybe it's simple, maybe it's not. But I never volunteered the root cause until I was specifically asked why.

  • Took me a while to accept this, but this is the response I always come back to when I get frustrated at this situation. Thanks for the interesting perspective! – user20951 Sep 13 '18 at 23:29
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It seems your boyfriend is struggling with refusing anything his friends ask. I was pretty much the same up to the point where a "Friend" asked me to lend him about 400 USD and never returned them (around 1 whole monthly wage at that point in my country).

That was my wake up call to start working on this issue. I found out that there are hundreds and hundreds of resources on the internet about "How to say no" and most of them are actually very helpful. It is a very common problem.

The hard part is to make him realize that it is actually an issue and to make him want to work on it. From his perspective he is just being nice and he probably doesn't see it as a problem. Though there is a difference between being nice and being taken advantage of.

All you can do is try to help him realize when people are taking advantage and point it out to him when you identify situations like that. He really doesn't see it that way (I can guarantee it) and just talking about the situations and hopefully seeing it from a different perspective will help him identify the issue. Do tread carefully as it might be taken as you trying to distance him from his friends which isn't really the goal.

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When I was about the age that your boyfriend is, I also had trouble saying no to friends. I'm generally a helpful person, but I dislike not being acknowledged for the help I give. Sadly, a number of my friend were selfish to the point when they expected money from me and I had trouble even saying no to that. These were "alcohol meat friends" to use a Chinese saying that only stick around if you give them things (or do things for them), but never gives back.

It was also my girlfriend that helped me realize what was going on and gave me the courage to challenge my friends. I found that many "friends" only stuck around because I said yes to everything. When I started saying no, they started disappearing.

It's part of growing up and this knowledge comes with time. I recommend being a supportive girlfriend and continue to coach your boyfriend that he deserves better than what he is getting.

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This is not your fight, so you need a gentle hand here. Do not criticize him for his current relationship with his friends or he'll just start hiding it from you. Instead, show him what a positive relationship with friends looks like and that 'normal' relationships involve give-and-take, not just give. It may take longer to take effect than some of these other solutions, but it's a much more lasting solution.

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His behavior is up to him, there isn't much you can do to help him make the right choice, except to urge him to make the right choice. (Hint, he needs to resist the urge to explain why he is saying 'no'. Explaining is only opening him up to his friends challenging his justification. "Sorry, no I can't" is all he should say)

However, helping him to find a new set of friends, so he can detach himself from the leeches, might be effective.

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