I have a friend, let's call him "Bill". He has been one of my closest friends for many years. He has been dating this girl, let's call her "Natalie" for almost a year now. Natalie is also a very close friend to me, due to the fact that A) I knew her long before they were dating, B) she's very close friends with my girlfriend, and C) I spend a lot of time with the two of them.

But now I'm in a little bit of a weird situation. Natalie will frequently complain about Bill publicly to other people, even in front of him. From really small minor things, "His new facial hair is horrible. I can't wait for him to shave", to larger things, like "The way our relationship started was really awkward because he was too dumb to just ask me out". At first, this was just minorly annoying, but it's starting to concern me a little bit because it's becoming a more common occurrence. To be clear, Bill has never complained about this to me, so I don't know what his feelings on it are. But I imagine that if I was in his shoes, I would feel very embarrassed and hurt. I'd expect my significant other to have my side, rather than publicly mocking me.

I'd like to mention this to Natalie, and actually, recently my girlfriend has been asking for me advice because she wants to bring it up as well. But the thought of talking with her makes me (and my gf) extremely uncomfortable.

She might feel hurt or resent us for correcting her. Not that she's a petty person, but because I'd imagine being chastised by your close friends would be rather difficult to take. Or maybe she'd feel like she's done a bad job of respecting Bill, or that she's "a bad girlfriend", I don't know.

But the bigger reason I'm uncomfortable mentioning this to her is because I'm not sure if I'd be overstepping my bounds. I don't want to come across like I have it all figured out, and I'm going to step in and dish out the perfect advice to fix everything. Or that how they do their relationship is my business, or my problem to worry about. But they're both very close to me, and I want them to be happy.

This leads to my question:

  • Would it be out of line for me (or my gf) to bring up this issue with her? Is it really any of our business? And if it is something you'd recommend talking with her about,

  • What is the most tactful way for one of us to approach her? I really want to be careful to display an attitude of "I want to help you, and I think this would be beneficial for you in the long run" rather than "You're screwing up and you need to get your crap together". And how could I bring it up without potentially hurting Natalie's feelings?

I don't know if it's at all relevant to the question, but the 4 of us are all in our young 20's and we live in the USA.

  • 7
    Is it appropriate is primarly opinion-based, and may lead to DV and CV. On the other hand, What is the most tactful way for one of us to approach her? is a real question. Do you mind editing the title in order to remove any bit of OB ?
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 25, 2017 at 7:41
  • Is there a chance this could be emotional abuse?
    – sudowoodo
    Nov 25, 2017 at 12:50
  • Until OldPadawan's comment is adressed, this question is unclear, because there are two vastly different questions asked here.
    – JAD
    Nov 25, 2017 at 15:38
  • FYI, those things which concern you sound absolutely normal in my ears, though I am from western Europe and we are more blunt. Dec 28, 2017 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


From what I can tell from your story, it would be more appropriate for your girlfriend to do the talking on this. Everyone is different, of course, but it seems there will be less loyalties at stake if she handles it than if you do. Also, it's likely they may be able to relate to one another better in terms of finding some time to commiserate (yes, about you, too, but in a healthy way, not a demeaning way - everyone needs somebody to talk to while experiencing some relationship growing pains).

With respect to coming across as if you know everything, I wouldn't worry about it. Haven't you noticed that we all see all of our friends' relationship issues but can be absolutely blind to our own sometimes? I've told my female friends to whom I've given this and other types of advice to over the years that I'm fully aware what I'm saying is easier said than done and that I'd totally be better off if I ever gave myself the same type of advice (and followed it). Alas, I find myself asking for advice when in the midst of relationship strife and in need of opinions on how to proceed.

Finally, how either of you should bring this up to her will, of course, depend on the type of person she is, etc., but overall I would suggest questions. Not statements, which are too easily misread or misheard as criticisms and/or demands. This could take the form of asking, for example, "Hey, you are just kidding about that, right?" (in a situation where she had said something earlier and you are able to catch her ear for a moment sometime)... This should be perceived by her as you asking a question out of general concern for both of their well-being while also providing a polite notification to her that someone (you) took notice of the rhetoric and perhaps that will lead to her rethink the tone or the specific words she uses when - for all I know at this point - she is trying to make a joke or be light-hearted, but it has been coming out wrong.

That said, I'm also a huge fan of ripping off band-aids in order to save from further pain later. With that in mind, if merely mentioning a worrisome habit that affects both of your friends is enough to lead her to ... (yell at you? not be friends anymore? break up with him? etc?)... then, as much as I know this would be a messy situation, you are probably doing him a solid nonetheless.

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