Helping a friend with her dating life

Letting this one in. More advice on giving advice.

Hi Meredith,

You helped me once before and I'm hoping you can help again. My best friend, J, is a single, 38-year-old who has recently moved to a new city and switched careers. I encouraged her to try online dating and now I'm regretting my encouragement, big time. J only had one serious relationship, when she was in her 20s, and then focused more on friends and her career. She didn't have any friends-with-benefits or casual dates. I didn't think that would be a big deal ... but I'm now realizing she is INCREDIBLY naive when it comes to dating.

Case in point, she met one person on Bumble last summer and went back to his house on their first date. Pretty soon she was engaged in a crazy kinky sex life (that she wasn't enjoying, but she wanted to make him happy). After a few months, he dumped her. I tried to convince her to take some time, reevaluate what she's looking for, be a little more discerning with her selections, etc. That "downtime" lasted a week and she was back on the dating apps. She's gone out with a few guys, and gone from swiping on Bumble to having sex (then never hearing from them again), within days. She's now "dating" (her words) someone who *ONLY* comes over for sex (they've never been on an actual date) and whose last name she doesn't know. Recently he got a little "handsy" during sex and she had bruises.

I'm not against having a friend-with-benefits ... but she honestly thinks there is a relationship and a future with every guy she meets, and she's engaging sexually before even getting to know them, but saying she's looking for forever. Recently, she met someone on Tinder and because they lived in the same town, she let him pick her up at her house – so he knows her home address, and she's never met him. This isn't the 1960s and she's not going to a sock hop!

When I tried to suggest that these guys were not who she should be dating, she got defensive and called me jealous. So why do I care? I'm the *only* person in her life who knows she's doing this. She lives alone and hasn't made any new friends in her new town. How do I intervene without losing her?

– Terrified BFF


There's a big difference between giving advice and telling someone what to do. As a BFF, you can give your friend safety tips. You can request that she withhold her home address on first dates, and ask her to tell at least one person who's taking her out, so she can be accounted for at all times. You can suggest these ideas without anger and judgement. As in, "When my other friends date, they share information about the person, so we can keep track of each other. Let's do that, too. Last names required." Something that says, "I’m not your parent, but we're in this together."

As for the other stuff – the rules (made by you?) about when to sleep with someone, and how much downtime a person need between dates – I'd keep the talk to a minimum. It’s not your job to tell her when to have sex. If you pretend you have all the answers, she'll probably tune you out.

If you suspect that she's unhappy and uncomfortable, you should ask more questions. "Are you OK?" "What have you been learning from all of this?" "Is this fun?" “How would this relationship have to change to become what you want it to be?” There are so many questions that she should be answering for herself. Let her take agency when it comes to figuring out a solution.

You also might want to ask her how it's going with the rest of her community. If you only talk about dating, that becomes the big priority. She needs to remember that she should also be finding friends – and a full life.

– Meredith

Readers? What's the friend's role here?