I’m very concerned about my close friend, whom I’ll call Dan. We have been friends for years, but have recently become romantically attracted to each other. Ordinarily, I find Dan to be both friendly and engaging. However, I’ve begun to notice that Dan’s behaviors change for the worse after he drinks alcohol. Just as one example, after a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant the other night, he became slovenly and rude, with food dropping from his mouth as he continually criticized each dish and bossed the waiters around like slaves. I was so mortified that I asked him to take me home right after the meal, giving him the excuse that I had a headache.
Now I am avoiding his calls to me. I feel terrible about this because we are friends. I want to be honest with him, but I’m a private person who doesn’t like confrontation. Brus, can you advise me as to what I should do now?
If you value Dan’s friendship and want your relationship to grow, you must be honest with him about your experience with him when he drinks. Instead of avoiding him, call him up and suggest that you meet in a “neutral place;” that is, not in your home or his, and definitely not for dinner or an alcoholic drink; perhaps for coffee, tea, or just a walk on the beach.
Before you meet with Dan, have your own “bottom line” in mind. For instance, you want to be with him but not when he drinks alcohol. When you do meet, begin by telling him how much you enjoy being with him, so that you establish a positive note. Then gently, but firmly, explain to him the difficulty you have when he drinks. It’s important not to be accusatory. Instead, try to use “I” messages such as, “I feel that our time together goes badly when alcohol is involved;” and, “Last night, I felt embarrassed by how I thought the waiters were being treated.”
Hopefully Dan will hear how you feel and be able to respond honestly. Perhaps he simply may not be aware of how his behaviors deteriorate after imbibing. He could even be open to further discussing ways in which he could receive support.
More likely, however, although Dan may suspect he has a problem, he may not want to face it. He could become defensive, even accusatory. You may need to reiterate how much his friendship means to you, and that you want to be with him. He might initially reject what you say no matter how skillfully you communicate, which will be painful, but you will know that you’re doing your best to help him. It is then advisable for you to drop further conversation about this matter.
I suspect you will have given Dan a lot to think about. Hopefully, he’ll begin to see that there may be something to what you’re saying, which is his first step toward receiving further support.
I hope that Dan will come to see just what a great friend you really are!