Dear Rene,
I have a close friend who has recently stopped caring about school, stopped really listening to us, his friends, and cared more and more about his new relationship, which is exaggerated in every respect. He has gone from caring about school and A-B grade range, to a B-C range, if he’s lucky. Instead of listening to us when we remind him about forgotten homework, he just blows us off,  even when it affects a large percentage of the final grade. As friends, instead of being helpful, and listening to our advice when we give it to him, he has become haughty and narcissistic. He has recently gotten a new girlfriend and thinks the relationship is far bigger and better than it really is, and doesn’t listen to our points when we confront about it. This friend’s parents have sheltered him for a long time, and are either completely ignorant of these problems, or refuse to acknowledge them. He is not doing drugs or any noticeable change in routine, which would affect him this much. Rene, what would you do to help our friend if you were in our shoes?

Signed- Concerned friend

Hey concerned friend:

Thanks for writing; your friend is fortunate to have someone like you who cares enough about him to try and help. Initially when I read your letter I thought your friend might have been depressed. I suspect there’s a possibility that may still be the case, but the more I read this, it sounds more like your friend has a shiny new toy (in the form of a new girlfriend) and is so enamored with her that he can’t see anything else. The fact that he has lived a somewhat sheltered life isn’t helping his clarity either.

What this is really about is change, what your friend is doing, what you see, how it makes you feel and whether you can do anything about it. The thing you have to understand is that ultimately, unless your friend wants to change, he won’t, even if it means his life is swirling the toilet bowl. So what are your options?

*SAY YOUR PIECE: You don’t say how old you guys are but I’m going to guess late teens or early 20’s. Raising a few kids of my own (who are just slightly younger), the one thing I see in them is a burgeoning sense of independence; they don’t want to be told how to do something, even if they’re doing it wrong. That’s what your buddy is doing; at this point, he feels like he knows what’s best for his life and is going to do that, even if you guys think/see otherwise. I think you can reiterate your position one more time, then……

*LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY: This is a hard thing to do, especially with people you care about. But it’s not as though your friend is a kid; he’s (presumably) in his 20’s and that means he’s old enough to take care of himself and make his own mistakes.

Now about mistakes, we need to remember they aren’t necessarily a bad thing; they are teaching tools that show us what works and what doesn’t. So while from the outside you may be screaming and flailing your arms in a desperate bid to keep him on the straight and narrow, testing the waters to see what he likes and what he doesn’t, is natural.

*DEAL WITH YOUR OWN FEELINGS: I can tell you care very deeply about your friend and that is a wonderful thing to see. But you are going to have to figure out a way to deal with your own emotions about this. It’s hard to watch a friend screw up, even harder when he (or she) decides they’d rather spend time with someone other than you. Though the natural progression of things, it doesn’t make the sting any less.

The upshot is this; you can only do so much for your friend as he’s ultimately in charge of his own life and decisions. As hard as it may be to watch, really the only thing you can do is (after you’ve said your piece) let it go, but then be there for him if it all goes south in a hurry.

Good luck to you!

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