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Dear Harriette by Harriette Cole

Friend wants woman to raise her standards

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who has always had low standards for the men in her life. She goes out of her way to do everything for them and is consistently disappointed in the end because they don’t even show a fraction of the same care she gives them. It’s incredibly discouraging, and I don’t know how to help her. Do you have any advice on how to raise her standards and get her to stop doing so much for the wrong people? — Raise Your Standards

DEAR RAISE YOUR STANDARDS: Your friend sounds like a prime candidate for counseling. If she has fallen into an unhealthy pattern of how she engages men in relationships that leaves her disappointed and unfulfilled, she needs help learning how to make better choices. You probably don’t have the tools to guide her to the other side.

What you can do is to listen to her compassionately. If she continues to tell you what’s happening in her life, you can gently point out to her when she is repeating behavior that hasn’t served her in the past. You can insert a new idea: Instead of doing this, why not try that? If you know of positive, healthy relationships in your friend group or beyond, point out on occasion what you appreciate about those other couples. When one of the partners does something thoughtful, encourage her to notice it and want that for herself. But unlearning unhealthy behavior patterns is best managed by a professional who works with someone toward that goal.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am new to this group of friends, and although I feel like I am welcomed and accepted by all, I can’t shake off this bad taste left by one girl’s joke. I’m a person of color, and the friend group is made up of four other people of color and one white person. The white person made a joke about minorities that wasn’t really funny or clever. Maybe because the other friends knew her better, they had more patience for this type of joke. I’m really confused, and I can’t make sense of what I experienced and why nobody reacted. Is it just me being sensitive? Should I ignore it and move on, or bring it up with the girl and get clarity on the situation? I’m worried that this group maynotbeforme.–Newto the Group

DEAR NEW TO THE GROUP: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you confronting the offender about her comment. You can speak to her directly or in the presence of the others. Rather than approaching her with hostility, engage with curiosity. Remind her of what she said that bothered you. Ask her why she said it and what she meant by it. If she bristles and brushes it off, tell her that you are bringing it up because it bothered you deeply. Point out that you are just getting to know this friend group and that comment sounded an alarm for you, which is why you felt you had to address it. People will make off-color comments and do and say things that are inappropriate at times. As you continue to get to know these people, you will have to decide if their non-PC comments are things you can live with — or not.

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