30 second therapist

How do I help a friend who makes bad decisions about love?

March 21, 2014 at 3:22 PM ET

This week, one reader says she doesn't know how to support her friend who makes bad relationship decisions, while another says she's worried her long-term boyfriend will never marry her. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.

Q: My best friend had a boyfriend that continually cheated on her, and it took her seven years to leave. Her latest boyfriend is doing the same thing (she’s been with him for two years). She reads all these self-help books and thinks she can get her guys to read them and change after she points out what’s wrong with them. But that doesn’t happen. I have been supportive and have been there for her in both these situations. I have been pretty blunt with her about these two guys, but she still thinks she can make it work! She took her latest one back after he whined, and even asked her to marry him, but didn't have a ring, and he won't tell anyone they are engaged! I want to be there for her, but don't know what to say--even though I just want to tell her to wake up and smell the coffee! She is intelligent, successful and beautiful. How can I help? —Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned Friend,

Everyone needs a supportive pal, so why have you spent years watched this dysfunctional behavior from the sidelines? Apparently, your friend has some self-esteem issues. But since we attract who we are, let’s level about you. Who would you be without silently snickering over your bestie’s chaos? My Gilda-Gram™ warns, “When you overfunction for others, you underfunction for yourself.” Instead of counseling your friend’s love life, determine what needs fixing in yours.

In their song, “Compass,” Lady Antebellum sings, “Let your heart, sweet heart, be your compass when you're lost, and you should follow it wherever it may go.” Lady, that’s your compass, not your friend’s. She’s exactly where she wants to be. Everyone is! If she wants advice, she’ll seek it. When will you be ready? —Dr. Gilda

Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for 7 1/2 years and he still hasn't proposed. I moved to a new city to live with him almost two years ago, under the mutual understanding that we would get engaged soon after. I'm feeling as though this relationship is very one-sided, as I always seem to be the one making compromises.

Whenever we discuss why we haven't gotten engaged, he says he’s "just not ready" yet. Although he’s my best friend and we are primarily a happy couple (aside from the usual argument here and there), I find myself resenting him more and more over his lack of commitment. When is it time to move on? How long should you be with someone and wait for a commitment? Did I make a mistake moving for someone who hadn't committed yet? —Frustrated Girlfriend

Dear Frustrated,

It’s always a “mistake” to leave your life behind for an evasive promise. Your boyfriend’s got what he wants. Yet, beyond the heat, a couple’s values must be in sync. In the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” long-term couples argue vehemently when religious mores suddenly arise. They thought they knew each other well! It takes a hip pastor to provide perspective: “To the wrong person, you’ll never have any worth. But to the right one, you’ll mean everything.”

Girl, your resentment is building because you feel devalued by a man you thought you knew. Let this crisis become your impetus for insight. As soon as you accept you’re worth more than to beg for love, you may decide this is the wrong person for you! —Dr. Gilda

Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Send them in!

Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.

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