My boyfriend never seems to want my help. This is especially true for homework: he won’t let me look at his essays or projects, and then doesn’t do well. I respect his pride and desire to be self-sufficient, but it’s difficult to see him struggle when I feel like I can help. Do I just let him fail and not push the matter, or step in to aid his success but wound his self-esteem? -A Helping Hand
Dear Helping Hand,
A few years ago, I had a friend who seemed to make all of the wrong choices in life. She wasn’t picking the right guys and didn’t take school seriously. I remember trying to help her constantly, wondering why she wouldn’t take my advice. Her life would be so much better if she had just listened to me.
One day we were eating and talking about her new beau, and I told her that I couldn’t understand why she was giving him the time of the day. Out of nowhere, she snapped, “I didn’t ask for your advice, Destiny!” After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, she told me that she shared her troubles in life with me because she was friends with me, not because she wanted my advice.
Despite writing an advice column, this experience taught me to be a little liberal with the help that I give. I learned that if people wanted my advice, they would ask for it. If they don’t ask, they just want to vent. This isn’t to say that you should be complacent about your boyfriend’s struggles. I think that if you love a person (or like-like if you aren’t there yet!), you should be able to tell them of their shortcomings.
But you have to be tactful. One last time, say, “Hey, I’m worried about X, Y and Z because it does ABC. Maybe you can do this?” and then drop it. For example, you can say “Hey I’m worried about your grades because you always wanted to be a lawyer and if you don’t do well, you won’t get into a good law school. Maybe you can go to tutoring?” and leave it at that.
It might not seem like you are doing much to help him, but you’ve given him support and offered him a resource to change. You can’t force him to get help, so his success ultimately is on him, not you. Until he gets over whatever is stopping him from getting the help he needs to succeed, I’m afraid you either have to watch him struggle (unless he eventually gets help) or sadly part ways if you can’t stand to see him struggle. I know that sounds harsh, but you can’t force someone to change. Good luck, Helping Hand. I believe in you!
If you want to submit questions for Destiny to provide advice for, feel free to shoot her a message at this form.
For comments/questions about this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @TheWhitOnline.