Friend in troublesome relationship

Dear Annie: Last fall, my friend “Olive” and her boyfriend of five years, “John,” broke up. Of course, I wasn’t happy to see her going through the tough emotions that come with any breakup, but man, I sure was happy to see that guy out of the picture. He was a jerk. He cheated on her multiple times and hardly let her see her friends. The rare times she got to see any of her friends, John would text her after an hour (sometimes less), saying it was getting late and she should come home. He would even come pick her up sometimes if she didn’t respond. Anyway, I was practically doing Snoopy dances when they ended things in November, and our mutual friends felt the same way.

For about six months afterward, Olive was way more social than she had been. She spent more time with friends and started taking a class at the local community college. In short, she seemed to be living her best life. She even started seeing another guy about three months ago. He was incredibly sweet and head over heels for her.

I think you can guess by now where this letter is headed. About a month ago, Olive started flaking on our plans at the last minute and texting less frequently. Last week, she texted me that she and John were back together. She’d moved back in to his place already and everything.

Annie, I’m so frustrated by this news, but I’m not sure what to do. I’m supposed to see Olive next weekend (provided she doesn’t flake). I don’t want to give her a hard time, but I also don’t want to pretend I think it’s fine she’s back with John. Whenever he cheated on her in the past, she would tell me things such as, “All men cheat. They can’t help it.” It seems obvious she’s just trying to rationalize his behavior. I don’t want to nod along when she says that stuff, but I don’t want to get into an argument with her about it, either. How can I help her see things clearly? — Wanting to Be a Good Friend

Dear Wanting to Be a Good Friend: Olive and John’s relationship sounds unhealthy at best and abusive at worst. I completely understand your frustration, but try your best to be patient. If this is an abusive relationship, then it’s important for her to know she’s got a friend standing by to offer support when she finally is ready to leave. You might try inviting her to more group outings instead of making one-on-one plans. That way, you won’t be too put out if she cancels, and she’ll know she’s still part of the group.

For more information on helping friends in abusive relationships, visit Click the “Get Help” tab, and view the page “Help for Friends and Family.”

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to