The Trouble With ‘Those Pants Look Great on You’ Friends

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I was recently in a juicy conversation with a new friend named Lori about how she worked her way through a series of life-changing choices in her late 30s , starting with

Lori, who is now in her 50s working as a therapist and writing the follow up to her bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, said she discussed her relationship conundrum with many friends over many months and every one of them told her the same thing: marry him. Even if she didn’t quite see it, they did.

“Every single one said marry him?” I asked.

“Every single one,” she confirmed.

This got us going on the subject of friendship writ large. An upside of friendship, we agreed, is ready compassion, or knowing you have people who will always take your side. That teacher a hard ass. Your mother-in-law unreasonable. You deserve a promotion. In other words, Lori called this kind of auto-affirmation “Idiot Compassion.” I chuckled but she said it’s an actual term for the exchange of simple, soothing, monochromatic feedback that reveals nothing.

So what if the pants doing you any favors?

“That’s what therapists are for,” Lori said.

“Is that the only way?” I asked.

Lori said it’s possible to find friends, if rarely, who can play this role.

Let’s assume we’re talking about something of consequence — like marriage. When years of well-being are hanging in the balance, the truly committed friend will set aside the happy talk for something Lori called Wise Compassion. Skillful, loving honesty that takes the long view, the wide view, the view that may or may not have you cast as the hero is a gift beyond measure. When we find that daring, gentle friend, best to hold on tight.

Lori Gottleib, therapist, author

New York Times bestselling author, host of new podcast: Kelly Corrigan Wonders and PBS show: Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan