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When your friends criticize your partner

The Baltimore Sun

There is a special bond between me and my closest girl friends. They know all my stories, they've seen me in compromising situations (and hidden the physical proof) and have helped me get through the roughest times.

But what happens when two of the most important people in your life -- your best friend and your boo -- don't agree?

"The one boyfriend I had that my friends didn't like, my friends had good reason," says Sara Ryan, 24, of Hollins Market.

Her friends tried to persuade her that she should drop the commitment-phobe, but never directly. "It was more like probing," she says -- "'Are you sure you want to be in this relationship?'"

But it's hard to see the light when you're in the flush of love. Ryan eventually saw that her friends were right. But not everyone figures it out before it's too late.

Right before her wedding, Randi Johnson received a letter from one of her friends. In it, her friend said she didn't think that Johnson and her fiance should get married.

"She didn't think he was the right person," says the 25-year-old.

But when Johnson, of Columbus, Ga., didn't heed her friend's warning, trouble brewed.

"It bothered her because she had no control," she says.

And though it ultimately appears that Johnson's pal was right -- her divorce was final the day I talked to her -- their friendship was destroyed.

"Me and her aren't speaking because of that," she says. "If she was really my friend, she would have come and told me to my face."

You have to pick your battles when it comes to friends and lovers. Even if your friend is dating Kevin Federline, you have to consider: Is Federline going to be around for a while or is your friend just slumming it for a while?

"If you're just trying to have a good time, it doesn't matter," says Lindsay Apple, 22, of downtown Baltimore. But if you think they're going to be around for a while, she says, it's best to speak up (and listen).

Andrea Desai of downtown tread carefully with her best friend, even though she knew the boyfriend was no good. "He cheated on her with boys and girls," she says. He even made advances toward Desai.

She kept silent, until it started to get serious.

"She started talking about how she thought he was the one," says Desai, 21. "... I was like, I can't sit by and let her do this."

But even when you tread lightly, there's no guarantee that you'll end up on the side of good. Desai's friend took her boy back when he apologized.

But the friendship wasn't so easily mended. Like with Johnson and her friend, love eventually tore the two apart.

"I was hurt by it, because I was looking out for her best interest," she says.

Sharyl Toscano, an assistant professor of nursing at University of Vermont, has done research on the importance of friends.

In the study, which surveyed 22 high-schoolers about their ideas on dating and negative behavior, she found that it was more likely that girls would make healthy choices if they had a "circle" of friends to rely on.

"I think the teens are starting to learn about dating from their group of friends," she says.

Those who are more isolated were more likely to end up -- and stay -- in abusive or negative relationships, Toscano says.

But that intense reliance on friends fades as we age, says Toscano. We become more firm in our own decisions.

"A healthy relationship would be more independence from their friends," she says.

That doesn't mean that our friends aren't important. They still are the ones who know us best. Like Desai, even when they come bringing news you don't want to hear, it's key to remember that they usually have your best interests at heart.

But in the end, true friends will stay by your side, no matter what. Even if your husband is Kevin Federline.

"If I'm in a relationship [or] she's in a relationship," it doesn't matter, says Crystal Johnson, 30, of West Baltimore. "Nothing is going to come between us."

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