My friend recently came out, and while it wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, suddenly she’s this hard-core advocate for LGBT issues. Most of her friends are already pretty liberal so she’s just been nonstop preaching to the choir — a really annoyed choir who just wants to order the damn pizza already, Sara! I’m really happy for her, and I know she’s super proud now that she’s finally out so I don’t want her to think that I’m suddenly uncomfortable around her, but she is becoming seriously draining and I can’t figure out how to tell her without sounding insensitive. What should I do?
Cheri Travis, Licensed Professional Counselor
It’s great that you and all her friends accept her whole-heartedly and want the best for her, but here’s the deal — underneath all her bravado and "save the whales" talk, she's terrified. Terrified she will lose her friends and family, terrified about this huge shift in lifestyle, terrified she’ll lose her old identity — and that’s probably why she’s clinging to this new one. So, not only is she entitled to this transition, she’s earned it. How would you feel if she asked you to shut up about something that’s important to you?
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Friendships are just like romantic relationships, they're a delicate balance of honesty and keeping our mouths shut. Sara needs both now; she needs to be accepted unconditionally for coming out and beginning to live her truth. But, she also needs to be gently pushed to address the sadness and fear attached to this huge life change, even if they only true difference is that she's labeled herself. Use your humor to lighten the situation when needed. But, also challenge her to deal with the hard stuff. She’ll love you more for it and the pizza parties will be less political.
Routh Chadwick, Licensed Master Social Worker
I certainly understand where you’re coming from, but first I would suggest that you cut your friend some slack. The reason I say that is that coming out can be one of the most challenging things a person has do. While her sexual orientation might not be a surprise to you, the process she went through to come to terms with it and then summon the courage to tell was something a heterosexual person probably cannot imagine.
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Coming out can be a very stressful event (and, one that never really ends, as you're always meeting new people). It is a unique process for everyone but many people find it relieves their anxiety to throw themselves into the cause. My guess is that she will calm down after the newness of it has passed and she feels more comfortable in her identity. If she does continue to, as you say, drain you and your friends, perhaps you could start by offering your support. Something like, “I know this has been quite a challenging process, and you’ve done it, and we have your back no matter what (we always have).” That can help her feel supported and secure in your friendship so she knows she doesn’t need to keep preaching to the choir. If the subtle approach doesn’t work, then you can be more direct, “We are so happy for you that you are living your truth now, but we would love to hear about the other parts of your life too.” Clearly you are a very supportive friend, so it might just be that a little more patience is needed as Sara navigates this new terrain.