Loser 911: Diagnosis and Treatment

How to survive when your friend is dating a loser

First, let me tell you that I’m very sorry. Because this sucks. It sucks so much. And we’ve all been there. A friend we think is super great starts dating someone who is far from great.

We’re not here to feel sorry for ourselves though. We’re here to figure out how to be a better friend to our friend. And that means learning how to handle the fact that their significant other is the living worst. You know who clearly doesn’t think this significant other is the worst? Your friend, who is probably getting naked with this person, and has chosen, at least for now, to share their life with this person. So buckle up.

Much like handling a break up, handling a shitty significant other has some Core Friendship Competencies.

  1. Always be willing to listen without judgment. When this significant other acts shitty, it won’t be a surprise to you because you know that they are a loser. But you must treat your friend as the smart, capable person you know them to be, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Listen to their problems the same way you would listen to the problems of a friend who is dating someone great.
  2. Never say, “JUST BREAK UP WITH THEM”. This will only push your friend away. If your friend is coming to you again and again with the same problems, ask the simple questions, “Are you still happy with them?” and “So tell me what you like about this person?” Have them remind you why they’re with this loser. And don’t do this in a cruel way. Ask with genuine interest in knowing the answer. If they can’t answer those questions, the reality of that will sink in with them.
  3. Suggest that they communicate more with their significant other. Often, when our friends are dating losers, they will complain endlessly to anyone who will listen about the loser, but won’t ever bring those problems to the table with the loser. Try saying gentle things like, “If this is really bothering you, you should talk to [the loser’s pronoun] about it. [The loser’s pronoun] cares about you, so this should be important to [the loser’s pronoun].”

Let’s take a look at three Common Types of Loser because this will help us to understand why our friend loves them, and also what it is about their behavior that is so toxic.

The Burn Out

What’s sexy about this?

A burn out is lovable because of their potential. We see in them some little light that could make them great, and we think we’re going to nurture that little light and turn it into a fiery passion that will inspire others and change the world. Plus, the burn out needs us. And we all love to feel needed.

What’s awful about this?

They are burnt out. While the burn out fantasy might be lovable, the burn out reality is not. The burn out isn’t interested in nurturing their little light. They’re interested in bumming a light from you, for as long as they possibly can. They do need you. Desperately. But, because of their apathetic attitude toward life, they are unlikely to make you feel as valuable as you are. Ultimately, this relationship will be a lot of work for very little reward.

How to Support Your Friend Who Is Dating A Burn Out, Without Encouraging It

  • Stay neutral when listening
  • Do not engage in over-celebration of the burn out’s tiny successes that by any regular measure would just be them doing normal shit. This does not earn them a Nobel Prize. For example, if they never call your friend when they say they will, don’t throw them a parade because they managed to make a phone call one time. **However, don’t dismiss these achievements either. In the event that this burn out is actually trying to change, these steps are necessary. Give appropriate levels of celebration when necessary.**
  • Try to see the potential your friend sees, and empathize with the disappointment when the burn out doesn’t live up to it
  • Encourage your friend’s passions, because the burn out likely does not
  • Remind your friend to take care of themselves, as they are likely dedicating too much energy to cleaning up after the burn out
  • When they suggest that the burn out could really become something great, find gentle ways to remind your friend that people do not change unless they themselves actively want to.

The Possessive and Manipulative Creep

What’s sexy about this?

Everything is sexy about a manipulator, because if they’re good at it, the person being manipulated has absolutely no idea. Likely they are charismatic, and charming, and they may have a winning sense of humor. Additionally, their possessiveness can feel like being valued and needed. Yum, yum, yum.

What’s awful about this?

Somehow everything is your fault, and you’re not sure why. You are constantly apologizing for doing things for yourself and for feeling your feelings. Sometimes their jokes feel like passive aggressive digs at you, and you find yourself shrinking to try and accommodate their needs.

How to Support Your Friend Who Is Dating A Possessive and Manipulative Creep, Without Encouraging It

  • Validate their feelings, and make sure they understand that their opinions and ideas are important
  • Reassure them that there shouldn’t be guilt involved in taking care of themselves
  • Be an example of someone who values and accepts them as they are
  • Acknowledge that you see the charm and positive sides of this creep when listening, so that your friend is more likely to listen when you point out small manipulations.
  • Point out, without judgment, changes in your friend’s behavior and ask about it. Again, ask with genuine interest, not cruelty. This might get them thinking about the ways they’re changing for this loser, and whether or not they’re okay with it.

The Standoffish Douche

What’s sexy about this?

They don’t seem like they want you! So of course, they are more desirable than ever. Because they give out their approval and interest sparingly, it’s a constant challenge to get the reward, which can be addictive. They seem to have very specific and discerning taste, so being liked by them is highly validating.

What’s awful about this?

Probably you’re never going to feel like you’re succeeding in giving them what they want. They don’t make you feel good about yourself, and you often leave interactions feeling like you missed the mark. More and more you adopt their likes and interests to earn their favor.

How to Support Your Friend Who Is Dating A Standoffish Douche, Without Encouraging It

  • Validate your friend’s worth and interest in things that the douche may not like
  • Be supportive when listening, and avoid saying things like “sounds like he doesn’t like you”, because this is exactly what your friend fears hearing
  • Not to the point of starting conflict or argument, but be willing to speak your mind when the douche is around. See what happens if you’re just yourself without trying to appease, and let your friend see how that interaction plays out.
  • Remind your friend that it’s important to be valued for who they are
  • Gently point out to your friend if they seem to regularly leave interactions with their significant other feeling down

Of course, these three kinds of loser are not the only kinds that exist, and sometimes a person will fit into more than one of these categories. However, these are good starting points, and along with the core competencies you should be prepared to handle a number of types of loser.

The final, and crucial, step to being a better friend when your friend is dating a loser is to find outlets for your own frustration. Whether that’s being able to talk discretely with other friends about what a fucking bummer this person is, or having a quiet rant to yourself about it when you’re alone. It’s important for you to be able to air this out, so that you can go back to your friend with patience and understanding.

I believe in you. You can do this. They may be a loser, but you’re a better friend.


Nicky Davis is a blogger, playwright, and novelist, working and living in Los Angeles. To read more of her work, visit her at www.theconversationalite.com. To get a look inside her brain and life, follow her on Twitter @NickySDavis, or on Instagram @nickydavis13.

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