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How to Deal With That Friend Who’s Still a Bad Influence

From the drug fiend to the strip-club aficionado

On one hand, you need your debaucherous friends to pull you out of the drudgery of adult life and remind you that you’re not yet completely dead behind the eyes. On the other, let’s be real — some of those friends are still complete maniacs.

The key, of course, is to keep these people in your life while avoiding ending up in the back of a cop car. To find out how to maintain this delicate balance, we talked to David Bennett, a certified counselor and purveyor of The Popular Man, a website dedicated to helping men find success and happiness in relationships. “Your friends will always try to push the boundaries and want you to give in,” says Bennett. “So up front, you’ve got to set proper boundaries based on your values, and assertively enforce them.”

In other words, give yourself an exit and set a few ground rules before the bad habits start.

Is this cool? No.

Is this necessary? Probably.

In the meantime, let’s get a little more specific on each major type of problem pal…

The Drinker

Everyone knows one guy who’s still pounding beers and shots like it’s his first semester in college. When sucked into his drunken orbit, it’s hard to resist the goading to drink a little more, and then a little more… and a little more… and a little more… At which point, you’re wasted and fully on board with his brilliant idea to get annihilated. According to Bennett, to avoid this happening every time you’re together, “You should insist that you’ll hang out with him until a certain time you agree on, and that you’re Ubering home when you’re ready to go.”

If you both agree while still sober that the night ends at 10 p.m., there’s only so much trouble you can get in before then, and hopefully, you’ll still be sober enough to stick to your guns.

The Gambler

As with any other trip to a casino, says Bennett, “Set yourself a hard dollar amount limit, and if needed, come up with a reason — say, ‘My rent is due and I’m not losing more than $50.’” If you hit that limit and your friend is still staring wild-eyed at the roulette-wheel, head off to one of the many other attractions casinos offer as part of their obvious attempt to keep you in the building. That way, you can still be involved in the night, but without setting your money on fire.

Serial Flirter

A night out with a friend who’s brimming with so much confidence he can’t not flirt can be fun at first, but it can also get real uncomfortable, real fast if you’re trying to stick to that whole monogamy thing: “Oh great, so these women are coming to our table now?” Bennett explains that it’s vital to get in front of all flirting before it happens: “Insist that while you’ll hang out with him and have fun, you’re not going to take part in any activity that you know will compromise his relationship or yours.”

You don’t need to Mike Pence the situation, but you should be assertive about what will happen if your values are compromised — including leaving the situation altogether. Theoretically, since they’re your friends and supposedly there to hang out with you, they should respect your concerns and not introduce you to every woman at the bar — or expect you to be their wingman until 3 a.m.

The Strip Club ‘Aficionado’

If your friend is planning ahead of time to make a night out of the strip club — and strip clubs aren’t your thing — maybe just find another night altogether to hang out. “It’s pretty easy to be ‘busy’ the night your buddy decides to go to the strip club, and hang out with him another night,” Bennett says.

But if he always ends up wanting to hit up the club after a night of drinking — similar to the boozehound friend and the flirter — give yourself an out and stick with it. “Just be honest and say that, while you had fun hanging out, you aren’t going to the club, or simply tell them you have to get up early the next day,” advises Bennett.

If he’s a serial strip-clubber, he’ll eventually figure out that it’s not your thing and stop expecting you to go.

The Drug Fiend

Being friends with a drug “enthusiast” is tough: It’s likely you’ve moved on from their drug of choice — whether it was getting high with them every day or indulging in epic weekend coke binges — while their life still revolves around it. Bennett suggests it might be best to just avoid this friend altogether, unless you can be very clear — and very strict — about your boundaries ahead of time. “Many friendships often don’t go deeper than enjoying bad habits together,” says Bennett, “So if two people became good friends based on common bad habits, and one kicks the habit, it may be very difficult to remain friends.”

In short, boundaries are your friend here. Maybe more so than your actual friend.