Q - During a row at the weekend I let it slip that I don’t like my partner’s male friends – and he was really hurt by that. I don’t see why I have to like them or have them in my life. They’re not my type of people and I feel judged by them - as if I don’t match up to his ex, and how pretty and perfect she was (she left him by the way).
Do you think it matters that I don’t like his friends or want to socialise with them?
A - Nowhere does it say that we must like, or be compatible with, everyone - and we all have the right to choose with whom we associate. However when it’s our partner’s social network that becomes trickier.
It’s said that we can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.
He has invested time in building and maintaining this social network because on some level he wants or needs them to be a part of his life.
He may see your rejection of them as being a negative judgement of him – or rather the part of him that’s chosen to become attached to them.
He may want to re-evaluate some of his friendships along the way but that’s his choice.
Perhaps some of his friendships have become just habits or duties by now, and if so, he needs to look at these with fresh eyes. In fact your comments might set this in motion for him.
Imagine how you would feel if he said the same thing to you about your friends (I assume he hasn’t)… and what you’d want and need from him, to clarify things and to better understand one another’s point of view.
I’m also wondering:
Do any of his friends whom you dislike remind you of someone else from your own past?
Perhaps your strong dislike comes from a different relationship that you are now projecting onto someone new in the present time.
Have you had this issue arise in your previous relationships?
Maybe you feel some jealousy towards his friends for the time they have with him.
Is the issue of you being unfavourably compared to someone else familiar to you from your past?
I’m not saying that any of these are the case – just that it’s worth looking at them as a possibility.
The facts and truth need to be exposed – and written down to help to clarify them.
How have his friends behaved towards you and what exactly has been said or implied about you compared to his ‘ex’?
Was he a witness to any of that?
Discuss this, and share your feelings about it with him – without blaming anyone or calling names or making negative comments about them.
He will be feeling defensive of his friends and might not hear what you want to say if he thinks that you’re putting them down.
The bottom line is – he chooses whom to have and keep as his friends; you can make up your own mind who you associate with. You can make your own arrangements to avoid spending time with people you feel uncomfortable with.
Or alternatively, you could stick it out and learn how to stay feeling OK when you’re in their company - by being more honest and assertive – and gently challenging anything which is said or done to you which feels negative.
Is your relationship with him worth a bit of effort to sort this part of it out?
There will then no doubt be something else between you that needs attention and consideration – such is the way of relationships when two lives come together and bring other people along with them, whether family or friends.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR