By Hayley Krischer
The truth is out: You don't like some of your partner's friends. Maybe they're messy drunks who keep drawing your wife down their negative, drama-filled path. Or maybe they're self-admitting sexists who tell crass, demeaning jokes whenever you're around (jokes your husband laughs off). You’d like to draw a big X over these people's names, but your partner is completely loyal to them and gets defensive whenever you suggest that said people be phased out of your lives. “You don’t get to choose my friends,” your partner says. Or, “We have a history together.” Or, “You just don’t understand them.” What to do?
According to some experts, the solution to this common relationship issue is a little thing called... acceptance. After all, no matter how you feel about your partner's pals, the fact remains that these bozos are a part of your life. You'll have to mingle with them sometimes (yes, even the ones who are more hideously annoying than fingernails on chalkboard, like the two types described above). “At the end of the day, if someone wants to be in a relationship with someone they love, having a relationship with their friends on some level is important,” says California-based psychologist Andra Brosh, Ph.D.
Behavioral scientist and dating expert Christie Hartman, Ph.D., agrees. “Ultimately, if you choose to have the relationship, you have to accept that [your partner] is friends with them,” she says.
Feel like it's time to learn a little acceptance and support your partner in his/her relationships? You can start by putting these excuses to rest:
But... my partner's friends don't like me. Since you're not a mind reader, let’s not assume this is true. Instead, let's rephrase it: You don't feel comfortable around them -- and that's more workable. “[Don't] let an insecurity be an excuse for not trying to connect with them,” advises Hartman. You don’t suddenly have to become BFFs. Simply suggest to your partner that he/she help bridge the gap. Or try practicing compassion. “Even if someone is incredibly annoying or obnoxious, it always comes from an insecure place,” observes Brosh. So try to look beyond the outrageous behavior. Who knows? Maybe these people are just socially awkward. Try not to take it personally.
But... they're bad influences. Your first step in this case, according to Hartman? Taking a good, hard look at your partner. Is she becoming a messy drunk? Is he starting to act disrespectful? Birds of a feather don't always flock together: As long as your partner stays true-blue, staying mum about his/her friends is the path of least resistance. “The worst thing you can do is try to get [your partner] to see his friends for what they are, which forces him to go to their defense -- and his own defense for liking them,” says Hartman. That said, you can express your dislike of your parther's friends' behaviors, and explain why you feel that way. And try not to avoid these people altogether. “By refusing to socialize, you force your partner to choose,” notes clinical psychologist, Joseph Burgo, Ph.D.
But... they're idiots. The trick here is to handle your feelings in the most nonjudgmental way possible, says Hartman, because it’s counterproductive to call them idiots. "To insult a partner's friends is to insult your partner," she says. "It's rude and counterproductive."
Brosh agrees. "A healthy, evolved person chooses friends that inspire, support and share the same values on some level," she notes. "Calling someone’s friends 'idiots' is a direct criticism of the person who has those friendships." Her advice? Come from a place of curiosity. Try to understand what it is about these friendships that your partner enjoys -- it just might help you shift your "idiot" perspective. "I do think there can be a frank conversation without judgment," Brosh says.
But... they don’t want to know me. If you feel that's the case, "it's hard not to take this personally, particularly if you’re introverted or come from an upbringing where you weren't 'seen' or appreciated," says Brosh. That's why, in this scenario, it's worth discussing the issue with your partner. Say something like, "I’d like you to make more of an effort so your friends can get to know me." By wording it this way, you’re asking your partner to be sensitive to your plight, Brosh says. You're also learning how to insert yourself. This makes the conversation less “Your friends are jealous of me” and more “I want to be part of your life.”
But... all they do is talk about old times when they’re together. Awkward. But keep in mind that it takes time to develop relationships of any depth, says Burgo. You can certainly hint to your partner that he/she incorporate you into conversations on more recent events, so you can participate. But you'll still need to make an effort. “Try to start conversations on general topics or current events -- subjects everyone can discuss,” Burgo suggests.
But... I've tried absolutely everything, and we just don’t click. Well, you do have one ginormous thing in common: You all like your partner. That has to indicate some kind of meeting of the minds, right? However, if you've tried being supportive, communicative, compassionate and inviting, but you still aren’t getting any love back, then take a breather. Hartman's suggestion? Show your support while doing your own thing. Say something like this to your partner: "Go out with your friends. Have a great time! And tell everyone I said hi."