From The Straits Times    |


One of the best things about being in a relationship is spending time with your close friends with your partner in tow. These are the people you have chosen as your nearest and dearest and you have shared so much with them over the years – both good and bad. It’s amazing that you get to bring your partner with you to BBQs and parties or even weekend coffee sessions at times. Sure, you still have your girly catch-ups with them on your own but it’s nice that your friend circle and romantic life overlap in some ways.

However, it doesn’t always turn out like this. When you meet a new partner, it could be the case where your friends don’t like them. Or, perhaps, they just don’t get along, for no specific reason. Your friends might make it obvious by dropping hints or they might tell you outright how they feel about him.

Jean XM Chen, counsellor and director at Relationship Matters, explains that your friends might have stronger comments or reactions than usual when you talk about your partner. They might also have worried or doubtful expressions when you mention your relationship issues and repeatedly ask you to be careful and take good care of yourself.

“I was dating a new guy and he met my close friend after a couple of months,” Denyse*, 34, recalls. “She was civil to him but not exactly friendly. And he didn’t like her as she came across as territorial. She told me he wasn’t the right fit for me. She knew I was looking for something long-term but felt he only wanted a casual hook-up.

“I told her it was too new for me to think beyond the next few months but she still thought I shouldn’t waste my time. It affected our friendship for a bit but we broke up a few months later and everything was back to normal and we never spoke much about him again,” she adds.

Fitri’s* friends thought her new guy was ‘boring’ as she has an outgoing personality and he’s a homebody. “I’m sporty and have a large circle of friends and he’s quite ‘geeky’ and his best friend is his brother,” shares the 32-year-old. “I tried to tell them we complement each other and that we don’t have to share the same interests.

“My friends thought I ‘could do better’. They get along okay with him but I do feel less stressed if I don’t bring him with me when I meet friends. We’re still together now, three years later, so they haven’t quite ‘won’ yet. We’ve just all learnt to get along and let us be,” she says.

Could it be a red flag?

While we’re all for girl power and sticking with the sisterhood no matter what, it can certainly be uncomfortable when your friends don’t get along with your man. After all, how do you take sides in a situation like this?

Also, it can be hard to tell if it’s just personality clashes or even jealousy (don’t discount this). Or it could be the case where they really liked your ex and can’t accept you dating someone else, especially if your previous relationship was a long one.

However, it could also turn out to be a huge red flag if your friends don’t like your partner. After all, your close friends are meant to want the best for you and surely they would want you to be with your partner if you’re happy? Or are you not seeing something they can? Jean advises that if they suggest that you leave this relationship or disallow some of your partner’s behaviour towards you, it should be considered more seriously.

And, although the happiness of your relationship doesn’t depend on whether or not your friends like your partner, it could have a negative snowball effect on it.

Jean shares that you will have fewer issues that weigh on your relationship if your close friends support it. If they dislike your partner, they may feel rejected or threatened, have reciprocal negative feelings towards your friends and hope that you won’t hang out with them.

“You may then not feel good about hanging out with your friends as you’ll be concerned about what your partner is going to say,” she elaborates. “And when you are home, you may be afraid to share with them your conversations with your friends even though you hope to share everything important about your life with them.

“You may also be concerned about what your friends would say or think of your partner if you were to share your relationship problems with them,” she adds. “Your friends may also feel rejected when you don’t seem to heed their advice repeatedly and the friendship gradually drifts apart. If your friends start to keep their distance because of your relationship, you may gradually resent your partner for it too.”

Help them understand your partner better

Your personality could decide how you deal with such a situation. For example, if you’re used to having frank, no-holds-barred chats with your friends, you might want to take the confrontational approach and ask them what’s on their mind.

Jean suggests sharing more about your relationship so that your friends could possibly see where you’re coming from.

“As our friends would prioritise our happiness in their conversations with us regarding our relationship, we can help them better understand our partners by helping them experience the happiness we gain from the relationship,” she says. “We not only mention the good parts of the relationship but also express the happiness we feel. In this way, our close friends can be less worried about us being unfairly treated in the relationship.”

Another way is to organise social gatherings for everyone to get to know each other better. If your partner senses animosity from your friends, help your partner understand that it could be because your friends don’t know them well and take responsibility for not providing a full picture of your partner to your friends, says Jean.

A word of caution from Jean, though: if your friends mention a negative behaviour that you are also concerned about yourself (eg. your partner being overly friendly with their colleagues), it may be good to let your partner know that you are not comfortable with this behaviour and hope for them to stop – without mentioning that your friends agree with you.

“This is because mentioning it conveys more of an ‘I am right and you are in the wrong’ message and that ‘you should stop because everyone else says so’, rather than you relaying your underlying feelings of hurt, worry and intention for a closer relationship,” she adds.

Fitri’s friends now get along better with her boyfriend and, although she hasn’t forgotten what they told her when she started dating him, she understands they were only looking out for her. “He has come out of his shell a bit so is able to chat more with my friends now,” she says. “They’ve also realised I was right about us being a good fit as we’re still together. I know they were being concerned even though it didn’t always come across that way but we’re all over it now and there’s no tension at all, thankfully.”

*not her real name