by Kerry Hart, LLMFT
You can tell a lot about a person by who their friends are. Similar personality types tend to attract one another, and often friendships begin when someone is drawn to another’s likeness or commonality. Friendships are important to recognize in a personal relationship, for if your partner has friends whom you do not care for, you may want to confront the issue. It is important to examine your partner’s friends as an extension of themselves, as opposed to obstacles you need to remove from your life. Ensure the situation is approached maturely by following the tips listed below.
Examine what commonalities your partner shares with the friends for which you experience distaste. Are these also traits you abhor in your partner? Do you even notice these qualities in your partner? While personalities and friendships can certainly change over time, there is a common thread that keeps these people in your partner’s life, and it’s critical to discover that thread. Should it be a personality trait you do not care for, you may want to reexamine your relationship and ask yourself if this person is the right partner for you.
An excellent tool for this type of conflict is reliable communication. Before approaching your partner about your distaste for their friends, start by asking how they met in the first place. Did they spark conversation over common interests? Or were they childhood friends that met in their neighborhood, making this person geographically convenient? Friendships can last due to a loyalty factor in certain cases. Perhaps they met in kindergarten and have been friends for so long there is almost a guilt factor that keeps this person in your partner’s life. This situation will reflect less on your partner than if the friendship is based on shared interests.
Make the effort to understand that as people go through various stages in their lives they will often embrace different priorities over time. It is probable a person would not have the same interests in the 4th grade that they would have in their 30’s. A mutual love of video games that grinds your gears may not be as much of a connection once these friends turn into adults, get married, and have children. As people grow, they often can grow apart without valid effort to keep the friendship alive. In this case, you may not need to mention your distaste for your partner’s friends at all. As your lives change, your friendships may change as well, and those drinking buddies from college that include late nights, for example, may eventually fade away as priorities change.
If you feel it is necessary to share your concerns, understand your partner may not enjoy this conversation. Remember, everyone is entitled to their feelings and opinions, just as you are entitled to not like a particular friend or two. I encourage you to stay as calm as possible in this conversation to keep the focus on your feelings as opposed to becoming entangled in what could turn into a heated argument. Your partner may feel the need to defend their friend even if they know what you are saying is true. Be patient in this instance. Keep in mind the purpose of this conversation is to express your feelings and not to make decisions for your partner.
At the end of the day, you do not control over whom your partner chooses to befriend. After what could be an uncomfortable conversation, you may end up agreeing to disagree. Perhaps your partner’s time with that friend will become only time for the two of them together. When this friend comes into town, plan a night out with your friends rather than sitting at home, stewing over unanswered text messages. While it is important for your partner to respect your opinion, it is also important to respect theirs. Should they hear your concerns and choose to keep this person in their life, you may need to accept it. Accepting your partner’s friends can often translate into accepting your partner for who they are, and that can only help your relationship grow.
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids.