Romance is great but strange things can sometimes happen when you bring your old friends and your new squeeze together. Suddenly the people who always had your back, the one’s who always wanted the best for you, now have a hard time adjusting.
You’re buzzing. There’s a new partner in your life and you can’t wait to show them off. Finally the time comes and you’re all smiles – then flop, not only does your best friend or your other friends give your partner a cool reception, they positively don’t seem to like him or her. What’s going on?
Gains and Losses
If you’re one of the lucky one’s then maybe the picture I’ve just painted won’t happen to you. It is however all too common. Let’s unpick some of the dynamics:
First, your best friend may worry about being snubbed. After all, they may have known you for years and then suddenly the person of your affections has arrived. Your friend may be thinking they’ve been replaced as your confidant and your advisor. Suddenly they are number two in the pecking order. They realise that the time you spent together and the things you did are all about to change.
But there may be another side, which is that your best friend feels they have your best interests at heart. Perhaps they feel or know something about your partner that makes them uneasy on your behalf. You may be blinded by your feelings whereas they see things more dispassionately. It’s tricky for your friend but if they’re really looking out for you they’ll find a way to say it without pushing you further away.
Your other friends may be a different proposition. The thing about friendship groups is they change over time and very often they simply break up because of other priorities. The characteristics we look for in a friend may be quite different to those we seek in a partner. Let’s say you’re the first in your group to find romance. You immediately change the make up of the group by trying to add a new person into it, or you spend less time with it. How do they feel about this? It doesn’t matter whether your friends are male, female or mixed, the fact is there is an emotional tie between you.
At one level you have provided each other with a big distraction from a possibly dull existence. You’ve laughed together, shared pain, given advice, offered a shoulder when it was needed. It’s not surprising that they will feel upset when all this investment is under threat. They don’t know how or whether the group will survive. Even if it does it can never be the same. As tough as it sounds they are more invested in keeping you single.
This may not be so marked if you’re not the first to have a relationship outside of the friendship group. If this is the case it’s likely the group have found ways of accommodating change. This is a sign of a mature friendship group where it is known and accepted that personal lives need to flourish. It’s more likely that your romance will be welcomed and even encouraged.
Letting go isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s little more than habit that traps us into ways of thinking and behaving. We had a power cut recently and between three of us we tried to switch on the lights, boil a kettle, put on a laptop and charge a smartphone. Getting out of habits when change is sudden takes a bit of readjusting to, but the penny drops eventually. Habits and attachments have certain things in common, but change is inevitable and will almost certainly influence some of our most ingrained patterns of thinking and behaving.
The more resilient friendship groups are a bit like families in that they will allow and accommodate new people. If of course your background is more unstable, or you’ve had previous relationships that have caused problems to either you or the friendship group, it stands to reason they will be more wary.
So far the discussion has all been about how your romance affects your friends and friendship group, but what about the other way around? What can you do if you sense you’re on the receiving end of frosty stares and clipped responses when the shoe is on the other foot?
The reasons for your frosty response are quite possible the same as those mentioned previously. Should you ignore it or take it on? Here’s a few thoughts on the matter:
- don’t worry too much about the first couple of encounters. Settling in takes time but if things don’t settle then there’s no harm in mentioning what you’re experiencing and how it’s making you feel. Don’t make a big deal out of it, simply mention it because you’re concerned.
- if things don’t improve, don’t let it drop. If your partner is brushing your concerns aside rather than taking them seriously, you’ll need to keep up gentle pressure. It might be convenient for your partner to ignore things rather than confront them, but this doesn’t mean you should be a pushover.
- be careful about your own manners. If you give ammunition by virtue of what you say or do it can very quickly result in a slanging match where neither party will give way. If you’ve been polite, friendly and have done your best then there’s no comeback.
- stay positive and maybe put some ideas into the mix that will be fun for everyone. If their friend or friends see you’re up for fun then it can quickly turn things around.
- don’t go for ultimatums if you can possibly avoid it. The ‘it’s either them or me’ approach leaves a sour taste in any romance. If your partner truly can’t see damage is occurring and hasn’t done anything then perhaps you need to think more about whether his or her lack of concern about the issue is worth you fighting for.
We can’t force people to like us or each other but sometimes it can come down to being a little candid with your friends. What’s wrong with asking them to give the new person a chance, or maybe make a little effort? Also consider whether there is something you can do. After all, it’s you that’s introducing the new person and causing the change, so maybe you can up things a notch. When you see your friends, put in some effort and don’t forget those important dates or anniversaries. Your new romance is important to you, but so too are your friends. So while it’s fine to bring your partner along sometimes, you should also demonstrate that the group is important in its own right, and go alone.