Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Have any of you ever found yourselves dating someone new and before you know it, you’ve been together for a few months? It’s like, you blink and all of a sudden you have a standing coffee date, you frequently make weekend plans that involve him or her, and if you haven’t already had the “talk” it’s either because you know you guys are official or the topic has been happily looming over your heads and you know for sure it’s only a matter of time. This is a great feeling! Mostly.
Sure the plans, the moony-eyes you make at each other, the awesome warm-fuzzies you get when thinking about the future, those are all awesome! But what happens when it’s time to bring your puppy-eyed love around the ‘other’ people in your life. You know…the ones whose phone calls and texts you don’t respond to quite as quickly; the ones who get on your case about ‘disappearing’ on them. Deep down, they love you and they totally understand (I hope), after all, they are your friends and family!
For some, this post will mean absolutely nothing, for others, they will 100% relate when I say that introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to your family and friends can be nerve-wracking, exciting, and feel like a “make or break” moment in your relationship. Whether you are close with your family or feel bonded with your friends, for many of us, when we introduce a new person to the people who (supposedly) know us best, we want everything to be perfect! You want your new boo to stand out from the rest. Is he funny? Of course! Is she really really smart? Heck yes! And we want all of that to shine through the moment we bring this person into the lives of our ‘others’.
I would wager to guess that, much of the time, we have friends and family who are nothing but supportive of our new relationships and want to see them do well. Mom & dad will do their best to get along and not embarrass you , near & dear friends will want to make him feel like one of their own, and before you know it, he/she is invited over for Thanksgiving. But this post really isn’t about what to do when things go well; unless you’d like me to tell you, but I think it’s pretty obvious where you go from there no?
No, this post deals with some of the ways in which our friends and family can have a negative impact on a new relationship and what some of my wifeys (& gents) might be able to do to diffuse or counteract a potentially bad situation.
You might be asking yourself:
Okay, Ms. Renai, what if my family and friends hate my girlfriend/boyfriend?
Hate is such a strong word, isn’t it? Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but I genuinely think that we all would benefit from trying to eliminate (or at the very least reduce) this word from our vocabulary. How many things in this life do we actually, genuinely hate? How many of us have actually felt this emotion toward another human being? I’d like to think that I’ve only ever seriously hated 1 or 2 people in my entire life, and I really should start using better words to describe my discontent…but I digress. Where was I? Ah yes!
If you are a person who cares about the opinion of your family and friends, the first question to ask both yourself and your posse is “why”?
Sometimes, nerves, tensions and personalities just clash upon the first meeting. Did your girlfriend make an off-color joke that someone took offense to? Did your boyfriend say how much he hates Republicans in front of your Donald-Trump supporting father? If the problem is arising from a slip of the tongue or a misinterpreted gesture, relax! You know your significant other (likely) didn’t mean to offend and you can be a HUGE part of the damage control process that will need to take place! Do your best to remind your friends and family that they cannot define a person by one comment or belief. If the rest of the time they spent together went well, encourage them to focus on the positives and remind them that everyone’s sense of humor and beliefs do not have to be the same.
Many times, instances like this can be avoided when we prepare our partners with information about our friends and family members that will help them navigate what to say (& what not to say) during that initial encounter. When I brought my fiancé to meet my family for the first time, I prepared him for the best and the worst. I also made sure my family knew what topics would be considered “taboo” for a first encounter and things (for the most part) went really really well.
While a bad meeting isn’t ever 100% your fault, ask yourself if you have prepared all sides for the meeting. I’m not in any way suggesting that this doesn’t have to be casual or relaxed, but I have often found that even something as simple as saying “Yeah, my dad is an ex-Military Vet so he has a lot of opinions about gun control” or “All of my friends are English Majors, like me” could go a long way in changing the conversation and giving your partner clues about the people he/she will be exposed to. Be open to your partner about the other people in your life and don’t leave your friends and family in the dark about your new love!
Communicate! (see, I told you this fun word would be coming up again and again)
Alright, now onto the harder stuff.
By now some of you might be thinking:
Wait a sec! My boyfriend/girlfriend didn’t just say something offensive or make a bad joke. I thought everything went fine only to find out later that my friends and/or family still dislike him/her! What now?
This can be a little trickier and will (once again) boil down to how much the opinions of others matter to you and how well you know yourself and your partner.
Sometimes, this can still be explained in terms of a weird miscommunication. I once had a friend whose boyfriend’s best friend couldn’t stand her. She met him at a dinner party and thought everything had gone really well. They talked, they got along, and even made plans to get together with his girlfriend in the near future. Later, when she found out that the best friend didn’t like her, she couldn’t help but dig around to find out why; it had honestly hurt her feelings. To make a long story short, it was later revealed that based on a conversation he (the friend) overheard at dinner, he was under the impression that she was a spoiled gold-digger who was only after his buddy for his money (he made a nice income for a man in his early 20s). This could not have been farther from the truth and once my friend and her (now husband) were able to clarify the context, everyone was able to get along.
Unfortunately, their “hatred” went on for months and impacted her relationships with some of her husband’s other friends. While it was able to be repaired, the point here is that your friends and family are going to judge your partner and his/her character based on this one snapshot in time. You never know what can be misinterpreted or misunderstood and alot if left to chance when new people meet up for the first time. In the stories I have heard and the things I have read, 8 times out of 10, a person’s friends or family make an incorrect assumption about a new significant other that puts a negative damper on a developing relationship.
If confronted with a situation like this, it is very important to try to be a bridge to unify both sides. Do some investigating to find out why your friends and family don’t like the person you love. I can promise that, much of the time, it is because they haven’t had enough time to get to know your love the way you do. If your family thinks he is dumb, but you know he had to drop out of school for reasons that are none of their business, be the bridge! If your friends think she is stuck up, but you know she is really shy when it comes to meeting new people, be the bridge! If everyone thinks she is a party girl or too “wild” for you, but you know she’s actually a really serious student with goals of becoming a dentist, be the bridge!
Not everyone is going to like everything about your partner, but it is just as much your job to facilitate getting along as it is their job to listen when you are trying to mend fences.
…still, there is something we haven’t addressed.
Okay, Ms. Renai. So I tried asking questions, I tried being ‘the bridge’; point blank, my friends and/or family just can’t stand my girlfriend/boyfriend? I don’t get it!
Okay, stop! Let’s talk about it! (hehe)
There are a few things that need to happen in this case (or in a case when your girlfriend/boyfriend inexplicably or illogically hates your family and friends).
If you are someone who is really close to your family and friends, then you might have to face some uncomfortable truths about your partner. Are these people you trust? Are these people who know you? Then maybe you have to consider that this new person in your life is bringing on some bad vibes or has done/said some really inappropriate or hurtful things to stir the pot.
It is possible that the people closest to you can see things that you can’t. If you trust your friends and family, you should at least listen to what they have to say and make the most informed decision about your relationship. I, for example, love my fiancé with all of my heart, but I know it would have been hard for me to continue dating him if he couldn’t get along with my family. When we were first dating, I knew that the real test would be to know how my parents felt about him. My parents are my closest friends and knew me better than anyone (at that time). If they saw something I didn’t, or felt a certain way about him, it wouldn’t have been a ‘deal breaker’ persay, but I would have proceeded with our relationship cautiously; they have NEVER steered me wrong before and they have respect for me. They wouldn’t call attention to an “issue” with him unless it was serious.
My fiancé has said similar things, also feeling like it would be hard for him to be with someone his sisters didn’t like. When we are close to our family and friends and we place a high level of trust in them, it does NOT mean we let them choose our relationships (everyone makes mistakes). However, it does mean that if they smell something fishy, we should stop and observe the (potential) red flags.
On the flip side, if you are close to your family and friends but know yourself and know your significant other, then you can likely continue to chalk the “beef” up to the misunderstandings I mentioned before. There is likely some huge communication problems going on here or some judgments being made that either aren’t true or do not matter; ie: your parents don’t want you dating someone outside of your race or religion, or your friends think he/she is too ‘serious’ for you. With time, many of these problems sort themselves out. Try to remember that your family and friends love you and want to see you happy. If you continue with a relationship that is fulfilling and nourishing to your soul, they will see that and (most of them) will come around. Patience and open communication is key.
&…Counseling never hurts either (cough). 😉
Lastly, for those of us who have a boyfriend or girlfriend who cannot stand our friends and family, for me (and this is only my opinion here) this is a HUGE red flag.
Look, we are made up of the people who have raised us. We are defined by our experiences and the sum of several parts that make up the whole of who we are. Unless you also hate your family and/or you know full-well that you have jerk-off friends, most of the time, a partner who loves you doesn’t have to down the people you love. Do I like every single friend my fiancé has?
…well…so far, yes!
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t one or two that I might be less thrilled to see again in the future. In those cases, I would NEVER and should NEVER say “I hate your friend ________” or “I hate your sister _________ because”. It’s nasty, it’s rude, and it isn’t very considerate of the person you are with.
Think about it this way, if you are really really close to your mom and dad or your best friend from high school and they don’t like your new boyfriend/girlfriend, how would they go about telling you? People you love want to respect your feelings. With the exception of someone who is doing real harm, I would wager to guess that your friends/family wouldn’t say anything at all about their negative feelings toward your partner, and if they did, it would be with good intent. “He seems like a nice guy, but does it bother you that he doesn’t always tell the truth about where he is?” Or “Maybe she was joking, but last night at the bar she said she hated Mexican people. Is that just her sense of humor or…?”
Haha, I know those are some weird exaggerations to prove a point, but I think you catch my drift. In the same way that you expect your mom and pops to respect your feelings, a significant other should not be attempting to isolate or turn you against your friends and family (unless those people are really hurting you). A significant other should not comment on your parents, siblings, and good friends in any way that isn’t respectful and open minded.
This might seem very black and white, and believe me, I know that there are some circumstances that do not fit nicely into this little post. I know that sometimes you love your man and woman and nothing you do will ever make your parents approve. I know that sometimes you feel the strain when your boyfriend and best friend just can’t seem to find a common ground, but what is most important is…YOU! This is NOT about choosing sides or being correct and it is NOT about anyone else’s feelings (in the grand scheme). You must ask yourself how YOU will get along if and when everyone else isn’t. You must ask yourself who you trust in and/or how much you care about outside opinions and it related to your relationship/romantic life.
At the end of the day, you have to be happy and do what feels best for your heart. Can family and friends make or break your relationship? Of course! But we don’t always have to let them, do we? 😉
Until Next Week,
Carry on Wifeys!
Love Ms. Renai