"It's not you, it's your friends ..."

By Dr. Jenn Mann
Jul 07, 2021 @ 11:52 am
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How to Deal If You Can't Stand Your Partner's Friends
Credit: Maskot/Getty Images

DEAR DR. JENN,

My boyfriend of two years is an amazing guy. He is smart, successful, and treats me really well. But I hate his friends and who he becomes when he's around them. They have a total frat boy mentality when they get together. I could see a future with this guy, but not with those friends. What should I do? — Friend Hater

DEAR HATER,

It sounds like your boyfriend's friends are relics of a more juvenile past. Perhaps you bring out the best in him and have helped him mature over the last two years. It's always difficult when we have a partner whose friends make us uneasy and bring out the worst in them. This forces us to face sides of our partner that we may want to overlook or are in denial about. No one is perfect, and we all have sides of our personality that we can improve upon.

That said, there are a few things you can do. 

1. Take a deep dive.

Really examine what it is about his friends that you don't like. Do they bring out a fun side of him that you have repressed in yourself? Do you have any unconscious biases against them? I once had an acquaintance who hated one of her girlfriend's close friends after she learned that the friend had helped her girlfriend hide a cheating incident from her ex. My friend was scared that her girlfriend would cheat on her, too. Her issue was really with her girlfriend, not her girlfriend's pal.

2. Don't give ultimatums.

Telling your guy that it's them or you is not a good idea. Even if he chooses you, he will likely feel resentful that you made him abandon his support system, and this high-pressure, controlling approach is likely to backfire in the long run. Not to mention, it shows a lack of respect for his autonomy, which is not healthy for any relationship.

3. See your boyfriend for who he really is.

Birds of a feather tend to flock together. Something about his friends is appealing and comfortable to him. There may be parts of his personality that you are in denial about, and you need to make peace with that part of him or make a decision about your relationship.

4. Talk to your boyfriend about it.

Find a time when the two of you are alone to have a respectful, calm conversation. Look to better understand why these friends are so important to him. What are they fulfilling for him? This insight can help you view them differently and better understand your man.  

5. Encourage him to spend time with them without you.

It is healthy for couples to spend some time apart, and he can use that space to bond with his posse. Don't present this suggestion in a punitive or hostile way (i.e. "Your friends are immature douche bags, go without me!"). Instead, be supportive ("I know how much you love your guys, go bond with them. Have fun!"). 

6. Address boundary issues.

If you are worried that they will encourage him to break agreements in your relationship, talk about what boundaries feel right for both of you, away from his friends. Don't make it about them, though. Focus on putting in place some guidelines you both agree on to avoid future problems.

7. Don't criticize them to their faces.

While it might be fun to tell them what immature imbeciles they are to their faces, that could be perceived as an act of war. Speaking up for yourself by calling out specific instances that upset you is one thing, but a direct confrontation about their personalities is not to your benefit here.

8. Get to know them on a one-to-one basis.

Sometimes a pack mentality brings out the worst in people. Try taking his friends out to coffee, one by one. Everyone has redeeming qualities. You are more likely to discover their strengths in a one-on-one setting when they are not trying to impress each other with frat boy behavior.

9. Find common ground.

Find something you can bond with them over — even if it's superficial, finding some commonality can make spending time together more tolerable. You might even have fun with one of them. After all, if your boo loves them so much, maybe there is something lovable about them that you can appreciate.

10. Take one for the team.

Try to be open to them and see if you can find a way to appreciate what they have to offer. Even if they don't have the depth or maturity that you wish they did, they must have some redeeming qualities, otherwise your guy wouldn't hang with them. As long as their behavior isn't in some way harmful, sometimes you just gotta be a team player and do something like hang with his friends to make your partner happy.