“I’m afraid they’re not going to like him…” Mitch blurted out.
We’d been talking for 20 minutes about his new boyfriend, his tight friend group and the internal conflict he was having about introducing them.
This is a scenario I hear pretty frequently. A new love interest comes into my client’s life and for a variety of reasons he has ambivalence about introducing them to certain friends, family members or even work colleagues. He say things like “ they’re good people, they’re just judgemental” or “ I know they are just trying to protect me, that’s why they disapprove…”
What a dilemma! You keep your love life separate from friends/family, or you risk either side feeling rejected and ending up with hurt feelings. There’s really no way to win … as long as you stick to that particular dichotomy. But there is a third option –– and if you can swing it, it can end up with both sides being at least OK with each other, and often actually happy.
If you’re stuck in a situation where people you care about can’t stand each other, try this:
1.) Stop seeking approval.Yep, it’s that simple. It’s really not required that your friends, parents, siblings, etc. approve of your mate. It is required that they are respectful and polite. But they do not have to be crazy about your mate or partner. Equally, they don’t have to be crazy about your parents, friends or siblings, but they do have to be polite and respectful. Sometime that’s all you’re going to get –– but that’s OK. (Does that very sentence have you tensing up? You might have an anxious style of relationships. I’ve got some good tips for you right here.)
2.) Say out loud that you appreciate that they have your best interests at heart and are trying to look out for you, but they’re gonna have to trust you to make your own choices.You are an adult, after all. I’ve often heard people express that part of their role or responsibility to “look out for” their friend and warn them of potential or likely disappointments. While the intention is positive, the outcome is usually negative. It’s impossible to know what’s right for anyone else. It’s their life, not yours. So you cannot predict what they should or should not do. Their process of living and learning is theirs, not yours. Stop trying to interfere with that.
And it’s also important that your new love understand that your friends were a part your life before this relationship began and you don’t intend on them going away either.
3.) Be a bridge for empathy and understanding.It can be hard to read the dynamics of a relationship when you’re the new ingredient. Your partner might not understand where your parents are coming from, and vice versa. So if you can, try to translate for each side.You might say something like, “My parents are overprotective, they always have been. It’s not that they don’t like you. It’s that they are scared I’ll get distracted by our relationship and not finish my residency.”or
“My boyfriend really wants to be a part of our group, but he’s kind of shy and introverted. Him being quiet isn’t because he’s disinterested it’s because he has social anxiety.”
4.) Address jealousy at the roots.Sometimes, friends are used to having your time and attention regularly, and once you get into a relationship that often shifts. And sometimes new partners can feel like an outsider in a close friend group. Letting your friends and partner know that there’s enough of you to go around and that you don’t plan on disappearing or choosing one over the other can remind them of your priorities and intentions.
It might be confusing to be told to both let go of approval and work toward understanding. It is your job to make it clear to both parties how much you value each of them and the other, let them know you hear their concerns or hesitations, and that you’d like for them to trust you and work toward acceptance even if it’s uncomfortable at first.
Then let go of the outcome.
It is not your responsibility nor is it possible for you ensure that everyone gets along with or approves of each other, only that they are respectful of each other.
Finding that hard to do? I’m here for you. See how I can help here.