Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Your Friends Hate Your Guy: 7 Steps to Peace

By Marianne Beach

You’ve finally found the perfect guy. So how come your friends aren’t cheering him on? In fact, they’re acting anywhere from a little resentful to downright hostile every time you bring him around. And it’s starting to cause waves for both you and them—and you and him.

So how can you keep the peace? We asked relationship expert Harriet Lerner, PhD, bestselling author of Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and Coupled Up. She says there could be a number of reasons why your friends aren’t welcoming your new guy with open arms.

“They may be used to your single status, and any new person will change the chemistry of the entire group,” she says. “They may believe, rightly or wrongly, that you are different when he's around, that is, you're not your authentic self or you're less available to them. They may be struggling with feelings of envy or competition even if they don't admit this to themselves.”

Related: 6 Things Women Do to Push Men Away

And sometimes, they may have good reason for being unwelcoming. “They may correctly observe that this person is not good for you, and you're not seeing (yet again) the big red flags that he's waving in your face,” she says. “Or he may have any number of difficult qualities (he acts like a ‘know-it-all,’ doesn't leave space for others talk, etc.) that negatively alter the chemistry of the group.”

Lerner suggests before you take any drastic actions—from dumping a friend to ditching the guy—you sit down and have a heart-to-heart. “If your friends really can't stand the guy, listen with an open mind to their reactions and concerns,” she says. “Then make a decision about the dating relationship based on your own best thinking—not out of fear of losing your friend's approval or love.”

Lerner has seven tips for navigating the choppy waters of friendships and relationships with clarity, maturity and conviction.

7 Steps to Peace

1. Don't trade your friendships in for your guy. Steamy starts are compelling, but  take care to spend alone time with your friends and make them feel valued even during the "Velcro stage" of your new relationship. Don't ignore your friends for a new guy; don't make him a big part of the conversation; don't push for him to be included in events that aren't couple-events.

2. Let your friends know that you don't expect them to like the guy you are dating. But you do expect them to treat him with kindness and respect. 

3. Let your date know the same. In other words, don't stay quiet about rude behaviors on any one's part.

4. If you feel that you're in a loyalty bind, speak openly about it without blaming anyone. "Sue, I feel like you've pulled away from since I've been dating John. How do you see it? I'd be devastated to lose you, just because you don't like him. Is there anything I can do to make the situation better or more comfortable?”

5. Tactfully address difficult behavior on your date's part. For example, "You're a wonderful story-teller Bob. It's one of the things I adore about you. But you talked so much last night that it was hard for my friends to have much space in the conversation. I'd like you to listen more when we're all together next time.”

6. Listen with an open-mind to constructive criticism that your friends have about your date. They need to be heard, and it won't help to muzzle them. Speak to critical friends one-on-one and ask them specifically what troubles them about the guy your dating. Ask for specific examples.  Just listen and ask questions without interrupting, correcting facts, or defending him. You may need their feedback, especially if you've made poor choices in the past.

7. Draw the line. After you've truly listened, know where to draw the line and say "Enough!" "Sarah, I know that you think Bob brags too much and that he's not my type. But you've told me this more than once. At this point I need you to stop criticizing him, because it's in the way of my thinking more clearly for myself and it's hurting our friendship. I know I don't have a great track record with me, but I need to figure this out for myself."

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