Finding out your friends don’t like your boyfriend can be a shock. It was for Joseph Cavalieri when his roommate delivered the news.
“She just didn’t like him at all,” says the 49-year-old glass artist from New York. “She basically put the wall down and said, “You can see me, but I don’t want to be out with the three of us.”
This kind of relationship segregation keeping friends and lovers apart isn’t realistic for most of us. We want our friends to like the person we’re dating, and when they don’t, it isn’t always easy to see where the problems lie. Maybe our dates are jerks, but whose to say it isn’t our friends that are actually the problem”.
“Look at the pieces that might be factual,” says Katie Medicus, an LCSW and counselor in Knoxville, TN. “If your friends confront you about your relationship, or even make subtle suggestions that they’re unhappy about whom you’re dating, the first step is to control your reaction, then be honest with yourself about what they’re saying.”
For Cavalieri, once the shock subsided, he was able to look at what his roommate was saying: “I decided she was entitled to her opinion”.
His roommate was the only one of his friends who was forthcoming with her feelings, and while the depth of their relationship gave weight to her opinion, it was still hard to hear.
“When I heard it while I was with the person, it was hard to understand,” says Cavalieri, “because we all know love is blind.”
Sure, news coming from a trusted friend isn’t necessarily any easier to take, but it can be more reliable, and it’s something we should really examine.
“If this is someone who knows me and really cares about me, I’m going to consider the feedback,” says Medicus.
Also consider the delivery. Someone who genuinely cares about you will share his or her opinion gently, not combatively, with your feelings in mind.
Cavalieri’s roommate was careful to make sure they were alone before she shared her feelings. They were out for dinner when she raised the issue. “I think she worked up to it, gave it a lot of thought,” Cavalieri says. “It was very well thought out”.
His roommate was also the only person who said something while they were dating. “My other friends waited until after we broke up to mention anything.”
Ultimately, his roommate’s feelings made it awkward for his romantic relationship as his boyfriend kept asking about his roommate and why they didn’t hang out. But it also gave Cavalieri a perspective about his boyfriend that he hadn’t previously had.
“He was controlling,” he says. “He put off like five of my friends. It was very difficult to see them with him along.”
Kim Daly, a 29-year-old beauty and travel writer in New York, wishes her friends were more direct and honest about her relationships.
“No one has ever told me I was dating a jerk,” Daly says. “But later if I say something like, “Man, he was a jerk,” they always agree with me.
Of course, as her own experience suggests, the fear of friend rejection is strong and liable to taint our relationships.
“And the opposite is true too,” she admits. “I would never tell a friend that her guy was a jerk because if she really likes him, she’ll drop me instead of him. Usually only to discover later that she broke up with the wrong person.”
The excruciating task of being honest with our friends is sometimes what makes good friends, though.
Valeria Donovan, a 31-year-old esthetician from Memphis, is married to her high-school sweetheart. There was a time, though, when she all but vanished from some of her friends’ lives while spending all of her time with her boyfriend. It was the intervention of caring friends that helped her find balance again.
“I make a lot of time for my close friends,” Donovan says, “but it was because they sat me down and said that to me.”
Cavalieri’s experience has also shaped his attitude about his friends and his boyfriends. His friends’ feelings are a factor in his dating life.
“The friends that I’m closest with, their opinions are really important,” says Cavalieri.
Nowadays, if Cavalieri starts a new relationship, he waits to introduce that person to his friends, and when he does, they’re left on their own once the introductions are made.
This acclimatization technique lets him watch how his friends treat his date and vice versa. Having dated someone with “really bad social skills” has taught him to pay attention to these initial interactions between friends and lovers.
“I try to let it happen naturally,” Cavalieri says. “I don’t try to force it.”
Seth Wharton is a writer who lives in New York City with his wife of seven years and their