The same hobbies, the same taste in music – and the same circle of friends who they meet up with for brunch in the morning and then go for a drink with in the evening: In the minds of most people, this is the image of a perfect partnership.
The reality, however, is often different, especially for those just starting a relationship: Your new partner’s friends are not necessarily a match for you. What should you do if that’s the case?
“Starting a relationship with someone, you decide on that one person and not their circle of friends,” according to Marga Bielesch, a couples therapist. Nevertheless, it can be annoying when your partner’s friends display characteristics that you find odd.
Couples therapist Dr Rouven Gehr also knows it can be difficult to find understanding and acceptance if you don’t like your partner’s friends or have nothing in common with them. But: “Ultimately, we should practice acceptance if contact remains important to our partners.”
Talk about dislike – but be subtle
However, communication is required. Regina and Alberti Stuermer agree. The couple run a practice for coaching, consulting and seminars, and say: “Talking about dislike is OK. But it’s about how you go about it.”
Instead of saying “These people are awful, how can you be friends with people like that?”, you could be more sensitive but still take an interest in your partner’s friends and make them think about the issue themselves. For example: “Have you ever noticed that your friend is always so superficial? I find it odd” or “I wonder why your friend always has to be so loud.”
You shouldn’t be judgemental when talking about it, says Gehr. If you formulate your concerns in the right way, your partner may realise for themself that their circle of friends isn’t really any good for them either. If this is the case, the relationship can help in moving on from old and unhealthy friendships. “However, this should be in accordance with what my partner wants and not be a demand on my part,” Gehr said.
Do partners always need a common circle of friends?
But is it even important for both partners to have a common circle of friends? asks Bielesch. Love is about autonomy and giving each other space. “This involves each partner being allowed to do their own thing at times,” says Bielesch. Spending time with friends makes you happy, and that also has an effect on the couple’s relationship.
Gehr agrees: “People have many different facets and a relationship doesn’t necessarily touch on all of them. Sometimes it just turns out that your partner has at least one facet that you can’t do anything with yourself. This doesn’t have to spoil the relationship.”
You might also come to like something you didn’t think was interesting before, says Bielesch.
Being there for the sake of your partner?
But it’s important to take a look at yourself first. What do I need to feel good about the situation? Would I be OK with spending time with my partner’s friends? Would I be doing it because I want to, or would it be for my partner’s sake?
Just being present when meeting with friends, as a favour to your partner, is not necessarily helpful and can easily result in conflict. “The important thing is to be honest with yourself and your needs, and to communicate that to your partner.”
When it comes to encounters with your partner’s friends, it’s important to be open – especially when meeting for the first time.
“If I already have an opinion of this person in my mind, I prevent it from potentially being fun, contrary to expectations,” warns Gehr. “In any case, I should expect my partner to behave differently around his friends, which I might not be used to. This can be scary.”