It’s always interesting when your friend starts dating someone new. You want the relationship to be good for your friend but also good for you. We are selfish creatures so there are many ways in which we worry about how a friend’s new fling will impact us. Will we like them? Will they like us? Can we hang out altogether? Do they understand that Sunday brunch is reserved for sacred gossip sessions and cannot be impeached upon? Will they treat your friend right or will you have to step in and get all Liam Neeson on their ass?
I believe most of us ask two questions when our friends start dating someone;
- Do they remember it’s important to balance friend/partner time and make an effort to get that balance right? When couples can’t get this right, they fall victim to the ‘new relationship black hole’ and vanish off the face of the earth, leaving you friendless. In fact, the only way you know these people are still alive is through their ever sickening Facebook updates which have become a plethora of eye-rolling, gag worthy love notes to their new ‘bae’.
- Is their new partner a decent human being? They don’t have to be the type of person you’d want to date, or even the type of person you had in mind for your friend. They simply need to not be a shit person. If you’re able to make small talk at group gatherings and hang out with the couple without wanting to kill yourself, consider yourself lucky.
Sometimes, on rare occasion, your friend will start dating someone who exceeds expectations. I mean, they blow all other contenders out the water. If you’ve experienced this you’ll know that there’s almost nothing better; it fills you with joy and reaffirms your belief in love. Her partner knows friendships are important and encourages her to maintain them. He treats her right; he’s taken the time to get know her and likes her for who she is, he wants only the best for her. You are comfortable leaving her happiness in his hands. You get along with him; so much so that you actually consider him a friend, not just your friend’s partner. You can hang out with him when she’s not around and there are no awkward lulls in conversation. The two of you share a unique connection in that you’re both invested in your friend’s happiness. If she’s happy, you’re happy. And there’s nothing easier than being happy about your friend’s new relationship when you can see how good it is for her.
Meeting a friend’s new boyfriend is always an interesting experience. You want him to live up to expectations, be handsome, smart, funny, a real gentleman. You want someone who recognises how fabulous she is and wants to make her happy. But what if he’s an absolute tosser, treats her terribly and constantly has her calling you to vent about his latest act of ignorance?
Telling your friend you don’t like her man can be tricky. You don’t want to come down too hard on the guy, in case she ends up marrying him. No one wants the bridesmaid giving the groom death stares during a wedding ceremony. You also don’t want to tell her she’s being stupid staying with him, as insulting her intelligence isn’t what she needs to hear from you.
The best thing you can do is be there for support, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to bitch to. Of course, there is only so much of this one can handle before wanting to pull the shitty boyfriend in question aside and tell him to step up or f*ck off. As grand an idea this is to fantasise about, the truth is the only relationship you’re likely to end is your own friendship. Avoid confronting him like you avoid the creepy old guy who hangs out at your local bar on his own every night.
One important thing to do is ask her what it is she likes about him. Sometimes just because the attraction isn’t clear to an outsider, doesn’t mean it’s not there. This is especially important if you haven’t spent much quality time with the man in question and are basing your judgements on what your friend has told you. Some people only talk about the negative aspects of their relationship because they are the things concerning them. There is no need to vent to your girlfriends if everything is smooth sailing, is there? This might be the case with your friend – you are only hearing the negative stories and making your decision based on a misconception. Asking what she likes about him will help you better understand the relationship through her eyes.
If she really does love this man and is happy with him, then it’s best to gently let her know once or twice that you don’t always appreciate the way he treats her but, for the most part, hold your tongue and try to be happy that she’s happy. If, on the other hand, she isn’t happy, you need to be there to offer soothing words of advice, remind her how awesome she is and encourage her to have faith in herself and believe that she deserves so much better. Often the hardest part of leaving a relationship is wondering whether you will find someone better. Hopefully, if you keep assuring her, she will start to believe you.