Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend Asks Me to Choose Him Over My Friends!”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
My boyfriend asks me to choose between him and my friends, but I secretly always want to choose my friends. What do I do?
— Monkey In The Middle
DR: The answer seems clear to me: choose your friends! You, by your own admission, are naturally leaning towards that choice. On occasion, maybe, you could let him tag along with you when you’re going to meet your friends — that would be a total win-win for everyone involved. But, perhaps, you might also want to think about why you never want to hang out with him? Do you not find him interesting/worth your time? If that’s the case, then you might want to consider dating someone you do want to spend your time with. On the other hand, if he wants you to always spend time with him, and never with your friends, that’s not healthy either.
KB: Oh, boy. Do you see what you did there? You framed the problem as “my boyfriend is always forcing me to choose.” But darling, your real problem is that other part you tried to casually drop in at the end: “I secretly always want to choose my friends.” If your boyfriend wants to spend time with you, and your instinctive reaction is that you always want to be with someone else, let me be the one to break it to you — you’re just not that into him! We’ve all dated people we’re supremely enthralled by, and people we’re kinda not that into. And when you’re with one of those people that you find intoxicating and warm and funny and The Best, you don’t want to let them out of your sight. You look for ways to avoid friends or other commitments for a while, as you try to soak up every possible minute with them.
I’m not saying this is healthy for the long term, but it is certainly an almost universal reaction to a new relationship you’re really into. If you’re not feeling like that, and in fact, actively feeling that you want to prioritize your friends over this person “ALWAYS,” then honey, don’t waste any more time with this boyfriend. Life’s too short for either one of you to spend any more time in this uneven love story.
RP: What you do is your choice, not his! Your boyfriend can’t decide when and how much you see your friends, just like you can’t decide that for him. Giving each other the space to make your own choices is necessary in a relationship! If the current mix of time with friends and him makes you happy, keep doing it. If you are always choosing them or if he is not happy with you deciding for yourself, well that to me sounds like a reason to make a change.
AS: It’s a tough situation you’re in, and a fairly common one too, right? We’ve come to normalise our SOs trying to control our choice in friends, how much time we spend with them, and so on.
It’s one thing if the friendships you’re referring to are toxic, or bad for your mental health. In that case, your boyfriend could be just looking out for you. Still even then, the decision for who you want to keep in your life, should come from you, and shouldn’t be forced upon you.
But that isn’t the case here anyway, is it? These are friendships that are clearly important to you. I think this pressure of the it’s-either-me-or-them binary reveals a shaky foundation. If there is trust and open communication between you two, a need to make up ultimatums should never arise. Maybe you need to ask: is this your boyfriend acting possessive? If ‘yes’ — possessiveness is quite romanticised, but is it really healthy? Could this person impose controls on you in the future in other realms of your life, and are you okay with that? If not, you need to speak up about it, or seriously reconsider this relationship.
LG: You choose your friends. Because a) you want to, and b) no good partner gives you an ultimatum aimed at severing you from a loving support system. Insert favorite crude rhyming aphorism about prioritizing friends before romantic partners here. Go grab a Zoom drink with your BFF and celebrate. Case closed!
RD: DUMP HIM. First, he shouldn’t be making you choose, and second, you choosing your friends also says something about how annoying you may be finding this dude. Seriously, he reeks of toxic insecurity. Dump him and move on.