Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend’s Friends Don’t Like Me. How Do I Cope?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My boyfriend’s friends don’t like me and disrespect me a lot. However, they’re his friends and I can’t make him cut them off! I just can’t believe that he’s friendly with people who disrespect him. What do I do?“
— Love Is Not Easy
SM: It would help to think through how they disrespected you, whether it seems intentional, or whether it’s a part of their friends’ group dynamic? A lot of people think roasting is the way to bond, especially when they’re meeting new people. Another thing to consider is how long you’ve been in this relationship for? If y’all have just started dating and this is the first time you’re meeting his friends, there could also be some history there about attachment to a previous partner of his, or aversion to new people in friends groups. In any case, asking someone to cut off their friends is definitely not the best approach to come at this with.
I’m not sure even having a conversation is the best first step, given that these are his friends and that might put him in an awkward position. You might want to give them another chance when y’all meet next and make sure to push back on any kind of disrespectful comments. If the behavior persists and continues to make you uncomfortable, then just have an honest conversation with him about it, to understand where this is coming from. If he too doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with this behavior and they’re not being disrespectful, then maybe you should be considering instead how much you and your boyfriend’s wavelength matches, especially if this is a new relationship.
SK: For starters, don’t make him do anything — let alone asking him to cut his friends off! Feeling comfortable and accepted by your partner’s social circle is extremely important, but being coercive/pushy doesn’t help your case. I’m sure a lot of us have been in your shoes, where we faced resistance from that one friend who was always cold and distant, even rude. And it helps to first talk to your partner about it if he’s oblivious to this dynamic, telling them how you feel in such settings and conveying your expectations. If he knows this and the discomfort it causes you, there’s a bigger-picture talk to be had — because no one should have to fight to get someone’s respect, you know?
The only caveat is you should enter this conversation with an open mind, in trying to understand why his friends aren’t the friendliest lot. Is it because you’ve also been a little distant yourself, or is there a perception they hold of you that makes them want to protect their friend? It definitely goes both ways, so you could also try spending more time with your friends in a group or one-on-one setting, maybe start with one friend who is relatively warm to you. Either way, if you find yourself pushing too hard, let it be! Honestly, it’s tricky, just be honest and straightforward with your partner, and see where that takes you.
DR: I’m sorry you feel disrespected by friends of your significant other — that must suck. And it’s strange, too, because I’ve seen people put up with someone they don’t like, simply because their friend may be dating that person, and they care about their friend. So, in your case, two possibilities seemed the most probable to me when I was trying to understand the ‘why’ behind their behavior: (a) they don’t respect their friend (your boyfriend) enough to care about extending respect to his significant other (you); (b) your boyfriend doesn’t speak of you with respect to them, and they see no reason to care about you when their friend himself doesn’t. Unfortunately, I’ve been in this situation, and for me, it was the latter — needless to say, I’m not in that relationship anymore.
To answer your question objectively, I would say: cut your ties and move on. But, well, relationships are often too complicated for simple solutions like that — and if that’s the case, I would suggest that you try to find out what exactly is it that’s letting this behavior pass. If it’s (b), I see no reason for you to stick around with someone who doesn’t respect you. But if it’s (a) and you really love your boyfriend, perhaps, you can explain to him that being disrespected thus simply won’t do for you and that his friends wouldn’t be treating you this way if they cared about him — it is possible that he doesn’t see it as disrespectful because he’s been treated badly by them too, and thinks this is normal. If you want to continue being in this relationship, you might have to be the one to bust his myth. It might not necessarily be easy, and he may end up being pissed at you for saying that because no one likes their firmly-held views being challenged, especially if it means they’ll have to accept the fact that people closest to them don’t care two hoots about them — that can be jarring. At the same time, it’s also possible he knows that already, and simply didn’t want to believe it. Also, if it’s neither (a) nor (b), just sit him down and explain your woe to him, and ask him to figure this out — because, honestly, if it’s his friends mistreating you, the onus is on him to remedy this situation.
Either way, this situation will need work if you want to continue being in this person’s life — so that’s a choice you have to make. All I would say is: nothing is worth your dignity, so please don’t let it slide — no matter how you choose to proceed. Good luck!
AS: I think within the extended circle of partners + partners’ friends + family, as much as we might hope that everyone will be best friends, it’s a bit too much to expect. You and your boyfriend’s friends should be free to (cordially) not like each other, as long as this does not adversely affect the relationship or the friendship. But their disrespect, in this case, is affecting your relationship, and I can understand why it’s frustrating you. I think you should have a frank conversation about this with your boyfriend. Has he noticed this behavior from his friends? If not, maybe he will once you point it out. You could try to word it carefully to make sure he knows that you’re not asking him to cut them off, but only to take a stand and let them know that their behavior towards you is not okay. On the other hand, if he ends up dismissing you, defending their behavior, or making you out to be the bad guy, then maybe it’s time to evaluate your relationship with him.