Sometimes when you’re in love, it seems like nothing else matters – certainly not the opinions of the various Neanderthals among your friends and family who are against your new romantic interest.
Hollywood and the popular music industry have taught us over and over that “love conquers all”, and there are plenty of stories and songs about people sticking it out no matter that the whole world is against them, just like those heartwarming stories of lost dogs that cross hundreds of miles or entire continents to get home again. Love always triumphs in the end, we are told, even if we secretly know that in the real world that isn’t always true…
If it were true, there’d be no need for us to give advice about what to do if your friends are against your new love interest. “Tell them to go to hell and ignore them!” would be the answer, since you’re in love and that’s all that matters.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all that matters, and if your friends are against your new beau, that’s something important you need to think about, and it’s a situation you should also consider carefully.
“All you need is love” is a great song lyric, but in the real world you need more than just love. You need money, food, shelter – and also you need friends. So, if your friends are against your new romantic interest, don’t chuck them out and get a new set of friends. At least not right away. You need friends, especially if your new relationship doesn’t last. They may say “I told you so” when the time comes, but they’ll also be the ones who help pick you up off the floor if it does.
So you’re falling in love, and you need love. And your friends seem to be against this new person, and you need friends, too. What’s the best way to handle this situation?
Diplomatically. But it isn’t an easy path to walk.
A lot depends on your relationship with your friends. How long have you been friends? What have you been through with them in the past, and what sort of relationship do you have with them? If your friends have been with you for years and years – decades even – and you’ve got a solid, unbreakable foundation with them, it’s unlikely that your romantic choices will ultimately interfere with your long term friendships, so you can, if you choose, pretty much ignore what your friends are feeling right now and trust that they will still be your friends going forward. You could marry an axe-murderer and they’ll still be your friends. With these types of friends you can really be yourself, be honest, and talk to them openly about why they don’t like your new beau, and also about why you do like your new beau.
If your disapproving friends are newer, perhaps friends you’ve only known for a few months, or those you aren’t particularly close with, then your choice to keep dating someone they don’t approve of could put strain on your friendship, or even end it. In that case, you need to handle the situation carefully if you want to protect those fragile friendships.
So, how do you talk to your friends when they say they disapprove of your new relationship?
It’s important to listen to what they say, certainly. Depending on how new your relationship is, you may be dazzled or blinded by new love and unable to see certain things about your new beau that your more objective friends, who care about you, can see. So it’s not a bad thing to hear them out, even if you think your new beau is completely wonderful. Listen to your friends. You don’t have to take their advice at all – you are an adult who should make your own decisions, and, if it comes to it, who should also make your own mistakes. But listening to your friends lets them know that you value their advice, their friendship and them.
Do heed their warnings, though. If you start to see signs that they are probably right, then you should pay attention. They may see things you can’t see clearly.
Once they’ve said their piece, however, you are not obligated to continue listening if they keep going on and on and on about it. Friendship lets them express their negative opinion about your new beau once. You’ve listened to them, you know what they think, so now they should drop it. If they bring the subject up again, you can politely and firmly say, “I know how you feel, and you don’t need to tell me again”. This is a good way of setting a healthy boundary, establishing that you understand how they feel but this is your business, not theirs.
When it comes to socializing, you may feel awkward inviting your beau out with friends who are disapproving of them. That’s certainly something to consider, but remember – you aren’t responsible for how your friends feel about your beau, or about how your beau feels about your friends. They are independent adult human beings who are responsible for their own feelings and attitudes. Over time, if your relationship persists, your friends and your beau may learn to tolerate each other and even to like each other. But that is out of your hands. Try to avoid seeing things in a stark, black-and-white way, or as a choice between your friends or your beau.
Try to avoid feeling pushed into a choice by either party; if you end up feeling like you were forced to dump this new person because your friends didn’t approve, then you’re going to be nursing an unhealthy resentment against them for a long time to come. And vice-versa: If you feel like you were forced to choose your new love over your friends, then you will end up resenting them eventually. Some day you’ll have an argument and hear yourself shouting: “I gave up my friends for you!”. Not a desirable scenario.
That’s why it’s important to hear your friends out, so they know you value their opinions, but to make your own decision in the end and take responsibility for making it yourself. Whatever decision you make – to go forward with your new beau or to break up – own that decision for yourself.