What do you do if your partner's friends don't like you?
November 4, 2018 9:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting to suspect my boyfriend's friends don't like me and I'm not sure where to go with that.

We've been together for 4 years and when we first started dating we hung out with his very close-knit friend group regularly, in the last year I've only seen them twice. He still sees them once or twice a week, usually with one or two of them. This could be related to everyone starting families and having kids, but I know one doesn't like me overtly from her behavior. The last two times I've seen her she's done a very good impression of a mean girl from JR High and flatly ignored me when I've said hi and spent entire evenings acting like I don't exist. We're all in our late 30s and early 40s so I've just let it slide, because what do you with that. I haven't mentioned it to my boyfriend and I don't know if he noticed or knows about it. I've pondered any reasons for her reaction or why I might not be included and I can't think of any incident or anything specific. I'm kind of awkward in social situations, but who isn't? (My job is very heavily social and I've gotten to a place where I'm completely comfortable with public speaking and keeping a conversational flow in work situations, but I crumple at small talk at weddings.) It's a group of mostly couples where everyone has known each other for over a decade or more, I'm the only new blood.

I'm fine with not being included regularly, I'm busy and have my own friends I'd prefer to see, so it's not like I'm angling to get invited or see them. It's more like having a stink that wafts into the relationship on occasion. Communication seems like it should be used to clear the air, but I'm not sure where to start or what I'd be trying to accomplish. "Hey your friends don't like me, what's up with that." What would a conversation like that look like? I'm fairly certain he'd deny it, but if he didn't and they don't like me, then what? Our relationship is also starting to feel like a dead shark and I'm wondering if this issue is related. It's possible it's only related because it's causing me to withdraw.

Further complications, they loved his ex and will still ask him what's she's up to when I'm standing there. I don't have any jealousy or issues with her, we've met and she's a good person, but ouch.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked about the dead shark issue either? I was kind of surprised to see you'd been together 4 years but you didn't seem comfortable talking with him about this, and it makes me wonder if you have communication issues in general in your relationship.

I do think it's related to the dead shark issue, but not in the way you mean. I know every relationship is different, but I think most people expect that in a long-term relationship that is headed towards "life partnership" territory (which I believe most people in their late thirties would expect after four years together) they can talk pretty openly about things like where the relationship is going or the fact that one of their partner's friends was mean to them.

Sorry, I know that's bigger than what you asked about. But whether or not this is about a bigger issue, I do think it would be totally reasonable, maybe after the next time you hang out with his friends, to say "wow, did you notice Kate wouldn't even say hi to me tonight, do you know what's up with that?" Or the next time he asks you to hang out with them, you could say "I'm not sure if I feel comfortable, I've been getting kind of a weird feeling from Kate and Evan lately." (or whatever)

I think the way to handle it is just to bring it up when it comes up, either after the next example of rude behavior, or when the issue of hanging out with them comes up. I don't think you need to bring it up as "why do your friends hate me"

BTW, from my outside perspective, it kind of sounds like they saw his ex as part of their friend group and they're mad you're not her, especially if she doesn't hang out with them anymore. There's not really much you can do about that, and I can totally understand not wanting to deal with that. In my experience, sometimes friend groups can encourage these kinds of childish, cliquish behavior in adults who should know better and it can be really surprising and frustrating if you're not really part of the group but have to hang out with them sometimes.
posted by the sockening at 9:39 PM on November 4, 2018 [14 favorites]

I would have the conversation with your bf and ask him if his friends like you. I would tell him you are getting the feeling that they don't. If he denies it, well he denies it. If he says it is true, that is the basis for a talk with your bf that could lead into many different directions including a tough discussion about sharks.

To me, after 4 years and you are starting to think your relationship is stagnating and you are all +/- 40, you need to have some sort of conversation with your bf that leads to you understanding more what he thinks about the two of you and might also help you figure out your own feelings about you two.

If it turns out that the two of you are just a slow moving shark at this point but think you will be moving the relationship forward at some point and that one or more of his friends do not like you, then you sort of win because, one, you can, not waste time seeing those friends and two, you know that your bf's feelings for you outweigh anything his long-time friends think.

Know too that if someone does not like you like one of your bf's friends, there could be so many reasons why that I would not worry. One of my gf's friends does not like me. Literally about a score of her friends love hanging with me. I asked the one who does not like me why. It was so obvious, rather than ask if she did not like me, I just skipped that question and asked why. She said, "Because you remind me of an ex-bf. There is nothing you can do that will change that. Maybe time. I don't even realize I am being hostile to you until afterwards. It is just a subconscious reaction." Since, we have sort of a respectful standoff. You never know.
posted by AugustWest at 9:39 PM on November 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

4 years is not really "new blood" in a social group; if they're doing things like asking about his ex in your presence at this point, (a) these people are incredibly shitty because they should damn well know better by know and (b) it it makes me seriously question the messaging he is giving his friends about your relationship when you aren't around. Maaaaaybe if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt/assume he is incredibly clueless, he hasn't noticed this stuff happening, but he really should have and shut it down long ago. Barring some exceptionally extraordinary circumstance, asking about an ex in the presence of a current is just not done and really should elicit a "dude what the ACTUAL fuck?" on the spot.
posted by jordemort at 9:48 PM on November 4, 2018 [53 favorites]

You are demonstrably magnitudes more mature than they are.

What do you want to do with that realization?

This guy doesn’t have your back, and that’s also something for you to consider. Unless he’s deaf, dumb, and blind he has seen this one woman ice you out. If anyone asked about an ex in front of my partner I would feel uncomfortable, but he’s FINE. That’s significant.

If he’s ready to grow up and look at these old friend dynamics and see his part in them, cool. But there’s not much you can do if he feigns innocence.

I think you know what to do.
posted by jbenben at 12:06 AM on November 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I suspect your boyfriend's friend group is similar to my friend group. We've known each other so long, and often partners became good friends independently. You don't sound like you've become friends with any of them independently. Have you taken them into your heart or do you think that's something they should do because they are en masse. Each one is an individual. Have you reached out to be the friend of one or two of them?

If you were a partner of someone in my friend group, and you felt estranged after 4 years of knowing each other, I would not 'not like you', I just wouldn't feel I had much in common with you. I'd be polite 'n all, for my friend's sake more than yours, but I wouldn't be investing extra in you if you haven't invested in me by this time. And yes, I would still ask after 'ex' because 'ex' was someone who invested in me independently when they were amongst us.

As to the 'dead shark'. I do think there could be a connection. Is your passive approach to the friend group echoed in your relationship? Are you providing momentum in the relationship or expecting to be a passenger?
posted by Thella at 12:24 AM on November 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Asking about an ex in front of you after you’ve been together for 4 years is some bull shit. If they’re asking about her I presume it’s because they don’t actually hang out with her these days. Does he? And even if he does, they haven’t seen her in 4 years! Who cares how she’s doing?

His response when they ask is a part of your answer. Does he answer them completely oblivious to the inappropriateness? Does he evade and try and change the subject because he knows it’s not right? Or does he shut them down and call them out on how that’s such a weird and awkward thing to be asking him?

I think the problem is with the boyfriend and not the friends. If he was super enthusiastic about supporting and advocating for you in front of them they would not be treating you this way. Even if they secretly didn’t like you, they’d be a lot nicer than they are now. So I think it’s time for a serious chat with your boyfriend. His lack of support ccould very well be related to the dead shark issue. If he’s lukewarm about the relationship, his friends can tell and they’re circling in.
posted by like_neon at 12:38 AM on November 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

So you have only seen his friends 2 times this year, and he's seen them 1-2 times a week? So if you're feeling like they don't like you, their opinion is being formed on something other than you, and vice versa. Your dead shark comment leads me to believe that he's not leaving his friends with the best impression of you; either by leaving you out of the group and leading them to wonder why you're not coming around, or worse, he is using his visits with his friends as a venting ground for problems in your relationship that he doesn't feel comfortable talking to you about. And you not being invited doesn't give you the space to form relationships in the friend group to get a better feeling about his friends. I'm not saying this to scare you, it's possible it's just an insular group and he's being thoughtless about working you into it, but the way you've framed your post makes me worry there's something more at play here.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:04 AM on November 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

If you don't feel like your bf is "on your team" -- defending your interests, presenting together with you as a couple, making sure you're comfortable (and you reciprocating) -- when you're with his friends, then that's a problematic relationship dynamic that indicates you're probably not the most important thing in his life.

Along with some other respondents, I don't think it's his friends that are the real problem.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:56 AM on November 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

I’d be wondering what your boyfriend is saying to his friends about you such that they are willing to be openly rude to you in a group setting, to the point where they make a point of blanking you, and pointedly bringing up his ex in conversation. He’s the one who hangs out with them all the time, and they hardly see you, so how else could they be forming this opinion of you that is so negative?

If your relationship has hit a dead end and your BF’s social group is giving you not-at-all-subtle cues that you should get lost, I’d say it’s time to get lost. Late 30s and 40s? You shouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit for one more minute.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:58 AM on November 5, 2018 [20 favorites]

If your boyfriend doesn't want you to hang out with his friends (assuming that's what's going on, and let's ignore that they are not friendly to you for a moment), and you don't want to hang out with them because you have your own set of friends, and you and your boyfriend are meshing less and less and don't socialize together as a couple very often, it sounds like it's time to break up.

I would put most of this on your boyfriend because if he was really expressing to his friends how happy he was with you they would be friendlier with you unless you were actually terrible, which you aren't.

The right person will have friends who can at least be cordial with you and ideally would be inviting you out as a couple to most things. I would put your focus on why you and your boyfriend don't have many shared social activities together and treat his crappy friends as the symptom of your boyfriend's lack of interest. I also know for myself that if I don't really care if my boyfriend knows my friends or hangs out with them sometimes it's usually a sign I'm not super invested in the relationship. I'm sorry, this sounds hard.
posted by lafemma at 7:22 AM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can I offer a different opinion and say who cares? You are in your late 30s-40s and have your own friends. If they don't like you and you've never done much to integrate into their group, then take the time your boyfriend is with them to do your own things. It's 'high school' to say 'you are either with us or against us as a pair' unless you are the Wonder Twins or the 7 Dwarfs. If your boyfriend is spending too much time with friends and not enough with you, that's a different issue and could be causing some of your relationship problems and is his issue to fix. But that is totally separate from whether they have to like you or do like you or whatever or you have to hang out with them.

Also, think hard if you want to confront your boyfriend with 'your friends don't like me - what is up with that?'. Unless you are truly interested in the answer and don't know. At best you are asking him to answer for gossip. At worst he'll say you are the problem and list off things you have done they don't like, so then you have to start defending your actions.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'd focus on the overall relationship issues first and agree that "did you notice X?" is a good way to bring it up. But there are people who are oblivious or would rather not discuss someone else's personal feelings. When I try to think of possible things he could say, there are almost none that would be helpful, in my opinion.
posted by salvia at 8:49 AM on November 5, 2018

On the one hand, I think it's normal to have different friend groups. I see my SO's friends and he mine for big events, but usually we hang out individually. They aren't friends independent of the relationship and that is OK.

On the other hand, this is a lot of time your BF spends away from you and it sounds like you feel closed out versus just not deeply interested. Do you feel like you should be there or want to be there? Because those are different approaches. (If it is just a should - you don't have to be there for him if you don't want to be there!)

I think you'd be equally in the right to expect more interaction with the group or have your SO spend more time at home, but I agree with others that the general relationship dead sharkness is probably the main issue and your concern with the "cliqueness" a side effect
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

they loved his ex and will still ask him what's she's up to when I'm standing there

The first Mrs. de Winter

How is your guy around your friends? Does that happen as often? I'm thinking that might reveal if it's something on one side, or a function of being from completely different circles (if you are) and you'll both be outsiders in each of your others'. But there also appears to be some egregious behavior, especially at that age! and maybe ask homie what's up.
posted by rhizome at 10:04 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Hey your friends don't like me, what's up with that."

Yeah, that's a conclusion. I wouldn't start from that. That assumes that this change has happened because of his friends.

Instead, I might start with, "Hey boyfriend... when we first started dating we hung out with [your] very close-knit friend group regularly, in the last year I've only seen them twice. Can I ask why the shift?"

And then, after some conversation, you might mention the behavior of the specific friend in question. I wouldn't say anything about mean girls. I'd say something more like, "So-and-so didn't greet me or acknowledge me, which made me uncomfortable. Did you notice, and do you know what's going on there?"

But it also sounds like maybe there's more going on in your relationship, and it might be good to have a bigger general state-of-the-relationship conversation. How are you all feeling about each other? What plans are you making independently and together? And so on.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:55 PM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

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