I keep my friends "separate" from each other. "Group" things make me nervous. So...how to introduce my new boyfriend?
December 3, 2006 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I keep my friends "separate" from each other.

I have this really weird thing where I get very nervous when I introduce my friends to each other. Basically I always worry that they won't like each other, or that one will judge me on the company I keep (obviously I like all of my friends, but some are troubled souls...for example, one is a serious alcoholic), or that one of my friends will make me look bad to the other person, intentionally or not. I believe that most of these worries are unfounded, but basically I am someone who has trouble relaxing and just "letting things happen," and this is one of those examples. I also just feel more comfortable interacting one-on-one than in a group.

Furthermore, due to a prior history of depression, I went through a period where I really had very few friends and unfortunately lost some of the ones I did have. Consequently, I don't have the "tribe" of friends one might expect for someone who has been living in the same city as long as I have. Although I've mostly overcome these past difficulties, I'm terribly sensitive about not having enough good friends and appearing unpopular. (I should add that I am a natural introvert, and the issue is more that I feel that I "should" have more friends than "wanting" to have more.)

Enter my new boyfriend. How do I introduce him to my friends, who I like and hang out with occasionally but am not terribly close with, without getting really stressed out about the whole situation and worrying that he won't like my friends, they won't like him, that he is wondering why I don't have closer friends, etc.?

Addendum: I briefly dated a number of the guys in my circle at a time when I wasn't being particularly "picky"...I don't think I'd need to tell the BF since they were not serious relationships, but this certainly adds to my nervousness about introductions and what may or may not reveal itself at a later date...especially if alcohol is involved. I am serious about this guy and don't want him to judge me on a past that is totally in the past!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I have some very close mostly one-on-one friends. I have many many friendly acquaintances through my work which is creative and often stressful, thus creating closeness that is not necessarily 'real'. I have a lovely partner (for over 10 years) who doesn't like big groups. Guess what? My social time is split up big-time. It's not a big deal. Sometimes these circles intersect. Sometimes people hit it off, sometimes they're meh, sometimes they hate each other. Oh well. The link to all these people is me, and if they have any decent feelings for me, they'll generally behave or overlook somebody else's behaviour. They will still be your friend, because they like YOU! And in the same vein, your boyfriend is your boyfriend because of YOU, and not your friends.

As for how to specifically get on with introducing the bf to your friends....I would say in an environment that makes you feel the most comfortable. What do you usually like to do with your bf? Can it be something that a third can tag along, (like a movie or a concert?) Dinner might be too much pressure to have a decent conversation, but how about a casual party? You could throw it yourself and let everybody do their own introducing etc. They're adults (I assume) they can work it out on their own. If that is too much pressure, make it some TV/DVD watching marathon type thing, so that conversation can be structured around snark between pizza and popcorn.

People can be your friends, but you can't control their actions, or how other people are going to view them. You just can't. You never will, so letting that go is important.
posted by typewriter at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used to have a similar hangup about friends meeting friends and somewhere along the way it just got to be too much energy to keep it up, and I'm completely unaware of anything negative ever happening as a result of abandoning it. So that's one data point.

Also, can you think of any of your friends' friends whom you don't really like that much yourself? I can think of several people in this category, and it never diminishes my feelings for my friends themselves. If you're not irrationally judgmental, why should others be?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2006

No one (or rather, very few people in my experience) has friends that are 100% perfect, by any standard whatsoever. By the same measure, everyone has dated men or women that they are not particularly proud to recall later on. So, not to sound simplistic, but keep telling yourself that no one is perfect, including your friends, this current man-beau, and anyone else with whom you have ever associated. Repeat it to yourself a lot. (If it makes you feel any better, I have one very good, very old friend who I have introduced into my current circle of friends, and she drives people totally insane on a regular basis. The only judgement I've gotten for it is that my current friends understand that she's probably my oldest friend and that she requires some special patience. That's really it. And she can really be annoying. It's not at all subtle.)

Now, for the actual meeting, I would plan something simple -- like drinks or whatever, with the option to move on to dinner as a group if you want, or the option to break up and do your own thing afterward. You can do this with a larger group of your friends or with just 2-4 people other than yourself and the new guy. If you are feeling cool, then just suggest you all go on to dinner -- and if you're not, politely say good night and move on to dinner or a movie or whatever with just you and your guy. Keep it low key and keep your options open.

Good luck. I know that introducing someone you've met that you think is great to your friends can be nervewracking.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:42 AM on December 3, 2006

Wow, it sure sounds to me like you've got a lot of work on your hands. All this friendship management - how do you keep it all straight in your head? Do you have a spreadsheet or a pivot table? It sure seems like its been a great strategy for you - now you have to worry about what people will say about you...behind your back! Oh noes! Sorry if I come off as a bit harsh - but maybe you need to hear it.

I don't have many friends either. I've been through several "iterations" of friendships - it comes with alcoholic behavior - you tend to ditch the ones that know too much. At this point, many years away from all that "management" - and a lot is needed when you're trying to keep one set of people from knowing something about you that another set of people already knows - the only advice I can give you is to KNOCK IT OFF. :)

A once-dear (now passed on) friend once told me four pieces of advice that I abide by every day:
- Run your life like it's none of your business. In other words, don't try to micromanage every single event in my life, because I'll drive myself NUTS.

- What other people think of me is none of my business. I interpret this two ways. First, if I have an honest and open friendship with someone, their opinion of me doesn't matter. Obviously it has to be a pretty good opinion, or we wouldn't be friends, right? Ergo, I don't have to worry about it.

And second, if what you think of me isn't positive, then I don't care about that either, because I can't change it anyway, so what's the point of worrying about it? I mean, meh.

- What my friends think of each other is none of my business. This is an extension of the first two pieces of advice Don gave me, and frankly it just keeps all the drama away. I don't need friend-drama, I make enough on my own.

And his final piece of advice? "Get off the cross, we need the wood. Stop the pity party and get on with your day, you're wasting my time and yours."

So, my advice to you: Tell your boyfriend about your friendship management strategies, because if he's going to be able to follow your matrix of "who knows what", then he's going to have to be in the loop.
Second, tell your friends about your boyfriend, but also make it clear to them that he doesn't know their ranking in your friendship management scorecard because... oh, your friends don't know where they stand? What do you expect will happen when they find out where they are in the standings? Think you'll keep em?

Get honest with yourself, your boyfriend and yourself. Plus, yourself. You can't keep running the universe, it's very tiring. You can't run your friends lives, either - you know you're doing that, right?
Anyway, iInvite them all over for a party. It sure sounds to me like you have an interesting crew there, it probably would be a lot of fun to put them all in a room and see what happens.

Introduce everyone to everyone else, relax in a corner somewhere on your valium high (you'll need it), and let the chips fall where they may. Some of your friends may decide they like being with each other more than they like being with you. Oh well. Some of your friends may decide you're a great person for bringing this wonderfully eclectic group of friends together.

And if you truly enjoy all this drama, by all means carry on. You'll not lead as long or happy a life because of it, but hey, at least it'll be a managed life, right?
posted by disclaimer at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2006 [7 favorites]

Two small thoughts:

1) Introducing a new SO to old friends is stressful for lots of people. Even those of us who have a well-integrated circle of friends worry what they'll think of our new love interest. You spend a lot of time in your post explaining why you're worried, like it's some weird thing that you have to justify. It's not; relax.

2) If you're serious about your boyfriend, you should be honest with him about your relationship history. Tell him you're still friends with some exes. Sure, he might be upset, but imagine how much more upset he'd be if he found out you'd lied about it. (After all, lying makes it look like you have something to hide — he might well conclude you're still interested in those guys, or even still screwing around with them. It sounds from your post like you've got a pretty clear conscience, so you may as well act like it.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:22 AM on December 3, 2006

Some people see acceptance of people in spite of their defects, and loaylty in spite of mistakes and flaws to be be the sign of a kind and true friend.

Perhaps your boyfriend will feel more secure in your affections if he sees that you stick by people despite their shortcomings.

Still, it would be good if you could show him that at least a few of your friends have some compelling quality.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2006

You just have to get over it, I think. Not introducing your boyfriend to your friends is worse than avoiding it. He may begin to wonder why you have no friends and whether or not you are embarrased of him or something. That's no good.

Everyone really has to stand on their own two feet in their relationships. Understanding this has helped me get over some of my hangups when introducing people to other people knowing that they may not get along. You are not responsible for how people behave or what they think of someone else. You have no control over that. If your friend acts like an ass to your boyfriend, that is your friend acting like an ass. You don't have to own it. If your boyfriend acts like an ass, you don't have to own that either. You can do a little to smooth the waters and help everyone make a good impression but beyond that you just have to let go.
posted by amanda at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2006

People can be your friends, but you can't control their actions, or how other people are going to view them. You just can't. You never will, so letting that go is important.

Typewriter says it best.

I had this issue big time when I was in my early 20s. I thought that my friends would judge each other and by association me. I was also very hyper-concerned that Group A could never understand/relate to/deal with Group B. So I ended up having three or four or five different groups of friends that never intersected. Yikes!

Later I realized that I needed to just let go and stop managing other people, for the very good explanation typewriter gives. If I know Person A hates Person B, I mean, really hates them, then I won't plan an event/party with both of them in attendance. But beyond that I just don't care anymore. It's such a relief! And definitely no bad consequences from any of my friends toward me.

Once in a while someone will kvetch about a friend of mine they don't like -- God, that Jack (made up name) is such an asshole! Why are you friends with him? And I'll just respond honestly to that kind of commentary (which is rare): Yeah, Jack is a piece of work, but I love him anyway. Or, yeah, Mike really is a stoner. Yup, Janet's a motormouth.

I had one big negative consequence from my hyper-weirdness in my early 20s. About 15 years after that era one of my friends told me that she was really hurt that I didn't invite her along to the other groups of friends, and that she assumed I was embarrased by her or thought she was too fill-in-negative-trait to invite. In a way, I did have embarrassment, but looking back it was really all embarrassment about myself. I can't go back and change things, but it turned out that the way I tried to keep everything separate was negative for other people.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I went through similar experiences, probably because I felt like my different groups of friends catered to my own different personalities.

So it felt weird being with two groups that might of brought opposing personalities together. Like one group was the more outgoing social group, with them I was more outgoing too. But the other group was the quieter gentle group who catered to that side of me.

So it was weird to see crazy mike and act crazy around him cause I'd be self-concious that peaceful john would look at me funny, and vice-versa.

Anyway, everyone's responses here are really insightful and I think they all have a point, which should be taken by yourself and by me since I kinda have the same problem..
posted by 0217174 at 2:25 PM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bizarre. I had this conversation yesterday, with a friend who was upset because she has a friend who compartmentalizes her social groups, and my friend hasn't met her friend's boyfriend of seven months b/c the couple is always out with the girl's "other" friends who are all also couples, while my friend is single. Can I use the word "friend" more in a sentence?

So anyway, I'm not going to give you advice b/c I think everyone else has done a great job, I just want to say that I hope you'll keep in mind that ALL of your friends will want to meet your new boy, so if you don't introduce different groups at the same time, please at least don't forget your single friends or the ones that aren't part of a larger group.

Oh also, don't worry, not everyone has a "tribe" of friends. Sometimes it's nice just to have a small group of close ones.
posted by echo0720 at 3:38 PM on December 3, 2006

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