It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! And, more than that, it’s the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend (we’re even taking a three day weekend here at APW), so we’re all in a good mood, right? Right! Today’s question is about what to do when your Fiance dislikes some of your friends, and it has opened up a world of discussion in my household, so I’m fascinated to see what you all have to say about it. For me, it begs interesting questions: how much do we have to honor the self that our fiance was before we met? How much control is appropriate to exert over our partners lives? How does growing and changing effect our friendships? So let’s discuss, and then I’ll meet you at the barbecue. Happy long weekend, Team Practical!
My quandary is the definition of ‘nearest and dearest,’ and compromise and when to make it.
My fiance strongly dislikes one of my best friends from high school. Honestly, he dislikes my entire small group of friends from then. I have remained very close to them in my mind – we all live in the same city again and act, well, basically the way we did in high school. But honestly, none of us have much in common anymore, and we only actually see each other every two months or so. They’ve all been less than supportive as I’ve built this business with my now fiance. Also, I frequently have whole conversations with them where they fail to ask me a single thing about myself. My fiance sees this and hates the way they treat me. I have had these thoughts, but never verbalized it, and hearing it from him is a big dose of the truth that I wasn’t quite ready to take.
The friend he dislikes the most came to my birthday party recently, and he and the people he brought with him nearly ruined my day—they can be just foul-mouthed and disrespectful. I don’t want to risk that for my wedding, which happens only once and involves more than just me. My fiance is basically saying that he doesn’t want to allow my less-than-thoughtful friend to attend our wedding. The thing is, until actually contemplating our very real upcoming wedding, I had basically assumed this group of friends of mine would be my wedding party. I always thought I was so lucky to have a group of old friends who I’ve know for 14 years, half of my life!
My fiance’s concerns take us beyond just the wedding and into life together, marriage together. He doesn’t want to have these foul-mouthed selfish people around our future children, around his gentle grandmother, and I completely understand and agree. Do I say something to my friend and explain why I’m not inviting him? Do I allow these friends to slowly phase out of my life as I phase into a new leg of my journey? I don’t want them to blame my fiance. I don’t want them to hate us, I hate to be hated. They assume that they are going to be a major part of this big life step for me, but even there I think they are doing it in a selfish way. The particularly disliked friend said, when I told him of my engagement story, that he wishes that he was loved romantically as much as I am, and that he’s excited about more engagements because it’s pressure on his own boyfriend to marry him. I don’t want my wedding to be something that he uses to reflect on himself so much.
Personally, I think there’s a point when you’ve been friends with people for so long that they cease to be just friends and become family. And family, while wonderful, are annoying. They have stupid habits, they say things that make you roll your eyes and are mortifying and sometimes you really don’t want to be around them. However, they also have been there with you through thick and thin, will be there for you when times are tough and will support you in the best way they know how. Even if the best way they know how is not what you need at that moment. Friends/family/partners are not one-stop shopping. You get what you can from different sources to fill your soul. Expecting all encompassing love/support/compassion all the time from one person is an awful lot of pressure on that person… Let them fall short sometimes, they probably make up for it in other ways. And if they don’t, then you might need to start trimming some fat.
Regardless of what your fiance says and what social norms dictate a friend should be, ARE they your friends and do you want them to STAY your friends? If your heart says no, then it might be time to start phasing them out. If your heart says yes, then they’re your friends and should be treated as such. Start by not referring to your friends, whom you not so long ago thought of as your wedding party, as “foul-mouthed selfish people.” Are these people truly so horrible that you can’t trust them around a sweet old lady or your future children? If they really are THAT bad, they need to be gone and this letter is moot.
Self-examination is always good when making these big life decisions. You’ve made several mentions of how your friends have reacted to your life changes, but you didn’t say how you’ve reacted to theirs. If this one friend you mentioned is one of your best friends, why does he deserve that honorific, other than him knowing you since high school? Was that your “particularly disliked” friend’s only reaction to your engagement story, or is that just the part that you remember? Because while it was not squealing and fawning and demanding to see the ring, expressing jealousy over your great relationship and wishing they had one too isn’t a sign of a terrible friend. In fact, it might be the highest (if slightly self-centered) compliment someone can give you. They want to be loved like you are loved. They look up to your relationship.
If these people truly aren’t your friends, then you might need to start distancing yourself from them. Toxic people will just continue to hurt you slowly, you need to break off contact and surround yourself with those who are more positive. You can confront them about their behavior, but unless you’re hoping for a change, it’s not going to do you much good.
If you decide that these people, and your bestie, truly are your friends and you want them in your life for the long haul, then it’s time to have a talk with your partner. When you accept someone into your life as your partner, you take the good with the bad. And sometimes the bad comes in the form of a drunk loud friend who makes you feel like you’d rather wear barbed wire undies than be around them. He doesn’t have to be friends with your friends, but he does have to respect them because they are your friends. And he has to respect you for being loyal to people you’ve known forever. That’s something we should all value in our partners—treating a long time friend well is a little like treating a waiter well. It says something about a person. Aside from major events, you can have plenty of time to hang out with them without your partner. Your partner has established that he doesn’t like your friends, one in particular. Now that you know that, there’s no need for him to keep expressing that. And your friends can totally tell he doesn’t like them, friends ALWAYS know. If you’ve made the decision to stay friends with them, then he’s got to respect that. (And the first part of that respect is to stop bad-mouthing them around you.) Find a compromise in which you stay friends with your high school buddies and he learns to deal with it. This won’t be the first time that you two face a decision that the other doesn’t agree with.
So what’s the takeaway? If you want to kill these friendships now, don’t invite them to your wedding. And yes, expect them to take it hard. If you’re not sure what you want to do about these friendships? Invite them to the wedding. See how they act when it matters. Grow apart afterward if you need to. But there are very few circumstances (outside of say, physical or emotional abuse) where your partner gets to call the shots over who you’re friends with. Particularly when you’ve loved these people longer than you’ve loved your fiance.
So, what say you, Team Practical? How do you deal with conflicts between your partners and your friends? How did you deal with the growing apart that can happen around weddings and major life events?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously. We love sign-offs. Make your editors happy.