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Author Topic: balancing friends and relationships
whimsy7283
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My boyfriend and I have been together 8 years, but the last four have been long-distance. As a result, he has accumulated a group of friends who he spends a lot of time with, but who I don't know very well. I have met them frequently when I have visited, but they have mostly just ignored me and not made any effort to get to know me.

I have always been the type of person who has a bunch of friends who don't get along with each other, and this has never bothered me. However, it's really important to my boyfriend that all of his friends (me included) are friends with each other. I have nothing against his friends as people, and I do my best to be respectful of his friendships with them--I don't try to prevent him from spending time with them; when he has a fight with one of them I encourage him to make up with them. I guess you could say I sometimes express annoyance about them to my boyfriend, like "I don't like it when your friend J tells rape jokes" or "I don't like it when your friend T always turns the conversation to a topic I am unable to contribute on, which leaves me out." Mostly I complain about them ignoring me, I guess, but the real issue is that I feel that I have nothing in common with them and don't really want to be friends with them.

Now that I've moved in with my boyfriend, this has become a major issue. He frequently has his friends over, and he wants me to join them since he feels I would be insulting them to not hang out. But when I DO hang out with them (being fairly quiet and contributing dry one-liners when I can get a word in edgewise), my attempts to be a part of the conversation fall completely flat. None of them ever talk to me or ask me questions (though to be fair I don't ask them very much either).

This results in my boyfriend being ashamed of me and how I act when I'm with them. He tells me "You're disrespecting my friends by not being a better host" and "If you would only try just a little bit, my friends wouldn't hate you for being so rude." I am really mad at him for demanding that I change so that his friends like me better. I don't think I need to be friends with them, and as far as I'm concerned I'm doing the best that I can to be respectful and accommodating of them. Does he have the right to ask me to change my personality around them?

He's asking me to talk louder, talk over people, muscle my way into the conversation, etc., which are not things I have ever done in my life. It's not my personality to do that.

I think a great solution is for me just to not hang out with his friends, which would allow him to avoid being embarrassed by me when I'm with them. However, he rightfully points out that forbidding me to hang out with them would also be a mark of his being ashamed of me.

Any advice?

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Heather
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You know, I personally find responses from him like "You're disrespecting my friends by not being a better host" and "If you would only try just a little bit, my friends wouldn't hate you for being so rude," really troubling.

Can I ask how you two have dealt with conflict in the past around other things? Does it usually go like this, or is it usually more thoughtful, caring and constructive?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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whimsy7283
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Well, I'm paraphrasing from what we were saying when we were yelling at each other. I would say that we handle many conflicts constructively and considerately, but we tend to get really mad at each other when one person feels like they are being asked to change.
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Heather
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So, normally things don't get yelly?

I also don't see why HE would be mad and insulting about this if this kind of thing only happens when either of you feels asked to change. After all, you're not asking him to change, know what I mean?

Have you been able to yet have ANY calm, considerate and more productive discussions around this issue with his friends? On a similar note, has he yet had any conversations with his friends, not just you, to try and help bridge some of the gaps here?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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whimsy7283
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He has mentioned to his friends that he really wishes they could be friends with me, and at least one of them has made an effort to talk to me on one occasion. I don't really have many close friends, and especially none where I live now, because I just moved here. It's pretty hard for me to make friends.

I think he feels that he IS being asked to change, because he either has to change his relationship with his friends or leave me out of his interactions with them.

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Heather
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Well, it doesn't look that way to me, save that he may need to change his expectations here and accept that often enough in life, everyone in our life isn't going to be friends, or even all like each other. But, really, that's something most people have to accept eventually, if they didn't get that pretty early on. And it's likely something he'd have to deal with in time even if this wasn't happening with you right now.

Do you think you two CAN dial this all way back -- and do you want to? -- to have a more productive conversation? If so, do you want some ideas that might help you both to do that?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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whimsy7283
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Sorry, I misread what you asked. No, I haven't ever addressed the issue directly with his friends.

Sure, I'd appreciate any advice.

[ 01-22-2012, 02:27 PM: Message edited by: whimsy7283 ]

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Heather
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Okay. Do you two have any precedents you set when talking about and working through conflicts? For instance, have you ever started a discussion like this with some ground rules, like agreements not to yell or say hurtful things to the other?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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whimsy7283
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Sometimes when we have a conflict we take turns asking the other what we really want to do/have happen etc. Our rule is "no games" (ie no saying you want something you don't really want just so you can hurt the other person). If you can't say what you want without being gamey, you should go calm down until you can.

I think that's roughly what you were asking?

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Heather
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Kind of, though it sounds like, based on this issue and you saying you two can tend to get yelly, like you also need to start -- with any conflict -- by making clear that someone cannot play games while still not yelling or being hurtful.

So, I'd add to your precedents that yelling is out, and so are hurtful words, like saying you're ashamed of each other or saying people hate you.

For this conflict, sounds to me like you want to set up a time to try talking again with both those rules, to start. Then I'd suggest that rather than talking about what each of you wants to happen and nothing else, that you each take turns talking about what you feel IS happening and how each of you feels about it.

After you do that, the next step I'd suggest is talking about some ways BOTH of you can seek compromise here. For instance, how about if you and he agree that he picks a couple friends you agree on you can tend to connect most easily with and work on cultivating those friendships? Or, even if not cultivating a friendship -- after all, both of you should be able to pick your friends -- maybe just creating some kind of amicable relationship where hanging out together feels comfy. Maybe one of his is that he asks those friends if they could make a little more effort to include you, too.

Before going anywhere else, I'd want to see where all of that got you.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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whimsy7283
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Thanks very much for the advice.
Posts: 6 | From: Indiana | Registered: Jan 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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