Dear Wendy: “I Don’t Get Along With My Boyfriend’s Friends”

“I have been dating a wonderful man for a year now. We get along well, but there is a sore spot in our relationship: I don’t get along with his friends. I’ve never had a problem getting along with any of my ex-boyfriends friends before, so this is new territory for me. I’m a bubbly individual with silly/slapstick sense of humor, while his friends are more staid people with biting, sarcastic sense of humors. I often feel like they treat me as a ditz (which I am not — I own a business and just entered a Master’s program) and I do not feel comfortable with their negative nature (their sarcasm is often making fun of people/things). It came to a head this Thanksgiving when we went to his friends for dinner. I helped out in the kitchen, fawned over the food, and acted respectfully. After we left, my boyfriend told me he had wanted to stay, but said I ‘looked miserable’ and he didn’t want his friends to feel ‘uncomfortable.’ I’ll admit I didn’t eat much (I’m a vegetarian, there was only so much I could eat), and I was very quiet after dinner, but I always tend to be quiet around them because I never know what to say when they go on their antagonistic tirades about people or modern music. He loves his friends and we hang out with them often (he lives with one and the other lives very close), but obviously my polite, quiet approach is no longer working. What should I do?” — Friendless in Boy World

You love your boyfriend and he loves his friends, so if you want to continue a happy relationship with him, you need to make more of an effort to get along with his buddies. Should they make more of an effort to get along with you? Well, sure, but you can’t change other people’s behavior — you can only change your own. You could spend all your time with them sulking and wondering why they aren’t doing more to make you, the relative newcomer to the group, feel more welcome, but that’s not going to get you anywhere. The more you silently bemoan their lack of social graces, the more you silently drive a wedge between you and them, and ultimately, between you and your boyfriend. You don’t have to be besties with these guys, but you at least need to try to get to a place where your boyfriend doesn’t want to leave events early because you “look miserable.” And who knows, if you work on dropping some of your walls, you may find you might actually, gasp, like some of your boyfriend’s friends. You all love your boyfriend, after all, so perhaps there are other things you have in common as well.

So how do you become friendlier with these people? Well, first off, if your “polite, quiet approach” is no longer working (was it ever?), you need to change your approach. Polite and quiet may work on grandparents, but these are your boyfriend’s best friends we’re talking about. If you have such a bubbly personality, why not let them see it? Rather than thinking of these people as adversaries, imagine they’re on your side. It’s amazing what a simple shift in attitude can accomplish. Start thinking of your boyfriend’s friends as your friends — as people who enjoy your company — and see how approaching them from that angle switches things up. And talk to them like friends. Ask them about their interests, their families, their projects and jobs. Most importantly, be genuine. Don’t “fawn all over the food,” but then not eat very much of it. That makes you look fake and untrustworthy. It’s such a little thing, but it sets a tone for how people relate to you. Your words need to match your actions and reflect your true feelings. When conversations begin turning negative/sarcastic, take the wheel and steer them to more positive topics. If they’re putting down recent movies they’ve seen, ask if anyone has recommendations for something good you should see.

Since it sounds like the friends in question here are two guys, I wonder why you can’t hang out with your girlfriends more often when your boyfriend hangs with his buddies? Or, better yet, invite your girlfriends to join in and see if you can combine the groups of friends? Perhaps you can even play match-maker if you know some women who might like these guys and vice versa. Do these guys ever go out on dates? Maybe double- or even triple-dating can help balance the gender weight and give you a chance to see your boyfriend’s friends in a new light. If they don’t go on dates, maybe you’re one of the few women in their lives and you can exploit that role a little more and offer relationship guidance and advice from a female’s perspective. Ultimately, showing respect for their friendship with your boyfriend, a general interest in their lives, and an effort to smooth the waves between you is your best chance at achieving harmony and making the time you spend with them more comfortable … and perhaps even enjoyable.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]