Debate This: Are You Obligated To Hang Out With Your Significant Others’ Friends?

Let’s say you’re dating a guy and things are going great with one small exception — he has a friend you absolutely can’t stand. There could be a multitude of reasons you don’t like this person; maybe he makes nasty sexist or racist or homophobic remarks all the time and being around him just makes you feel really uncomfortable. Maybe you can’t stand the way he leers at you when your boyfriend isn’t looking. Maybe he dated a dear friend of yours and treated her like crap. Maybe he treats your own significant other like crap, but for whatever reason, your boyfriend is willing to put up with it. Does that mean you should? Even if it means watching this guy talk down to your man, belittle him, and say offensive things? Are you obligated, as a dutiful girlfriend, to spend time with everyone your significant other hangs out with simply because you’re part of a couple? I say “no.” And that was the advice I gave a woman in yesterday’s “Dear Wendy” column who wrote in about problems with one of her boyfriend’s buddies. But quite a few readers disagreed with me. One wrote, “I think Wendy was WAYYYY off on this one. You can’t just be like, ‘Sorry, baby, I don’t like your friend and I refuse to socialize with him.’ In what world is that appropriate within a respectful relationship?” Well, in a world where it’s OK to have your own opinions, separate of your significant other, and it’s OK for couples to spend a little time apart every once in awhile, and it’s OK to hang out with respective friends without each other, and it’s OK to avoid jerks who make your skin crawl.

It would be nice, in a perfect world, if everyone simply got along with each other and enjoyed one another’s company, but that’s simply not reality. And in an increasingly hectic and chaotic society, where our time is already sliced and diced into tiny pockets that we fill with endless obligations, to-do lists, and schedules tightened within an inch of their lives, I guess I just fail to see the justification in spending any more of our precious spare hours with people who, well, suck. For the record, I’m not talking about avoiding a wedding or a big party or some other social gathering with lots of people just because there’s going to be one person there you don’t like; I’m referring to avoiding double-dates or other more intimate social activities with someone you hate — you know, activities where you’d really be forced to interact with said person for an extended period of time.

What’s the point? If your boyfriend, like yesterday’s LW’s boyfriend, has a longtime childhood friend whom you’ve grown to really dislike for understandable reasons (like those listed above), is it really so wrong and inappropriate to say, “Sorry, baby, I don’t like your friend and I refuse to socialize with him”? You aren’t forbidding him from hanging out with his deadbeat friend — that’s his business. But just because he doesn’t mind devoting some of his little free time to an a**hole, doesn’t mean you should simply because you happen to be dating him.

What do you guys think? Do you agree that there’s some sort of implicit couple code where you should always hang out with each other’s friends, whether you like them or not? Or, do you think there can be some perfectly acceptable exceptions to that rule? Have you ever told a significant other you refuse to hang out with one — or some — of his or her friends?