Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 22 August 2019

Ask Allison: 'Should I tell my friend I don't like his girlfriend?'

Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships

'I am happy for him, except for the fact that I do not like his new girlfriend'
'I am happy for him, except for the fact that I do not like his new girlfriend'
You can find ways to navigate your friendship and this triangle

Allison Keating

Q A good friend, who separated from his wife some time ago, has begun a new relationship.

I am happy for him, except for the fact that I do not like his new girlfriend - I find her domineering and she tends not to ask any questions about anyone else but brings all conversations back to herself. I'm sure he would be gutted if he knew I was thinking this, and I don't know how to express my feelings to him, or even if I should. His girlfriend hasn't done anything wrong, it's just that I'm not sure I like her and I don't want to spend time with them as a couple. But I feel like a terrible person for thinking this way and that I should just try and accept this woman as she is. What advice can you give?

Allison replies: Let's start with the irony that I am going to advise you to not tell your friend. In my defence, you gave me a green card when you asked for this advice. Unsolicited advice, on the other hand, specifically about someone else's new relationship, is doomed to clichés about messengers and not shooting them. Therefore, I gently urge you to step out of the potential line of fire.

I know your intention is good as you care deeply about your friend and you are feeling uncomfortable about pretending that you like his new girlfriend. As his friend, it must feel difficult to hide that.

This may be the first time you've held back on how you feel within the friendship. Openness and honesty are probably what bonded the two of you together in the first place.

If he is in the throes of a new relationship, another cliché of 'love is blind' will be particularly true. In this chemically-charged state, where the love hormone oxytocin will be a powerful influencer, it will make him less open to hearing what you are thinking.

Any unwanted comments against his new girlfriend will most likely be met not just with resistance, but it may impact and hurt your friendship.

Why is this? Being mindful that I know you are thinking of him and I know you don't want to hurt him, but this is how it may be perceived and heard.

■ That you don't trust his judgement and/or taste; this is going to bruise his ego and sense of self.

■ That you know better; this feeling of superiority (even if you don't mean it) can make a person feel controlled and he may push back against this.

You may also feel you are getting mixed signals if, in the future, he gives out about her; but remain as objective as possible. When discussing someone else's relationships it is the same as commenting on someone else's family. People can give out about their own but woe betide anyone who says a bad word about them. They may never be forgiven and you can be certain it won't be forgotten.

There are times when it is necessary to speak up if you are concerned for your friend. His girlfriend being self-centred and self-absorbed may not fit within that category.

How has your friend becoming involved in this relationship impacted upon the dynamic on your friendship? It can be a difficult transition to go from being an important part of their life to feeling somewhat sidestepped in terms of emotional connection and knowing them intimately to the plain old battle for time.

In all relationships and not just in parenting, we know there are three immensely covetable assets, and they are time, love and attention. Don't be put off the word attention. It has been demonised when it is so important in healthy relationships. We all bid for each other's attention, it's how we know we are seen and valued. If there is less of it and he is spending more time with a person that you feel is annoying, it must be a kick to your own ego. Separate those two interlinking feelings.

Take a deep breath and write out the qualities that annoy you in her. Without judgement, can you see any of these traits in you? If not, does she remind you of anyone you've encountered like this before and do you find this type of person or personality difficult? Have you had challenging experiences with people like her in your past? If so, write this out.

Some strategies you could apply is to sit with the idea of acceptance but to allow yourself the freedom to not have to spend all your time with them as a couple.

Could you meet your friend on his own?

Would you be willing to give your friend's girlfriend a chance and to become aware of any past experiences that may have influenced how you feel about her?

Can you accept that you may never like her?

What would that be like for you?

These questions allow you to find what you are comfortable with and to set up new ways to navigate your friendship and this triangle.

* If you have a query, email Allison in confidence at allisonk@independent.ie

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