Boyfriend vs. Friends

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Dear Hoopers,
I have a wonderful boyfriend and a great group of friends, but my friends all hate my boyfriend. He was a little immature in the beginning of our relationship and made a mistake about 5 months ago that caused my friends to completely cut him out of their lives and tell me that they no longer support our relationship. I was able to forgive my boyfriend and now we are even living together this summer. My friends claim that he is emotionally abusive and that he is hurting my self-esteem, but I have never felt more confident than when I am with him. They say he manipulates me and that I should not be with him.

I have realized that I am more scared of my friends than I could ever be of him. I’m scared to tell them where I am if I’m with him because I’m afraid that they will be angry with me. I’m afraid to bring him up in any conversation because it could lead to them all talking about how bad a guy he is for making me feel bad even though he makes me feel amazing. They say he’s changed me for the worse, but all I’ve noticed change in me is that I am less likely to open up to them about how I feel because I don’t want their judgement. He wants to reconcile with my friends and has made attempts, but they are still shutting him down 5 months later. I have always been a people-pleaser and I don’t know how to handle the situation without hurting two things I love, my friends and my boyfriend. What should I do?
-Boyfriend vs. Friends

Dear Boyfriend,
Our friends’ opinions matter in who we choose to date. They matter even more when our personalities are wired towards being people pleasers. Not having their support during this time is challenging, especially when you disagree with their opinion of your situation and boyfriend.

The problem here is that you feel like you have to make a choice between your boyfriend or your friends. While you don’t outline what this event was that made your friends stop supporting your relationship, it does seem to have flagged concern about your partner.

If you feel these friends are good judges of character, listen to what they have to say.

Rose tinted glasses are sometimes worn in relationships. Don’t dismiss what your friends are saying if you allow them to speak respectfully about their concerns. You can also speak honestly about the positives of the relationship and encourage them to give your partner another chance.

Instead of trying to decode your friends’ opinions about your boyfriend, ask them to share their opinions. It may be that they feel neglected with the time you are spending with him and just want to see more of you. If you feel these friends are good judges of character, listen to what they have to say. In the end you’ve got to do what’s best for you, and only you know what you need.

Dear Boyfriend,
I’m not sure why your boyfriend seems to be such a different person in your eyes than in the eyes of your friends, but this really worries me. The reality is that one of you is wrong about him. He is either an emotionally abusive jerk or a misunderstood boyfriend. The information offered about him so far, including that he is immature and made a significant mistake in your relationship, doesn’t speak well of him. Immature is another word for childlike and selfish, not exactly what someone looks for in a loving partner.

Also, your tendency to be a people pleaser is concerning. Perhaps that means you aren’t standing up for your boyfriend to your friends, but perhaps this also means that you aren’t really seeing your boyfriend for who he is. Maybe you aren’t seeing the boyfriend problems that your friends see because you just want to make him happy.

This emotional experience you have when you are around him could be coming from an unhealthy place.

-Dr. Ryan

You mention the way that you feel with him (“I have never felt more confident”), which is a very important consideration. At the end of the day, if he makes you happy, that should be the deciding factor for you. If he truly is a good partner for you, your friends will see that someday and accept him back into their lives.

However, know that this emotional experience you have when you are around him could be coming from an unhealthy place. Perhaps you feel confident when you have someone bossing you around and telling you what to do. Perhaps you feel relieved when you don’t have to take the lead anymore and can yield power to someone else. I’m not sure if this is the case for you, but know that your friends aren’t raising these concerns with you because they don’t care. Truly consider your friends concerns and then make the decision for yourself. You are the only one that has to live with the outcome.
-Dr. Ryan