Don't like your mate's partner? When and if you should speak up

Charlotte ‘Fozz’ Forrester explains how to tell your friend that you don’t like their partner!

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Everybody wants their best friend to be happy. They want them to be successful and to be surrounded by people who love them. So, when your friend gets a new partner, we desperately want to be able to put our seal of approval on their romantic choice. Obviously, this can’t always be the case and the likelihood is that they aren’t the perfect partner. But if we don’t like them, how do we tell our friend? And should we even tell them at all?

It’s best to ask yourself a couple of questions first. Why exactly do you not like your friend’s partner? Is it that they’re a bit cringey or don’t get your jokes? If it’s simply to do with a clash of personalities, then it may not be the best idea to freely give your opinion. If your friend is going to stay with the person anyway, then unnecessarily telling them why you’re not keen will probably just lead to tension and underlying resentment that could damage your friendship long term. Even if they do break up though, you turning round to say “I told you so” will also further damage your friendship.

There can be a lot of pressure for the partner and the best friend to get along – but if you don’t click then it doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to date them. If they make your friend happy then that should be good enough for you. If you try to not cause any drama with their partner, then that’s you fulfilling your duty as a good friend. If your friend asks explicitly for your opinion of their partner after meeting them for the first time though with big, eager, hopeful eyes - it may be best to ignore the flaws for now and realise that first impressions can be a little off.

What if it goes further than that though? What if you feel that their relationship is unhealthy? Obviously, it can be difficult to make judgements on a relationship that you’re not a part of, but there are some ways to spot warning signs. How do they treat each other when they’re together? What has your friend told you about their relationship? If you see worrying patterns of controlling and manipulative behaviour; a continuous monitoring of movements from the partner; and a sudden, significant drop in self-esteem, then it may be worth having a quiet word with your friend to see if they open up to you.

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Unfortunately, this can lead to the realisation that your friend is in an abusive relationship. In this situation, Women’s Aid recommend trying to keep lines of communication open with your friend and to make sure they don’t become isolated. They do warn though that the decision to leave the relationship must ultimately come from your friend and that often it takes people several attempts to leave an abusive situation for good.

During this time, it is important for you to be patient and reliable. Behaviours of feeling shame from the friend are common, but it’s important that you stay non-judgemental and recognise that they may not be ready to take immediate action just yet. Point them to available services for practical and emotional support though, and if they’re in urgent danger, then it might be best to intervene and contact the authorities.

Ultimately, if your friend’s partner just isn’t your cup of tea, keep it to yourself and make the self-sacrifice of forced smiles and laughs over desperate pub drinks. If something more serious is going on though, treat your friend with tenderness, patience, and care. Relationships can be intense, but friendships can be too, so you need to respond in the most loving way whenever possible.