Like to have friends

Who is more important - the friends or the partner?

Photographed by Renell Medrano.
“So what do you think?” This question is a real ordeal for any friendship, whether it's a haircut, a job change or a new partner. The last variant in particular is often problematic. Because if the honest answer to this question is anything but a storm of enthusiasm, things quickly get really difficult.
Is it ever okay to tell a boyfriend or girlfriend that you don't like his or her new boyfriend? In the early stages of a relationship, when even a wrinkle of nose means a strong veto, you should be extra careful with your judgment. After all, you don't want your friends to ruin their young happiness. But if the whole thing gets worse and worse over time and you notice that you just really can't stand the new partner, the question arises: When is the right time to come out with the truth?
At least since the Spice Girls in Wannabe sang: "If you want to be my lover, you gotta get with my friends", one thing is clear: friendship comes before relationship. The generation of our mothers was brought up to look for a man whom they should then make the center of their lives. But after the Girl power was propagated, it looked different. Friendships persist where relationships come and go. We have internalized this supposed wisdom in the meantime.
The new partner has to fit into our life, not the other way around. And since friends today have become something like a surrogate family for many, the friend has to get along with the most important people in our lives. Incidentally, not only the Spice Girls knew that, but also the friends in Friends and Bridget Jones. There is no other way. Or?
What sounds like a watertight truth in theory is not that easy to implement in practice. At least not without a few caveats. To put great friendships over mediocre relationships is something we can all agree on. And building a stable social environment outside of the relationship is also a good idea. This can even strengthen the couple relationship, as shown by a study from the 1990s. The prerequisite for this is, of course, that the group of friends accepts the partner.
But how important is it actually that everyone you love also loves your partner? And can't friends make mistakes too?
If you ask the 28-year-old Louisa, it definitely happens. Her best friends didn't like her new boyfriend from the start. “They never teased him directly, but when I talked about him, they raised an eyebrow or were ostentatiously silent. He's rather shy and they never bothered to get to know him properly. Instead, they kept saying what a strange couple we'd make. For a long time I thought that I was making a huge mistake by being with him. ”Today her friends are long gone. “It hurt me that they didn't try to get to know the person I love better. In the end our friendship couldn't take it. ”And her boyfriend? He's now her husband.
But there is also the reverse case. Friends who think your partner is perfect can be just as difficult. Because that often leads to you starting to doubt your own instincts. The same happened to 33-year-old Rachel. “Everyone adored Alan. I loved him too, but over time he got possessive and jealous - but only behind closed doors when we were alone. He made nasty comments about my clothes or complained that I was going out. ”Her friends were so on Alan's side that they dismissed his behavior as normal relationship behavior. “When I told them about it, a lot of them said it was strange and immediately asked if Alan was okay. At that time the term gaslighting was still unknown, but that was exactly what happened here. "
Daisy's and her ex's relationship was also inextricably linked to their circle of friends. What her friends loved about him was exactly what became a problem for them: “He was the center of every party and was a lot of fun partying with him. Only then I was the one who had to drag him home drunk. You got the fun, I had to take care of the aftermath. ”Daisy stayed in the relationship longer than she wanted because she was afraid of losing her circle of friends. When she finally dared to take the step, one friend in particular went crazy. She learned from this: “I now separate relationships and friendships pretty strictly. I am more cautious and questioning when friends give me a relationship tip. "
To separate one's friendships so rigorously from the relationship is of course blatant. Ultimately, what we all want is that everyone gets along so well that, in the best of cases, we can even let our partner go out alone with our friends. Oh, if only it were so uncomplicated. Unfortunately, what makes the whole thing even more complex is that our friends in their 20s and 30s also go through emotional ups and downs. Therefore, for others, every decision we make for ourselves can feel like we are commenting on their lives. Where the friendly advice begins and where the uncertainties of our counterpart begin is sometimes not so easy to discern.
And even if we sometimes know deep down that our friends are right, that doesn't necessarily make the truth any easier to cope with. Georgia spent five years in an on-off relationship with a man her friends all hated. “I knew they were right and that created tension between us. Not that I didn't trust her judgment, but I just didn't want to admit it. It went so far that I didn't tell them anything about our life together. "
A 2015 study looked at how young adult women work on their relationships. It turned out that when they discussed their relationship problems directly with their partner, they felt the most positive impact on their relationship. On the other hand, turning away from your partner and preferring to discuss the problems with friends instead usually leads to instability within the relationship. So in the long run it is healthier to be honest with one another in a relationship than to go on moonlight and candlelight forever and gossip about your partner behind his or her back. Involving your friends too much in your relationship, on the other hand, is counterproductive. Actually logical, right?
Nevertheless, in reality it is not always that easy to follow. We may discuss some problems with a good friend or confidante before we have the courage to speak to our partner. But of course we don't want to turn our friends against our boyfriend or girlfriend either. The horror scenario is certainly still to imagine our friends toasting us on the day of our golden wedding and thinking to themselves: "Will Sam still leave his clipped toenails in bed?" But separating them too strictly can only lead to alienation in the long run. Georgie is certain: “From now on I will always listen to my friends and family. It is important to me that you also like the person I love. The next time I flash warning lights, I won't ignore them. "
The Girl power-Message from the Spice Girls that friends are always more important than a romantic relationship was probably not all that wrong. It was just a little too simplified. We shouldn't have to choose between friendships and our partner. We should just consider whose advice we take to heart, when - and why. Deep down, we all already know the answers to the really important questions ourselves.