(Illustration: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)Let’s say you’ve just got to the good place in a relationship.
You know where you are. You’ve had the awkward chat. You’re spending the right amount of time together and you might even be edging closer to the ‘L’ word. And then here it comes: a nice big fly, right in the middle of the ointment.
You meet the friends. And you do not like them.
There are lots of reasons why you might not like your partner’s mates. Maybe you’re softly spoken and teetotal while they’re rowdy as all hell. Perhaps you’re a vegan and they think hunting is fun. Maybe you love the Kardashians and they pretend not to know who Miley Cyrus is.
Whatever the reason, you hate them. Spending time with them makes your skin crawl. You cannot bring yourself to be in their life.
This isn’t an unusual problem. Chloe*, 24, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘From the moment I met my boyfriend’s mates I knew it wasn’t going to click. They’re all Essex party boys and they call women ‘birds’. I’ve tried – really I have – but I can’t like them. And worst of all, I don’t like who my boyfriend is around them.’
The most important step is to work out whether you dislike the friends, but still like your partner, or whether you also hate who your partner is around their friends.
If you don’t like the friends, but your partner remains themselves around their mates, then you can probably be a big brave boy/girl about it.
‘I find my girlfriend’s girlfriends incredibly annoying’ said Claude*, 29, from London. ‘They’re vapid, self centered, bitchy and take about 15,000 selfies on one trip to the bathroom. But I still love my girlfriend when she’s around them. So when we go out together I just stick with her, keep quiet and try not to be judgemental.’
So, if you still like your OH, just not their friends, then your best option is to avoid seeing the mates when you can, but still go along to big events and put a brave face on it. After all, if it’s only the occasional evening out is it really that bad?
It’s harder if you don’t like who your partner turns into around their friends.
Alex, 27, advises that you should not underestimate what it means to dislike your partner when they’re with their mates. ‘My boyfriend was a really good guy when we were together, but with his school friends he was awful. He made sexist and racist jokes, looked at other women, was rude to bartenders, all the stuff that I can’t bear.
‘In the end I broke up with him. There were other factors too, but honestly I couldn’t unsee how he’d behaved when he was with his mates. I realised that was a part of his personality, and if he was happy to behave like that, even just occasionally, I didn’t want to know.’
Before you break up with someone over their poor taste in friends, it might be worth having a chat about what is bothering you. If you explain that they change around certain people, you may find that they’re minded towards trying not to do that, or that they’re willing to try to socialise in a different way.
It’s not okay to try and cut your partner off from their friends – that can be a serious red flag for coercive control – but it would be okay to ask if you could make an agreement not to get super drunk when you’re out with mates, or to try socialising in a quieter setting where you can talk to people one on one.
Ultimately it is up to the couple in question to decide how important it is to like each other’s friends. Some couples are happy to socialise separately and maintain their own friendship groups. For others that’s a deal breaker. But as we always end up saying in Modern Etiquette, having an honest conversation about your concerns is the only way to know.
Modern Etiquette is a weekly series. Rather than telling you what to do with a salad crescent or which shoes are most appropriate for Ascot, we’ll be working out how to navigate shared houses, drugs, ex-boyfriends and that moment when you send the screenshot of the person you’re bitching about to them.
MORE: Modern Etiquette: I liked an Instagram photo from 2014 – what do I do?
MORE: Modern Etiquette: My Tinder date doesn’t look like their pictures – what now?
MORE: Modern Etiquette: I got period blood on someone else’s sofa, what do I do?