When my coworker Amy* went on vacation recently, I assumed her partner would go with her. But I was wrong. Amy was going to visit her college friends, and Bryan* can't stand being around them. So he stayed home.
When I asked if that bothered Amy, she said no. She doesn't need Bryan to like her friends, or to hang out with them. And she understands that their personalities just don't mesh. Still, it felt strange to me, because all the rom-coms I've ever watched told me that your friends are a huge litmus test for your partner. If they don't get along, then your partner isn't a good match, right?
Not necessarily. Amy's situation isn't unique, says psychotherapist and dating coach Kate Stewart. She can think of several valid reasons someone might not want to hang out with their partner's friends. If someone winds up in an opposites-attract type of situation, for example, where one partner is really outgoing and loves to go out dancing and one is introverted, nerdy, and loves video games. There's a good chance that their partner's interests and their friends' interests won't match up. So they might not want to spend a lot of time together.
And if there are cultural or language differences, that's another reason your partner might opt out of a hang out. Stewart was once in a relationship with someone whose friends were all French. "When I would hang out with them, I'd have to sit on the couch and stare off into space because they were all speaking in French," she says. So it makes sense that she wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with her partner's friends, because it wasn't entertaining for her.
But, baring cultural differences or mismatched personalities, your partner disliking your friends so much that they don't want you to hang out with them either, could be a sign of an unhealthy or controlling relationship, Stewart says. So while it's okay for them to stay home when you and your pals go to lunch, watch out for signs that your partner is trying to convince you to drop your friends. Otherwise, your partner not wanting to spend much time around your friends is totally fine, as long as they have a good reason and you're okay with it. "Basically you use your best judgment,"Stewart says. "If it feels okay, then I think it's relatively okay. As long as it doesn't feel unfair."
But, Stewart does suggest trying to make a compromise when it's important. "People can say, 'You know what, I don't love hanging out with your friends, but I'll do it once in a while just to support you,'" she says. People in a healthy relationship will do that in certain situations, like if you're invited to a dinner party where a friend that your partner doesn't like will be. Saying no, just because they don't like that one person, puts you in an awkward situation.
If you're the partner who doesn't want to attend the party, consider going anyway. Making small talk with someone you'd rather pretend doesn't exist won't kill you, and it could make your partner happy.
*Names have been changed.