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Friends and Enemies – When New Love and Old Mates Don’t Mix

The second season of the Lady Victoria Howard series of erotic fiction is entitled ‘Friends and Enemies’, and it got me thinking about real life situations, where the two become uncomfortably close.

We have all had experiences of the following situations: 1. You don’t like your friend’s new beaux or your mates don’t like your new partner; or 2. Your new partner does not like your friends.

I realise there are two different situations in the first scenario, but they are kind of the same, in that there is a new person that is not exactly being welcomed by your close social group. The second is your partner not approving of, or liking that same circle of friends.

However, these matters may arrange themselves, the bottom line is you are going to feel pretty uncomfortable, emotions are probably already strained, and these relationships can be irrevocably changed, or worse.

So let’s start with the first one and the age-old conundrum it presents. Your good buddy turns up with a new girl/boy (I’m going to be gender non-specific in this piece, because of course these situations affect us all) and they are both clearly smitten. Problem is, everyone else thinks: this person is a nightmare/treats your mate badly/takes advantage of them…take your pick.

So do you say something? It's always a risk to stick your neck out unless a friend brings it up first, as Rachel Sussman, a licensed clinical social worker, told Verily Magazine. “You have to remember that once you say something negative about the person he or she may [eventually] marry, your friend may go ahead and marry that person nevertheless and it could negatively affect your friendship.”

As Sussman says, “If you feel the relationship is dangerous or abusive, intervene. If you feel the person abuses drugs or alcohol—yes, intervene. If the person is cheating, intervene. If your friend seems unhappy—intervene.”

I was in such a situation as a young guy in my early 20s, but in that case, it was my relationship that needed intervening in. I was with a very manipulative, emotional person, and I was clearly very, very unhappy. My friends didn’t say anything, and only sometime later, after it was finally all over, did they tell me how much they had agonised over what to do. In the end, it was my parents who could take no more, and one day they asked me over to their place and sat me down and told it to me straight. Of course I knew I was desperately unhappy, I just needed that push to eventually break away from a toxic situation.

And that’s the rub when it comes to these things. If your friend is being hurt in some way, you have a sort of duty of care to step in. But if they are not, and you just don’t really like their partner for whatever reason, you’re probably best to just let it slide.

Then there is the other scenario, where your new squeeze takes one look at your crew, and adamantly, wants no part of it. This is a tough situation because it’s more than likely, that they won’t want you to be a part of it anymore, too.

There could be a couple of things going on here, one of which I can directly relate to. Sometimes a new partner can be a fresh set of eyes on your current social crowd, and can help you see things you may not be taking note of.

As Rebecca Strong writes in a piece for elite daily: “Particularly if you’ve known your current friends for a long time, you may not notice some of their problematic behaviour. For example, maybe they flake out on you a lot, or they fail to show up when you need them, and it really matters. Your partner may notice something in your friends that you’ve somehow overlooked — and this could be beneficial if your friends have been mistreating you in any way.”

I say I have knowledge of this situation, because it popped up when I started seeing my current partner. It was certainly not regarding my entire friendship group, just a couple of the more ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ ones in the gang. She was very polite and friendly when we were around them of course, but I opened the door slightly one night by voicing misgivings about where they were heading in life. My perceptive other half then gently expressed that I should possibly consider if I really wanted to be around people like that.

Sometimes though, it’s simply just a case of oil and water: your friends are great, your partner is great, they just don’t get along. In a healthy relationship, you should be able to deal with that situation.

Therapist and columnist for The Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb, refers to the concept of ‘differentiation’ in relationships. “When partners are differentiated, it means that they’re comfortable having thoughts, feelings, desires, interests, and opinions that might be different from each other’s,” she writes. “Often in therapy, we tell couples that differentiation is about the freedom to be who you are in the presence of who your partner is—and vice versa.”

So if your [boy/girl] friends are enemies, that doesn’t mean the end. As Gottlieb advises, “Simply say, just once, ‘I love you, and we’re going to have to agree to disagree here’.” That or just get everyone together and get really, really drunk. Because that always works, right?

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