Thanks for your awesome blog. It helped me through a Darth Vader boyfriend break-up.
Now I’m dating a guy who is super lovely, like a beam of sunshine whose patronus is a golden retriever. The thing that sometimes overwhelms me is his enthusiasm, actually, maybe because he’s Australian and I’m an American whose been living in Britain for 10 years, who knows.
We’ve been dating for four months, and it’s been smooth and lovely sailing. We had our first point of conflict recently when a friend of mine came to visit.
My boyfriend didn’t go out with us because he didn’t like this friend from the get-go, and later he said he was baffled as to why I would spend time with this friend (who is a casual friend; I see him maybe once every 6 months or so, we go out for drinks with other friends). The friend, let’s call him Steve, is – to me – an over-the-top guy who is a bit of a mess, but we get on well and I don’t take him too seriously. He drinks too much and does drugs, and I don’t partake in the latter but am happy to go out for a pint with him and other friends.
It’s probably important to note that Steve and I had a very casual fling last summer and then it settled into a friendship by my choosing, a year before I started dating my boyfriend, and my boyfriend knows this and claims that it’s not a problem. (Steve is 28, my boyfriend is 29 and I’m 32.)
My boyfriend wasn’t concerned about me going out, and he bowed out because he didn’t like Steve, but later expressed a lot of concern about me having such a toxic and awful person in my life. I felt like it was an overreaction – I don’t really think much about Steve, he’s fun for a brief catch-up, tea or lunch, but I don’t feel he deserves that much energy, whereas my boyfriend went so far as to suggest that Steve – being a student-party-type – was really bad for me, and, quote ‘it was a red flag’, and he couldn’t understand why I would hang out with a potentially toxic person when I clearly was so otherwise good in my judgement of people.
We talked it out pretty well, but it left me feeling uneasy.
I admitted I didn’t want to NOT see Steve just because BF didn’t like it, and he acknowledged that it wasn’t intended to be a controlling thing, more that he (BF) was baffled because Steve is so unlike my other friends. (In general me and BF get on so well because we’re pretty straight-laced, non-party-types, and until Steve, we’ve each really loved and got on with one another’s friends.)
However, I wonder if BF is idolising me and thinking I can Do No Wrong and is a bit shocked that I do have friends who like to get drunk, or that I do occasionally stay up late drinking cocktails, and he hasn’t seen me do this much because we don’t like to do that and we don’t bring it out in one another. (One of the reasons I’m so enjoying BF is that he encourages the healthier preferences of my personality.)
BF is intensely into self-improvement and not having anyone Toxic in his life. We both came out of very difficult relationships where we were the ‘Carer’ for a really emotionally troubled partner, so I get the feeling he is anxious about me going off the rails, perhaps.
I felt able to assert that I needed to make my own decisions about my friends, and who I spend time with, but also that I respect his discomfort in this issue, so I think we reached a good conclusion, but I still feel a bit unsettled. Am I being silly – is he just plain jealous?
Thanks for your thoughts.
Enjoying chilling out and would like BF to be able to chill out as well.
Hi Person Who Enjoys Chilling,
I’m assuming Steve didn’t say anything really racist or otherwise horrifying in the few moments that he and your boyfriend interacted. In that case, my read is that your boyfriend is a bit jealous of Steve but also thinks that he is above such petty emotions as jealousy so he is transforming it into “concern” for you and using language like “toxic” and worry about drinking and its “influence” on you. Deep down he’d probably prefer it if you never saw or spoke to Steve again but he knows that would be a controlling request, so he’s using another reason to try to convince you that it’s what you should want. Being jealous doesn’t make him evil, it’s totally human to be like “Hrm this guy my brand new girlfriend used to bang is in town, I’m trying to be cool but totally failing.” I’m just not sure I like the way those feelings are translating into judgment of you and the idea that you have to fix yourself because of them.
A single red flag isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it’s just an indication to pay attention to patterns. If “Hmmm, you don’t have to like Steve, but I enjoy having drinks with him every now and again when he’s in town, see you later!” settles the question from here, then, great! If you’re still low-key fighting about Steve a week or so from now, and you feel like your boyfriend’s “concern” for you is starting to encroach on you living your life the way you want to, remind yourself that a dude who has known you only a few months acting like an authority on who you can hang out with and what you do with your time is also a red flag.