March 13, 2018 by
Several adjustments always occur when a couple – let’s call them Bob and Sally – become serious about each other and either move in together or get married. One of these adjustments has to do with their former friends, who are now seriously repositioned because of this new relationship. As Bob and Sally are more preoccupied with one another than they were, they tend to spend less time with their friends. Some friends, feeling slighted, will probably drift away. Others may be banished to the sidelines because either Bob or Sally feels uncomfortable about them.
In my book "A Son Is a Son Till He Gets a Wife: How Toxic Daughters-in-Law Destroy Families," I dealt with the way some narcissistic women uproot their husbands from the husbands’ parents and siblings when they marry. They demand exclusivity of their mates’ time, energy, and affections, and, by hook or by crook, pry the mates away from family members who were once very important to them.
One of the themes I heard over and over again as I interviewed parents who had lost their sons in this manner was that their daughters-in-law had put the kibosh on all their sons’ old relationships, not just the ones with their immediate families.
Some men do the same thing. If they are selfish, they are liable to be jealous of a woman’s girl friends and to begin complaining about this or that quality they have until the woman cuts them off and doesn’t see them any more. On the surface, they usually say that the woman spends so much time with her friends that it cuts into their time – the man’s time – with the woman. What they probably fear, down inside, is that the woman’s friends will influence her to dislike them or find fault with them, which, admittedly, some women do when they don’t like their friends’ partners.
But, in my experience, women are twice as likely as men to want to get rid of their sweethearts’ friends. They are generally more territorial and demanding than men – and maybe more inclined to jealousy – and therefore more prone to nixing old relationships their men enjoyed.
Monica, the daughter-in-law I describe in A Son Is a Son Till He Gets a Wife, began tampering with our son Richard’s freedom the minute they became engaged. Before the engagement, she had intimated that she would move into Richard’s house in his old neighborhood and become part of his circle. But once she had a ring on her finger, she coaxed him into leaving his house, where he had been renting a portion of it to a good friend, and moving into her condo. She bad-mouthed the friend until our son stopped dealing with him and asked him to move out of the house. Later, Monica and Richard would build a house of her choosing and she would wean him more and more away from all his friends.
We attended a Christmas party in the new house before we were cut off entirely from seeing Richard. Only two of his many former friends, out of a dozen who lived in the area, had been invited. One of them said to us, “Richie isn’t the same, is he? I mean, he used to be a lot of fun. Now he never comes around, and he doesn’t go out with us the way he once did. Frankly, he doesn’t really seem to care about us any more.”
The tragedy of all this, whether it is a woman or a man who cuts off the partner’s old alliances, is that instead of maximizing the person’s socialization opportunities, as a union ought to, it restricts or minimizes it. Having a dear friend ought to double or triple a person’s contacts and exchanges, thus enriching one’s life. But when a significant other forces a partner to close off old relationships and adhere to the S.O. alone, that opportunity is squandered.
In the ideal relationship, one’s sense of life and joy is vastly increased by the new people one can relate to in the significant other’s circle of friends and family. This goes for both men and women. When we don’t take advantage of this possibility, and actually reject it, we only, as the old saying goes, cut off our noses to spite our faces.
What do you do if you’re in a relationship where your partner or spouse tries to turn you against your circle of friends or even demands that you stop seeing them altogether?
I recommend the following steps:
First, try to reason with your significant other. Explain the importance of the socialization process in everyone’s life, and how vital it is for both of you to get to know one another’s friends. Say that you both need some time to become better acquainted with your respective sets of friends, and that time itself will sort out which ones are durable friends and which should be treated as mere passing acquaintances.
Second, if your S.O. is not happy with this, suggest that you see a counselor together and discuss your impasse on this matter. Say that it would help you to see your S.O.’s point of view, and that that is important to you. What you hope, of course, is that your S.O. will also come to understand your point of view, giving you wiggle room to keep your most important friends.
Third, if your S.O. is unwilling to compromise on this essential matter, consider breaking off your relationship. Weigh your S.O.’s argument; there may be some truth in it. Then consider whether this person is worth abandoning your friends for. If so, then perhaps you should do some compromising. If not, it may be time to ask whether you want to spend your life or a significant portion of it kowtowing to someone whose personal demands are unreasonable, selfishly motivated, and psychologically restrictive.
It’s your life. You should make the most of it!
About the authorANNE KATHRYN KILLINGER has been a concert pianist, a college professor, a Parisian model, and the wife of a widely known clergyman. She has lived in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Birmingham, Paris, and Oxford, and now resides near Washington, DC. She also blogs for dating site.
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