In the first weeks of relationships, the delicate issue of friends and your lover meeting might not arise. Perhaps you’re spending every free hour with your lover – as, if the chemistry’s there, you might certainly want to. Perhaps it doesn’t occur to you yet that you’re in a relationship and see no reason for your new lover to ‘meet the folks’. But then the time comes when you’re ready to emerge as a more or less tentative couple. Understandably, there might be a few nerves.
You have reason to be somewhat concerned – and so does your partner. He or she knows darn well that judgements are pending, feels he or she is the only one who has to make a good impression – and might also be wondering if your friends are going to be his or her sort of people, for if not, there are going to be rocky roads ahead in this relationship.
Here’s what to do.
Have faith in your friends
They are, after all, your friends. You’ve chosen and kept them partly because you think they’re pretty good people, right? (If not, you might want to reconsider your policies in choosing your friends.) It is fair to expect your friends to make the effort to accommodate your new partner: to be polite, to make room, to chat and ask questions and listen. It is, of course, also to be expected that as soon as your lover nips off to the loo your friends will launch into a slightly different style of conversation – but your lover is perfectly aware of this and we had probably better accept this is fair play.
Have faith in your lover
He or she is, after all, your lover. Until proven otherwise, he/she is charming, socially adept, a witty and engaging conversationalist… a fine person. If at this giddy, ‘my lover is perfect’ stage you’re genuinely concerned your lover isn’t any of these things, or you know darn well that the only attraction is sex, sex and more sex, then you might justifiably expect the lover-friends compatibility test to be heading for failure.
One way of oiling the social wheels is to establish beforehand reasonable, some would say relatively low, mutual expectations, with regard to the people who are going to meet. That’s not to say you express anything less than affection, but over-hyping the friends or the lover is at risk of leading each towards a fall. (They’ll be thinking: she’s got stars in her eyes: he really, really isn’t all that good.)
Of your lover, you might say that you’re not absolutely sure, but, ‘you know,’ it’s kind of great. What you’ll be doing is encouraging your friends to look with sensitivity, keep an open mind and not raise their brows and close off from your partner at his or her first less than wowing pronouncement.
You don’t need to give out every bit of information. A few leads should be enough to get conversation off to a start. And if you know there are points of difference – she’s a bit right wing; he dresses like a bit of a geek – you can mention them, laugh them off, and with any luck everyone on each side will see that the differences aren’t all that important, if indeed they’re not.
It is flattering also if you’re meeting new people and they know a little about you – and vice-versa. Tip for the lover: on the way to the party, take detailed mental notes.
Just as, if you do become long term partners, you won’t be spending every minute at each other’s side, so when friends and lover first meet, it’s a good idea for the lovers to work the field separately. You stand side by side: they’re imagining wedding photos. You split: everyone’s more relaxed and feels free to be more their real, individual selves.
New bugs, remember: you’re not here to flirt with your partner’s friends. You’re here to be charming and, well, to befriend them.
Be yourself, stay calm – and just a little more sober than they are
It is a profoundly bad idea to launch into show mode and seek to dominate proceedings straight away. New lovers: you are already the centre of attention; you are guaranteed to have their 100% regard. Try and push for more than that, they’ll fall back. People even look for reasons not to like other people when they push themselves on them way too hard.
So you’re nervous. Accept that. Let them see it. It shows you value their good opinion – which is a good thing in itself and also shows you take this budding relationship seriously, the result of which may range from outright approval to, at the very least, sympathy.
If you get to the end of the party and everyone’s smiling and chatting freely and no major disagreements have occurred (avoid all talk of politics, sex and religion – and, lovers, if the conversation drifts towards such subject, you just smile) then you can pat yourselves on the back and count it an out-and-out successful venture. Stick around or head off early-ish, hand in hand, to leave your friends agreeing what an awfully nice lad or lass your partner is.
They hate him/her? He/she hates them? Hatred is a very strong word. If your friends hate your lover and are prepared to let you know, there might be a very good reason. Ask why – and reflect.
If he/she hates them and is prepared to say so, you might be very well advised to end this now. There are exceptions, if those friends are more acquaintances than real, solid friends, but as a general rule, those tried and trusted friends are yours for a very good reason – they are like you – and there is no way your new lover should be strongly against them. Fast-forward that and in no time at all you’re in the grip of a jealous/possessive incarnation of relationship hell.
It is also possible that your friends or your partner see something in the other which you don’t. If your new partner expresses doubts about how your friends treat you – points out, for example, that all one of your friends has done all evening has been to criticize you – then it might be time to rethink your friends. Sensible criticism and questions are one thing, quite different from outright attack.
They’re your friends, that’s your lover
Of course, friends and lovers don’t need to be a perfect match. They won’t be spending all hours together. They won’t, potentially, be setting up home, getting divorced, having kids… It is, though, best if they get on. There will be social occasions where you’ll want to be as a couple. If they simply cannot get on to a reasonable extent, something’s wrong. If, on the other hand, all seems friendly, it could well be you’ve found a match.