Q: 'I never warmed to my friend’s partner, who was boring and a bit of a snob, but she seemed happy with him, so I always made an effort.
Then they split up and, over a coffee one day, I told her the truth – that I never liked him. She seemed surprised, but not upset. Now they’re back together. How do I handle this – now and going forward?'
A: ‘We can never know what goes on behind closed doors in someone else’s relationship, which is why we need to think carefully before criticising a friend’s partner,’ says Relate couples and family counsellor Barbara Bloomfield. ‘Apologise for speaking out of turn and say that her friendship is very important to you. Explain that you want her to be happy and are pleased they have reunited.’
Psychologies’ agony aunt Mary Fenwick has two tips for commenting on someone else’s relationship: ‘Say nothing unless directly asked. If asked, say: “What matters to me is your happiness. How do you feel when you’re with him?” or “It looks like this to me from the outside, but how does it feel on the inside?” or “I’ve known you for X amount of time, and I notice this about you when you’re with him”.’
Try rebuilding the relationship with an open mind, suggests Fenwick. ‘What sort of things does he like doing? Is it possible to arrange that activity as a group outing, so that you might see a different side of him?’ she says. ‘If you get to know him better, you might learn to like him,’ says Fenwick.
We spoke to the following people for advice:
- Barbara Bloomfield, Relate couples and family counsellor and author
- Mary Fenwick, Psychologies’ resident wise woman, journalist and international business coach