Q: 'My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, during which time my closest friend and her husband have been living abroad, but now they are home.
Last weekend they met him for the first time and, although my boyfriend was a bit difficult, I thought it went OK. But afterwards, my friend emailed me to say that she was sorry, but they didn’t want to spend time with him again. I was shocked, but on reflection I realised that both she and he are ‘big’ personalities and are used to being at the centre of the party. What do I do? Just see my friend alone from now on? I feel really upset and let down.'
A: ‘Try having a delicate conversation with your friend to find out why she has reacted like this. Start by asking her some open questions: is it purely a personality clash or does she feel hurt or threatened in some way? Is she concerned for you? Or is there another reason?’ suggests psychologist Dr Victoria Galbraith.
You may discover this has more to do with your friend than your partner. ‘Perhaps she needs the reassurance that she is still important to you despite the commitment you have with your boyfriend,’ says Galbraith. In which case, a little attention and smooth-talking may go a long way. ‘Investigate any compromises that can be made. This could start with meeting with her one-to-one for a proper chat to get to the bottom of it.’
Mary Fenwick thinks this may have been a case of too much too soon. ‘It’s quite ambitious to launch straight into a four-way relationship,’ she says. ‘There are a number of what psychologists call dyads [two-person relationships] involved – you with your friend; you with your partner; you with your friend’s partner; your partner with your friend’s partner and so on. It’s asking a lot that these will all immediately slot into place.’
One solution, she says, would be to start again from the beginning. ‘How about you focus on fun times for the two of you as good and old friends, and allow the foursome to evolve at a slower pace?’
We spoke to the following people for advice:
Dr Victoria Galbraith, psychologist and founder of Seacotherapy
- Mary Fenwick, Psychologies’ resident wise woman, journalist and international business coach