Awkward: What do you do if you dislike your friend’s significant other?

By Lauren Leazenby, News Editor

Savanna Steffens

Your best friend is in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship: posting about it all over social media, staying up all night talking on the phone and gushing about their significant other to you.

You recognize you are supposed to be supportive of your friend’s newfound love, but, you are actually finding it difficult to tolerate both this annoying relationship phase and the person your friend is dating.

You do not like their partner, and ultimately, you want your friend to dump this person. But how do you relay that sentiment without putting your friendship in jeopardy?

Relationship experts weigh in:

“Being curious about others’ love lives is part of human nature,” said Alexandra Solomon, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. “It’s why we have entire industries now of romance-based reality TV. But what it has done is given us this sense that we are authorized to weigh in on relationships whenever, wherever and however.”

Solomon, who is also the author of “Taking Sexy Back” and “Loving Bravely,” both books on relationships, said you should ask yourself why you feel the need to provide feedback on your friend’s relationship.

If you are seeing “red flags” that make you believe your friend’s significant other is dangerous or toxic—or could put your friend’s health or safety at risk—do not ignore them, Solomon said.

But wait for your friend to express these concerns, she said. If you bring them up yourself, you risk doing more harm than good by pushing your friend away.

“What happens is, if I come in weighing clearly on the side of ‘You need to break up,’ [then] by Newton’s Second Law, what you’re going to do is take the opposite pole,” she said. “The harder I come down on ‘You have to end it,’ the harder you’re going to come down on ‘You don’t understand.’”

Solomon recommends you listen to your friend. When they express concerns, mirror them back lightly, without mentioning you have already observed these problems, too.

On the other hand, maybe the significant other has not displayed any red flag behaviors, but you still dislike them.

Psychologist and friendship expert Irene S. Levine said you should remember that this is your friend’s significant other—not yours. What they want in a relationship might be different from what you want, or what you imagine they want, she said.

“You also need to reflect on your own feelings,” said Levine, who also operates the advice blog, The Friendship Blog. “Are you feeling jealous? Is it something that’s not realistic on your part? Maybe you don’t know the person that well. … Is it that you’re feeling that you’re being left out now?”

Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of the etiquette training company Beyond Etiquette, said a good way to break past the awkwardness of this situation is to start by getting to know your friend’s significant other better.

Most people feel comfortable talking about themselves, Tsai said, so her advice is to get the significant other to talk about themselves by asking about their hobbies and interests—questions that require a response of more than just a few words. Then ask follow-up questions to get a back-and-forth conversation going.

Tsai said if your friend feels as though their significant other is being ostracized by friends, this might present an awkward situation. To counteract this, she said it is important to include them in group settings or conversations between you and your friend.

“The best way to approach it … is to make them feel welcome,” Tsai said. “There’s gotta be a reason that your friend likes them or wants to be with them.”

Still, jealousy over how much time your friend is spending with their significant other might creep in. When you bring it up, Solomon said to frame it as missing your friend.

“I want to say to you, ‘You’re spending too much time with this person.’ What I could say instead is an ‘I’ statement like ‘I missed you. Could we carve out some time for just you and I this week?’” Solomon said. “To say, ‘I have a need here, I miss you,’ is very different than criticizing the partner.”