Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart. If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it.
My friend has been single for a long time. She was married for a couple of years to a guy we all loved but who had a huge drink problem. We didn’t realise the extent of his problem until after they’d split and he’d left the country. It’s taken my friend a long time to get to where she is now - happy in herself, her career and brilliant mum to her two daughters. About five months ago, she met a guy via an exclusive dating app and things are getting serious. The problem is, we can’t stand him. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean pretty much all of her friends. He’s rude, talks about himself all the time, is constantly groping my friend while she’s mid-conversation and routinely disappears when it’s his ‘round. What can we do? I want to be supportive but this guy makes my skin crawl. Conflicted, Dublin
Christ, a tight-fisted, narcissist with personal boundary issues? What a catch! The temptation to whip him aside, issue a ‘fake news’ file on your friend and pay his one-way ticket to Bora Bora is immense.
Don’t do it.
We love our friends, and our solid, expertly curated circle of intimacy. But with the inevitability of broken relationships, a tilt towards open and non-monogamous partnerships and the evolution of sexual fluidity, it might just be time to brace yourself for a steady flow of interlopers from here.
For now, we have to look at what your friend’s getting out of this guy. He may be a selfless, attentive lover, committed only to her pleasure. She might privately refer to him as Magic Rod, a tribute to the electro-static bolts he conducts at point of climax. Let’s just call it ‘chemistry.’ He might be secretly hilarious and generous, a riot with her two girls. Perhaps top of her mate-matching criteria is ‘non-alcoholic.’ That might just be enough for her right now.
Research also tells us we make up our minds about someone in the first minute of meeting them, then ignore evidence that goes against our opinion. Could he be nervous, talking himself up to win your approval? Escaping rounds because he has a persistent urinary tract infection (possibly countering the Magic Rod scenario) and needs the loo at the most inconvenient times? Groping your friend to (misguidedly) demonstrate togetherness in the face of a hostile crowd?
Whatever’s going on, beyond a catalogue of shifty options, you have two real choices.
The first is based on the ‘life’s too short’ principle and is the riskier of the two. When you get to our age, you’ve lived a bit. You know who you like and you’re less inclined to make the effort with someone you don’t click with. You prefer staying in to going out so when you do go out, you expect a good bloody night. Not some tool carving up the vibe. I get that completely. You start to dread those nights because he’s going to be there.
So, if you’re ready to prioritise your own sanity, tell your friend how you’re feeling. Don’t be mean or judgy, don’t slag him off – remember she’s still sharing a bed with him – just acknowledge a personality clash. Say that you find it difficult to be around him, that you find yourself holding back so as not to ignite a row; that continued exposure to him is likely to result in an MMA style face-off. Reassure your friend that you support her happiness and are merely trouble-shooting an imminent showdown. Suggest you see your friend independently, apart from major events – births , weddings and deaths.
The possible fall-out here is a) you may lose your friend. She may wonder why you couldn’t just swallow your misgivings and get on with the show. She might initially agree to your plan but as her relationship progresses may well see you less and less until you are officially #ghosted. Or b) you may isolate your friend, inadvertently pushing her deeper into Mr Tickle’s arms. There are already multiple alarm bells with this guy and your friend’s had a hard enough time; isolating her now may spell disaster.
It’s also worth remembering at this juncture that you loved the alcoholic ex who wreaked havoc and skipped the country. She may not place great weight on your character judgment. Just be prepared for that too.
So, the second, safer but no less difficult course of action is: plaster a raging smile on your face and suck it up! Don’t become an enabler, celebrating his smallest victories eg. buying his first round. That still deserves a slagging. But also resist the urge to bitch about him in the 7 days prior to and post seeing him. Yes, you can make interactions with him more fun by conspiring with your co-haters to count the amount of times he says ‘I’ in one night but try to engage with him whenever you can, searching for even a sliver of common ground. Maybe you both love the Lindt Dark Chocolate Coconut Intense bar? It’s a start.
At least you’ll be creating an environment whereby your friend will feel comfortable confiding in you if things don’t pan out and/or he just gets weird(er). Although you are truly taking one for the team don’t be shy about flagging more worrying behaviour towards her, should it arise. She will be much more receptive to your thoughts if you have taken the time to get to know him.
Good luck, soldier!
Reach me on twitter @rhonamcauliffe
Photo credit Joshua Sazon,Unsplash