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We asked Judith Levene, a registered social worker with a PhD in psychiatry, to share some pointers on how you and your partner can reach a healthy agreement about your separate social lives.
1. Voice your issues about his friends, but don't accuse
In order to move past any issues that may arise in your relationship, it's important that you voice your opinions and make yourself heard. However, in order for a conversation about your partner's choice of friends to be constructive, it is vital that you address any qualms you have about his friends with respect.
Levene suggests framing your grievances through your own experience, beginning with the words "I feel," rather than placing blame. "It's easier for the receiver of a message to hear an ‘I' statement than a ‘You' statement," she explains.
Your grievance is more likely to be understood when you address it from your point of view, rather than approaching your partner in an accusatory way. Being accusatory will likely trigger a "defence mode" response in your partner, which closes off empathy and understanding.
2. Listen to your partner's side of the story
Don't be afraid to ask your partner -- in a non-confrontational way -- to explain why the friend in question means so much to him. Your partner may need to explain his friendship with that person to you in order for you to reach a place where you can respect their relationship.
"It is very important to feel that there is room for both of you on the table and that it is a relationship in which you can both listen and feel listened to," says Levene.
Hearing your partner's perspective may help you to understand his relationship with that particular friend. While you don't necessarily have to like all of your partner's friends, respecting that these people are a part of his life is required for you to have a healthy relationship of your own, Levene advises.
Page 1 of 2 -- Find out why it's best not to coerce your partner into ignoring his friends on page 2
3. Don't force your partner to ditch his friends
If you try to coerce your partner into dropping certain friends, whether by passive aggressiveness or emotional manipulation, your actions will likely be met with resentment. For you and your partner to maintain healthy social lives, negotiation needs to take place.
"The essence of a good relationship is the capacity to negotiate. Coercing someone into submission about the way they feel -- or being coerced into submission -- is a destructive relationship strategy," explains Levene.
"Negotiate about individual friends, joint friends and the ways in which partners spend their social time. This includes the choice to socialize separately in some instances," she says.
Setting ground rules for your separate social lives ensures you're on the same page about what is acceptable for both of you.
4. Be realistic
Asking your partner to change his social habits may be an unreasonable request, so be practical in what you ask of him when you negotiate.
"No one should lose most or even many of one's friends. Submission to the will of the other isn't a good basis for a relationship," warns Levene.
You can't change your partner's friendships; you can only change the way you think about those friendships. Don't expect your partner to cut all ties with someone just because you don't approve of him or her, says Levene. Even if your partner did stop seeing a specific friend, it wouldn't be a genuine decision and the result would likely lead to resentment down the road.
5. Agree to disagree
If you can't come to a mutual agreement on your separate social lives, it doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. "It can be healthy to agree to disagree, as long as it occurs with mutual respect and agreement, not coercion," says Levene.
Agreeing to disagree can be a way of showing that you accept each other's opinions. Acceptance must be acknowledged for any social arrangement to exist respectfully.
Being less than enthused about your partner's friends doesn't mean your relationship is going to fail. By adopting an open mind and being willing to compromise, you and your partner should be able to come to an agreement about your separate social lives.
Remember that negotiation and compromise are the keys to getting past most difficult situations in relationships.
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