“Do you like my boyfriend?”
I remember looking at my friend Julie, with her impatient eyes staring a hole through my core. She wanted to know, desperately. She was a heartbeat away from begging, the undignified type that ends in tears and binge eating.
Please don’t make me answer that, I pleaded inside.
The reality is that no one wants to answer that question. Though we may appreciate the consideration of our opinion. Though we may appreciate the confidence to ask the question. The reality is that when asked that question, we’re obligated to answer it.
And answering that question can never go well, especially if you share the same feelings as me.
I hated Julie’s new boyfriend. He was mean spirited, loved to pick fun of her, me and everyone else we came into contact with. He wouldn’t show up for her, wouldn’t be there when she needed him the most.
The clincher? Because there is always a clincher. They had zero in common.
When she asked me, I wondered why. Did I give her a look that made her think I didn’t like him? Did I say something out of place? Did I question him too many times about his life, work, hobbies, appendage size?
Because no one wants to ask that question either. I’ve always reasoned that if you’re asking, you know something isn’t right. And you’re hunting for validation of persistent suspicions.
Yet regardless of the reasons, Julie was asking. And for all my reasons, I didn’t want to answer.
Did my opinion matter that much?
What is in it for me to share my opinion?
What do I have to gain by saying my honest, unfiltered thoughts of him?
You may think this is a selfish point of view, but self-preservation is hard to ignore. I need to look after my own interests. In this case, it’s maintaining the healthiness of my relationship with Julie.
I have to ensure my honest answering doesn’t jeopardise what I have with her.
Everyone has faults, and in Julie’s boyfriend’s case, I was hunting for them. He caught me off guard on our first meeting and that impression lasted with me. So if I did say how I felt, Julie would feel the sting of my disdain.
In my experience, there are more cons than pros in this situation. Such an answer can only lead to fights, tensions and awkwardness between him and me, or her and me.
What does she gain by knowing my opinion?
Though I conclude there is more risk than reward in answering this question, I want to know why Julie is asking.
I’ve rarely asked my friends what they’ve thought of my partner. Though I value their thoughts and feelings, who I date isn’t up to them. They aren’t the deciding factor, and they don’t sway my romantic emotions. Sure they may present logic to the situation and offer a new perspective. But I’m not dating my friends.
Asking a friend’s opinion of your lover could be a sign of unsteadiness in the relationship. It’s a form of confirmation bias. You’re looking for someone to confirm your feelings. Or confirm your ideas about parting ways.
Alternatively, some need positive confirmation bias, to validate the reasons to stay in toxic relationships. They’re searching for the good to offset the bad, hoping for the silver lining to their irreparable situation.
The reasons for wanting to know varies from person to person. Yet, what doesn’t change is the importance placed on the friend’s opinion. We’re asking because the answer is meaningful to our decision making. And that loads our friends with enormous pressure to get it right.
Our friends don’t want to hurt us. But in the situation, we’re putting them in a position to do that.
Does my opinion represent truth or fact?
Does my opinion point out facts about her partner or is it the way I view him? My experience with Julie’s boyfriend is my own. I have preferences about how people behave. I have feelings about who Julie should date.
But this is my opinion. It isn’t a science, with quantitative results to back up my theories. It’s a skewed, limited interpretation of the person before me. It isn’t right and it isn’t wrong. My opinion represents my feelings.
But it’s possible for my opinion to be wrong.
Opinions and facts often become confused, especially in matters of relationships. It’s so easy to become influenced by other opinions, so much so that we’re convinced feelings are factual.
Yet, we need to remember we’re human. With our opinions, we’re bound to get it wrong at some point or another. We can forget important details or events. We’re known for letting our past experience overtake future feelings. We’re swayed by our misfortunes and project them onto others.
With our rose coloured glasses on, our opinion should always be taken with a grain of salt.
We can’t forget how easy it is to let out friends down by answering the question. With such a sensitive topic, we can be wrong if we like our friend’s partner and wrong if we hate them.
In ten years time, Julie could turn around and blame me for losing the love of her life. Or she could blame me for encouraging her to stay in a relationship she hated.
We could be walking into a relationship minefield by contemplating the question. Whatever we say, we’re screwed.
There will always be exceptions to this. There will always people who we thought were mean, and it turns out to be true. But often we don’t have enough to know if our friend’s partners are ‘the one’.
We don’t know how they are behind closed doors, how they are as a couple, or what has happened to bring both people to this point. We don’t have the fly on a wall perspective to bolster our opinion.
Everyone needs to make their own decisions
I avoid triangle relationships. The plutonic threeway between a couple and their interrupting friend. In most romantic relationships, there are two people, and that is more than enough.
Until I’m invited and willing to accept an invitation into a romantic triangle, I remind myself I’m not the one who has to love him. I’m not the glue holding them together, nor am I the solvent pulling them apart.
I’m not the one who has to date my friend’s partners. They do.
It’s Julie who needs to be happy with him, and how she’s treated. She’s the one in the relationship seeing sides of him that I don’t get to. She’s the one who understands her feelings and what she wants. With my third-person perspective, I’m not seeing the whole picture.
Even if my opinion could change their relationship, what I know about them is clouded. But I’m not the one who dictates who dates who, nor is my opinion always right.
Asking for my thoughts I can justify, but I’m also justified in denying her request.
Does my opinion matter? It doesn’t matter about the relationship that Julie has with her boyfriend. But it does matter to my relationship with her. What I say can impact my friendship with her. And that is the relationship I care about most.
I won’t do anything to jeopardise what she and I have. And that is the measuring stick I live by with my friendships. That is the relationship I’m in, and the only one I can pass an opinion on.
Will she ask me again, though? We will have to wait and see.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analysing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised.
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