Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Decision-Making: When Your Friends Hate Your Lover

Yesterday I wrote a post about decision-making. In it I asked about how we choose a lover, a partner, or a spouse? Link here.

What data should we use? How much weight should we grant to different pieces of information? Should we base our decision on how we feel or on the other person's character? Should intuition rule or should you be more thoughtful and deliberate?

Such are the issues. They are fundamental. It does not make a lot of sense to distrust intuition when making investment decisions, and to give it free reign in matters of the heart.

Today, I was reading an article from Marie Claire about one of the more important issues in deciding about lovers and other mates. What should you do when your friends hate your lover? Link here.

The article provides both male and female perspectives. Both are balanced, and both hedge the issue. Which is reasonable. It is difficult to offer a definitive answer without knowing the specifics of a situation.

The article raises important important points. First, it says that most friends will not interfere in your choice of lovers. If they disapprove they will more likely offer lukewarm praise of the person and then try to arrange to meet you when they know the lover is not available.

Just because your friends are not strongly opposed to your choice does not mean that they favor it.

This means that when a normally tactful friend expresses overt disapproval of your lover, you should take that advice very seriously indeed.

And it also means that you should refrain from questioning your friend's motives. Considering how difficult it is to put a friendship on the line by disapproving of a lover, you should take them at face value.

Keep in mind that your friends have a more objective perspective than you do. They see the person as the world sees him or her. And they do so without feeling the proverbial afterglow that may overtaken you and clouded your judgment. The fact that someone is a wonderful lover does not mean that he or she has very many social graces.

Keep in mind that a person who cannot get along with your friends is probably not going to be able to function as your friend for very long.

And a person who provokes strong negative reactions in social groups is probably going to have a difficult time moving ahead in the world.

Your friends, in other words, will often be better judges of your lover's character than you will be. For not knowing the person as well as you do.

The article also raises the question of whether or not your friends should have any say at all in such intimate matters. The same would apply to your family members.

Shouldn't you be perfectly free to choose your lovers and mates? Does anyone have a right to tell you what to do?

This sounds like a therapy-culture version of conventional wisdom. It is wrong. When you have a new lover, when you develop a new relationship, when you get married... you are also bringing the other person into your social circle and your family.

You are imposing that person on others. Those others have either chosen to spend time with you, to share their lives with you, or they are obliged to spend time with you. The latter refers to your blood relations.

If you are inviting someone else to become a member of your social circle and your family, wouldn't it make sense that these people have a say in the matter. Wouldn't it be better if they felt that they could express disapproval without having to break off the friendship?


Anonymous said...

Hello Dr.

Do you have any information on how frequent interaction between son/daughter-in-law and parents-in-law affects the marriage?

In my experience, it cause problems for the spouses, even if the relationship with the in-laws is amicable. Can't explain why though.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you for an excellent question. In my experience the most difficult and fraught relationship exists between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. If m-i-l believes that she wants to help d-i-l set up her home and take care of her son in the manner she accustomed him to, then d-i-l might well feel that her presence is intrusive. The same would apply if m-i-l wants to help d-i-l with bringing up a child. Again, what the m-i-l sees as good intentions the d-i-l will see as invasive and disapproving. No woman wants to think that another woman considers her a failure as a wife and/or mother.
But, dare I say, that is slightly off the point. Your question concerns frequent interaction between spouses and in-laws, even where the relations are amicable.
Here is one possible reasons that I can imagine. In some cases children act differently when their parents are around. They revert to childhood habits, become more subservient or self-deprecating. It might well be that a spouse will not be happy to see this transformation.
I hope these reflections shed some light on your question.