Dear Carolyn: I have been happily single for more than a decade but have a wide circle of long-term friends (20 to 30 years). I had always dated casually but never met anyone who really lit my fire. My dates were the subject of numerous and often humorous conversations in my circle of friends.
Eighteen months ago, I began a long-distance relationship that is turning out to be rather serious. We only get to see each other every 4-6 weeks for about 72 hours and we generally alternate locations, so as of yet I haven’t introduced him to anyone.
We had a bump early on in the relationship, which I shared with several people, but we worked through it and have built a solid foundation with good communication and high levels of trust. I don’t blab every detail about him or our relationship despite some rather pointed questions that I think are frankly nobody’s business. If we have an issue, we work it out. He is becoming my closest confidante.
My boyfriend and I are starting to make long-term plans to be together in my town soon (they will meet him then), for a period of about a year, then travel a year. Instead of being happy for me, I am being met with crazy assumptions and fears, including suspicion as to his motives and fears that he would kill me if we take off on the trip. They say, “Well it’s because we haven’t met him yet.”
My friends have always thought of me as the competent one. I have tried talking to them rationally, explaining how I have grown in this relationship and I am choosing new behaviors that I recognized I needed to change to be more successful in my romantic ties, and that I feel safe, cherished and loved.
How do I get through to them that they will meet him in time, but their approval is not going to be a determining factor in my decision to move forward?
The Longtime Single Friend
If you’re selling me a car and it has a great engine, I’ll find that out myself when I drive it and do my research.
If you tell me 17 times that the engine is great, I’ll conclude the engine is faulty and shop somewhere else.
I might be wrong; it might be a great car. I’m just talking about impressions.
The impression you and your relationship have made on your long, long-time friends might be wrong (their concerns do sound over the top), but your how-do-I-get-through-to-them campaign is only making it worse.
That’s because people who are comfortably living on their own terms don’t announce that to people. Their comfort speaks for itself through the absence of any need or impulse to sell.
So, your efforts to sell your friends on your relationship unwittingly cast it as problematic. That clear if unwitting statement of your discomfort; plus your keeping the guy hidden for more than a year from these apparent mainstays of your life; plus your sharing an early relationship “bump” and then nothing at all since, justified by a taut none-of-their-business; plus that whiff of your being invested in your image as “the competent one”; plus those noticeable, relationship-motivated changes in your behavior that you offer up here as self-motivated improvement; plus the other smiley faces you’ve drawn on every possible negative aspect of your story — and it’s no wonder these friends are going nuts.
If you really want to make the cloud of suspicion go away, then do what people do when they’re not even thinking about clouds, suspicions, bumps, foundations, competence, rationality, explanations, growth, new behaviors, old behaviors, or what their cackling old friends think: Introduce him to your friends.
And do be careful with him. Maybe the engine is in fact good, but it’s always wise to ask why you’re protesting so much.