A few weeks ago, I drove up to DC to visit my friend. After lunch, we decided - that is, my friend decided - we needed to drop by her boyfriend's apartment go pick up a gift card she had left there. The last time I visited my friend, I had met this boyfriend and he had accused me of cheating at Monopoly. Now I am not the purest of souls, but I am not so depraved as to cheat at a board game. And so what if I had? Send me to jail.
I braced myself on the ride to his apartment. When we walked in, I felt a concentrated effort on his part not to make eye contact. I forced out a hello, and he stared at me.
"Hi," he said timelessly.
Okay, you definitely hate me.
He asked that we take off our shoes. I obliged.
Finding the gift card turned into grocery list making and small talk between my friend and the boyfriend as I sat on the couch petting the cat. Finally, they decided to make moves and asked if I wanted to go visit the National Mall. It was obvious he would be attending the activity with us. I tried to hide my disappointment.
As we pulled on our shoes, I had to bend down and tie my boots. The boyfriend, meanwhile, slipped on some beat-up sneakers.
"It's a lot faster when you aren't trying to be fashionable," he said.
It wasn't a joke.
I wanted to say, "Excuse me, desert boots aren't some fashion statement. They're f***ing shoes."
In the car ride, I tried to smooth the silence by asking about his job and the cat. I received terse replies. We parked several blocks away and started to walk.
"We need to walk until we hit Pennsylvania, then turn right," the boyfriend said.
I've never been comfortable with silence, and that's what had descended over us. I tried to further pull hairs by asking where we could eat around here. Eating always relaxes people, right?
The boyfriend shrugged.
We came across a block that was clearly not Pennsylvania, but what the heck, I asked, "Do we turn here?"
"Someone wasn't paying attention," the boyfriend replied.
Like, he actually said that.
"I was paying attention," my friend said. "You said turn on Pennsylvania - but you can turn here."
"He wasn't paying attention," the boyfriend smirked at me.
The hostility was not so obvious as for me to snarl back, "What the actual hedgehog?" - but it did resign me to the original silence. I began texting a friend who lived nearby and asking if they wanted to meet up with us.
"Do you all mind if Jack joins us?" I asked as the Mall materialized ahead.
Neither of them did. Well, her boyfriend just grunted.
Three's a gang, but maybe four would be a party?
On the mall, we waited for Jack. This was almost worst than it just being the three of us because now nothing was said. I began to ask what we should do on the mall or after the mall. Again, silence is not my strength.
"Is there any shopping nearby?" I pleaded, envisioning myself hiding from this couple in the dressing room and also plotting how to abort our hang out.
"There's a Nordstrom Rack," my friend said.
"Let's do that!" I decided. "I'll tell Jack to meet us there."
At Nordstrom, I headed into the shoes section once the boyfriend made clear he would be in the men's section. Moments later, he and my friend located me and said they would grab a bite to eat while I shopped. Phew, why don't you do that?
"He's really hungry," my friend said. Clearly he wanted to be apart from me too. Fine by me.
"Okay, I won't be long," I replied.
Once Jack arrived and I caught him up to speed, we decided to say we were now hungry, and since they had already eaten, why don't we break off and hang out later? All parties agreed, and I spent my dinner with Jack mulling the situation.
I have long advocated that if you think your friend has an unhealthy relationship with a significant other and others agree (proof of objectivity), then you should mention this. I don't believe in breaking up people unless there's harm involved. But my friend and the boyfriend did not have an unhealthy relationship. The boyfriend was a jerk, but he was not a jerk to her (that I saw). Did I bring it up? Are my feelings even relevant to their situation?
After all, what does it mean for your friends to dislike your significant other?
This isn't the first time I've contemplated this question. Several times I've seen my friend group become wary of a friend's boy/girlfriend to the point of refusing to hang out with them, but otherwise there were no red flags that the relationship was unhealthy. Is the relationship even "otherwise healthy" if your friends don't like your significant other? Maybe it's straight up healthy and friends' approval is an irrelevant detail. Sure, friends' feelings might be indicative of problems to come, or maybe they just have different tolerance levels. I don't always like my friends' favorite dessert. That doesn't mean I tell them they can't have sorbet anymore.
I'm curious what others' thoughts are on this situation. For now I'm biting my lip and maybe skipping the wedding. Because it's obvious to me, my friend and her boyfriend will marry unless the rapture comes first - or I voice my feelings.