“Hope for love, pray for love, wish for love, dream for love… but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.”
~ Mandy Hale
We all tend to act differently around different people and we tend to let different versions of ourselves show at different times. This isn’t inherently bad or wrong.
I think we let different parts of ourselves shine through depending on the crowd we are in and often this is a good skill, but it can become more complicated in a relationship.
I think it is important to ask yourself; what kind of different are you seeing from your boyfriend when he is around his friends?
Some common changes that can occur between a couple when they are around others (that just in themselves may not be a bad sign)…
- Your boyfriend is paying attention to everyone he is around rather than giving you all of his attention
- Having a more playful rather than a more romantic attitude (the romantic side he may save for intimate moments alone with you)
- Participating in less physical touch (he might not be a comfortable with PDA or worry that you may not be)
Some concerning signs of different behavior may be…
- Being rude or disrespectful to you when he is around his friends
- Making fun of you (in a non-playful or in an excessive way) or putting you down around his friends
- Ignoring you or completely withholding physical touch when he is around his friends
- Acting as if your relationship is less serious or there is less of a commitment compared to what you two have already agreed upon
If you see the concerning signs or even some of the ones that are not as concerning, but they are hurtful towards you, then I think the best thing to do is to have a conversation about them.
I am always one for direct and intentional communication. Let’s say your boyfriend is very affectionate when you two are alone, but rarely touches you around his friends.
You could use “I Statements” to tell him how you feel and ask for what you need.
An example of this could be, “I feel sad/upset/lonely/frustrated when I don’t get the same affection in public as I do when we are alone. I would really like us to be more affectionate even when we are around other people, as that feels very special to me”.
You could then also ask your boyfriend if there is a reason that he is less affectionate to understand where he is coming from.
The biggest thing here is to communicate, communicate, communicate.
It is easy to get upset and focus on what your boyfriend is not doing or what he is doing differently, but asking him about it instead of keeping it to yourself, can facilitate conversation and understanding, which can hopefully lead to a compromise you can both feel comfortable with.
Ashley Baldwin, LPC, CACII – www.facebook.com/BaldwinCounseling
It is a natural part of the human experience to wear many different “hats” and behave differently depending on what context we find ourselves in.
For example, we may act differently at work than we do when we’re spending a night out with our friends.
In some ways, it is to be expected that your partner would act differently with his friends than he would when he is with only you (you probably act differently, too!). However, it can become problematic if he is almost turning into a different person with them and if he’s displaying traits that you really don’t like.
For men in particular, in many cultures around the world, showing vulnerability or expressing emotions is viewed negatively or as a weakness.
This makes it much more likely that when he is around his male friends, the “sweet, caring” guy that you know may disappear. So what are you to do if this is happening? And what if you really don’t like this side of him? The first step is to try to find an opportunity to talk about it with him in a specific way.
The clearer you can be about what you’re seeing with him being different, the better.
For example, you can say, “I noticed that when you were with your friends today you were laughing at some sexist jokes they said” or “I’ve never heard you say (fill in the blank here) before and it didn’t seem like you to say something like that.”
Then see what your partner says from there. He may either take accountability for the discrepancy in his behavior (“You’re right, that isn’t really like me”) or justify it as “no big deal”, even though it is to you.
If he is able to openly talk about your concerns with you, this shows some understanding and potential for him to make changes with how he acts around them if he wants to.
If he minimizes your concerns, this is something to be worried about because it means he may not change.
And if he won’t change, it could be grounds to end the relationship if you see patterns in his behavior when he is with his friends that you don’t like.
Even though you may want to believe that you’re seeing the “true” him when you’re alone together, the reality is that he is a multi-faceted human being with many sides.
While everyone has flaws, you want to make sure that you are with someone who doesn’t change into someone you can’t stand when they’re not with you.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
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