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I Like You, You Like Me, I Don’t Like Him

I recently ran into a situation in which I was left at a loss for proper etiquette, and I hope to solicit assistance in case such an unsettling interaction comes up again.

My partner and I have been together for several years and, under the law in our country of residence, have a legally recognized partnership (which is tantamount to being married). We are quite happy and (I believe) present ourselves as stable and mature to our friends and family.

However, I had my confidence badly shaken a few days ago when a former colleague and good friend of mine invited me for a coffee. In the course of conversation, we discussed the recent New Year’s Eve party that my partner and I had hosted at our apartment. Then she presented this gem.

“You know, while I had a good time at your party, I just don’t like your partner.”

How am I to respond to that?

While my immediate reaction was to simply ignore the comment, I feel a sense of obligation to defend the man to whom I am attached. Indeed, I have far more loyalty to him than I do to the friend and am quite willing to engage in an argument to defend him. However, I feel that I should not have to extol upon his attributes (if she had criticized something in particular) or, even worse, give her some sort of affirmation with a half-hearted, “I know he can be difficult but…”

By staying silent though, I have to ask: why should she be able to get away with rebuking someone I care about so that we avoid a confrontation? On the other hand, if she’s willing to make such a careless and hurtful comment in the first place, is it worth the time and effort to set her right?

Further, is there a different kind of etiquette for those who are more casually dating? While it’s never happened to me personally, I’ve had friends who have been quite straightforward in their criticisms of the new man or women in someone’s life – and their criticisms were well received.

I hope there is some sort of middle ground that I can take in the future if this situation presents itself again. For now, though, I think I’ll avoid coffee with this “friend”.    0105-13

First,  your situation is universal to everyone regardless of gender or marital status.  You noted that your other friends have freely  given their critical review of other people’s choices of mate and their criticism well received so I gather that it is not criticism of partners, in general, you object to, but rather that it has now hit home for you.   In other words,what was good for those other gooses is not now good for this gander.    One question to be raised is why you cannot receive it as well as others have previously.

Everyone, and I do mean *everyone*, dislikes someone else.   It is not uncommon to like one half of a couple and have varying degrees of tolerance, acceptance, or affection for the “better half”.   I believe it is unrealistic to expect friends to bond closely with both partners of a relationship.   It can and does happen but often relationships with a couple is weighted more to one person than the other, particularly if there is a friendship history that predates the new partner.

Good friends may express concern that the new person in your life is not who they would have chosen for you or they see character traits that do not result in building you up.    My best friend did not like my now husband back when he and I were dating.   I listened, took her comments under consideration and married him anyway.   Twenty six years later, she and I are still best friends and will always be close but I don’t expect her to have warm fuzzies for my husband.  They mutually respect each other and are quite congenial when together but that is as far as it goes.   Conversely, I have expressed concerns to friends about new relationships where I see looming troubles.   I’ve watched in sadness a friend disregard that counsel and marry a man many of us knew would abuse her and he did.    The difference between this kind of “criticism” and what your friend did is that she was expressing an opinion based on her selfishness rather than from a concern for you.    She may be inarticulate in expressing a concern for you and if so, she needs to work on that.  A good question for her to ask is, “Are you happy?,” or, “Does he/she make you happy?”    If two people are happy in their relationship, it is not any of my business to be meddling further.

Your reaction to this is, “Thank you for your comments.  I will take them under consideration.”  And then change the subject.   If she has been a valuable friend through the years, keep up the relationship but with visits between you two alone.   She can choose to not interact with your partner since she is choosing to have the friendship with you and not him.   The onus falls upon her to be civil and courteous when she chooses to be a guest in your house and accepts the hospitality of both of you.  And it should go without saying that you will never gossip about your partner to her in any way lest you fuel her further.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cherry January 8, 2013, 10:51 am

    “You know, while I had a good time at your party, I just don’t like your partner.”
    Is that everything she said? Good grief, that’s just horrible.

    I accept that sometimes we just don’t like people, but if you’re going to say something like that, at least give a reason (ie, because he smokes, he’s too loud, we have nothing in common, to name a few off the top of my head)! What, she’s perfectly ok bluntly saying that she doesn’t like your partner, but telling you why, NO, that’s going too far!

    Also, I always wonder people like this honestly expect the reaction to be. Did she think you were going to laugh and go “I know! He’s awful, isn’t he? Why, I just don’t know why I’ve decided to stay with him for X many years, live with him, etc…”

  • Library Diva January 8, 2013, 11:15 am

    The ‘”frenemies” tag for this post is very fitting. I don’t understand why people feel the need to say things like this. As admin said, it’s one thing to voice your concerns when you see a good friend getting into a relationship that looks like nothing but trouble. If you know that her new fellow is sleeping around, has multiple arrests that he’s been concealing from her, beat up his ex-girlfriend, etc., you have a duty and an obligation to speak up as a friend.

    But just mere dislike should be kept to oneself. No one has to like everyone. If I disliked a friend’s partner, and wasn’t actually concerned about the friend, I’d just try to socialize with the two of them as little as possible, and if pressed by the friend, I’d try to be honest but gentle, saying something like “Bill and I just don’t mesh well together”.

  • Allie January 8, 2013, 11:23 am

    Admin, I feel that you’ve missed the OP’s point. She and her partner have been together for “several years.” That is a very different situation in my view than a friend offering an opinion on one’s new boyfriend. The friend was out of line and I can’t imagine what she was thinking in making that comment. I would not blame you in the least, OP, for cooling down this relationship. However, if this is a good friend it might be worthwhile to let her know her comment upset you and that you would appreciate it if she not criticize your partner in future. If she has specific concerns as a friend about how your partner treats you, that’s one thing. However, if she just doesn’t like him, I don’t think it’s out of line for you to ask that she keep her opinion to herself. I agree with Admin that friends don’t have to like your spouse. They do, however, have to respect your spouse, excepting cases of extreme circumstances, such as domestic abuse. And even then, attacking the spouse is not usually the best approach. It’s better to provide comfort and support so the friend has options and can make the decision to leave for her or himself.

  • Cat January 8, 2013, 11:30 am

    I can think of a few comments, “I am sorry you feel that way about the man that I love”. ” You have every right to like or dislike whomever you please, but I care deeply for him and we are commited to one another. Is that going to have an effect on our future friendship?””Is there some reason you feel the need to tell me that because I don’t know what to say to you now?”
    If she feels she has the right to make that comment now, I can imagine what she will choose to say if you decide to have children. “It’s too bad your youngest daughter is such a disappointment to you.” “How sad that your children have turned out the way that they have.”
    If you did not ask for her opinion, she had no reason to share it with you unless she was using it as a beginning to the sentence, “…so I won’t be seeing you again.”

  • Ellen January 8, 2013, 11:32 am

    To develop on an idea in Admins’ answer, I think the “rudeness quotient” of such a remark depends on both the committment level of the relationship being questioned, as well as the nature of the friendship with the person making the remark.
    Close friend vs. new relationship – quite possibly this is real concern, or observation of a real trait you should be aware of as you pursue the relationship (or not). This falls under the umbrella of “heart to heart” conversation which is exempt from the more formal rules of etiquette.

    A friendly colleague or acquaintance vs. marriage partner – this is territory where offering unsolicited criticism of the relationship or choice of partner is inappropriate, unless the friend has a disturbing disclosure that is necessary to reveal, IE, “I think you should know that your spouse did X , and so I cannot return to your home or be around them”. To casually mention that you just don’t like the spouse, is like casually mentioning that someone’s baby is ugly, or that you dislike someone’s nose. It is insulting, and just spewing negativity for no purpose.

    It is fine to not like every friend’s spouse or boyfriend, but why bring it up unless it is to help your friend? Just get together one-on-one and leave it at that.

  • Wendy B January 8, 2013, 11:44 am

    I think my first reaction would have been, “Can I ask why? Did he do something?” Depending on the answer, you may either defend, explain, or say, “I’m sorry,” and change the subject.

    It would be useful to know if something unexpected or unusual happened to form your friend’s opinion.

  • BH January 8, 2013, 11:56 am

    My responce, has been and always will be “You don’t have to” then turn and walk away.
    You can ask why, but honestly why does it matter? Not everyone has to like everyone else.

  • Bint January 8, 2013, 12:09 pm

    “One question to be raised is why you cannot receive it as well as others have previously.”

    I don’t think that’s fair or relevant. Just because the OP knows some people don’t mind having their other halves criticised to their faces doesn’t mean s/he has to like it, or is wrong to find it objectionable. The OP does not say s/he has ever done this either, in which case this comment might be a reasonable one to make.

    I would be *extremely* displeased if someone said something so disrespectful about my husband to my face like this – this is not a “I’m concerned” approach, as Admin points out. It’s just a flat statement, it’s unwelcome, uncalled-for and extremely rude to both the OP and partner. It’s also pointless. She doesn’t like him? That’s it? Well, so what?

    There is no way I’d tell her I’d take her comments into consideration, let alone thank her for telling me she doesn’t like him. She might get ‘I beg your pardon’ or ‘I see’ at best. Then forget it, friendship over. I can accept people not liking my husband, or some of his friends not liking me, providing we all adhere to the social conventions of not making this obvious. I can also accept someone raising concerns (and have in a previous relationship), but someone who just says to my face ‘I don’t like him’ like that is someone I don’t like very much either and someone I don’t have time for.

    • admin January 8, 2013, 4:35 pm

      I think it is a relevant and fair question to ask. The OP is acknowledging that his other friends have given critical opinions of partners which were “well received”. In other words, the OP does not appear to have a principled objection to critical opinions expressed about spouses/partners yet in his situation he does.

      People should carefully read the story because the OP does obliquely refer to what the problem may be with his partner, i.e. he doesn’t wish to affirmation his friend’s opinion with a half-hearted “I know he can be difficult but…” The OP knows the partner can be “difficult”, and without even getting a specific opinion from his friend, he already intuited what was most likely the reason for her dislike.

  • Girlie January 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

    The whole comment about criticisms being well received of a new significant other totally throws me off because in the beginning you mention how you and your partner have been together for so long that you are recognized legally as a partnership.. sooo I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

    It always sucks when friends throw out comments like that, because I feel like they expect you to gossip about their partner or put them down instead of defending them because then it just makes everything awkward. Tell her you’re sorry she feels that way, but he makes you happy and that’s that. If she continues to mention how much she doesn’t like him for no good reason, then ween her out slowly.

  • Gloria Shiner January 8, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Personal opinions about others are fine, but what’s the point of a comment such as this “friend” made? Statements like that always make me question the motives of the person making them. Maybe if she had said something like, “I don’t like the way your partner is dismissive of your preferences.” it would be different.

    I had one friend whose husband I disliked intensely; I thought he was very self-centered and somewhat unbalanced, although very creative and not abusive in any obvious way. However, she loved him, they had had a stable, loving relationship for many years. My reaction to the husband was my problem, and it was not my business to criticize him or complain about him to my friend. I saw her when he wasn’t around and enjoyed her company without her husband.

    This friend and I have drifted apart but are still cordial. I’m sure if I had told her how I felt about her husband, that would not be the case!

  • WildIrishRose January 8, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Wow. I must live in a cave, because I’ve never been subjected to this! I have been married for 26 years and while I’m fully aware that people may or may not like my husband, not one person has ever expressed to me a dislike for him. Why would anyone even say such a thing to one half of a couple? I think I would have just stared at her, eyebrows lifted, and waited for her to elaborate. I’m like that. And if she said nothing more, I would have asked what it was about him she didn’t like. I’m like that, too.

  • Mrs. Lovett January 8, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Sounds like your friend said something careless and voiced an opinion better kept to herself. I don’t think you should validate her comment, as it was rude, unnecessary, and unhelpful. However, it’s still important to be polite, especially if she’s otherwise a good friend. I think a comment along the lines of, “That’s unfortunate because I like him very much,” would not be unwarranted. Then change the subject. Hopefully that will be the end of it or she will apologize for her comment. It’s important to bean-dip at this point because if she gets flustered, she might try to defend her comment by citing what she doesn’t like about your partner, which would surely be hurtful and injurious to your friendship. Try to give her the benefit of the doubt, though, because I know that I’ve found myself disliking perfectly lovely people for one reason or another, and her opinion of your partner in no way invalidates what you feel for him.

  • PhDeath January 8, 2013, 12:38 pm

    As always, we can only go on the information provided by the OP. Based solely on that, I’m inclined to fault the friend in this case. If she were expressing specific concerns about the OP’s partner (e.g., he seems selfish or, worse, abusive to her friend), that would be one thing. But it reads as if she was simply saying she doesn’t like him – not something I’d bring up in a cavalier fashion about a years-long partnership.

    Again, it’s impossible to know all of the details. But based on what I read, this sounded like an unnecessary person gripe-gone-bad.

  • hakayama January 8, 2013, 1:01 pm

    “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?”
    That came to mind when I read the “friend’s” comment. If the conversation had centered on “heavy” subjects, love, family,life, etc., making a comment about the partner would have made sense.
    However, it appears to have been a complete non-sequitur, so it’s no wonder the confused OP just moved on.
    I am pretty sure that the “friend” has made “wonderful” comments in the past, and will continue speaking her non-mind for a long time…

  • Huh January 8, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Is it possible she saw something about the way he was treating you? Like he talks to you with a dismissive tone or makes fun of you by “just teasing” or a million other little things that can cut away at a person’s self-esteem without them even realizing it. Sometimes friends can see that before the person in the relationship can. We’ve all had that friend who is with someone who is a complete jerk (or been that friend, I know I have!) and everyone wonders what they see in that person.

    I don’t like my best friend’s husband and it’s because of how he treats her. I’m not going to get into all of that here, but the only thing I have said to her is how he talks to her is not right. She has made it clear that she is not leaving him. When I see him, I am polite and courteous as I would be to a stranger on the street. But I do not like him. We are not now nor ever will be friends.

    I’m not saying anything like this is going on with you and your partner or your friend. There are also some people out there that are never going to like anyone you’re with, or wish you would have stayed with Person A or who are just plain critical of everyone. That could also be the case.

  • RedDevil January 8, 2013, 2:58 pm

    I think I’d want to know why she doesn’t like him. There are things that our friends and family see about our partners that we just don’t see ourselves through our rose tinted glasses, and it’s worth listening to.

    I disagree with Admins response to use, though. Specifically the “I will take them under consideration” part, as if you have some decision to make about him. I would first ask why (in a non-defensive way), let her (briefly!) express her thoughts, and then thank her for sharing her thoughts with you, and leave it at that. There’s no need to defend your choice in partner, nor a need to get into a full discussion on the subject.

    • admin January 8, 2013, 4:23 pm

      “I will take it under consideration,” is merely a courtesy phrase to indicate you have been listening, not just hearing. You can consider the content of the friend’s opinion for about 30 seconds and mentally pitch it.

  • Elizabeth January 8, 2013, 3:07 pm

    I don’t think I agree with Admin that you’re to thank her for her comments, or even take them into consideration.

    I think it depends on how close you are to this person, and how specific her concern is. Is this friend like a sibling to you and is she expressing specific concerns about your physical and/or emotional well-being? Well then listen up. But outside of these parameters, I think your response is ‘Oh, really?’ and change the subject. You are not obligated to react to a confrontational and vague statement that is possibly meant to put you on the defensive.

  • KarenK January 8, 2013, 3:18 pm

    I understand that we are not required to like everybody we meet, especially not the SOs of our friends, but what purpose did it serve to tell the OP that you don’t like his/her partner? Absolutely none at all.

    The friend is not even objecting to the SO because she thinks he’s bad for the OP. She just doesn’t like him. I think I’d spare her from being exposed to him again by not inviting her to another party. Also, the Admin is right. No more talking to this friend about your SO.

  • Daisy January 8, 2013, 4:11 pm

    I think both OP and, unusually, Admin are giving this far more significance than it should have. Commenting about anyone’s partner in a negative fashion is unkind, and therefore rude. However, commenting on someone else’s rudeness is also discourteous. Your friend obviously didn’t expect that her comment would startle you into seeing the truth: “My stars, you’re right! He’s a rat. Wait here while I throw him out!” (Although frankly, I should like to see her reaction if you did.) My response to your friend would have been “Really? How strange! He always speaks so highly of you, ” thus leaving her to consider that he may actually have much better judgement than she previously thought.

  • Lo January 8, 2013, 4:18 pm

    I agree with admin on principle but I think the advice is far too kind.

    This is not solicited advice from a caring friend. This is not a gentle inquiry as to your own happiness, this is just someone being a jerk and no one gets leave to say bluntly that they don’t like your husband to your face. Not your friends, not your parents, not anyone. Once you pick the person you commit to, unless someone is trying to raise a valid concern about their suitability as a partner (which is hard but may be necessary depending on the relationship), this kind of judgement isn’t something you should have to deal with.

    I don’t like all the spouses of my friends and family by any stretch of the imagination. Some of it is warranted and some of it is just me not getting along with someone because of clashing personalities. None of it is an excuse to be uncivil. No one is being abused. No one has asked for my opinion. I wouldn’t dare say such a thing to anyone.

    I believe that when someone is in a committed partnership they become an unbreakable part of that partnership. This so-called friend is not just judging your husband, she is judging you as a person. She may not see it that way but I tell you what, anyone who knows me knows that my personal rule is not to say anything to me you don’t want my husband to hear about. I trust that no one would be callous enough to say something negative about him to my face without provocation.

    I would take this personally. I wouldn’t get in her face about it but I would ask, “Why would you tell me that?”, leaving no room for interpretation that you are offended. She might as well have said, “I don’t like your parents”, “I don’t like your child”, “I don’t like you.”

  • The Elf January 8, 2013, 4:43 pm

    It could be your friend was trying to express some sort of legitimate concern – and doing it badly, or she just doesn’t like him without having a particular reason. If the latter is the case, she should have really phrased that one differently. “We don’t quite see eye to eye”, or “I think our personalities are little like oil and water”, or something that doesn’t imply that your partner is somehow wrong. I like Admin’s brush off. It works without indicating agreement. If the former is the case, she should have followed up with specifics.

    Sometimes you just don’t like the friend’s choice in partner. It’s okay; it happens. You can get together with that person without spouses, and of course be civil and polite when you are together.

    I try to come up with SOMETHING I like about the person. Anything. Then I try to remember that when the person irritates me.

  • PhDeath January 8, 2013, 5:31 pm

    Personally, I didn’t read “I know he can be difficult…” as an affirmation or admission, when it’s qualified with the term “half-hearted.” I took that to mean “I could have dismissed her comments with an anemic, generic sentiment, but I chose not to because I felt it would disrespect my partner.” Then, again whose partner isn’t difficult from time to time? 😉

    This does lead to another possibility that hadn’t occurred to me: perhaps the OP’s partner was being difficult on that particular night. Maybe he wasn’t feeling well; maybe he’d had a bit too much to drink; maybe (like me!) parties aren’t his thing.

    Regardless, I still think the OP’s response and feelings behind it were just fine. I am very protective of my spouse, because I believe with all my heart that he’s the greatest guy going. If someone made a statement to me like the OP’s friend made to him/her, I could imagine myself going the “absolute silence” route.

  • Nestholder January 8, 2013, 5:49 pm

    Can I suggest that “How kind of you to say so,” would be a better response than “I will take it under consideration,” when you have no intention of paying the “friend’s” statement any further heed at all. If delivered in a sufficiently dry tone, “How kind of you to say so” may make the friend think about what she has just said…

  • Another Alice January 8, 2013, 6:14 pm

    I agree with others who have said that the “status” of the relationship IS relevant/important. I have absolutely no problem telling a close friend who introduces me to a new boyfriend what I think. Not in a rude or unkind way, and only if they directly ask me, but still. I think most people “get” that they might fall for someone due to an instant attraction that long term wouldn’t work – we’ve all done it. But I’ve made friends in my life that, when I first met them, they have had serious boyfriends/girlfriends and even though over the years we’ve become close, I still would never say anything to them if I don’t care for their partner.

    Yanno, it IS funny though; in my life I’ve followed the above credo, that if someone is in a long term relationship when we become friends, to never make comment on their partner. And twice in that instance, long after the couples broke up and I discussed it with my friend, I would end up telling them that I hadn’t ever really cared for their partner (again, gently and reasonably if they brought it up or asked). And BOTH times they responded, “WHY wouldn’t you tell me that?! I wish I had KNOWN! If that ever happens again, and you really don’t think I’m with someone that’s a good match, tell me!” Tehe. Hindsight is always 20/20; they couldn’t see themselves then the way an objective friend had, and I guarantee you that if I *had* said something, it would’ve been a very frosty friendship as a result. Unless someone is being very mistreated or disrespected, their taste in partner is none of someone else’s business unless they ask.

  • Ellen January 8, 2013, 6:23 pm

    All in all, I think OP gave a perfectly valid response, certainly one that is well within the bounds of civility for any remark that is received as intrusive, inappropriate, or unwelcome: Total Silence.

    Whether or not the critical friend was justified in her remark, etc – the OP’s question of how to respond is, in my opinion – your instinctive response was perfectly OK.

  • Kate January 8, 2013, 8:02 pm

    I would probably bean-dip or make a flip comment like “Well, lucky you’re not married to him!” and change the subject.
    Personally, I think it is not necessary to share your less-than-pleasant opinions of a friend’s partner *unless* the partner is seriously mistreating your friend (eg abuse or cheating). In those circumstances, I would phrase my objection as a concern for the friend (“I’m worried about how you are being treated and I feel that you deserve better”) rather than “I don’t like him and here’s why”. Often, people can get defensive when confronted with a blunt approach, even if you are correct in thinking that they are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. I know this is what happened in my case – my parents openly loathed my ex-boyfriend and would say so, frequently. I always defended him even though they were 100% correct about him.

  • Marozia January 8, 2013, 8:23 pm

    It all comes down to personality. Not many people like my husband because he has PKU (metabolic condition where he cannot metabolise protein and has to be on a low protein diet, therefore food restrictions) and has a quiet, phlegmatic personality. I have come to see that they don’t ‘hate’ him but are intolerant to his condition and think he’s dumb and snobbish, because he’s not loud and animated (which, for some unknown reason, people seem to prefer in a personality). I tolerate a lot of people like this because of their misunderstanding of personalities and dietary restrictions.

  • Fizzychip January 8, 2013, 9:05 pm

    I think the OP’s friend was out of line. The comment made (as presented here) was not apparently made regarding a new relationship or even in the case where concern was held for the OP’s welfare. To be honest, to me it sounds like a rather off the cuff comment made casually and not meant for offence, although of course it has. The OP is now left “holding the baby” so to speak and has to deal with the questions this now raises. Do they now exclude the friend from gatherings which include the partner or does the OP now feel obligated to share this information with said parnter and create a more awkward situation?

    I do agree with the admin’s advice on the response. A deft bean-dip of “thank you for your comments” is appropriate here. Being forced into defending your partner is unacceptable and I can tell you from personal experience only serves to put the “defendor” at a disadvantage by giving value to the derogatory comments. Thank the friend & carry on as normal. It is their problem, not yours, so do not feel obliged to entertain this any further.

  • GroceryGirl January 9, 2013, 12:33 am

    Thanks for this one Admin. My husband has a very dry sense of humor and is sometimes seen as rather abrasive by others and I’ve had people tell me they don’t like him on more than one occasion.

    Oddly, the people who have said this have never been my close friends from whom I would tolerate actual advice or cautions. It’s always been people I’ve barely known. Most notably, the younger brother of a good friend of my husbands who said “I don’t know how you put up with him. He’s so awful”. I found this comment so outrageous that I laughed (thinking it was a joke; probably because this was the FIRST TIME WE’D MET). When I realized he was serious, I changed the subject.

    As much as I’ve wanted to tell people off for this, I usually just bring up a new topic and move on with my day. Some people are jerks. I can’t fix that.

  • Lex January 9, 2013, 3:56 am

    Whilst I largely agree with the points made by the admin, I would have said ‘Oh? How so?’ and prompted her to qualify her comments. If she chooses to make a statement like that, she should be able to reasonably qualify the statement otherwise it becomes like a school playground: ‘I don’t like you’, ‘Why?’, ‘Well if you don’t know, I’m not telling you.’

    Asking her to qualify her statement isn’t either defending or fuelling her opinions, but it will help you to understand whether a misunderstanding has taken place (in which case you may be able to take action to repair it – either by speaking to your partner or making restitution to the friend or other appropriate action). She may have responded that she overheard your partner expressing opinions on a subject that is important to her and she did not like / was offended by his views but being a gracious guest she chose not to make a scene and address it (somewhat ineptly) with you later. There may have been a misunderstanding that is easily cleared up, or perhaps you can ask your partner to refrain from discussing certain topics if they cause friends offence – this isn’t unreasonable – my partner and I often have topics that are ‘taboo’ in front of various friends and family and we usually give each other a heads-up before the event to ensure everything runs smoothly.

    I’d definitely have asked her to explain. You still can – you could contact her and mention that you’ve been mulling over what she said and wonder if should clarify why she made the statement she did.

  • Bint January 9, 2013, 5:36 am

    “The OP is acknowledging that his other friends have given critical opinions of partners which were “well received”. In other words, the OP does not appear to have a principled objection to critical opinions expressed about spouses/partners yet in his situation he does.”

    But the second doesn’t follow from the first. The OP is only acknowledging that *some of his friends* are fine with it. He doesn’t say that *he* was fine with the concept, either personally or in general, just that he knows not everyone minds. He clearly does. I don’t think he should have to question that simply because some of his friends differ.

    “People should carefully read the story because the OP does obliquely refer to what the problem may be with his partner, i.e. he doesn’t wish to affirm his friend’s opinion with a half-hearted “I know he can be difficult but…” The OP knows the partner can be “difficult”

    I read this as did PhDeath, as a general example. Although it’s not really relevant anyway, given it came down to ‘I don’t like him’ rather than any cause for concern.

  • Margo January 9, 2013, 6:35 am

    I have to disagree with Admin’s response here. I agree that no-one*has* to like your partner, and that everyone dislikes someone, but that does not make it acceptable or appropriate to say so out loud, without good reason.

    This is not a new relationship where a person is introducing a new partner to old friends, so it seems to me very different to Admin’s own experience of people commenting about her husband *before* she married him. It would be more akin to someone coming up *now* and saying, out of the blue “I don’t like your husband”. It’s just plain rude.

    I would not see the response “I will take it under consideration” a a meaningless courtesy phrase at all. To me, it implies that you are going to consider what the person as said, so it validates their view that it is acceptable for them to make that kind of comment, and that it’s something worth your consideration. I definitely would not see it as an appropriate response to a comment like this. I also read OP’s original submission in the same way that PHDeath did – that the half-hearted ‘I know he can be difficult’ was simply a ‘what kind of vague, general thing could I have said in response?’

    I think that total silence is always an appropriate response to a rude/intrusive/inappropriate comment. Also acceptable would be things such as “It’s lucky he is my partner not yours, then” , or “Why would you think I’d want to hear that?” or even a very flat “Oh”

    I would not under any circumstances say “Thank you for the comments” The comment was unsolicited, rude and put the OP in an awkward position. I don’t think it is the OPs responsibilty to make the ‘friend’ feel comfortable about it. S/he was fine to leave it hanging.

    (The question is about the OP’s actions, but I also think that the friend had other options if she had any specific concern or reason for dislike – e.g. ‘I enjoyed the party, but it made me uncomfortable that your partner made a lot of suggestive comments’ or ‘I enjoyed the party, but I didn’t like the way [your partner] came and interrupted the conversation each time I was speaking to you alone. It made him appear quite controlling’ This is still pretty rude, assuming that the reason for the dislike is not a major safety issue,and that her opinion has not been asked, but it is at least clear so that the auditor knows why she feels as she does, and can respond if necessary.)

  • michelle January 9, 2013, 7:07 am

    OP, maybe you could have said something like, “Try living with him!” Say this with a big, happy smile, and let that be the end of it. She can take your response as she pleases, and you can take it knowing that you love living with him!

  • The Elf January 9, 2013, 7:42 am

    Another Alice, I agree with your point, but this was not a new boyfriend. They are common-law partners. They’ve been together for a good long while now! The etiquette rules should be to treat him as if he were a husband.

  • Nikki_Bee January 9, 2013, 8:53 am

    I have been in the friend’s position before, I intensely disliked the ex-partner of one of my best friends, however I would never have dreamed of putting her in a situation where she would have to feel uncomfortable with both he and I attending the same event. My opinion of him was exactly that, my opinion. Even when she called me saying she was thinking of leaving him, I didn’t poke my oar in, just said I would be there to listen but ultimately it is her decision, and even now they’ve been separated for over 2 years I still wouldn’t start running him down – he may be a total idiot (he cheated on her and used drugs, which I didn’t find out about until after she left him), but he is still the father of her child and someone she spent a significant period of time in love with. To run him down in front of her would have been effectively saying I thought she was an idiot for being with him, which I don’t think at all. I totally agree that the OP should find out why now that this has been brought up, as I’d want to know why if I was the OP (luckily my friends all like my partner, or at least have never said otherwise).

  • siamesecat 2965 January 9, 2013, 8:57 am

    I think after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I might have said something like “why would you say something like that?” To me, it’s not saying well, i don’t like him becaause he specifically did a, b, or c, its just a general dislike. There have been many times I haven’t liked someone’s husband, wife, SO, best friend, etc., but I’ve kept my mouth shut, and limited my contact with them. I would never say to someone that I disliked someone very important in their life, to them.

    Right now, I personally don’t care much for my one cousin’s BF. I find him to be selfish, and a bit of an *ss. But she is happy with him, so she says, even though there are certain aspects about their r*lationship I myself would never put up with. Nothing bad, just that he’s very selfish, he wants to do what he wants, and doesn’t always consider her feelings or wishes. But that’s not any of my business. Fortunately, they live out of state, so I don’t see him much, but I’m perfectly cordial and friendly when I do.

  • Dominic January 9, 2013, 11:14 am

    I do not agree with the goose/gander line of thinking. There is definitely a distinction here between criticizing a casual boyfriend/girlfriend and criticizing a spouse, which is the question the OP poses (“… is there a different kind of etiquette for those who are more casually dating?”). Here, the OP and his partner are “married” to the extent his place of domicile allows. The OP is saying he can understand if a friend would say something about a person one is dating (or perhaps even engaged to), but to flatly state that one does not like a friend’s spouse, without more, is quite different. The former may be seen as concern over the potential lifetime relationship and friend may be about to enter into; the latter is confrontive and very disrespectful. The partner here is not a “new person,” and the OP has every right to be upset with his friend’s statement. To answer the OP’s original question—how do I respond—I say absolutely do not let this slide. The response is “Why do you say that?” If the explanation is less than satisfactory, or the friend cannot discuss this reasonably, then you must reconsider how good of a friend she is. Your relationship with your partner/spouse is more important than with this friend. I agree with the Admin to the extent that if you wish to continue the friendship, you could consider seeing her without your partner, and that the friend, should she accept your joint hospitality, treat your partner with courtesy and respect. But to say that you will take her bald remark of “I do not like him” into consideration would be a betrayal of your partner.

  • delislice January 9, 2013, 11:29 am

    I’d have to believe that my relative or friend’s life was in danger (e.g., from abuse) before I would consider commenting on the status of one’s relationship.

    Several years ago, a friend and mentor divorced. Some months afterward, she asked me how I had viewed her marriage — I had spent a lot of time around them, often at their house as well as in more public settings.

    Only then was I comfortable venturing that they hadn’t seemed equally yoked, and elaborated on that a bit.

    If someone said “I don’t like your husband” to me, depending on who said it, I would either want to know why … or use my handy-dandy, quietly delivered closer: “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

  • Enna January 9, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Maybe when the OP said that comments about other people’s partners were less rude and more justified? E.g So and So’s bf picks his nose, that is so disgusting!

    I was expecting the firend to give the OP a reason WHY she doesn’t like him, e.g. “its a personality clash” – but if she hates him so much she couldn’t come to a New Year Eve’s Party well that is really bad.

  • Lesli January 9, 2013, 2:23 pm

    I’d reply, “Well, I like him!” and then either bean-dip, or, if you care, add “Why do you feel that way?”

  • Mina January 9, 2013, 4:16 pm

    I used to have a very close friend whose 19-year-old daughter hated me for reasons I don’t fully understand. The problem was she was very openly hostile to me… she took on an angry tone any time she was “forced” to talk to me and was rude. I asked her repeatedly why couldn’t she be civil – as I always tried to be civil and polite to her – and she said “why should I be civil when I don’t like you?” I hope she learns civility growing up or she’s going to have a hard time in life.

  • Rosie January 9, 2013, 7:12 pm

    This post reminded me to be more mindful of how I talk about my partner in front of my friends. I’m not saying this is the case for OP, but I’ve noticed that sometimes my complaints about my husband come back at me from my friends. Where did they get the idea to criticize him? From me! For me, sharing rough times with friends is an important coping strategy, and my closest friends understand my complaints for what they are and usually don’t throw them back at me unless they have serious concerns. However, I had a recent experience where my parents made a criticism of my spouse that I didn’t feel they were justified in saying. It prompted me to watch my own words and attitudes more carefully!

  • Angel January 9, 2013, 10:05 pm

    Wow, how rude of your friend! I think I would have just said, “Sorry that you feel that way,” and then changed the subject. I wouldn’t have bothered to ask why–especially if this person is not a particularly close friend. And you don’t care about their opinion. In the end the only person whose opinion matters is yours, anyway.

  • Ang January 12, 2013, 6:58 am

    Let me guess you live in The Netherlands?