Does this happen in your relationship? Does your partner have that one friend that not only doesn’t like you, but openly works against the relationship? Let’s see what that can look like.
My wife’s best friend divorced her husband recently. Since then she’s made him out to be the bad guy, I get that. But now her friend is also very critical of me to my wife and tells her she should split up with me and move in with the best friend.
Do your partner’s friends interfere in your marriage?
As an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist, it is not uncommon for me to hear of couples who have a friend (or group of friends) who are against the relationship or even interfere in it. Disapproval is one thing, but open interference is not healthy.
Sometimes your partner can accidentally invite this interference. Best friends often vent to each other about their problems, including the problems with their partner. If someone is not careful this venting can become toxic.
This toxic venting can become something called triangulation. Triangulation is when a third party is brought into a relationship to make them feel safer. This doesn’t mean they’re actually seeing the third person, but it does often mean that the third party is in your business.
When someone is triangulated into a relationship, there are not good emotional boundaries between the partner and the friend. They may talk to the friend about your relationship more than to you. And even worse, they may give the opinion of close friends more weight than yours in making decisions about your relationship.
Is a friendship becoming an emotional affair?
Emotional affairs are when someone starts to depend on a person other than their partner to get their emotional needs met. This often starts off innocently enough, with one partner complaining to a friend (of their preferred gender to date) about their relationship. However, from there it can become a problem very quickly.
Emotional affairs happen when one partner is talking to their good friend about things that they are not talking to their partner about. There is also often secrecy about the depth of the relationship and/or what is being discussed. In an emotional affair you become closer to your friend than to your spouse.
This is not to say that you should not have other friendships and other relationships. However, these relationships should not impact your relationship with your partner.
Boundary setting can be complicated, so I am including a link to our boundary setting guide here to help. It will help you to understand what a boundary is and how to set one. Once you know what a boundary is, here are some you need to set.
Setting boundaries with your spouse
If your husband, wife, or partner is triangulating a friend or you suspect an emotional affair, you first need to address the problem with them. In this case, you would want to talk to your wife about the relationship with her friend and let her know that you feel uncomfortable with her talking about your relationship with her best friend.
You will want to do this in a non-blaming way, assuming that your wife has the best of intentions in talking to her friend about things. But do let her know that you think the conversations are having a negative impact on your relationship.
In this conversation you will need to set a boundary with your spouse around talking about your private business with friends. You will also want to ask her to set boundaries with her friend.
Setting boundaries with friends
Your wife will want to set boundaries with her best friend as well. Allowing the friend to constantly talk about you and your relationship in a negative light is definitely not helpful. However, your spouse must want to set these boundaries, and you cannot force them to do so.
Setting boundaries with friends and loved ones can be difficult at first, so you will need to be supportive. Your wife may have never had to set a boundary with her friend and in doing so she may be risking the friendship.
When to get help
There are several places in this process where you may need to get help from a therapist or counselor. A few sessions of relationship therapy can often help couples to understand the impact of friends and family on the couple relationship, and help them learn to set good boundaries around their couple relationship to protect it from negative influences.
They’re not listening to you
If you talk to your wife, and she will not hear your concerns about the friend, this is a time to get help. It could be that she doesn’t see the damage the friend is doing. It could also be that you have misjudged the content of the interaction with the friend.
Jealousy has reared it’s ugly head
When there is a problem with someone in the relationship being jealous, this is a good time to get help from a therapist or counselor. This includes if the friend is expressing jealousy of your relationship with your wife.
There are problems setting boundaries
You want to get professional help if you and your spouse are unable to set or respect boundaries with each other. You can’t expect to agree all the time, but steamrolling boundaries is not acceptable.
You will also want to get help if either of you are having problems setting boundaries with friends or loved ones. Again, boundaries mean respect. They aren’t meant to hurt, they are meant to protect everyone involved in the situation.
There is an emotional affair
Emotional affairs can be just as destructive to a relationship as physical ones. Sometimes even more so. The problem is, they are easier to deny and explain away. If there is an emotional affair, then this is a good time to bring in outside help