What should I do about my boyfriend's "party friends"? He's a great guy, and we're considering a long-term relationship, but he insists on maintaining his connections with this group of people despite the fact that I totally disagree with everything about their lifestyle, behavior, and beliefs. My boyfriend and I try to embrace clean, positive, healthy values, but these friends of his don't. And while he doesn't participate in their "extra-curricular activities," I still feel anxious whenever he spends time with them. Any advice?
Here at Focus on the Family we've heard from many women who are dealing with similar challenges in their relationships. They're dating a man they really care about, but they have major concerns about his maturity, character, or behavior. It's not an uncommon scenario.
There are a couple of different ways of looking at this situation. A great deal depends on your assessment of your boyfriend's character. If you have serious concerns on that score, it's important to stop and ask yourself why you became involved with him in the first place. Are you hoping that you can somehow change him or turn him into a better person? If so, that's a bad reason to form a serious relationship with a man. As we say in psychology, "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." In other words, what you see is likely to be what you'll get. If you're expecting your boyfriend's actions, attitudes, and social connections to improve after you get engaged or married, you're setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.
Some serious self-examination might be useful in sorting out your feelings about this relationship. Many women wind up with guys who are bad for them because of their own past family experiences. It's a pattern we've seen played out over and over again. Think about it: was your father a mature man of character, who took his responsibilities seriously and treated your mother with respect? Did you have a positive relationship with your dad? Did he encourage you and affirm you as a child? If not, you may be unconsciously drawn to men whose attitudes and behavior repeat the less-than-ideal conditions of your childhood. Perhaps it's time to do a little soul-searching about your past and pray earnestly about the kind of man God wants you to date and marry.
In this connection, it's important to add that the Bible has a great deal to say about the company we keep and how our friendships shape us for better or worse. The Book of Proverbs says that a man who spends time with wise friends becomes wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. The implication should be obvious: the fact that your boyfriend insists on spending time with people you regard as "bad influences" could be a major red flag.
Note that we said "could be a major red flag." As we mentioned earlier, this isn't the only way of viewing your dilemma. There is another possibility. Again, it's largely a matter of how you perceive your boyfriend's character. In this regard, it strikes us as significant that, by your own testimony and in sharp contrast to his "party friends," he actually shares your commitment to "clean, positive, healthy values." If that's the case, it might be worth asking why he's chosen to maintain his connections with people who embrace a lifestyle so radically different from his own. Is it a loyalty issue? Does he feel that he owes them his continuing friendship? Could it be that he hopes to influence his friends by setting them a good example? You can probably see how this would put everything in an entirely different light.
As part of this process, you may want to consult a book titled Safe People by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In the meantime, if you'd like to discuss your concerns with a member of our staff, call our Counseling department for a free consultation.
Red Flags in a Relationship