What do you do when your friends or family undermine your love life?
Finding love is a challenge. Unfortunately, it can be even tougher when your friends or family undermine your love life. When people in your inner circle become negative, pessimistic, competitive, jealous, or don’t show you appreciation or encouragement, it inflames your own doubts and fears. If you are in a new love relationship, these reactions can come on suddenly, or they may be familiar and ingrained parts of lifetime relationships that are so subtle you may not even be fully aware of them. In either case, unsupportive reactions can pull you back into being hopeless about yourself or about love and undermine all the work you’ve been doing. They can stop you from getting out there and dating, or in extreme cases, they can sabotage a budding relationship with a guy who could have been the One!
Some people call these members of your posse “Frenemies.” Ask yourself, do any of these descriptions sound familiar?
- A “best friend” who takes an instant dislike to a guy you really like
- A sister/brother who reminds you of your past failures or the DUDs you’ve fallen for
- A dad who criticizes any guy you bring around
- A mom who clucks about how men would find you more attractive if you only lost those 10 pounds
- Your two closest friends who are no-shows at the first dinner party you are hosting with your number one guy
If your friends or family undermine your love life, here are some key steps to take to improve the relationship and set boundaries.
Step 1: Understand where they’re coming from:
My work over many years, including significant numbers of interviews with Frenemies, indicates that their behavior is influenced by a potent combination of three factors: negative programming, jealousy, and envy. Negative programming can be overt or subtle. They are carrying around their own “stuff.” It’s not about you!
Step 2: Journal your reactions to family and frenemies:
Begin to examine the quality of your relationships with your closest friends and family. Journal about their reactions to you after you’ve shared your excitement about a date, a particular guy or the experiences you’re having on your journey to love. Have their attitudes toward you changed? Are they less encouraging or supportive than before? Are they picky or hostile about the guys you see? Journal about your feelings, reactions and moods after interacting with each of them. Keep careful notes after each interaction, especially observing whether your best friend, sister, etc., left you feeling inspired or deflated. If you notice there is a pattern developing or that you’ve uncovered a long-standing habitual way they relate to you, you’re going to have to deal with them directly.
Step 3: Show them how to support you:
Next, begin shaping your Frenemies’ behavior so that they become more optimistic, attentive, supportive and uplifting. You will feel better—and, after they get the hang of it, they will too! To accomplish this goal, you will use what I call Positive Shaping Talk: clearly and lovingly ask for exactly what you want and need.
Positive Shaping Talk works best when it comes from what I call Positive Paranoia. Here’s what I mean: You know that the people in your posse love you and mean well but don’t always know how to show it. Often we do not focus on the love that is truly there for us but are distracted instead by surface interactions. We dwell on what a family member or friend is doing and saying in the moment, which can be quite dim-witted, unloving, or even unconsciously cruel. This puts us in a state of paranoia, where we suspect that the person may not care for us all that much. Focus instead on how much the person at their core really does love you, and you will get more of their caring. Refocusing on the love that might not be evident in the moment is Positive Paranoia.
Look on your Frenemies from a place of Positive Paranoia and practice Positive Shaping Talk with them. You will come right out and ask for attention, validation, nurturance or encouragement for your vision. You can be talking to your distant father and say things like, “I would love for you to pay attention and show me how much you appreciate (my singing, my gifts, my creativity, my success).” “Give me a kiss.” “I’m ready for applause for my (performance, etc.).” One sentence that really works is, “I’d really love it if you would say (or do)________.”
Step 4: Build a boundary around toxic people:
When close friends or family undermine your love life and fail to come through for you, even though you have acted more upbeat and used Positive Paranoia and Positive Shaping Talk, it is time to put some distance between you. Move to a more cordial relationship where you do not discuss personal matters. If they are too negative or abusive you may temporarily need to break off the relationship so that your energy is freely devoted to creating love. As hard as this is, remember you get to choose who your spend time with.
And as always, remember this above all: You can create love that truly feeds your heart and soul!