Do You Care What Others Think About Your Partner?

It was 2001. I was at the W Hotel bar in Westwood. And from across the spacious, dimly lit room, I saw her:

My ex-girlfriend. Hottest woman I ever dated. Most tempestuous woman I ever dated. Yes, I held on to my perfect 10 for four months – four months of being left at restaurants, holiday parties, and weddings following an outrageous fight over virtually nothing.

Why do men date sexy troublemakers? Because we can’t help ourselves. It’s a drug – and, like all tales involving drugs – it never has a happy ending.

Why do men date sexy troublemakers? …It never has a happy ending.

Our relationship was no different. And the break up (the last break-up, anyway,) was ugly. The nasty emails she sent me were proof positive that it was healthiest to move on. So why was I so panicked when I saw my ex at the W?

Because I was on an online date with an unattractive woman. And she was with a guy with dark skin, dark hair, and light eyes – a guy who looked like me – but MUCH, MUCH better.

I share this story because it’s the only time in my memory that I actually cared about what anyone thought of who I was dating – and it was fundamentally irrational because it was a woman who had no role in my life whatsoever.

Yet the crux of this study shows that both men and women very much care what others think. And I’m not surprised in the least.

It seems that men’s interest in a woman increases if a man of greater attractiveness is also interested in her, and that women’s interest in a man decreases if other women seem uninterested in them.

Looks like grade-school habits die hard. And not just in terms of how friends react to our partners. I’ve had three clients in the past month who were concerned with the opinions of others: judgmental Persian family, judgmental Asian family, judgmental Christian family.

To which I say: who cares what anyone thinks? You’re an adult. You’re living your life for you. And if you put true love on hold because of how it looks to others, you’re sacrificing your own happiness for no reason whatsoever.

If you put true love on hold because of how it looks to others, you’re sacrificing your own happiness for no reason whatsoever.

Someone who loves you will love your partner, too. Why? Because you love him and because he makes you happy. Anyone who can’t fall in line to support your choice in mate is putting her needs/desires/prejudices before what’s really important: your happiness.

Have you ever ended a relationship because of what your friends and family thought? Not because they’re protecting you from a player/jackass/abusive guy, but because they selfishly wanted you to marry someone just like you? If so, how did you reconcile this?

For what it’s worth, I’m a Jewish guy who married a Catholic woman, and despite the emails that compared me to Hitler and the anonymous book I received called “Why Marry Jewish?” I’m quite confident I made the right decision.

Your thoughts below are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Honey

    I’ve never thought about it – there was really only one person who didn’t like Jake, and there was so much more to it that it wasn’t really about Jake.  Perhaps some people don’t like him (though in my experience, in the past my friends and family were more likely to lie and say they did like whoever I was dating out of respect for my happiness and not say anything negative about them until we broke up) – but I’ve never asked, because why would I care?

  2. 2
    sayanta

    EMK-

    You’ve got a great point, but in more traditional cultures, such as Indian, Chinese, Greek orthodox, etc., your life is so entwined with your family’s that it’s impossible to not think about what your family’s reaction will be to potential partners. The Western view (particularly Western white view) of ‘family’ and marriage is so different from the East that I don’t think the issues of your post will necessarily apply.

  3. 3
    Cathy

    It’s true that we should live for our own happiness, but sometimes some people might date someone that are abusive, don’t treat them well, don’t treat the family well and are just not a good person…and they can’t see it until someone points it out to them.  Advice given by family or friends is to help you see that you can do better and you deserve to be treated better. 

    On the other hand if you are dating someone who is a good person, you have a mutually respectful and healthy loving relationship, then you really shouldn’t care about outside forces.  It’s your life, your choice and your happiness and you may never find such a great match in you life ever again and will live to regret it and end up resenting those people who gave you such bad advice.

  4. 4
    moon

    Hunh…I can’t say as I’ve come across this.  If someone doesn’t like my date/beau, it is usually for my own good.  Likewise, when I don’t agree with a friend’s choice, it tends to be the obvious incompatibilities or problems that eventually lead to a break up.  I can’t think of any friends with heavy religious upbringings, so that has never factored in…
     
    It is important for my friends and family to like my partner, and I would say, if anything, at times I wish they’d piped up early on in the game.  Not that any of us listen!
     
    moon

    1. 4.1
      Jenny Ravelo

      This is understandable, we have other people around us besides our partners who also are part of our lives. If our lovers and friends or family can’t get along, most of the times it’s because something is wrong.

      However, there’s a big difference with you friends not liking your second half because they are abusive towards you and not liking the because they are not rich enough, not hot enough and so on.

  5. 5
    Lea

    As long as it isn’t a case of abuse, drugs, cheating etc…..people should mind their own business. No one truly knows what a relationship is like between two people. If someone makes me truly happy, that is all that matters.

    My ex actually chose his friends’ opinions of me and pretty much just walked out on me.
    I wasn’t just like them and so I was defective and unsuitable for him in their eyes.

    Now I should have just known better because my ex is 33 and all of his friends are anime junkies between 22 and 27  and the majority have never even been in a relationship.
    So yeah….probably not the man for me huh?

  6. 6
    Michael

    It’s hard sometimes to realize that its the judgmental people who have the problem, not us.
    We’re used to mentally acting as judge and jury – every day we’re bombarded with “what do you think?” stories in newspapers and on TV, and the blowhards on news and talk radio definitely do rub off on their listeners and viewers. It seems like there’s zero incentive to think critically.
    When it comes to our partners, though, I think as long as WE understand why we like them, and we can use the tiniest bit of critical thinking to determine that the relationship is healthy for us, very little else matters.

  7. 7
    Karl R

    Evan asked:
    “Have you ever ended a relationship because of what your friends and family thought?”
    Nope. I stopped caring what my family thought when they started believing I was gay.

    I have taken girlfriends to meet some of my friends … and I place some importance on what transpires. But I care only a little about what my friends think about my girlfriend. I’m a lot more interested in what my girlfriend thinks about my friends.

    Quoting the article:
    “With the female study participants, their interest in the men in the video increased if their peers in the video appeared interested”

    I’ve used this to my advantage before. If I can create the appearance that other women are interested in me, I can stack the odds in my favor when I approach a woman. If a woman sees me chatting, joking and/or flirting with a female friend, acquaintance or coworker, she’ll find me more attractive.

    Presumably, a woman could increase her odds by doing the same with an attractive male acquaintance.

  8. 8
    Selena

    I’ve never been influenced by what friends or family might think perhaps because everyone in my life has been too polite to say anything negative about who I was dating. As long as we were still dating anyway.

    I will confess to having fantasies of running into an ex (any of them ) while out with someone more attractive and more successful than him.  Immature nyah, nyah maybe…but, hey it’s just fantasy. :)

  9. 9
    Shay

    I agree with sayanta (#2). For the collectivistic cultures, the partner marries into a community. Marriage is not just about the 2 person in those type of communities. It is hard not to care how others think about the partner. Unless of course one wants their life to be like the pocahontas/avartar.

    Although it is hard, a person still has to make up his/her own mind what he/she wants in a partner. Nobody else lives with him/her.

    Similar to Michael (#6), I think this question would rightly challenge people who do not know what they want. If they know what they want and why they want it (have thought about it critically), then the opinion of others would only fade into the background. If a person do not know what he/she wants, then everybody else’s opinions seem to matter.

  10. 10
    Zann

    I’ve come to the conclusion that unless someone has something positive to say about the  man I’m with, they should keep it to themselves.  If I’m with a guy who is arrogant, unethical, doesn’t treat me with respect, I’m already aware of that. I’m not an idiot, and I assume my friends are not either when they make their own choices about a partner.  It’s my responsibility to get myself out of a bad relationship when the time feels right for me.  I have never, ever, known anything good to come from the friend or family member who just couldn’t keep from being bearer of bad news “for your own good.”   Unfortunately, there are people who are so unhappy with their own lives that they can’t stand to see others happy, and there’s nothing they like more than to hand you the tissue & proudly report, “Well, I knew from day one he was no good.”  How can that possibly make the hurting person feel better?  Now, if I ask a friend or family member for their opinion or advice about my partner, then their honesty is appreciated.  But seriously, sometimes I wish I had a big black and yellow button I could wear that says, “Who Asked You?” 

    Regarding the scenario of becoming more attractive to your ex if you’re currently with someone your ex feels threatened by –better looking, more accomplished, more mature — whatever.   Maybe he’s questioning his earlier assessment of you, that you weren’t quite enough for him.  Should he rethink his decision, did he miss something that now this new man had uncovered? I don’t think it’s anything rational, it’s just human nature.  And as much as it’s satisying to see an ex squirm with that, it’s fleeting, and it sure doesn’t mean your ex has suddenly “seen the light.”   Nah.  That’s just you/me getting life mixed up with the  movies.   

  11. 11
    Selena

    Re: #10

    I think what happens more often when running into an ex with someone else is the sense of  “You don’t know what you’re in for with him/her.  Good luck.”   ;)

  12. 12
    Paul

    here we go with the chemistry vs compatibility thing again…most women it seems really look for chemistry. But it’s a farse. All divorced couples had great chemistry at first.  Compatibility is far more important, but try to tell women that…fat chance!

  13. 13
    sayanta

    #12-

    You’re saying it like only women go for chemistry vs. compatibility. Men do the same thing. You MUST know that!

  14. 14
    Kat Wilder

    I’ve never cared what my friends thought about how my beau looked because all that matters is how I think he looks (although most of my beaus have been attractive men by most women’s standards … a few guys, too!)
    However, if friends commented on things they might be seeing in his behavior that I might be oblivious to because my oxytocin is flowing and I’m in that crazy lust-love oh baby-oh-baby phase, sure, I’d want to pay attention, especially if it’s a friend who has a good relationship head on her shoulders.
    As I’ve blogged about before, I have not liked some friends’ partners, and it is an awkward position to be in; I’ve avoided socializing with them. That sucks.
    The only time I felt uncomfortable about a man I was with was when I was aware that others were aware that he was drunk. Eventually, he became my ex …
     

  15. 15
    Jennifer

    I think that people care what other people think about them to the extent that it will have an important effect on their life (I certainly care what my boss thinks of me). I believe the same can be said for romantic partners- if a big social existence with family and friends is key to me, I’d be in the camp that cares more about what these people think. If not, I wouldn’t care as much.

    Aside from family and friends there is the status issue. Some people care more about that than others- i think as long as someone has given it some thought, come down on one side or the other and lives according to that decision, they should be okay. It’s the blind groping that gets people in trouble based on my observations.

  16. 16
    Jennifer

    @Paul #12- I’d disagree with the statement that all divorced couples had great chemistry at first. I also think that ignoring either, very important, component to the relationship (compatibility or chemistry) can and does lead to disastrous results.  You really need both (or, at least you do for the type of relationship I envision being happy and fulfilled in).

  17. 17
    Selena

    Some of us consider compatibility part of chemistry. And chemistry is not the sole provence of “10’s”.  This would seem to be about the more superficial attribute of physical attractiveness.

  18. 18
    JB

    I’ve never ended a relationship because of what anyone else thought. Actually I’ve been lucky in that anyone I’ve ever been a LTR with all my friends and family loved …lol
    There are times when I’m scheduling an online face to face for the first meeting that I choose someplace that isn’t very busy…lol
    So I do care who I’m seen with in public.

    And yes Paul #12 I’m sure women don’t look at men’s profiles that they aren’t attracted to online and say to themselves “he sure is homely but if we’re compatible that’ll create some great chemistry

  19. 19
    Christina

    Well i never take others advice in those type of issues I am matured enough to know what is good and bad for me

  20. 20
    Anette

    Before letting my opinion be influenced by comments..lol!!

    It is important to consider the opions of those we trust. That does not necessarily mean the opinions of those that push our buttons, IE family.

    There are a few men, I trust when it comes to asking advice. And I will listen, think and consider what they say.

    But when it comes to everyone else, well, I simply don’t trust them. Family isn’t what it used to be. It’s not a secure network. It’s an insecure network of poeple wanting to feel important and needy. That’s why I trust friends.

    I’ve known a man I’ve adored for a while. He is MUCH older than me. I’m 36, he is 48. I have gone for all different kinds of men older younger. This man, is very special to me. He is a lovely friend. I’m thinking about it.

    And while I do, my first thought was “OMG everyone’s gonna think I’ve lost it”.

    So While I say ignore those that push buttons, very timely advice for me evan. Ty. :)

  21. 21
    Anette

    @12

    I think you are spot on, except for the “all women” do this part. A lot of women do however. I think chemistry is also a farce. But you don’t “get it, till you “get it”.

    With a wonderful person, who you are combatible with, the chemistry/passion actually grows. That’s the kind of relationship I think has a very good chance of succeeding. Pity it took me till my mid-30’s to realize this.

  22. 22
    Echos

    Evan,

    Amazingly, insightful perspective as always…you’re the best…(and I don’t lie!  :-)

    Echos

  23. 23
    Queenie

    I care what my friends think because I respect their opinion. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I will actually listen to what they have to say. lol

  24. 24
    A-L

    My friends and family have usually liked the guys I’ve gone out with.  Apparently I’ve got good taste. ;)
    But I know that there are times that friends/family can bring up issues to which you should be aware.  For instance my mom had a discussion or two with my sister (who at the time was college-aged or early 20s) about her then boyfriend.  Wasn’t very ambitious, didn’t have goals for higher ed, etc.  There are plenty of people who aren’t ambitious or educationally motivated who can make wonderful spouses.  But this ended up being one of the major issues that contributed to their divorce many years later.   (These issues, not the fact that our mom brought them up while they were dating.)  So I think people should listen to others’ opinions and assess their value.  Do they make a valid point, or is it inspired by prejudice/jealousy?  But if you don’t think their opinions holds water, or the issue isn’t important to you, then you should keep going out with your significant other.
    As far as running into old flames with a current boyfriend, it’s pretty much never happened.    But I do get a rush when an ex calls or e-mails wanting to get back together and I can say that I’m with someone else (or say I’m not interested if that’s the case).  Because I’ve always been dating a better guy than the ex was before.

  25. 25
    A-L

    Oops, sorry about the terrible formatting.  I don’t post for awhile and I forget everything. :)

  26. 26
    sugar daddy dater

    I don’t care what others tell about my partner. If you really love her or him you just accept what she or he is. If you are affected on what others tell about your partner then you are just want to have a partner that can be a trophy!

  27. 27
    moon

    Oh gosh, I wasn’t talking about being influenced on friends’ opinions on looks!
    Anette, twelve years isn’t actually that much older, believe it or not!
     
    Best,
    moon

  28. 28
    JuJu

    I honestly would not care what other people think of my date (or my mate) if *I* myself find him interesting and attractive. Problem is, it is unlikely that I would find other women’s reject to be all that.
     
    I read a scientific work on this once, how all the females are always  attracted to the same males (human ones as well, with only insignificant variations, and usually out of necessity, rather than actual choice).
     
    Occasional disagreements are possible, though. It turned out once that someone I met online also went out a few times in the past with a female acquaintance of mine. She said she totally could not imagine herself with him sexually (a peculiar turn of events, btw, since of the two of us it’s usually me who has the higher standards appearance-wise), whereas I was willing to overlook certain flaws (his face was actually quite handsome, he was just extremely, frighteningly, thin) because the guy was pretty fascinating. He was a writer, and I actually respected his work.

  29. 29
    Lance

    I have definitely bumped into ex-girlfriends who were with new boyfriends who I guess you could say were better looking or had a higher physical value than me (ie taller & fitter), but it’s really easy to dominate these guys. Simply roll into the set, introduce yourself and pal around with the ex like you’re still best friends, and establish your alpha value. That almost always blows the away. It’s even possible to befriend the new guy, which is proof positive that you’re over the ex and totally moved on.

  30. 30
    Cat

    “Roll into the set?” It’s clear why the girls became ex-girlfriends.

    Is it really worth it to prove to someone that you’re so “over” them you can be befriend their new guy? ‘Cause let me give you a tip: women are used to guys using friendship to try to get to them. She’s probably on to you and not fooled a bit. Later she tells her girlfriends how still in love you obviously are… And her girlfriends will agree. The new guy is probably oblivious and thinks its a bromance!

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