Did you ever break up with a guy because your best friend didn’t like him? Sounds like a terrible reason to end something promising, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what happened with California native Beth, 33. “I let my best friend talk me out of being ‘in like’ with a guy just because she didn’t think he was rich and successful enough for me,” she explains. “I really regret that now.” Ugh, what’s worse than having regrets about a relationship that you actually helped sabotage?
These women have all been there. While they’re from different backgrounds and the circumstances surrounding their breakups vary, they share one key factor: letting undue peer pressure wreck their love lives. But what made them cave in, and what did they learn from such an experience?
Before you let anyone influence your love life, read what these women have to say — and consider the hard-won lessons they learned in the process.
“My BFF didn’t think he was successful enough for me”
“I really had to take a hard look at myself after I broke up with that really nice guy, just because he wasn’t on some corporate track or from family money,” says Beth. “That’s not who I am. The truth is, I really admire people who do [the kind of] work that’s full of meaning and passion, even if it’s not the highest-paying job.”
Lesson learned: As Shakespeare said, “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Succumbing to peer pressure’s influence is a surefire way to lose both a sense of yourself and a promising partner.
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“My parents disapproved of the man I was dating”
“My parents disapproved of the man I brought home for the holidays, after almost a year of dating. A few weeks after we returned home, my mom said: ‘You’re too young and attractive for him. Find someone else cuter and more fun.’ There was nothing wrong with him,” recalls Washingtonian Catherine, 32. “Looking back, her expectations were always so high for my boyfriends. No boy was ever good enough. The truth was that she thought my dad wasn’t good enough for her, either. I wish I knew then what I knew now. I broke up with him because of…well, just discontentment. It had nothing to do with him. I regret that one because we loved each other.”
Lesson learned: Unexamined romantic patterns deserve a closer inspection. You assume that your parents act out of concern for what’s best for their child and, more often than not, that’s true. But sometimes, they project onto their kids their own unexamined and dysfunctional attitudes toward love. In the end, it’s you, not your parents, who will be in the relationship. So figure out what works for you, and stand by the person who ultimately makes you happy.
“My girlfriends thought he was dull”
“At our weekly girls’ nights out, my pals kept drilling into my head that my new beau was really dull,” says Floridian Melissa, 25. “He wasn’t fun and engaging with them on their terms, which is to say: partying hearty at the club. I had a few small concerns of my own. Were we compatible? Did we have enough shared interests? Could he be more social? But instead of exploring those with him, I just dumped him one night via text after way too many drinks, which was so bad. Looking back, it’s really telling that I was obviously so embarrassed by — and uncomfortable with — my weak-willed decision that I didn’t even attempt to reveal my feelings or concerns before breaking up.”
Lesson learned: Be a grown-up and share your concerns with your new sweetie if you’re wondering about your potential as a couple. Have a one-on-one talk in a neutral setting, away from the influence of your opinionated friends. If you have any sense that there’s long-term potential with someone, you owe it to each other to make time to discuss these issues. Figure out what to do before hitting the “off” switch and breaking up in such an abrupt manner that you’ll regret it later (and by the way, drunk-texting never ends well).
“My neighbor manipulated me because she wanted my guy for herself”
“My neighbor didn’t like my boyfriend of six months,” says Californian Christy, 36. “She trash-talked him to me and tried to get me to see that he was pressuring me for a committed relationship that I didn’t need, since I was so hot and there were a million great guys she knew who’d want to date me. She played the “grass is always greener” card on me and, like an idiot, I agreed with her — even though something felt off. It turned out she was sabotaging me to distract me! She had a crush on my guy, so she convinced me to break up with him. The next day she called him and went to ‘console’ him. Then she came onto him, which he told me about afterward. I realized that I still liked him and I apologized profusely, telling him how gutted I felt that I’d listened to that awful, fake friend. That was two years ago, and I am so happy he took me back! We’re happier than ever — and neither of us talks to her now.”
Lesson learned: Don’t sink into paranoia about a friend or family member’s motives, but if your gut instincts tell you that they’re not on the up-and-up, pay attention. When others proffer love-life advice, stay on high alert that they might not always have your best interests at heart.
“I felt I had to choose between my son and my boyfriend”
“I’m a divorced mom with a seven-year-old son,” says Virginian Jane, 35. “My son didn’t like Jerry, my boyfriend of several months. He was very unhappy when Jerry was around, even though Jerry tried to be a good pal to him. After a few months of my son’s constant whining about Jerry, I ended the romance. I just didn’t know how to keep the peace at home and in my love life.”
Lesson learned: This might be the toughest situation of all. How can you create a happy convergence with your new love and your child? Studies about why second marriages fail support the notion that you can’t overestimate the power of kids trying to sabotage their single parents’ romances. Once you’ve tried the obvious tactics — such as integrating your new love slowly and engaging your child in activities that are fun for all of you — your best bet is appealing to your son’s sense of equanimity and what’s in it for him. Explain that your new boyfriend makes you happy, and ask him if he’ll support your happiness as much as you’ll support his needs.
Of course, there’s always the other side of peer pressure: What happens when the lesson you’ve learned is that your friends and family were right about your new boyfriend?
“I hate admitting this,” says North Carolinian Linda, 39. “But as mad as I got at my sisters and friends for saying that they didn’t think my new boyfriend was a good fit for me, they had a point. They said he didn’t seem interested in my life. They noted his occasional fits of bad temper, which some of them had seen. And he wasn’t showing signs of a commitment, which he — and they — knew I wanted. Their concerns made me see him in a different light, and it turns out they were right: I was dating him because I was lonely. I was settling.”
Bottom line: An emotionally mature person is never threatened by hearing loved ones’ input. Even when you can’t see where they are coming from and completely disagree, a wise person will take what those who know best are saying into consideration. It’s just the smart thing to do, since sometimes, love can be blind. But ultimately, you have to open your eyes wide, assess the potential for yourself, and make your own decisions.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit hiswebsite, follow him onTwitter, oremail him.