Boyfriend's annoying public persona may grate over time
Q: What do you do when the person you are interested in is arrogant and pedantic in groups, but not when we're alone? This means my best friend doesn't like him at all. And there is truth to what she says, because when she and others are around, he's really not that much fun to hang out with. But when it is just the two of us, he's not like that at all. Suggestions?
A: First, you accept that, at best, you're with someone who gets arrogant and pedantic whenever he feels socially off-balance — with new people, or in stressful situations, or whatever else puts his guard up. If you don't want to sign up for that kind of life, then admit that to yourself now: Even if he eventually warms to your friends, his slow-to-warm self will always be part of the deal.
And that's "at best." At worst, he is arrogant and pedantic, and just in courtship-suckup mode with you.
If you're willing to accept the challenge of the former or risk of the latter, then make sure you aren't rationalizing: How important are these group gatherings (think personal, professional and familial) that he routinely drags down? Integral to your life, or occasional take-or-leave yawns? How do you feel when he goes off on a self-important rant — mortified, resentful, sympathetic, vaguely amused?
And possibly most important: Do you see an upside to his being this way? Let's say, for the sake of argument, his awkwardness is (pardon the obsolete analogy) the B side of some hit traits, like intelligence, sensitivity or an analytical mind. Some people value those traits highly; some also, by nature, tend to look for excuses not to go out in groups. To those people, his great-with-you, bad-around-others duality might be seen as a kind of a gift. Are you one of those people?
If there's no upside to his awkwardness and you wish he'd just change, then that quibble will likely grow into a nag, then a harp, then a deal-breaker. Always think pebbles in shoes: What's irritating now will become unbearable over time.
Should this test bolster your confidence that this is the guy for you, then try adapting to his temperament. Be open with close friends about the situation: "Yeah, he's really awkward in groups, but he treats me beautifully. I won't force him on you, but in return I hope you'll trust me and give him a chance." And, break your boyfriend into social situations gently — say, with fewer group outings and more dinners with one or two friends at a time. Then imagine doing this ungrudgingly ever after, if you're thinking that way about him.
It's best to clear the air about plans to marry, or not to
Q: Two of my girlfriend's best friends are getting married this year. I know this shouldn't have anything to do with us, but she has mentioned feeling self-conscious because we've been dating for longer than these couples. When these conversations come up, what can I say to her that doesn't sound like, "I don't ever want to marry you," or like, "I'll definitely marry you one day"?
A: Why don't you shoot for, "Let's talk about why we aren't engaged"? No platitudes or promises, just truth. Nothing kills self-consciousness like a mutual understanding of exactly where you both stand.