Peer pressure and dating. Put the two together, and you might end up feeling like you’re back in high school. If you think this double whammy was left behind with teenage angst at the junior prom, think again. Many an adult relationship dies a premature death because of outside influences. Who doesn’t want friends and family to like (or at least accept) a romantic partner? When that doesn’t happen, the inner conflict can become excruciating. You feel boxed in, as if you have to make a choice between the two.
So what do you do? According to most of these men who broke up with a partner because friends or family didn’t approve, you learn a tough lesson from the experience — and, if you’re very lucky, rectify the situation and get your sweetie back.
Here’s what guys who let peer pressure (roughly defined here to also include familial and social influences) unduly influence them into ending an otherwise promising relationship have to say about their experiences…
“My brothers thought she was too reserved”
“My two brothers indicated they didn’t get why I was dating a woman who was a little quieter and more reserved than most of the ones we knew, including their two spouses,” says Washingtonian Roger, 34. “I liked her and she wasn’t reserved with me in private, but I let their opinions get in my way of pursuing a relationship. Maybe my family intimidated her? I don’t know. But they didn’t give her a chance. They are pretty judgmental. I should have held my ground. It took me a while to realize that she was exactly the type of gal I should date.”
Lesson learned: Understand what you want in a mate so that when you’re in that person’s presence, you’ll have the confidence and assuredness to stand by your choice.
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“My friends weren’t wowed by her looks”
“I broke it off with a woman because I felt like I needed my buddies to say ‘wow’ when I brought her out with us,” says Virginian Brandon, 27. “I could tell they just thought she was OK-looking. We’d spent too much time partying and constantly being on the lookout for the hottest ladies. It was a competition. And I think I was stuck in this cycle of impressing my friends with my catch du jour.”
Lesson learned: Once you pass a certain age (for argument’s sake, let’s say somewhere between junior high and, at the far end, college graduation), it’s time to stop being the insecure teenager whose popularity depends on your buddies’ assessment of your date’s hotness — and whether she’s Baywatch babe-worthy. If you’re attracted to her, that’s all that matters.
“My mom was constantly being critical of her”
“My mom criticized my girlfriend of a year by saying things like, ‘Oh, you’re still dating her? You really need to find someone who shares your interests’ and ‘She doesn’t seem like she’s at your same intellectual level,’” says New Yorker Jason, 32. “These criticisms were just mild enough to not seem over-the-top, but I didn’t realize until after I’d broken up with my girlfriend that they’d poisoned my view of her. Maybe mom was right and she wasn’t good enough for me, you know? But then I realized that was my mom’s pattern. She always sent me a steady stream of disapproval for every girl. The real issue is that we’re Jewish and she never liked any of the non-Jewish girlfriends I brought home, but she wouldn’t say that. I’m sorry I lost the girl who doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, but I’m glad I’m aware of this pattern.”
Lesson learned: You want to think your friends and family always have your best interests at heart. Sadly, they often have their own agenda for the partner they want you to end up with. Once you’re aware of these negative patterns (in this case, mom’s limiting agenda, which was at odds with what Jason actually wanted), you have to start making your own decisions.
“My basketball buddies thought she’d gotten in the way of our guy time”
“I broke up in a really shady way with a woman I’d been seeing for six months,” says Marylander Luke, 34. “I just stopped calling her and didn’t give an explanation. The truth was that I was torn, because my basketball buddies wanted me to spend more time with them at games and hanging out at bars. She was getting in the way. This was years ago, but I never stopped thinking about her, even after I’d gone on to other relationships. She and I had a real connection and I blew it, which I regretted. I ran into her 10 years later at a college reunion and apologized for what had happened, so this story has a happy ending. She forgave me and we started dating again. I’d never let anybody come between us again. We’re engaged now, and I am planning to include that sentiment into our wedding vows.”
Lesson learned: As long as you’re both single and there’s even a flicker of a spark remaining between you two, it’s never too late to give it another shot. You may have broken up in a moment of weakness due to peer pressure, but showing that you have the courage of your convictions while reaching out with an apology is the best step toward righting a past wrong.
Bottom line: Pay attention to others’ opinions about your love life, but take them with a grain of salt. Have confidence in your own beliefs. To the best of your ability, work toward finding a healthy balance between spending “separate” time with your new love and seeing your friends and family — as well as integrated time together. But if push comes to shove and you’re getting too much pushback about your new love, then man up and hold your ground. Don’t let the outside voices make your decisions for you. “I know one thing,” says Jason. “My last breakup taught me a hard lesson. But I would never let that type of pressure or criticism towards my girlfriend influence me now.”
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.