There will absolutely be times when you have to hang out with your girlfriend’s friends. One might not like you. She may even be a huge asshole about it. But dealing with your girlfriend’s friends is like dealing with her family, except family situations are vastly less chaotic.

As I always advise, don’t go through anything I say as a sort of checklist. Any relationship that you handle purely based on the advice of advice columns is going to be more like a shopping list than a love. You do have goals, though. You want to either have a diplomatic or good but not too close relationship with her crew. You neither want a situation where you are at odds with whoever she’s friends with, nor do you want to make a brand new best friend who happens to be a girl, who your girlfriend knows, who is now your friend.

So here’s how to handle the varying situations in which you might find yourself.

Living inside each other’s pockets is a recipe for disaster, especially if you ever break up and leave your mutual friends in an awkward position.

Analyze the situation and your girlfriend’s lifestyle with her friends.
The way to start is to know who her friends are. Are they all girls? Are there any guys in there? Who is she closest to? What does she like to do with them, and do you like doing that, too? How many of them does she have? And, importantly, does she necessarily want you to integrate with her friend circle? While it’s a horrible sign if she never wants you to meet them, there is something to be said for not always being the ever-present boyfriend.

You want to both have your own friendship circles—people she hangs out with, people you hang out with. You both have an idea of who everyone is, but you still have separate lives. Living inside each other’s pockets is a recipe for disaster, especially if you ever break up and leave your mutual friends in an awkward position.

Once you know that, you can begin with the gatekeeper: her best friend. And goodness, I hope it’s not a dude.

Your end goal is that this best friend is not telling your girlfriend she’s made a horrible mistake with you.

Befriend her best friend.
Whatever you do, you need to win over the best friend. For the sake of this paragraph, as I’ll address men later, I’ll assume she’s female. This isn’t to say you need to become her other best friend, nor do you even need to be super chatty or close, but you need to (and your girlfriend will appreciate it) create an environment where you show you want the best for your girlfriend and respect her relationship with her best friend. Whatever you do, you are going to be sized up and analyzed by said friend, not (always) out of aggression, but out of a protective nature.

So, it’s worth asking your girlfriend about her best friend and be very clear—you want to be a part of her life, and this means that you’re going to meet this person who is very close to them. When you do finally meet her, everything you say and do won’t be written down and catalogued, but you’re going to be noted on any particular little things you do—scratch your butt, pick your nose, who you vote for and so on. Here’re the things to know before you meet said friend:

-What does she do?
-What is she like – intense, chill, etc.
-Is she political? Is she really political?
-Is she the type of person that wants a debate?

If you have diametric political or religious or social beliefs to this person and think you’re going to get pilloried in a conversation, I’d advise copping out. However, most of the time it’s going to be a case of simple respect. If she dresses racily, whatever you do, do not look. If she talks to you, look her in the eyes, ask her questions. You want to create a situation where this person can see you’re a good guy, trying his best and, if you do fuck up, you want to have the air cover of, “Well, okay, there was that one thing but he seemed nice.”

Your end goal is that this best friend is not telling your girlfriend she’s made a horrible mistake with you. Furthermore, you want to make sure she doesn’t feel threatened by your relationship; you’re not here to take her best friend away.

Now, if things go well, make sure they don’t go too well. In the event that said best friend begins to get too chatty—texting, instant messaging, private conversations your girlfriend isn’t privy to—you need to respond sporadically or not at all. If she ends up sending flirtatious messages, you are going to have an issue. Potentially a big one.

A best friend hating you means that there’s a whisper in your girlfriend’s ear that you might be a huge dickshit.

There might be friends who just don’t like you.
I’ll preface this by saying this can just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. A best friend hating you means that there’s a whisper in your girlfriend’s ear that you might be a huge dickshit.

If you find this out, it’s best to use your girlfriend as the barometer for fixing it. If you get the feeling something’s wrong, ask her. Say, “I’m not sure [person] likes me. I really don’t want her to dislike me as I see a future for us. How can I fix it?” If it’s a personality clash, you can just simply accept it. Your girlfriend is probably smart enough to see that this person is their best friend not yours, and that you’ve done all you can.

If there’s an actual situation—you stared down her top (why, man, why?) or she misunderstood something you said, you want to go full scale mea culpa. In the boob-look area, say “I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to look, I wasn’t gawking.” If she won’t believe you, all you can do is apologize. If she thinks you said something and took it the wrong way, say “You know what, you’re right. I should’ve worded that better or simply not said anything. I’m 100 percent wrong and I really, really am sorry.” It’s amazing how far an apology can go.

However, close, straight male friends are a plague… They are just so close, and oh no, she doesn’t find him attractive! Except you can see, as a fellow man, his eyes on her and you know some shit is in his head.

Close male friends suck, but try not to worry about them.
If your girlfriend has guy friends that are part of a group, it’s generally okay. They’re there and they know each other. Maybe they’re work friends or what have you. They’ve known each other longer than you two have known each other, and that’s fine. Also, if a friend or close friend is gay that’s obviously not going to cause you any issues, unless he falls in love with you, in which case I’ve got nothing.

However, close, straight male friends are a plague. They are a bad news situation. I’ve heard every variation—childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, work friends. They are just so close, and oh no, she doesn’t find him attractive! Except you can see, as a fellow man, his eyes on her and you know some shit is in his head. Sadly, you can’t just bully your way in and say, “Don’t talk to this guy.” It will create a nasty tension between you and your beau. You do not want to come off as a jealous crazy person, nor do you want to create a situation in your head (or in reality) where your girlfriend is portrayed as the bad person sleeping around. Most likely if this guy’s been around her way before you they’d have had something happen. But if it’s bothering you, that’s something you are owed relief from. So, keep your eyes out for the following:

-Heart emojis or any kind of flirtatious talk.
-Physical compliments.
-Too many compliments.
-Physical intimacy of any kind. This one is absolutely intolerable. If they hug, fine, whatever, but if she’s sitting in his lap, kissing him on the lips, has her hand on his knee (and vice versa), if they sleep in the same bed—these are all dealbreakers you shouldn’t stand for. There is no situation in which this is okay unless you have an arrangement that makes it normal. Which I’m guessing you probably don’t. Talk to her about it.

This can go a number of ways:
1) He has an actual crush and he admits it. She will then have to choose one of you, because in my mind that’s a dealbreaker to keep that friendship going.
2) He seriously has no crush, he’s so sorry. In this case, keep an eye out for it actually being number 1.
3) Some combination of the above, except he wants to talk to you about it. In the event some guy wants to chat to you about his potential feelings (or lack of feelings) for your girlfriend that he’s close to, you want to keep a cool head. Don’t accuse him. Say the truth. You’ve seen these things and you’re really uncomfortable about them. In the event he has a crush and admits it, I don’t advise meeting the guy unless you want to slap him right in the jaw. If he admits it to you during said conversation, say, “I’m sorry man. She is with me. It isn’t going to work out.” If he gets competitive, threatening, or anything else… Well, say, “This isn’t going well,” and walk away. If he starts a fight, say, “Don’t hit me,” then get hit in the face and get him charged with assault. Haha, what an asshole.

Let us know your thoughts!