Not long after I started dating my now-husband, my best friend came to town for a weekend visit. I drove to the train station and, after greeting her with a big hug, hopped back in the driver’s seat. I was getting ready to share our weekend plans when she suddenly exclaimed. “You sit too close to the steering wheel!” with a mix of loving concern and judgment in her voice.
While I wanted to listen as she explained her clearly serious worry, all I could do was laugh. Earlier that week, my boyfriend had confronted me with the same somewhat obscure concern in an equally abrupt way.
After I stopped laughing and defended myself (I’m only 5’2”! I have short legs!), I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. As I began a serious relationship, I worried how integrating my significant other would impact our friendship. But in this moment, I realized how alike my best friend and boyfriend were, and gained new hope that getting to know friends’ SOs would be easier than I had believed.
As more of my friends have introduced a romantic partner to me, following these four tips have helped me break the ice and get to know their SOs better.
Find a shared interest
Outside of sharing views on my seat adjustments, my best friend and husband have many things in common. They’re both foodies and love to travel, so when we’re all together they can share notes on new places they’ve been and the best new restaurants they’ve tried.
If you’re meeting a friend’s partner for the first time, pick your friend’s brain before you all get together. You don’t have to put together a formally scripted speech to prove you have something in common, but you can help conversation flow easily with a statement like, “Sara told me that you also like x, y, z….” and asking a follow-up question.
Schedule smaller, casual gatherings
If you’re just getting to know your friend’s SO or are meeting them for the first time, consider planning something low-pressure and casual, and don’t forget to actually engage them in the conversation. I first met my friend’s now-fiance when I was visiting her in New York City. After a day of catching up just the two of us, he joined us for brunch before I headed home. Because we had already spent time alone together, my friend and I were able to more fully include him in the conversation, avoiding the inside jokes and “remember when…” stories we had already gotten out of our system. And since it was a small group, just the three of us, I had a good chance to talk to him directly.
Play to their strengths
A great way to engage with your friend’s SO is to ask for their input on something they’re an expert in. For instance, my friends know that my husband works in IT, so he often fields questions ranging from “Is my laptop completely dead?” to “Is the new iPhone worth it?” When they reach out to him in this way, it helps him feel valued and trusted. It also gives them an opportunity to learn more about his specific expertise and interest in technology. Both of these things help them to build a good rapport, making our shared time together more relaxed and enjoyable.
Work on a project together
This one can take a bit more initiative, but the end result is worth it. When the opportunity presents itself, take up the chance to bond with your friend’s partner through planning a surprise for your friend. This can be as simple as helping choose a Christmas gift or as elaborate as planning a surprise birthday party or picking out the perfect engagement ring.
Outside of the joy that a surprise will likely bring your friend, it will be even more meaningful to them to know that the important people in their life came together to work on it.
Originally published on September 18, 2018.