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Tracey Cox reveals how to react when your BFF flirts with your other half

Past research has showed that the best person to predict if your new relationship will succeed isn’t your parents, your siblings or your workmates.

It’s your friends.

Friends know us best of all because we don’t ‘censor’ ourselves, like lots do with their families.

Friends know our flaws, our strengths and our vulnerabilities which is why they are a great sounding board when we’re choosing a partner or deciding whether to stay with one.

So far so good.

Trouble is, not all our friends have our best interests at heart.

Some say ‘I’m just looking out for you’ or ‘I’m your best friend. You know I’ll tell you the truth’ but not all their comments or advice about our love life are genuine.

How can you tell what’s honest, useful feedback and what’s selfish sabotage?

Look at your friends with objective eyes to see if they’re guilty of any of the following.

Tracey Cox shares the giveaway remarks that reveal if a friend has your best interest at heart when giving dating advice (file image)

Tracey Cox shares the giveaway remarks that reveal if a friend has your best interest at heart when giving dating advice (file image)

THEY WANT YOU SINGLE OR ALL TO THEMSELVES

Giveaway remark: ‘Do you have to get their permission for us to go for drinks now?’

However nice we are, we’re all essentially selfish.

If it suits you to have your best friend single because you are, you want to keep it that way. Who doesn’t want a wing person and someone to go on hols with?

Even if you’re happily coupled up, if you both look forward to a good friend coming over to chill with you on the weekend, you can be equally as duplicitous.

A new love interest rocks the boat. You think all your friends and family want you to be happy but they want to be happy, too.

A lot of the time, the fault-finding happens on a subliminal level. They find themselves making a demeaning comment about your partner’s appearance, a joke about the way they speak, their job, their manners and think ‘Wow! Where did that come from?’.

Honest friends will come right out and say: Hey, I hope you’re still going to love me/us now you’ve got them?

Others know exactly why they’re sabotaging but are too dependent on you socially and emotionally to put your happiness above theirs.

Fix it: If you think your friend is threatened, reassure them that you won’t drop them just because you’re now in a relationship. But also let them know you need to spend time with your partner as well. Don’t be guilted into choosing. Any friend who says, ‘It’s them or me,’ is not a real friend.

THEY FANCY YOUR PARTNER

Tracey (pictured) says friends who aren't remorseful about flirting with your partner are dangerous

Tracey (pictured) says friends who aren’t remorseful about flirting with your partner are dangerous 

Giveaway remark: ‘If ever you’re bored with them, send them my way.’

‘A good friend flirting with your partner is wrong on some many levels,’ one 32-year-old woman told me. She ditched her friend because of it.

‘It was disrespectful to me and it put my partner in an embarrassing position. He didn’t want to be rude because she was a close friend, so he’d play along. He was also flattered, I guess. Who doesn’t like being flirted with?’

‘After putting up with it for a month, I finally called her it.

‘She looked at me and said, ‘I had no idea you were so insecure. Why are you so threatened? Don’t you trust your boyfriend?’

Fix it: Some people flirt by default with everyone – your friend might not have any idea she’s doing it. Say, ‘Hey, I might be being silly, but it feels like you’re flirting with my partner. It makes me feel uncomfortable.’ A good friend will be horrified, apologise and instantly stop doing it.

The friend who isn’t remorseful is dangerous.

THEY’RE OVERPROTECTIVE

Giveaway remark: ‘Have you met his friends yet? What about his parents?’

This friend genuinely does have your best interests at heart. They just care a little too deeply and see everything as a threat.

But they can be worse than an overbearing mother: No-one is ever good enough for you. You’re so amazing, you could get someone richer/better looking/more intelligent.

They turn your partner inside out, checking for anything hidden that might end up harming you.

Fix it: It’s worth listening to over-protective friends if you have a habit of ending up in toxic relationships (they’re protective for a reason).

Otherwise, let them say their piece, say thank you for their input. Then gently remind them that you’re an adult, capable of making your own decisions and that making mistakes is all part of life.

THEY WANT WHAT YOU HAVE

Giveaway remark: It must be nice not to have to worry about money/work/spending Christmas alone.

This is the most common reason for friends sabotaging your love life: they envy some aspect of your relationship.

If they can’t have it, they don’t want you to have it either.

It could be money, a partner that’s good-looking, super nice, a great lifestyle, kids when they don’t have any…there are many things that bring out the green monster in people around us.

How does your friend react when bad things happen to you generally? If there’s a hint of schadenfreude – they seem to take pleasure in your misfortune – they’re envious.

Fix it: It can be difficult watching a close friend enjoy what you’re desperate to have yourself. If you can help your friend get what it is they want, you’ll all be happier.

If the digs at your relationship are becoming spiteful, say, ‘I know I’m lucky to have money/a great house/a husband. I hope you’re happy for me. I would be if the situation was reversed.’

THEY’RE IN LOVE WITH YOU

The ex you’ve stayed friends with who is hanging around hoping for a second chance. That friend you’ve known since school who’s desperately waiting for you to see you’re made for each other romantically.

Beware platonic friends who find fault with everyone you’ve ever dated. They may have a hidden agenda.

Fix it: Ask mutual friends if your instincts are right. Sometimes, it’s so blatantly obvious to everyone else that your friend has been in love with you forever, they assume you know. If you think they might have feelings for you, you have two choices. Continue the friendship but don’t discuss your love life with them. Or say, ‘I’ve noticed you don’t like anyone I go out with. Is there a reason? I want you to be happy and hope you want me to be happy, too’. Even if they deny everything, they’ll get the hint and back off.

Tracey admits she's lost her temper with know it all friends, but it's best to just accept them for who they are (file image)

Tracey admits she’s lost her temper with know it all friends, but it’s best to just accept them for who they are (file image)

THEY’RE CYNICAL

Giveaway remark: Give it a year and you won’t be cutting me short to run off and be with them.

My dad had an affair for ten years before leaving my Mum. I was 16 when he left.

Over the years, especially at the beginning of a relationship, Mum would say two things to me: ‘You can’t trust men,’ and ‘There’s always something.’ (Give it time – you’ll find something wrong with him).

I totally get why she felt that way but her suspiciousness rubbed off on me. Every person I went out was presumed guilty rather than innocent and I was constantly on the alert for flaws.

Cynical friends often don’t realise how jaded they are but they’re draining to be around: the world is bleak enough without someone close to you pointing out the downside to everything.

Research proves couples are happiest when they are surrounded by other happy couples: we subconsciously follow their example and learn how a happy couple operate.

If your best friend is constantly pointing out what’s wrong with your relationship and how all relationships are doomed, you start to believe it.

Fix it: Whenever they make a gloomy pronouncement, take it back to them. Say, gently, ‘I worry you aren’t completely over what happened to you. Do you want to talk about it?’ If all they ever do is moan about their failed love life, say ‘I’m worried what happened to you is getting in the way of you having a happy life. Have you thought about talking to someone about it so you can move forward?’.

THEY’RE A KNOW IT ALL

Giveaway remark: What you need to do is this.

Know-it-all’s offer unasked for opinions on everything, not just your relationship.

There is only one expert – them – and everything they say mustn’t be challenged because they are always right.

They tend to talk over you and not let you get a word in. You end up browbeaten into submission, admitting, yes, your partner was out of line. Perhaps they aren’t for you after all.

Fix it: I’ve had first-hand experience with a know-it-all friend. I tried kindly saying as much as I appreciate the input, I’m fine making my own decisions and choices thanks. I lost my temper and told them they don’t know everything and aren’t always right.

Neither made the slightest bit of difference.

What I do now is accept that’s just what she’s like, that she probably does think she is ‘helping’ and mentally drift off, thinking positive thoughts about whatever I fancy, while she drones on.

I suggest you do the same.

Some final advice – from personal experience

Sabotaging is especially effective at the start of a relationship because you have no history to counter the claims your friends are making.

I was notorious for introducing prospective partners to friends, just a few dates in.

I’d sit there, anxiously scanning their faces, trying to work out whether he was getting a thumbs up or down, and call for the verdict the second I was alone.

My friends are kind. They’re also protective and like all human beings, carry their own subjective biases.

I was highly influenced by their opinions and if a guy didn’t get the all-round seal of approval, they were generally dumped before anything had even started.

When I met my (now husband) Miles, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to make up my own mind before introduce him to everyone’.

We dated for three months before anyone laid eyes on him. By that time, I was so sure I’d made the right choice, I didn’t give a hoot what my friends thought. My mind was made up.

They all loved him – but even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Friends might be helpful at judging who is right for you but the only person who really knows is you.

Tracey’s new book, Great Sex Starts at 50, is available wherever good books are sold. You’ll find her product range and more information about sex at traceycox.com.

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