Should I stop my friends from commenting on my love life?

Written by Stylist Team

As every celebrity and tweeter has their say about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s relationship, writer Kezia Rice finds that it’s hitting a little too close to home.

The world has been gripped by the court case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp – almost unnaturally so. The nature of the case requires the jury to cast judgment on the couple’s relationship, and so it seems that anyone with an internet connection has felt entitled to do the same.

When a case presents so many details, it’s instinctive to piece together your own narrative of events, but the only people who know what really occurred behind closed doors are Heard and Depp, whatever trending TikToks might say.

The ease with which we form opinions on such private dynamics has struck a nerve with me because it’s a scenario I’ve seen play out many times before with my own love life. When I encounter relationship problems, my instinct has always been to seek the advice of my friends. A problem shared is a problem halved, and as an indecisive Libra, I frustrate myself endlessly when trying to make a decision without external advice.

“The more a certain opinion is heard then the more it’s reinforced, meaning it becomes more believable,” says James Preece, a celebrity dating coach and relationship expert. “In psychology, it’s called the wisdom of crowds – when we realise that a large group of opinions can be stronger and more useful than the thoughts of an individual.”

During my most recent break-up, I realised that my friends’ opinions, which I’d previously taken as gospel, were no longer serving me. I voicenoted a long-distance friend with news that the person I’d been seeing for four months had broken up with me over the course of a 10-minute conversation on a street corner. I was devastated, and she was angry on my behalf. “There were red flags in his communication style from the start,” she reassured me. “You’re better off without him.”

Hearing this made my chest constrict. I felt hurt that she was criticising the person I still had feelings for and that she was implying that I had made a mistake by dating him for so long. As she had never met my ex in real life, I felt that she was basing her judgment on voicenote updates I’d given her about our relationship – but I was the one who’d spent months dating him and who could judge if his communication was terrible or not.

I explained to my friend that while I was grateful for her support, I didn’t want to feel influenced by her opinions when I was already drowning in the sea of confusion that comes with a sudden, unexplained break-up. As I expressed this, I realised that this was a shift in mindset from the previous break-ups I’d had.

“Hearing so many opinions from other people can create overwhelm, worry, fear of rejection, low self-esteem and low mood, among many other things,” says Sarah Louise Ryan, dating expert and matchmaker at Tailor Matched. “When we are judged negatively, rejected or scrutinised, it takes a confident, self-assured and self-aware person to not be taken back by that.” 

And yes, Sarah says, this does extend to celebrities: “Just because Heard and Depp have publicly opened up details about their relationship, it does not mean they are prepared for judgment or how it might make them feel.”

Last summer, I introduced Jack, a German guy I was dating, to my friends. I was nervous beforehand – not least because the occasion of their first meeting was a hyper-competitive evening watching England play Germany in a Euros football match. But despite supporting opposing teams, Jack got on well with my friends, and although the evening had its own football-related dramas, I felt satisfied that I had their approval.

The post-match debrief went down differently. I was getting ghosting vibes from Jack after our football meet-up, and I aired my concerns that he wasn’t interested with a couple of friends. “It’s a good thing you might split,” one of them told me. “Toby hated him.” Toby was a close friend of mine whose opinion I really respected. I asked for his honest thoughts on my relationship, and he admitted he’d found Jack really arrogant.

Hearing this felt like a wake-up call, and I spiralled further by asking my girlfriends for advice. I followed their chain of opinions like a frustrated child looking for the answer to an impossible puzzle. Which friend should I listen to? Whose opinion was the most important? Had I been dating an arrogant narcissist for nearly a month? I called Jack that weekend and ended things in an abrupt conversation that almost definitely came out of the blue for him. It wasn’t until weeks later that I began to question whether I was too quick to sacrifice my own judgment in favour of that of my friends’.

“The more we trust other people’s opinions, the less we trust our own,” Sarah Louise Ryan told me – and she may as well have been looking into my soul. “Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed or stressed, we want to share how we’re feeling. But if we are at mental capacity, hearing more opinions may add to the weight of the problem.”

I felt affected by my friends’ advice because I put too much emphasis on it, leaving my own clarity about dating situations caught in the crossfire. I hated the thought that my friends could think negatively about someone I was seeing, and because I’d so often passed judgment on their partners in the past, I knew how easy it was for one bad trait in a boyfriend to spiral into The Reason He’s Not Good Enough For Her And Deserves To Die.

Sarah explained, “It’s natural for your friends to want to help find a solution because they care about you. But if you don’t want to hear their advice you can create boundaries on what you need, such as a listening ear rather than a person to fix it.”

Maybe it’s time to stop caring so much about whether my friends agree with my every dating decision and realise that the reason they share their advice is that they love me and want the best for me. If it’s no longer serving me to hear their opinions on my love life, then that’s a boundary I have to begin to draw. I’ll take advice when I need it, but sometimes it’s good to take your love life back into your own hands – and I’m certainly grateful not to have the entire internet expressing an opinion.

Image: Getty

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