Taylor Swift’s dedicated fanbase is known for dissecting her every move, from her song lyrics to her Instagram posts to her love life. Recently, Swifties have turned their attention to her rumored new love interest: Matty Healy, the frontman for The 1975.
Though the couple has yet to confirm their relationship, Healy was spotted at multiple shows on her Eras tour, and the two were recently photographed holding hands. At her May 20 concert in Boston, she told the crowd, “I’ve just never been this happy in my life, in all aspects of my life, ever.”
But some fans are disappointed — even angry — that Swift would date Healy, due to the English singer’s history of problematic behavior. He’s been accused of being misogynistic, antisemitic and racist over the years. In a February episode of “The Adam Friedland Show” podcast, Healy is heard laughing at and egging on racist jokes, and he tells a disturbing story about masturbating to porn of Black women being “brutalized.”
Some have tried to defend Healy’s controversial choices as “satire” or part of his “edgy” and “provocative” persona — while others say none of that excuses his bad behavior.
Swift and Healy aside, what do you when one of your friends is dating a new person you just can’t get behind? We turned to friendship experts for some advice.
There are a lot of reasons you may not support a friend’s new relationship.
You might disapprove of a friend’s new partner for any number of reasons that range from pretty inconsequential (e.g., you find their conversational tendencies irritating) to legitimately concerning, “like if they have a habit of saying racist, sexist, ableist or homophobic things, or if they say or do things that indicate that they might be or might become physically or emotionally violent or abusive,” Kat Vellos, author of “We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships,” told HuffPost.
Perhaps you dislike this person because “their character or integrity isn’t what it should be,” journalist Anna Goldfarb, author of the forthcoming book “Modern Friendship,” told HuffPost. “They might be controlling. Maybe they are disrespectful, rude or dismissive. It could even be a combination of a few of these traits.”
Another common reason: You don’t recognize the person they’ve become since they entered this new relationship. Perhaps they’re partying a lot or you’ve noticed they seem more insecure these days.
“It can be heartbreaking to watch someone you love and admire be torn down by a relationship,” Goldfarb said. “It’s understandable if you want to pipe up about the changes you’re noticing.”
Should you tell your friend how you feel?
Take some time to reflect on why you don’t like their new partner — is it something more surface-level you can look past or get used to? Or is there something about this person that makes you genuinely concerned for your friend?
“If your disapproval of your friend’s partner is based on something on the ‘light’ end of the scale, like they chew with their mouth open or they have an annoying laugh, try to get over it,” Vellos said.
“Your friend finds this person charming for reasons that might not make sense to you, and that’s OK — we all have different tastes and different traits we’re attracted to or repelled by.”
But if you’re worried about your friend’s physical or emotional well-being in this relationship, then it’s worth speaking up.
“Obviously, if there’s any sort of abuse going on, it’s crucial to be a trusted support to your friend,” Goldfarb said. “Point your friend to the appropriate resources with people who are trained to help in abuse situations.”
You can also listen when they’re ready to talk, offer them a safe place to stay if they need it or help them find a therapist or other support.
Even if you’re not worried about your friend being in an abusive situation, you may still consider voicing your concerns about their partner if “you notice their self-esteem is suffering,” Goldfarb said.
“If your friend feels hopeless or is in pain, yes, bring up your concerns. Stress that you’re worried about your friend’s well-being.”
Not sure how to broach the subject with your friend? Try posing your concerns as a question to “open the door” to the conversation in a less confrontational way, said psychotherapist Deborah Duley, owner of the Empowered Connections counseling practice.
“You could ask them something like, ‘I noticed you’re drinking a lot more around Maeve. Do you think this is something we should be worried about?’ or ‘It really bothers me that Steve talks over you and seems to belittle you when you are around us. What do you think this is about?’” she suggested.
If the reason you dislike the new partner is because they have different views than you, Duley said she would keep her opinions to herself.
“Because ultimately, it’s my friend’s choice to date whomever they’d like,” she said. “It’s my job as their friend to support them unconditionally and to only voice my opinion if it’s about someone who is hurting them in some capacity.”
Ashley Marie Eckstein, an associate marriage and family therapist at Millennial Life Counseling, also recommends trying to “let it go” if the new partner has “opinions — political or otherwise — that contradict your own.”
“It’s important to learn how to engage with people who think differently than you,” she said. “If the new partner can’t engage respectfully with you, it’s OK to set boundaries. Seeing you set healthy boundaries might be enough to make your friend look more closely at the relationship.”
After some self-reflection, you might realize your disdain for a friend’s partner has little to do with the person and more to do with the fact that the new relationship means you’re seeing less of your friend.
“It’s OK to tell your friend you miss them and would like to be more intentional about spending time together,” Eckstein said. “That conversation is healthy and does not require blaming the new partner.”
Advice for navigating this tricky situation.
Not liking a friend’s partner can be uncomfortable for you and put strain on your friendship. While it’s a difficult issue to work through, “if this person is important to your friend, then it’s well worth the effort to try,” Duley said.
In fact, she’s dealt with this firsthand: “One of my best friends from childhood married someone that I disliked, but I swallowed it and kept my friendship at the forefront knowing that just because I didn’t like them didn’t matter in the big picture,” Duley said.
It may help to try to find something redeeming about this person, she said, “such as their promptness or kindness towards your friend.”
Another tip: If your friend frequently vents to you about their partner, ask if they’re looking for advice or just a listening ear before you chime in with your two cents.
“If your friend indicates that, yes, they do want your advice, then set a date to discuss the matter in private,” Goldfarb said.
In this conversation, you can say your piece but remember to listen and “seek to understand your friend’s perspective before insisting on being heard,” Eckstein advised.
And try to resist the urge to criticize their significant other, as that will only make your friend defensive and derail the conversation.
“If you attack the new partner and list all the ways they’re horrible, your friend will most likely defend them, which will alienate and frustrate you,” Goldfarb said.
What you can do, however, is set some healthy boundaries.
That might sound like: “I support you with whatever you want to do in this relationship. But I can’t have these issues dominate our time together. What else is going on with you?” Goldfarb said.
Or, “I support you, whether you stay in the relationship or not. It’s not my place to tell you what to do with your life. But I’m always here to listen,’” she said. “Tell your friend what you need so you feel like your time with your friend is time well spent.”
Even though it can be frustrating or painful to see your friend with someone you don’t like, try to be patient with them.
“Find a balance between being a great friend to them with honoring your own healthy boundaries,” Goldfarb said.
Think, too, about what support you need in order to be there for your friend, Vellos said.
“If the situation is weighing on you heavily, consider talking about it confidentially with a therapist, mentor or trusted counselor,” she said.
And keep your eye on the prize, said Duley. Remember that your friendship is the priority here and “way more important and long-lasting than a partner a lot of times.”
“We all need a friend who loves us despite our stupid choices and poor decisions because we all make these from time to time…. I always say partners come and go but friends stick around. So don’t jeopardize your most important relationships for an opinion you have.”