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I do not like my boyfriend’s drug-using friends

Ask Roe: Nights out escalate from one glass of wine at a dinner party to lines of cocaine

Dear Roe,

I don't like my boyfriend's friends. In the last few months he's made a new group of friends, and I tried to get along with them but now I realise that I just don't enjoy being around them. There's a 10-year age gap between the friends and us, them being older, and I find them pretty immature, particularly when it comes to socialising and alcohol and drug consumption.

When we meet up, I notice the night quickly escalates from one glass of wine at a dinner party to three bottles, lines of cocaine and other drugs, and stumbling home. There always seems to be a need to consume more, no matter what the occasion.

Even when my boyfriend meets up with them alone the night seems to always end the same way. I’ve addressed this with him before, and I know he has listened because I have seen some change in him not to follow along when they push to consume more. I don’t enjoy their company and end up subconsciously annoyed with my boyfriend, which manifests as me bickering and nagging over the next day or two.


I don’t want to put my boyfriend in an awkward situation to pick between us, or for things to stay the same letting my negative feelings towards them fester and project onto my partner.

Let us begin with a disclaimer: Drugs are illegal. Just say no, kids.

Not liking the friends of your significant other is always a tricky situation. What’s interesting here is that these are a new group of friends for your boyfriend. It’s not that your boyfriend’s friendship is based on old loyalties or shared experiences – he likes them for who they are now, and what he’s getting out of his friendship with them.

What is going on with your boyfriend that he is seeking out a markedly different social life?

So to me, the most pressing question is not what to do about your boyfriend’s friends, but what is going on with your boyfriend that he is seeking out a markedly different social life and has noticeably increased his drug and alcohol consumption.

A vastly different attitude towards both substances and socialising can strain any relationship. Having a partner who stays out late drinking or doing drugs with people you don’t know or like puts you in a position of feeling anxious and alienated, which is understandably very stressful.

You don’t say how this increased drug and alcohol consumption is affecting him personally. Is he treating you any differently? Is he functioning okay in his daily life? Are his weekends disappearing to alcohol and drug consumption and then recovering? Or is he socialising with these people once in a while and enjoying their company, but maintaining clear boundaries and managing his own intake of substances?

Your boyfriend has already been open to hearing your concerns about this group’s substance abuse, so tell him that you would like to keep that conversation open to ensure that he’s doing okay.

Emphasise that while you have difficulty connecting with this group, you would like to understand why he enjoys their company

The other part of this conversation that needs to be addressed is that you simply don’t enjoy this group’s company – and these discussions can be linked together. Assume the most non-judgmental tone you can and ask your boyfriend if you both can have an open conversation. Emphasise that while you have had difficulty connecting with this group, you would genuinely like to understand why he enjoys their company, how he feels about their level of alcohol and substance use, and what he’s getting out of this dynamic that feels markedly different to his other friendships.

Explain that it has been jarring to see him interact with a group that you seem to have little in common with and that defy your understanding of him, and that you’d like to understand. Genuinely listen to what he has to say, and what it reflects about his needs right now.

Then explain any concerns you have and give your boyfriend the chance to respond. How do you feel about his increased alcohol and drug intake? Are you (understandably) worried about his safety, overall life and/or judgement being impaired? How does it feel for you when he’s out all night?

He can either help make you feel more comfortable, or he can prioritise his new friends and drug-heavy lifestyle

This conversation will let you voice your concerns and will hopefully illuminate if there’s a deeper issue going on with your boyfriend, and allow you to gain more insight into whether this group is having a palpably negative effect on his life – or if he’s doing okay, and you just don’t like them.

If it’s the latter, and you understandably don’t want to tag along as they get wasted at every opportunity and then feel resentful, you have two realistic options. One is that you simply don’t socialise with them, even if your boyfriend does. This is not uncommon; many people in relationships have some friends that aren’t close to their partner, and you have good reason to not want to be around them.

Presumably both you and your boyfriend have other friends you can socialise with together. You could also ask that you boyfriend make an effort to check in with you when he’s out with them to ensure you feel more comfortable about his safety.

The alternative is that you make an effort with this friend group, but on terms you are comfortable with. Meet with them as individuals, rather than as a group, or invite them to your house for dinner or meet them for lunch, but avoid situations that are likely to escalate. It’ll be interesting to see if they put effort into their friendship with your boyfriend when drink and drugs aren’t on the table, which may clarify the terms of their dynamic for both you and your boyfriend.

But managing this situation shouldn’t all be on you. Your boyfriend will now know that his new friends and his increased substance use are making you uncomfortable, so ask how he would like to navigate this. He can either help make you feel more comfortable, or he can prioritise his new friends and increasingly drug-heavy lifestyle over the health of your relationship.

His reaction to this question may illuminate another option: leaving him to his partying, by leaving.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in Sexuality Studies. If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at Only questions selected for publication can be answered.