Turning enemies into allies

Lena Katz - Click by Lavalife
Being paranoid about infidelity is a waste of time, for many reasons.

Being paranoid about infidelity is a waste of time, for many reasons.

Starting a new relationship doesn't simply entail getting to know one new person.

As things progress, you'll eventually meet family, friends, neighbours, colleagues -- basically, an entire address book full of potential threats and problems.

Or not. Step out of "Me vs. the World" mode, and you'll realize that most people are not out to get you. They're too busy living their own lives. Ironically, though, the ones you hate the worst might actually have the most to teach you.

The Bad-Influence Friend:

This person may be the most obnoxious, ubiquitous threat your relationship faces. If it's a guy, he's a drunk, a womanizer, sloppy, foul-mouthed, and prone to keeping your boyfriend out till 5 am. If it's a female, she's bitchy, loud, slutty-looking, annoying, and likewise prone to keeping your girlfriend out till 5 am. You don't understand why your sweetheart insists on keeping this person around.

One of the oldest, truest, most painful clichés in the book is: "You can judge a man by the company he keeps." That goes for women too. So, while it's possible that your significant other (a.k.a. the SO) is just a faithful companion who Bad Influence Bob drags around against his will, he's more likely a willing participant. In fact, probably before you came around, there were times when your sweetie darling was drinking, partying, and keeping Bad Influence Bob out till 5 am. (And Bob's girlfriend was pissed.)

The Ex:

They were there before you. They know everything about your partner -- maybe even some stuff that you don't. They come up in conversation, in picture albums, and only time can make them go away. Plus, even if your SO is completely in love with you now, they once had feelings for this person. And possibly could again. No wonder you can't help being a little competitive. Maybe you even like to hear your ex bagging on them.

Danger! If your SO is quick to talk smack about an ex, it means a) they're still bitter or b) they're still trying, post-breakup, to push all the blame onto someone else. Not good. And if your SO complains about all their exes, then guess what? You're next in line.

If your new SO is not a smack-talker, give 'em a big gold star. But as you'll discover sooner or later, they're still not perfect. And the absolute best person to give you perspective -- if you could ever bring yourself to ask -- is the ex.

"My ex-fiance dumped me out of the blue and started dating another girl two months later," remembers Alison. "And she called me up. I was fine with talking to her, till she started telling me that he belonged to her now -- that he had bought her a promise ring, and told her he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. So I very honestly said, 'I was with him for five years, I heard it all a million times, and I have an entire collection of Tiffany boxes to remember him by. So have fun while it lasts.' He left her six months later."

The "Ten":

Be it a neighbor, a bartender, a friend-of-a-friend, whatever. This ridiculously gorgeous specimen triggers massive insecurity every time you see him (or her). Though rationally you know you're the one your SO is with, you can't help but wonder... would they rather be with The Ten? Even worse -- what if The Ten has designs on your honey?

Being paranoid about this is a waste of time, for many reasons: First, dating's law of attraction dictates that perfect-looking people usually hook up with other perfect-looking people (Brad and Angelina anyone?) Unless your SO is way hotter than you or extremely wealthy, you shouldn't worry.

Second, gorgeous people have so many dating prospects that they don't need to poach other people's property. Third, they're usually secure enough to not need more notches on their bedpost. Finally, since everyone lands in their lap, they tend to be very lazy about dating.

"It's crazy how much opportunity there is," says Derek, a former underwear model from Hollywood. "The other night, this super-hot chick approached me, and literally, the only effort I made in the whole conversation was to hand her my cell phone so she could program in her phone number."

If that's how Mr. Gorgeous treats Ms. Gorgeous, what do you think he does when your Ms. Kinda-Cute walks by? He smiles vaguely, can't remember her name, and lets her walk right past... as she thinks "Screw that idiot," and heads straight to you... the one who's smart enough to appreciate her.

The Family Member from Hell:

The family-member-from-hell archetype has been a problem since the dawn of time -- just skim some Greek mythology for proof. We're not going to discuss dealing with a partner's scary family -- that subject has been covered ad infinitum.

For this one, we'll take a slight twist: What if it's your family? Your older brother's Hulk-like threats, your mom's fake-sweet interrogations, your sister's out-and-out rudeness... It's enough to make you never bring anyone home again. But realize: They're just doing it because they don't believe anyone is good enough for you.

Have a candid conversation with Scary Sis or Incredible Brotherly Hulk and say, "I truly appreciate the concern, but you're sabotaging my personal life. Chill out." Usually, they will. If they don't, it's probably because their intuition is giving off huge signals that this person is wrong for you. Your family members are not blinded by love -- they're going to see things you can't. Pay attention.

"When I met my husband, my daughters begged me not to marry him, but I was so in love with him, I didn't listen," remembers Suraya. Four years later, she's going through a messy divorce, and her daughters are her main source of support who only rarely say "I told you so."

The Spouse:

Truth: The lawfully wedded (or just common-law) SO of the person you're truly/madly/deeply crazy about is not your friend, and probably never will be. But if you think this person is the enemy, you need a reality check. So the love is gone from the marriage? They're putting up a pretense for the children? She's a leech who's only in it for the money? He doesn't appreciate her anymore? He's banging his secretary?

Any or all these things might be true. But that doesn't change one simple fact: The person you love is in a committed relationship with someone else, and is not willing to get out of it for you. Plus, you can pretty much assume The Spouse is clueless about the situation -- which means the person you love is also a liar.

Or maybe they have figured out what's going on, despite your SO's best efforts at deception. Then forget Your Love for a second and instead, peek into The Spouse's mind, which is: confused, angry, hurt, wondering why their so-called "other half" is playing them for a sucker. Then think: If, by some crazy miracle, your Love actually leaves The Spouse and shacks up with you, then... you will, by default, be The Spouse. And this entire legacy will soon pass along to you. Count on it.

"I was one of the ones waiting for him to leave the wife," admits Kylie. "It lasted two-and-half years, until the wife found out and the shit hit the fan. They didn't stay together, but the resulting chaos finally finished us off." Now fully moved on and prepping for her own wedding, she says she has no regrets, but is "eternally grateful" that things happened the way they did.