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Why Can’t I Break Into My New Boyfriend’s Friend Group?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly a year. It’s going really well! But his close-knit group of friends is not welcoming to me. They are all bilingual, and when they hang out together, they speak Spanish. I am studying Spanish, but when people speak quickly or use slang, I can’t follow the conversation. Even beyond the language barrier, though, they don’t seem all that interested in getting to know me. My boyfriend has asked what he can do to help, but I’m not sure. I’m afraid his friends may resent me if he asks them to switch to English when I’m around. We’re about to go on a two-week vacation with the whole group, and just thinking about the trip makes my stomach hurt. Help!

GIRLFRIEND

Breaking into a close-knit group — one that speaks a different language, no less — and managing to thrive is a heavy lift. I’m sorry you feel excluded, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the group to change its longstanding dynamics to accommodate you (other than occasionally). Nor do I think it’s reasonable for you to take that personally: You are still more group-adjacent than a member in your own right.

A better approach here may be for you to take some initiative and try to befriend group members individually. Invite one or two of them for coffee and get to know them better. They will probably speak English with you, and you will start to form personal relationships that may soon color the group dynamic.

Now, as for your upcoming vacation, you probably don’t have enough time to carry out this divide-and-conquer strategy before you leave. But perhaps you can try it on holiday: Invite individuals to breakfast or for walks. When you break down a seemingly impenetrable group into its component members, they often become more open and friendly.

Credit…Miguel Porlan

An Ex-Colleague Who Burned Bridges (and More)

I started a night class at a local university, and to my dismay, a former co-worker is also enrolled. He was fired several years ago by my company after setting fire to his apartment during a mental health crisis. He was given a long prison sentence because he put other residents of the building at risk. I hadn’t noticed him in class, but he said hello to me during a break. I felt awkward because of his terrible crime and his failure to mention it. I’ve been avoiding him since then. I understand that he paid his debt to society, so how should I handle this?

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