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When Three's a Crowd

From friends and family to coworkers, here's how to prevent those nosy third parties from bursting your love bubble.

It felt like The Green Mile. My smile was fake and my dread was real as I walked to the back of a Harlem café. Would they think I was interesting and down-to-earth? Cute but too over the top? I had been dating my boyfriend a few months when he decided to introduce me to all his boys. I knew their opinion meant a lot to him and I would really be under the microscope.

His friends. Your girls. His mama. Your boss. His kids. When it comes to a relationship, there are rarely just two people involved. And for Black couples the external pressure can be even greater. “For African-Americans, nobody is ever a stranger. We talk to people more freely and tell our business,” says Lester L. Barclay, Chicago attorney and author of The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama (Khari Publishing). “In many instances, what other people think has a significant influence on how we view our relationships.” Our experts share how to navigate the threesomes you will inevitably encounter.


Family friction around relationships can get real messy real fast. Florida publicist Sarah Dugas, 27, thought her former boyfriend’s mother was perfectly pleasant when they first met, but soon his mother’s sweetness gave way to snide reminders of how lucky Dugas was to be associated with a wealthy family like theirs. Dugas was tempted, but refrained from responding, which was a smart move. 


Given how much of the day we spend at our jobs, it’s natural to develop close relationships in the workplace. But rehashing last night’s argument with your boo may have a lasting impact.


One of the most troublesome influences on relationships can be past partners. Denver native Ashley Powers* had to adjust to the fact that her boyfriend’s ex was still in touch with his family four years after they had broken up.


Fortunately, my man’s pals seemed to like me at our first meeting, and my girls had already approved of him. It’s natural to want your close friends to weigh in on your choice of a partner, and it could be a smart move to let people you trust check for any glaring red flags your love-struck eyes might have missed.


With the majority of Black children now raised in single-parent house-holds, figuring out how to successfully bring kids from previous relationships into a new union is vital.

For the full story on “When Three’s a Crowd” pick up the September issue of ESSENCE.