Society and human nature leads us to think that one of life’s quests is to find “the one”. However one of the perils of true love is that during the sunshine and rainbows of the honeymoon period the new partner can take precedence over pretty much everyone – friends, family and even children. During this period (very much depending on the individuals involved) friendships in particular can suffer. Family will generally forgive and take you back in, however friendships are very much a two way street. Your friends will only put up with it for so long – if you don’t put in the effort, then one day your friends will give up on making that proactive contact too.
Being in a (very) long term relationship, I realised a long time ago that having a good bunch of friends, especially girlfriends, around you is essential.
1. “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” Friends help you to define your identity as an individual. Your interests, opinions and core values are all formed by bouncing off networks of people, and as you grow up, increasingly this network is your friends. I believe that learning how to be an individual is actually more important than learning how to be one half of a couple.
2. “Love is blind”. When your rose coloured glasses (or beer goggles for that matter) are on, it’s your friends who will be watching out for you. No one wants to hear negative things about a new love, or how you change for the worse when you’re with your partner, but believe me, generally it’s a million times better than regretting it later and a pretty much always it’s zillion times better than hearing it from family.
3. Girlfriends will tell you what you need to hear, when you need to hear it. Whether it’s when your butt looks big in that dress, or if you need to stop being a bitch to your mum/partner/children/others in general, your girlfriends will tell it like it is. Your partner/boyfriend/hubby will either a) be in the “love is blind” stage, or b) be in the “keep the peace” phase by ignoring it, not caring or just telling you what you want to hear.
4. “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.” ― Ed Cunningham. Verbalising thoughts and having someone listen is a much bigger deal than you may realise. At a primal level, that very act of listening is recognition – that you are a human and that you matter. Think about those rare days when you don’t see another person for a while, like when you work from home. There is almost a yearning to talk to someone else, because just that very act makes you feel human again. On a less deep level, your girlfriends are the ones who will listen to you bitch about that work colleague that always has her cleavage out, listen to you whinge about your bloated tummy, or workshop that really annoying habit your partner/family member has.
5. One day you may not be part of a couple. Not something that everyone wants to think about, however a likely scenario at some point in your life whether it be temporarily or more permanently. Quite a few years back my boyfriend (who is now my husband) took a job that required him to be overseas for 12-16 weeks at a time. It was a massive adjustment for me, as I essentially spent a good portion of time living pretty much as a single gal. Without my friends and family, I would have been lost. I was turning up to parties and big events like weddings on my own, and he wasn’t around to celebrate my birthday for a few years too. My girlfriends (and my brother particularly) kept me entertained, ensuring I didn’t feel left out, and that my birthday was celebrated properly and in style.
It’s true you’ll always have family, but family is not always what you need. So put in the effort and nurture the friendships. As you grow older you’ll start to realise how important history is, and you’ll need people to reminisce with. And as you move through life, pick up as many good friends as you can service. Because your friends are the family that you choose.