Friends are that special glue that keeps everything together in life, even in moments when it seems like everything is falling apart. Real friends will be there for us in our good times for celebration and in the bad times as shoulders to cry on or as that sometimes-so-needed reality slap. A real friend will look you in the eye and tell you what you need to hear which may be completely different from what you’d want to hear. Through them, we reflect our own reality, we learn and we grow. We practice social skills, communication, empathy, monstrous hangovers and the works. What person in their right mind would consciously set their friends aside? I’m thinking nobody, but still, you see it happen over and over and over again when a relationship begins to get serious. What’s the underlying mechanism there?
It has probably happened to each of us in a certain point of our lives. I remember back in the beginning of university, I entered a long distance relationship. I really liked the guy, only problem was that we saw each other once a month, sometimes twice and sometimes once in three months. Young, infatuated me was hooked on this even though the large intervals of not seeing each other caused great tension. All of my attention was in keeping the contact alive and running, in dreaming up new situations to improve the frequency in which we saw each other and in imagining a nice happy ending. Unfortunately, all that attention had been taken from that which I used to offer my friends, colleagues and anything else that meant social life, and the most disturbing thing of all was that I had no idea I was doing all that, I hadn’t the faintest clue that I was hurting myself and others… It was only after one year that I realized what I had done. That relationship’s lessons changed me into a more cautious person, unwilling to let my guard down and, later on, unable to strip myself from my own defenses. Keeping your head over the surface and being in control will allow you to be able to make choices and stick to them.
Some more examples from two of my closest friends. One of them, great girl, had a 4 year relationship. They were already discussing marriage and building a life together, planning to have kids one day. In these 4 years, I had seen my friend less and less, and even throughout those rare occasions, it was many times that when I wanted to meet her, she showed up with her boyfriend. I am not to be misunderstood here, the guy was a really, really great guy, but when two female friends who have known each other since forever and have shared stories of “great deeds” meet, you just can’t have the girl-talk in front of the boyfriend! Then this one day, I met her by herself. I asked her how come there was so much distance gradually shoved between us, but she didn’t understand what I meant. She looked me in the eyes and told me that she was happy, but the expression of her face was that of a person who is on the verge of losing everything yet tries to tell herself that it’s alright. So I let that one slip. Half a year and a break-up later, she comes over at my place and tells me that I was right, there was a lot of distance and she had neglected a lot while in that relationship… but without noticing anything was truly wrong at all.
Is it imperative that in a relationship we have to choose between the partner and our own social life? Isn’t it amazing(ly dumb) how people sometimes feel compelled to choose between either themselves or their partner, even though nobody had requested such a thing? Why do people feel a need to sacrifice when no sacrifice is being asked for? Maybe the last question is easiest to answer at the moment. People always feel the need for gratification, the ego craves it within the subconscious mind and it makes us do the weirdest things. We give up our friends, we scramble up our schedules, we even change who we are for a person who might have never wanted us to do so. Why? Because then we can use the line “But I did all this for YOU!” and somehow create a mixed feeling of flattery and guilt in the other person who will automatically change their behavior towards us. Of course, if you’re dumb enough to try that line with someone of a higher level, you’ll just get a raised eyebrow as a response, together with the “I never asked you to do that” line that I love so much. That line can do magic, cause it’s a gateway to either the right questions that produce the right answers which may induce somewhat of a revelation leading to not being such a needy little bitch anymore, or it can decompensate underlying hysteria or other mental disorders responsible for various childish ways of getting attention.
We should never feel that we have to choose between who we are and who somebody else would want us to be. I agree that each one of us has plenty of room for improvement, but it has to come because we want it, not because some potential partner wants it for us. The moment one chooses to become a fake copy of what the other person would project as “ideal”, that’s the moment in which one renounces who they are and what defines them… including their friends. Sometimes we end up being so caught up in a relationship, that instead of enjoying it as who we are, we end up being consumed by an underlying fear of losing that bliss and that person. In that state of mind, our subconscious tries to go through all possibilities of annihilating the fear, but our ego will allow it only a few options: renounce self and become whatever the partner wants, play deceiving mind games to maybe try to manipulate properly, be a good actor on the relationship scene, then immediately change your mask whenever possible. Boys and girls, things don’t work that way. Even if this is what you see around yourselves every day, these are not solutions to having a healthy relationship. Eventually, if you’re serious, you’ll want to keep that person and, keep in mind, all masks and all lies have expiry dates, and once their dates have expired, you will be exposed with all your petty frustrations. I can’t even begin to emphasize this enough: it is Not worth it!
But enough with the bad examples, it’s time for the only real exception I have met so far. One of my best friends is a great guy, great yet sometimes grotesque sense of humor and really, really smart. He’s been in a relationship for about 5 years and it’s still going and no matter how tough it sometimes got, he never really let go of his closest friends. I admire him for that! No relationship is perfect, but he didn’t take out their imperfections on those around him, he didn’t sacrifice us senselessly, and him and his lovely girlfriend always managed to work things out by themselves. I remember at the beginning of their relationship, she was suspicious that him and I were hanging out so much and talking about everything and anything and probably that might have caused certain tension, but my friend never gave our friendship up and he never gave the woman he loved up and now, after a few years, me and her get along wonderfully! It is never a matter of choice, it’s all a matter of being smart enough to keep your individuality and respect the other ones individuality while creating something based on stability, trust and love. It’s a lot easier to give it all up blindly than to actually go the extra mile to make everything work.
So, when your time comes (if it hasn’t already) and infatuation has taken over your senses, butterflies are humping the insides of your stomach, being in love has dropped your apparent IQ by a fair number, what will you do? Will you feel compelled to give yourself away for a partner who might have never asked for such sacrifice or will you stand your ground, look him in the eyes and say “This is me, take it or leave it”?