What Single Friends Need to Know9:18 AM
Romance seems like the best thing to happen to you....and the worst thing to happen to your friends. As soon as you get a boyfriend, you get a slew of third wheels. And you'll hear about it. You'll get the talk about toning down the PDA. You'll get told secondhand that your friend is sick of hearing about only one topic -- your boyfriend. You might even get confronted with the big slam: "You need to stop spending so much time with him."
Hello. Your friends have called, and they want you back.
I want to arbitrate this disagreement. I've been single. I've been in the head over heels in love stage. And I'm currently in this comfortable, intimate love that doesn't involve butterflies and angst every day....but many times it does. And I know a little bit of staying best friends with women throughout all of it.
You need to keep your friends in the loop about what's happening in your relationship. Sexual temptation, new emotions, and making one of the biggest decisions in your life require people to know your boyfriend, to know you, and to know your relationship. They can't give you advice if you hole away with your boyfriend and/or keep mum about your relationship until a huge crisis explodes.
The other reason you need to keep your friends in the loop is that you need your friends to be your friends, not just your relationship counselors. The butterflies will stop fluttering and the newness will fade into normal. Someday you're going to care again about all the old things that made you tick -- reading, being alone, blogging, girls' nights. Someday you're going to feel lonely some nights because you don't have girlfriends to giggle with or have those deep heart to hearts that only women have. My boyfriend is my best friend and a wonderful lover, but his awesomeness doesn't negate my need for church, family, and girlfriends. Your boyfriend doesn't either.
At the same time, it's okay that all your waking thoughts, your problems, your questions, and your joys involve your boyfriend. Intimate relationships require a lot of time and energy. They shift priorities and relationships. Things will be different, especially if you're on the immediate track to get married. You don't need to feel ashamed that you're figuring out married things while your single friends are pursuing jobs, hobbies, or other things hard to do as a married person. It's the stage of life you're in, and you don't need to apologize for that.
Just make sure that you're listening to them when they speak. (And if you can at all possible contribute something to the conversation that does not include your beloved, do that. Sometimes it's awkward to continually bring a third party -- even just in reference -- to a private girl talk. Use your judgment.) If you want them to rejoice with you in your happiness, rejoice in their happiness. Single and unmarried women feel pressure to marry. Many want to. It's tough to stay content when a married, engaged, or dating friend talks on and on about the milestones in their relationship but is uninterested with job promotions or graduation.
And don't get impatient with their single woes or dating mishaps. They've heard plenty of your problems. They deserve compassion and understanding for theirs.
All the Single Ladies
To be honest, I was one of the first girls in my friend group to fall in love. I've only recently begun hardcore third-wheeling. I don't quite know what it's like to be single when all your friends are dating, but if it's like watching everyone else get married before you even though you've dated longer than many of them put together, I feel you!
One thing I do know: If you haven't been in a serious dating relationship, you cannot understand it. I didn't understand it as a single girl. Not at all. A lot of respect and compassion needs to be extended to women in different relationship stages. It deeply hurts girlfriends when their friends are flippant about relationship struggles, become critical of their relationship choices or mistakes, or insinuate that they'd make better decisions in a relationship.
Right now, I'm watching my sister go through the ups and downs of wedding planning. Honestly, I don't really get why wedding planning is so stressful (bake cupcakes and show up in something white...right?), but I don't want my lack of understanding to develop into critical superiority. Even though I'm not sure why this stage of her relationship is super stress-o, I only know that it is -- and I need to support her.
Every single time a girlfriend goes from single to "in a relationship," I hear the same thing: "Oh, I get it now!" It's the nature of all experience to not be fully understood until actually experienced.
It's also important to distinguish between what's changing naturally in your relationship due to your friend dating and your friend's purposeful choices in changing your relationship. Serious dating, engagement, and marriage change relationships. They just do. Your girlfriend can't help it. She needs the space to eat more meals with her significant other than you. She needs the time to hold long conversations with her SO. She needs you to love her enough to let her primary confidence lie in her SO.
I guarantee that when you start dating, you won't want the pressure and expectation you're putting on your friend. You won't want the stress and drama of a friend who demands more attention and ignores the natural dynamics of dating/engagement/marriage.
Finally, never, ever lie to your friend about her SO or say unkind things about her SO out of spite, jealousy, or poorly-thought-out advice. Whenever a girlfriend hears something negative about her boy, it's a crisis. Don't start that crisis unless you're absolutely sure she needs to hear this negative thing about her SO. But don't sweep things under the rug. If her SO is a jerk, she needs to hear that. If she's ignoring red flags, she needs to know that. Look out for her, but overlook smaller offenses or things they're clearly working on already. Along with all that, tell her what you like about her SO. Saying nothing positive about the SO or the relationship equals saying something negative.
Basically, this girlfriend/single girl dynamic requires courtesy, kindness, and tolerance -- like all good relationships. Don't use the emotional times of dating, engagement, or marriage as an excuse to throw out your Christian charity and roll in the bitterness or superiority. All relationships and stages of life are worth celebrating!
Is there something you wish your single friends or dating/engaged/married friends would understand?
Photo creds: Emmaline Bride