Some people prioritize their romantic partners. I prioritize my friends. My close friends have been with me through the best of times and the worst of times. One of my good friends consoled me in an H&M when I got the text that my grandmother passed away. Three close friends sat with me and comforted me on the cold, hard floor of my dorm room right after the friend breakup that triggered my PTSD three years ago. One friend drove me to see the therapist I had a life-changing relationship with in undergrad when I could not do so myself, and another friend drove with me to secure my first apartment near Washington D.C. earlier this year. With a handful of friends, I have exchanged the rawest emotional intimacies, the loudest of laughs, and hours-long conversations about feminism, relationships, the state of society in Trump’s America, and more. My friends have acted as one of the most major influences in my life, and I would not hesitate at all to dedicate my first book, or any of my accomplishments, to them.
I hope this backstory explains why I feel afraid of losing my friendships. Ever since starting this “adult” stage of my life a few months ago, I have noticed a striking pattern: we encourage women (who comprise most of my friends) to get married, and as they date and get married to men (or women, or whomever), they spend a lot less time with their friends. I see this pattern in the media, with the accurate yet sad trope of the girl who dates a guy and disappears from her friend group. I see this pattern reflected in literature and in science, with books about how men monopolize their girlfriends’ time or how married people spend less time with their friends. I see this pattern play out in my own life, where my few friends who have romantic partners respond less often to texts and spend less time with their friends than their partners. Of course, I feel happy for my friends when they engage in healthy relationships and behaviors that make them happy, even if these relationships and behaviors adhere to amatonormativity. But what happens when all my friends get whisked away into romantic relationships, unwilling to make time for me and my borderline-unhealthy obsession with Ariana Grande and BlackPink our friendship?
Ultimately, this concern about my friends leaving me for their future husbands overlies a fear of abandonment and aloneness. I feel little embarrassment sharing this, because this fear of abandonment and aloneness is so often what motivates people to pursue relationships – especially romantic relationships – in the first place. To be kind to myself, I will say that I do well with aloneness, as I have learned how to nourish, cherish, and entertain myself without anyone else. However, this comfort with solitude coexists with my grief about the deep friendships I used to have with certain friends, that they have sacrificed or may sacrifice for their romantic partners.
I want to acknowledge ways to hold myself accountable when it comes to friendship dynamics, too. Perhaps I could communicate these feelings of concern and fear with friends who enter romantic relationships, as long as they feel that they can choose how they want to allocate their energy. At the same time, I do not like the idea of pressuring people into relationships, even on an implicit level, because I feel like that moves into territories of possessiveness or abuse. So I would supplement or replace that first strategy, depending on the friendship, with a heavy dose of one of my favorite things: radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance does not mean liking the way things are or letting go of my feelings of grief or hurt or sadness. Rather, radical acceptance entails acknowledging something that has happened and stopping myself from fighting that reality. If I have friends who abandon me or spend less time with me for their husbands, so be it. While honoring my own emotions, I can wish them the absolute best from the deepest depths of my heart, cherishing the time we did spend together and the privilege of having had them in my life, whatever that entailed or may still entail. I refuse to buy into the notion that maybe I should strive harder to find a boyfriend, because that notion contributes to the patriarchal cycle of people prioritizing their romantic partners above all else. While I refuse that path for myself, I can accept that path for my friends, feeling contentment and joy for them while holding my own anger at the patriarchy.
I can also take action to preserve and elevate the meaningful, rich friendships I do have. Writing this post has helped me realize that I do have a small yet sizable number of close friends who I have had conversations about this very topic with, where we have lamented the loss of friends to these friends’ oftentimes male partners. While I cannot control anyone else, I can control myself, and I can choose to spend time with my close friends and ensure that they know I will respond to texts or calls, actively listen to their concerns, help them help themselves with their goals or issues, etc. So far, my friends have played such an instrumental role in my life, from laughing with me in our weirdest moments to providing me a safe space for vulnerability and self-growth. I intend to return the favor, by being the best friend possible, to myself and to them.
How do you feel about friendship and romance? Have you seen this pattern play out in your friendships, or no (maybe I just have a limited sample size)? What strategies do you have for maintaining friendships? I know if I ever date a man lol if there ever is a man who is both emotionally available and into social justice, I will preemptively have conversations with my friends about issues relating to time spent with them and things like that. Curious to hear your thoughts and hope you are all well!