I have a friend, Julianne, whom I’ve been close to since we were both three years old. In the last few years, Julianne fell in love with our mutual friend—and my best guy friend—Dan. Dan and I are very close platonic friends. Julianne, on the other hand, adores him. He never liked her, and I was in the middle. I didn’t want to betray Julianne by “flirting” with her crush, yet I also didn’t want to stop interacting with one of my closest friends the way I always had because of Julianne’s unrequited crush. Eventually, Julianne decided to stop talking to me because of our disagreements about Dan. After we stopped talking, I did a lot of thinking. While I no longer talk to her, we both continue to talk to Dan. How was it possible that Dan escaped this love triangle unscathed? He didn’t lose anything. He asked not to be put in the middle. And we respected this request while we tore each other apart. Now, neither girl has her friend. I wondered: was this just something I encountered, or are many women placing men before friendships? I started asking around and I realized my experience with Julianne was not unique.
My friend Lana has a boyfriend at home. They’re newly dating, and are maneuvering the difficult path of long distance. He’s distant and unavailable most of the time. One of her best friends, Kat, openly hates him. What is Lana supposed to do? Her best friend hates her boyfriend, yet Lana cares for him. Lana can’t just stop caring for a guy because of one friend’s opinion. So she chose to continue her communications with her boyfriend and ended up not talking to Kat for a while. “Kat’s being irrational,” we said. But when I thought about it later, I wondered why none of us questioned the decision to side with the boy who makes her cry over a friend who’s been by her the whole time. Again, she was fighting with her female friend instead of looking at the reason for the fight in the first place.
Another instance was a girl named Christina. Her friend Julie, had a boyfriend named David who liked to hit on Christina at parties. This put Christina in an awkward position. She didn’t want to be rude to her friend’s boyfriend, and she also didn’t want to participate in a flirtation with him. Whenever David made comments to Christina, Julie got defensive and upset. After one party, Julie yelled at Christina. Christina explained she didn’t want anything with David, but Julie didn’t listen and they had the worst fight they’d ever had. When they started talking again, it was under the condition that they not discuss David. The real issue was never resolved. Julie and David broke up, but Julie never apologized to Christina. Again, instead of asking her boyfriend why he was saying the things he was, Julie kept quiet and jumped to blaming her friend.
Why do we do this? It seems like common sense to trust a friend who has been in your life for an extended period, even in situations involving a love interest. I’m in no way advocating that women always put their friends before their relationships. But I do see a scary pattern of women jumping to the defense of their lovers without any second thought. Is this because we are so desperate to make relationships work that we will do so without any regard for the consequences of our other relationships? Is love so blinding it makes us incapable of seeing the flaws that, to others, may seem obvious? I know I have been in both positions. It’s so easy to fall into a sense of comfort in our friendships that we may not have with boyfriends. Maybe we think that our friendships can withstand the stress of blame while our romantic relationships might crumble under the supposed lack of trust. Arguments like these can cause irreparable damage and permanently change or ruin a friendship.
I would advise all of us to think twice about our instincts. Friends can be there for us long after the breakup or the divorce. We choose friends just like we choose boyfriends, but it seems like sometimes we forget to care for the former. It’s important to take care of each other. When it comes down to it, friends are loves just as much as significant others are.