Sometimes we give a somewhat sinister amount of control to our significant others when it comes to who we call friends, without ever knowing it. That’s a really bad sign.
If you haven’t already, be sure to head over and read part 1 of this series of posts, in particular the Introduction section that puts this into a bit of a larger context, and gives a couple of disclaimers (like, for instance, assuming that I’m talking about a specific person or persons in these posts.) Even if you don’t read the rest of that post, read the Introduction. This isn’t just about a single person in my life, and it’s not about men or women. While it happened to a guy, and it’s being told by a guy, you can change “he” and “she” to any gender you like, and it still fits.
Our Friends Are a Mirror of Ourselves
In a way, this should be obvious, but no one thinks about it too much (or, at least I don’t.) The people we surround ourselves with and call friend are mirrors. Now, it’s not a mirror of the entirety of our being. Each person represents some aspect of ourselves. Something we see in that person connects us to them – though, sometimes that connection it to a part of our past selves, not our present.
The reason why each friend is a part of our life varies wildly. For instance, Bob may be one of those old wild-days drinking buddies. Sure, you don’t drink like that anymore, but Bob’s still there, and sometimes he’s drinking for both of you. But, that old connection still exists.
And there’s Candy, who used to be one of those ‘friends with benefits’ sort of situations, where you were close friends, and had sex, but… it just wasn’t relationship material. She’s married, has two kids, and loves the hell out of her husband. But, she’s still a friend, and just like Bob, that connection still exists.
Then there’s Larry from Accounting, who quite honestly, is boring as fuck. Most of what he talks about is work – which is where the two of your bonded in the first place.
Now, I picked some of the really extreme examples of friends your or your significant other might have. They are also some of the types of friends I’ve had in my life over the years, and some of which still remain in my life. They represent parts of me in some very weird ways. And, within that, there’s a bit of a hierarchy – buddies, friends, best friends, etc. I won’t say they represent importance, but the represent a relative gauge for closeness to each person.
(Quick side note: there’s also a class of people who I don’t really have a name for. These folks consider me to be their friend. One of their best buddies, and often they are people pleaser sort of folks who really want to be friends. But, well, it’s very one sided: I really don’t have that much interest in being friend, but damn it, they are certain they’re a friend of mine. Usually I don’t let that sort of person be around me for particularly long. They tend to creep me out.)
Of course, you’ve also got less extreme friends. You know, the ones that don’t make your significant other jealous, concerned, or bored.
Controlling The Flow of Friends
Now here’s where it gets ugly. First, I’m going to explain my philosophy on significant other’s friends (and family), how how I execute it. Then we’re gonna contrast with the problematic version of things.
I choose my significant other because, for various reasons, I’m impressed with her. Now, I may not be nearly as impressed with her friends, and that’s OK. I have a rule called the “Significant Other Bump”. Basically, I trust her, and by association, I trust her friends unless they give me a real reason not to. There’s actually secondary form of that, too – if I have a friend who’s got a significant other, they also fall within my friend’s circle, unless they do something really dumb. They get bumped up one level on the friendship hierarchy.
My expectation is this: while we all have that one idiot friend we don’t fully trust, and probably should boot, most of our friends are at the same trustability levels as ourselves. If you trust your significant other, you trust them, too – unless you discover they’re that one idiot friend.
I tend to make friends with my significant others, and count them in my friend circle. There’s a good chance if my significant other is going out with friends, I might be there too – it’s all up to her. I’m not against her going out on her own with her friends, either: she doesn’t have to attached to me at the hip, she should be able to have her own friends, and be able to go out on her own. (I know: at least someone out there is going to point out that has bit me in the ass at least once. So what. Even the next person I’m with will get that same level of trust and respect. One bad apple doesn’t mean they’re all bad.)
A friend of mine goes even further: she’s been known to tell her husband to get out of the house with so and so. Just kick him right on out, so he’s forced to be social with his friends.
That’s a couple of approaches to it. I’m not saying they’re perfect – maybe the Significant Other Bump isn’t for you. There’s plenty of ways to do it.
Now, it’s not uncommon for there to be some shrinkage of friend time during a long term relationship. There’s an ebb and flow to it, as you and your significant other spend more time together, and a little less time with friends. Eventually, it smoothes back out again, and you spend a little more time with friends as you’re comfortable with each other. It’s all good, and as you get old, well, people sort of expect it. Heck, sometimes you lose friends just because you got busy, and lost contact. Usually, empty voids get filled by new people.
But, let’s get sinister with it. Maybe your significant other doesn’t like one of your friends, and starts saying something about it. What do you do? Well, one of the natural inclinations is to slowly end up spending a little less time with that person. Maybe not at all. Let’s face it, it makes her unhappy, so you end up avoiding the her anger over the situation, or to make her happy (those are not the same things.).
I say ‘her’ and ‘she’ because that’s part of what I did in one of my relationships. She didn’t like some of the people in my life. I’m had a best friend I had slept with at one point. In face, she was jealous of almost any female around me, and over time would find ways to either drive me away of my female friends, or insert herself between myself and them. Slowly, the number of people I saw outside of my work dwindled. She rarely had anything good to say about any of them – she viewed them as bad people, who spoke badly of them (see next post, tomorrow, for more about that part).
When you look at it encapsulated into a paragraph, it seems pretty obvious something was wrong. Now, at the time, I also had a business that was eating me alive (just like I have one trying to eat me alive today 😉 ), so I do attribute some of it to that. But, it started well before that business. It wasn’t a good thing, but it also wasn’t easy to see. It happened slowly over time.
And that’s why I call it sinister. It’s slow, and ominous, a portend other things to come. If you wake up, and you realize your network of friends is gone, you need to stop and analyze your life. Is it something you did directly? Or is there a realization there, that it might not have been you that did it? And, maybe it’s not just friends – maybe you’ve been pushed, or are pushing yourself, away from family?
And that network of friends, they are important for more than just the social needs of human beings. See the next post tomorrow for info on what your friends may have to do with it.