As I moved into my late 20’s/early 30s, many of my friends partnered up, settled down and/or started families. It simply comes with the thirty-something territory. When our close friends get involved with someone, it can be tricky to navigate the new dynamics – do we like our friend’s partner? Do we feel they are the right fit for our friend? In the beginning, we may analyze the new guy or girl and his/her actions, read their texts, and basically become a sounding board for our friend. But as the friend’s relationship with their new partner deepens over time, we usually step aside on the analyzing and discussing because their relationship has reached a different stage.
Eventually though, relationships will hit rocky patches. It’s inevitable. And here’s what I want to talk about today. Too often, when we gripe to our friends and acquaintances about our relationships, they try to support us by saying things like, “Are you really happy?,” “You can do better,” or “You deserve someone who fits you 100%,” and “Don’t settle.” It’s a natural instinct, right? To help our friends by pointing our that they are Queens and deserve only the best.
Here’s the thing: I believe that while these comments can seem supportive, in many cases they may be more harmful than helpful. Clearly, if your friend is in a terrible relationship where she feels belittled, disrespected, or scared – then yes, you want to help your friend realize she’s in a bad relationship. And of course, any good relationship should be one in which you’re with someone who you love and who loves you, who respects you, who supports you, and also fulfills whatever deep need you may have for your particular loving, intimate relationship.
But, a lot of times I think we should remind our friends that relationships involve work. They are not all work, of course, but there’s a healthy amount of learning to communicate with a new person. I really believe that a lot of people give up too soon. It’s hard to find someone you click with. And at the end of the day, you’re not going to find 100% of what you want in a relationship. Show me someone that says they’ve found that, and I’ll show you someone who’s not very self-aware. I believe you should enjoy and “click” with your partner probably something like 80% of time.
I got to thinking about all of this when I read an article yesterday, and before you read the title and say “Oh no, he didn’t…” – I suggest you give it a read. It’s titled “The Good-Enough Marriage.”
The author cites a fascinating study about happiness in marriages and the use of social media:
“In a study in the February issue of Computers and Human Behavior, the authors noted that those who didn’t use social media sites at all ‘reported being 11.4 percent happier with their marriage than heavy social media users. And heavy social media users were 32 percent more likely to think about leaving their spouse, compared with 16 percent for a nonuser.’ “
This is all to say that input, from social media, friends, etc. can be dangerous. It can make us doubt ourselves, doubt our feeling, experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because we think we’re not in the ‘right’ relationship.
So what can you do to be kind to your friends relationship? Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of this article says it best here:
“Remember that when we offer comfort by belittling someone else’s spouse, we do damage to their marriage—an entity that we did not found, and one that exists independently of each. The temptation to do this is very strong (and often fed by one of the spouses). I myself am guilty. To be sure, some marriages must end—but not so many as we’ve witnessed.
Second, be gentle…We do harm when we fail to esteem others’ unions, fragile though they may be. Praise those aspects of others’ marriages that merit it. A bruised reed we ought not break…We forget that marriage is bigger than two people—two frail lovers. It is about sacrifice. It is your own project for the world.” – Mark Regnerus
Beautiful words. I’ll definitely try and be more open-minded when a friend tells me about their relationship woes. And also take advice given to me with a grain of salt.