Ohhhh yeah. I dated a Jealous Boy…a long, long time ago. He would crane his head out of the window of his pickup truck and analyze the tire tracks in my driveway to see who had been coming to and leaving from my house. I loved the way he wanted me all for himself but that possession was too much. He had insecurities that had nothing to do with me, and his tenacity towards others who also wanted to spend time with me often grew scary. My gut told me to get out, there was no way I could be with this guy. As a result, that relationship was ultimately doomed and, thankfully, it finally came to an end.
I also had a best friend when I was a kid, a best friend who also had a great many other best friends, all at the same time. Because she was such an outgoing and socially vibrant person by nature, I didn’t feel I had the right to demand that she prioritize me to a greater degree than her other friends, or to be available to me more than to them. But I was a one-best-friend kind of a person back then, and I wanted her to be as well. But my gut told me she was just not that kind of friend, so I demanded nothing of her, and I tried not to let it get to me personally when she often didn’t have time to do things together. There was no pouting on my part. I let her be who she was born to be, and accepted that friendships can and do change. Consequently, that relationship also took its natural course, and then it, too, withered and died out.
An occasional lunch with a woman he worked with offered a proximity to my husband that sometimes caused suspicion in our marriage. I hated that I secretly nurtured my own brooding insecurities and I yearned to be the wife who could say with confidence, “Yes, Honey, GO! I understand!” I did… I always said yes in the beginning, even when I knew in my gut that my husband shouldn’t be lunching, or playing after-work volleyball, or working late on a project regularly with a woman who wasn’t me. My gut challenged me to assert myself, but when I finally found the nerve, it was too late. And to no one’s surprise, those kinds of relationships usually take their natural course as well.
How much attention do you give to your gut? Do you trust it?
Consider assessing the bond between your best friends and your own husband, for example. One must ask, “where is that line we shouldn’t cross? Who gets to draw it?” I think the delicate balance between what is and what isn’t appropriate married behavior is so much harder to strike than we usually admit. Best Friendships are even harder! Is it ok to be jealous of your husband’s friendships with his buddies? What if he doesn’t have any buddies of his own but you have a bunch? Is that your fault? Are you selfishly consuming all of his time? What does your gut tell you?
OK, here’s a tough one. Shouldn’t you be confident enough to let your spouse have a social relationship with your best girlfriends, especially if those are the only friendships your busy lives have offered up to him? Everyone would say yes, of course, but it still comes with complications, especially if they text each other often or spend time together over and above what’s par for the couples as a group. It’s definitely trickier. I’d stop ignoring your gut. Or trust it. Either way, all I’m saying is to pay attention.
And then, is it normal to be keenly sensitive to the amount of time your very best friends spend with other people, their other good friends…or is that immature and childish behavior for a grown up? Some would say “Oh, one can never too many friends,” and then some would counter that the most solid relationships ever are the ones you fight for. I could argue both sides to that question.
Does a healthy dose of territorialism protect your relationships?
Is it acceptable to assert your ownership of the relationships that mean a lot to you?
If you don’t fight for the people you love and then they go away, whose fault is it?
I don’t believe these kinds of inter-personal dilemmas get any easier just because you’ve been with someone for decades instead of just months. It’s always hard to know who’s in your life forever and who is just a chapter. Friendships that are decades old…and then suddenly they’re over. Marriages that seemed solid…sadly broken by betrayal. Where were the rules we didn’t follow and what can we do to understand them better now?
I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t think every scenario would apply to the same set of rules, all the time. I know this to be gospel, though: The Rat Race Years are hard on everyone. Protecting the health of your marriage needs to be first. Make sure there are only two of you present in that relationship. In the realm of friendships, it’s less clear, but some effort is warranted if you want those people to stay in your life. You can’t force them, though, with guilt or pressure or manipulation. Finding downtime to spend with your perimeter friends is sometimes impossible and often those relationships inevitably suffer. Sometimes they flat out wilt and dry up. It may be admirable that you make a few demands in order to preserve that bond, but sometimes you have to admit that it might just be time to turn the page.
People change what they mean to other people, over time.
…That’s what my gut’s always telling me, anyway, and now I try to listen…and accept it as part of life.