On any given night, of any given week, you’ll find us together. We’re either huddled on the couch and elbow deep in our third Seamless order of the month (chances are it’s Greek food), jamming to a Spotify playlist while sipping on red wine (most likely in Prospect Park), or strolling on a random sidewalk, on a random day, to a random place. We know each other. We support each other. We love each other.
If I told you I just described my best friend, would you be surprised?
And more importantly, would you say the same about yours? According to Rebecca Traister, we’re not the only ones. In her New York Times article, “What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love,” Traister dives into the mentality that so many women have adopted as a result of modern day dating and relationships.
While female friendship has always served as the emotional outlet and foundation that women rely on for support and guidance outside of their romantic relationships, the focus and impact of it has never been more relevant. We’re living in a time when settling down, getting married, and starting a family at the age of 25 is uncommon, and for some, borderline blasphemy. Because our careers have become so demanding (often times, standing at the forefront of our desires), the focus has shifted from “Where is my soul mate?” to “I need to find my dream job.” Because we’re more interested in knocking experiences off our bucket lists (i.e., saving for a trip to Thailand instead of a wedding ring), the traditional idea of marriage that our parents and grandparents were raised on has become a delayed reaction.
Because the dating scene has turned into a buffet of endless options – leading to three-month flings that never last because someone more exciting is only a swipe away – forming a relationship that stands the test of time and ultimately leads to marriage is an eventual option, a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is no sense of urgency to it. So to compensate for the lack of emotional stability we receive from romantic relationships, we gravitate right back to our fundamentals – the roots that have kept us strong through all the breakups and breakdowns.
We fall back into the arms of our trusted comrades and advisors, our confidantes and secret-keepers, our inner circle of girlfriends that provide an unwavering sense of reassurance and love. And don’t get it twisted – men operate the same way. They call up their friends to talk them through work struggles, dating debacles, and everything in between.
Believe it or not, men are just as vulnerable with their close male friends as women are with their female friends. Though it may be packaged differently, the contents (and theory) remain the same: Trusted friendships make the world go ‘round.
Traister dives into the implications of these friendships, discussing the nature of her journey with her best friend and how it changed when they both entered into serious, romantic relationships. There was a time when both of them felt left behind and in the dark, almost as if their places in each other’s lives were only ever temporary and meant to be filled by a significant other. It’s a natural implication, one that has slapped us in the face more times than we can count; but because the emphasis on these friendships has never been stronger, we find ourselves lost in a battle of tug of war. Will she be upset if I find someone before she does? Will he stop making plans with me because I spent the last two weekends with my girlfriend? Do they hate him because he wasn’t as funny as my last boyfriend? These are the internal struggles we face as a result of the valuable friendships we’ve formed; but make no mistake, I believe these are good struggles to have.
It’s healthy, it’s a part of life, and it doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Take it as a sign that your friends want some sort of a say in who you date. In fact, positive reaffirmation from your friends about someone you’re dating almost always makes the idea of dating them better.
When our friends approve of someone we’re dating, their dating potential goes up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve introduced a guy to my friends, heard how much they loved him for the next three days, and inadvertently liked him more than I originally did before introducing him. Think about it – we don’t want to date people who our inner circle of friends doesn't get along with or view as a good partner. Now more than ever, our friendships are part of what defines us. Ipso facto, getting the stamp of approval on a budding relationship is undoubtedly, almost always what we’re aiming for. And if we do it right, it’s almost always what we wind up with.
I thought long and hard about whether or not I should include that cheesy line from Sex and the City when responding to this article. You know the one – “Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates and guys are just people to have fun with.” While I openly loathe the reiteration of redundant, played out quotes, it speaks to one of the lines in Traister’s article rather perfectly:
“There aren’t any ceremonies to make this official. There aren’t weddings; there aren’t health benefits or domestic partnerships or familial recognition. There has not yet been any satisfying way to recognize the role that we play for one another. But, as so many millions of us stay unmarried for more years, maybe there should be.”
If that ever becomes a thing, you better believe I’ll be there, standing across from my best friend, in front of our eventual spouses and forever loved ones, publicly paying homage to an unspoken commitment we have to each other, knowing that we never needed an official ceremony in the first place.