There is an unspoken code amongst friends – one that is based on a set of shared values. Throughout the years of meeting different types of people, I’ve had friends come and go. The ones that are no longer in my life is usually the result of a misalignment of values. The older I get, the more unwavering I am about what those values and boundaries are.
You don’t have to agree with me, as your values may differ from mine, and your friend code, may also be very different. But, I thought I’d share with you, some of the unspoken rules that my close friends and I share.
1. Don’t date a friend’s ex
There are over seven billion people out there, surely, there is another person that you could “fall in love” with? And maybe you’d argue no, and that your friend’s ex is your one and only soul mate. If that’s the case, then you’ll have the rest of your lives to spend together, and you can surely be sensitive to the timing of things. In other words, let some time pass to allow your friend to heal without having to imagine her ex locking tongues with her friend. Is that logical? Maybe not. But human feelings aren’t that logical, and that stuff hurts.
2. When there’s a breakup do you take sides?
Yes, yes you do. If the breakup was amicable, then this may not be necessary. But if the breakup was horrible and your friend was bulldozed in the process, then yes, you do take sides. I’m not saying forever, but for a while. There is a grace period of time after a breakup where unfortunately, surrounding friends just have to be extra sensitive to the weeping heart. Sure, it’s inconvenient, and sure, we should be able to act like grown ups. But it doesn’t matter how grown up you are, breakups hurt and that heartache doesn’t get easier with age.
A while ago, a couple I knew had broken up, and I was friends with both people. I knew that continuing a friendship with my girlfriend’s ex made her uncomfortable. Even though she never mentioned it, I just knew. I asked myself, in ten years, will this guy really be in my life? Probably not. Whereas I am 100% certain in ten years, my girlfriend will be, and our kids will likely be playing together. It’s not worth making the friend that you are ultimately closer to and will have in your life for the long haul, for a temporary friendship with the ex.
3. Don’t be cheap and calculative
Friendship is not about tit for tat. When you put your energy into constantly monitoring who pays for what, who did more for who… you block the flow of the friendship. And you start to resent when you feel that you’re not getting enough in return. Friendship is a long term investment. In the grand scheme of things, all of the giving/taking (whether that be in who pays, who listens, who drives…) balances out in the end, in some shape of form. If you feel that you have to keep the balance sheet out, ask yourself if the friend is someone you actually want in your life and if their values match yours.
4. Don’t be a drama queen
Gossip, assumptions, talking behind someone’s back …. that’s the sort of drama that high-school friendships thrive on, not adult ones. Friendships when you’re a grown adult aren’t meant to provide the same things that teenage friendships once did. Teenage friendships are filled with intense conversations as you start creating the person you want to be, it’s about memories in Cancun and two- hour long phone conversations about the weekend. Those things are great… at that age.
Adult lives are filled with enough drama and hard work as it is, and that work only triples when you have a family. Friendships in your adult years shouldn’t require gruelling hard work. They are meant to be light, for the most part positive, supportive and nurturing. They need to complement the life you have created – not cause strife in it. Healthy adult friendships handle conflict differently as well. Instead of giving the silent treatment for months or making passive agressive jabs here and there, you remove the assumptions and have a straight up conversation on whatever the matter it is that’s really bothering you, and be done with it.
5. Don’t go M.I.A. when you have a new love interest
New lust/love is definitely a magical part of a new relationship. But just because you have someone new in your life, don’t forget your troop of friends that were your biggest cheerleaders before Mr. Right came along. Your friends are not “fillers” for the times when you’re single. Invest in your friends because most of them, will be there in the long run. Your latest Mr. Right, unfortunately, may not. It’s not fair to flake on plans, or not make time to see your friends, and then expect them to nurture you back to health during your fights or breakup. Plus, balance is key in a healthy romantic relationship, so it’s a lot better for your own relationship to maintain regular catchups with your friends.
No one is perfect, and it’s human to make mistakes in your friendships here and there. Once you establish a foundation of trust, consistency and support in your friendships, mistakes are a lot easier to forgive, forget and move forward. Also, even the best of friends may not be that aware of when they are overstepping a boundary. That’s why it’s important to give the benefit of the doubt to those friends you truly care about, and have a candid conversation with the person when you feel a boundary has been crossed. But, if you feel that your boundaries are constantly being overstepped or disrespected, it may be a sign of a difference in values and that it’s time to take a break from that friend (for a period of time or indefinitely).
Want to do a check to see if your decision is one that will hurt or harm your friendship? Ask yourself how you would feel if a friend treated you in the same way. If you would be upset if the roles were reversed, then that’s a pretty good gauge to know that your behaviour is crossing a boundary.