Within the last year, I’ve had to do a complete overhaul in the way I viewed my friend’s and their decisions in love. After standing beside my girls through the most devastating of betrayals to the most extravagant proposals, I can confidently say, I’ve seen a lot of different paths and routes to happiness, and none of them are what I would expect.
I believe most women are brought up believing there is this formulaic process to finding love. Many of us aspire to meet someone who checks off all the boxes (loyal, attractive, strong, making good money, spiritual, emotionally and mentally secure, adventurous, funny, etc), preferably within our “fertility window” when our career is thriving. After finding “the one,” we only want to be engaged for a year or two. Then we want to buy a house, get married and start having kids. That’s the dream right?
But there’s also, reality, which tends to be a little messier than our imagination would like to believe. What amazes me is that we all subscribe to this formula, but how many women do we know who actually lived this fantasy to fruition? This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but I bet many of us could scan our current friend groups and look at our own parent’s relationships and find children outside of marriage, infidelity while dating, engagement in the midst of unemployment or 10 year unmarried partnerships–the possibilities are endless. Because there are so many iterations of how love can look in this lifetime, we can’t really judge anyone’s path. I’ve had to learn that just because I couldn’t handle certain aspects of a person’s character, personality, career, lifestyle, etc, doesn’t mean I need to hold my girl to my standards.
As women we are way too emotionally involved in our friend’s decision making when it comes to the partner they pick. To some extent, it’s fair to be invested. When your friend is crying because “he cheated again,” or when you watch you girl pick up the financial load because her man lost his job for the umpteenth time, we carry that emotional labor with and for her. But that heart concern can turn judgmental really fast when you get tired of her going back over and over again. Hell, we become so lethargic listening to her drama that we question how she still has the energy to keep it going. But that isn’t for us to know or understand. It’s not even on us to hold it for her. Our only job is to say, “I’m here for you” and to offer input and advice if she asks for it. I’ve had to train myself to stop giving so much unsolicited advice. One friend hack is when your girl is going off about their partner, simply ask, “Do you need safe space to vent, or advice?” That will save your girl from feeling annoyed at you butting in, and it will also save your breathe from giving input on something that isn’t welcomed.
Now, I’m separating the above from instances of actual emotional and physical abuse. If you feel your friend is in danger of being harmed, harming herself, or harming others, it may be important to reach out for professional help and maybe even seek counseling for yourself. But even in those cases, after you’ve connected her to the resources she needs, talked through self-love and standards, and explored the root of some of her questionable decisions, your job, in effect, is done. We cannot do the emotional work of healing the women we love, and we sure as hell don’t help if we judge them during their process.
So next time you catch yourself frustrated at your girl for taking him back again, check yourself. You don’t have to live with this man, sleep with this man, or deal with his issues or his flaws, so why are you stuck thinking about it? Free yourself from the burden of wanting her to choose how you would choose, and free your friend from the expectations you have of her and who she should be with. It’s not your life to live.