Group chats among Black women are sacred spaces filled with heartwarming anecdotes, advice, and love.
They are a safe place where we convene at all hours of the day (or night) to talk about our lives and seek guidance when we're going through something. In so many ways, they've become our lifelines, both on social media and inside our phones.
Being a part of a lit group chat has lots of perks, but there can be cons too: those self-proclaimed relationship gurus who just can't wait to give you advice on how to handle dating or relationship troubles.
We all have those friends: the ones we talk to when we’re dating a guy and need a place to discuss the relationship’s highs and lows. It’s in these group chats where screenshots of conversations between lovers are shared, where we go when we need to be told we were right in an argument (especially when there’s a good chance that we were actually wrong), and it’s where we detail the intimacies of a date night and send Tinder profiles of guys we’ve agreed to meet with for coffee or dinner as a “just in case.” They are our hair salons.
All of this behavior is common, but is it healthy?
“One of the ways that it might be a problem in your relationship is if you are doing more checking with your girlfriends as opposed to checking with your person,” advises Dr. Joy Harden Bradford of the popular Therapy For Black Girls podcast.
“A lot of times we can kind of get together and try to dissect and be like, ‘What do you think he meant there?’ as opposed to just actually asking your partner," Bradford adds. "Then there becomes a tendency to kind of over-rely on your circle as opposed to just going to the source [because] we create a narrative that could be way off base.”
Relying on your tribe for matters of the heart can get complicated. Dr. Joy advises that women should be selective with sharing the intimacies of their relationship with friends, just as they are selective with love.
Putting romantic trust in your friends, however well-intended as their advice can be, can often chip away at the integrity of your relationship because you aren’t seeking solace in our partner, but rather in your circle instead. This practice—no matter how much we love our girls—can ruin a love before it’s had the chance to reach its full potential.
“Think about when you and your partner, or whoever you're dating have a fight, and then y'all makeup, you're over it," adds the Atlanta based therapist. "But if you are constantly coming to your friends with all these issues that you're having, your friends are not over it. They're protective, they love you, they don't necessarily want to see you getting hurt or somebody doing you poorly. So your friends tend to hold onto things much longer than you likely would."
Put simply, think before you share. "It's important to be mindful of what you're sharing with friends and family about conflicts and issues you're having with your partner," says Bradford. "Just because it can sometimes be more difficult for them to let that go. Then, they have these perceptions about your relationship that may not actually be accurate.”
Looking for advice regarding love is typical. It’s not a new practice and it won’t go away anytime soon but the practice of seeking counsel and the frequency at which we do could be a saving grace for not only our romantic relationships but the platonic ones too. Yes, the social interaction of the group chat has become the meeting place for the technological therapy some need when it comes to matters of the heart but proceed with caution because the constant supply of guidance could also be laced with judgment.
“Sometimes there is a requirement for you to do an assessment of your circle because you have to look at whether people are actually really good friends to you," says Bradford. "Sometimes people's advice as friends comes more from their own personal baggage or struggles with dating, and they may not actually be able to objectively give you their advice. Be selective about which friends you're even asking for dating advice because some people are not even in the best place to give you dating advice.”
She continued: “Let’s say there is the main group chat with five of y’all, but then there are always these auxiliary chats where maybe two other people are closer and have different relationships, so then you're having this other chat about the main group chat. When that happens, you have to say ‘how strong is the circle, and does everybody actually need to be in that chat?’ Think about the dynamics of the group and if you all need to be chatting about the same relationship all the time.”
Sure having unsuccessful attempts at dating can make the perception of winning at love pretty hard to see. But running to your friends, for their comfort and co-signs of “men aren’t sh-t” doesn’t help your outlook. When you aren’t hitting it out of the park in this game called love, it’s important not to become discouraged, Dr. Joy said, because dwelling on the shortcomings just creates a lack of self-trust and who wants that in a relationship?
“When you're always looking to your girls to kind of back you up on any kind of decision speaks to a lack of really being able to trust your own decision making.”
Word to the wise? Check out of the group chat every once and a while. Mute the notifications and turn up the volume on tapping into your own love language. Becoming more in-tune with your own perceptions is one of the ways you can build a stronger foundation of love and communication but only with your partner, but with yourself too.