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Girl's Best Friend: What About Your Friends?

In 1992, the singing group, TLC, had a song, “What About Your Friends?” I loved that song and the video...
In 1992, the singing group TLC had a song, “What About Your Friends?” I loved that song and the video (because of the new dance moves they introduced). Yet it’s not just a catchy ’90s song. The lyrics about friendship in the chorus are poignant: “What about your friends, will they stand their ground… will they let you down… or will they turn their backs on you?”

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced disappointing friendships that you thought would last, but didn’t. For various reasons, some friends come and go; that’s just the way it is. I, however, strongly believe in the adage that people enter your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, so I tend not to sweat it.  

Unfortunately, I have found that the loss of female friends over the years ultimately had something to do with a man. And I’m definitely not a chauvinist, but the male friends I’ve lost have almost never had anything to do with a woman. I believe it is how women are socialized to think that they need a man in their life to be complete and are willing to sacrifice friendships to get and keep one.

One of my sister-friends met the “man of her dreams” about a year ago. She’s in her early forties, divorced with no children. She was married and divorced in her early twenties, so her search for love has been an almost twenty-year journey. Gorgeous and smart, she’s never had any difficulty finding men to date, but it was always the same failing story.  

I wouldn’t call my sister-friend desperate, but there was a noticeable shift in her attitude between the ages of thirty-seven and forty. It was clear that she was much more aware of her mortality and that proverbial ticking clock. She still wanted children, and having your first child at forty-something can be problematic. Basically, time was not on her side and she knew it.

With that said, my sister-friend was not outwardly consumed by her thirst for a man and a family. She was always out with us; taking vacations, nights on the town, etc. She was definitely enjoying her life, and her friends were a big part of that enjoyment. Many of us were single and we relied on each other to fill that lonely gap. And, we are all great friends.  

Well, when she started dating her boyfriend we began to see less and less of her. It didn’t bother me so much because I’m pretty consumed at the beginning of a relationship myself. It’s that time when you’re getting to know someone, and with all of the other strains on a busy New York schedule it’s difficult to fit everyone into it. Our other friends, on the other hand, had concerns from the beginning.  

My other friends convinced me to participate in a “friend-tervention.” Basically, they wanted to express how excited we were for her, but that we missed her and would like to see her at least sometime. That didn’t go so well, to say the least. In essence, she told us to mind our business and if we couldn’t just be happy for her then, we weren’t really her friends in the first place. OKAY!!! So, we backed off.

Slowly but surely, she became more and more distant. It would be weeks and months that we would not hear from her. Then, she completely disconnected from all of us. Feeling hurt by this, I sent her an e-mail (since she was not returning my calls) telling her how much I cared about her and wanted the best for her.  

But, I also warned her that she could not disrespect her friendships like she had been doing. Not wishing ill will on her relationship, but “If [the man] ever goes, it’s your friends you’re going to rely on to help you pick up the pieces.” Not possible if you’ve alienated them all in the process. She never responded.

I ran into her last week at a function for an artist friend we have in common. All night, I could tell she was avoiding me. I chased her down because I hadn’t seen her in almost a year. She was clearly on edge as we went through the usual pleasantries. Finally, I asked her about her man and how they were doing. I had hit a sore spot. So, I changed the subject and invited her to join me for a drink after the showing.

Thankfully, she agreed to join me for the drink. As we caught up, she opened up that the guy had been cheating on her since they first got together, and with multiple women. He’d even passed along an STD. She was heartbroken and embarrassed; pretty much flying solo for the last few months. Moreover, she was ashamed of the way she had treated her friends and thought the damage she’d done was irreparable.  

My sister-friend believed that she had no one to turn to for support. I assured her that, for me, my friendship was non-negotiable. Once I care about someone, I will always care about him or her. Plus, although I didn’t agree with her motivations, I understood. You have to take people for who they are and where they are in their lives. Between us, the past was best left in the past and we were cool. I would be there for her.

It was a valuable lesson for many women (and men) who forsake their friendships for a romantic relationship. You need the love of a partner AND the love of friends. And, if your partner doesn’t appreciate and understand that you need to maintain friendships, you might want to reexamine your relationship. If you’re in a relationship and feeling like you’ve lost contact with your friends, remember to ask yourself, “What about [my] friends?”