Don’t be that girl (or guy): balancing friends and lovers

Romance 101: Oh, to be young and in love...

| Romance Columnist

Everyone loves a new relationship, right? There are sparks and chemistry and moments of extreme sexual tension, first dates and first kisses and first sober hangouts. You spend all of your time thinking about that new person—about what he’s doing, what she’s thinking—and none of your time worrying about serious things that can lead to problems later on. In a word, it’s “magic.”

Or is it? While the beginning of a relationship is—and rightly should be—“magical” for those directly involved, it’s often something very different for those on the periphery. For friends of the newly in love, those who become spectators to the budding romance with or without their consent, the experience is often less one of pure romantic delight than of simple, sometimes intense, irritation.

Let me be clear: I do not think that all new relationships are irritating, nor do I think that any person has the right to not be happy for a friend who has finally found someone. It goes against the very definition of friendship to begrudge another’s happiness just because you don’t want to hear about it, and a lot of the time, it really is exciting when a friend has found a good match.

That said, when a friend finds a match and for all intents and purposes ceases to be your friend…well, that is a problem.

What I’m talking about is what I like to refer to as 14-year-old girl syndrome, and it’s what I’m here to warn you about. Though not yet medically recognized, the condition is a serious one, one in which a person, upon entering into a new relationship, suddenly and sometimes irrevocably seems to lose sight of him or herself.

The condition is rarely fatal in the literal sense, but it has been the death of many a friendship.

Consider Mary. Mary and Kate have been best friends since freshman year. In that time, both have dated around, but neither has been involved in anything all that serious.

Enter Greg. Greg and Mary are the same major and have had classes together on and off for the past couple years. Kate has heard many a lament from Mary about her unrequited love. Greg has finally become aware of Mary’s affection, and they are newly dating. They’re in love, and it’s great.

But it’s not great for Kate. A week into the relationship, Kate and Mary have plans to go shopping, but Mary cancels last minute because Greg wants to go to dinner. Ten days into the relationship, Kate and Mary are supposed to go to dinner, and again Mary bails last minute because Greg needs help on his art project. Two weeks into the relationship, Greg goes out of town; Mary misses Kate’s birthday party because she can’t bring herself to hang up the phone. On and on it goes…

Kate stops making plans with Mary and finds other friends.

Young lovers, hear this: Don’t be that girl. As much as it’s natural and normal to want to indulge yourself in the early relationship glow, it is never okay to do so at the expense of your friends. Yes, first dates and first kisses are lovely, but it’s even more lovely when, once they end, you have someone left to talk to.

And okay, you can try to justify yourself with claims that “real friends want me to be happy” and “real friends will understand” and maybe for a little while that’s okay.  But at the same time, consider this: Should “real friends” really be made to feel like they’re at the absolute bottom of your priority list? Does the fact that you can get away with something really make it right?

I say again: Don’t be that girl.

That girl, I should note, doesn’t have to be a girl. The 14-year-old girl syndrome is not exclusive to the female sex; although in my experience it does tend to appear more frequently among females, it’s something that affects us all. We all get lost in our own euphoria where we can forget that we have obligations and responsibilities elsewhere. But at the end of the day, ignoring them doesn’t make obligations and responsibilities go away.

Be young. Be in love. Be yourself. But remember, there’s life outside your new relationship.

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