“Can’t we play the game that your old boyfriend taught us?” my brothers and I begged our 20-something neighbor girl.
I was about eight and it was my first taste of not liking the significant other of a friend or family member. I saw her shoot her new boyfriend an apologetic look before trying to distract us with a new activity.
We missed her former boyfriend and, couldn’t understand why she didn’t like him as much as we did. We used used every chance to bring up her ex in front of her new beau.
As an adult, I cringe thinking of how we treated our neighbor and her boyfriend. I now recognize a lot goes on in a relationship that we aren’t always aware of. Thankfully, I’ve grown up a lot since then and nowadays I usually have a different response to other people’s relationships.
Unlike in the past, I no longer passively aggressively compare him to past boyfriends. I take the opportunity to ask the guy questions to get a chance to get to know him better. Most importantly, I question my friend about their interactions, his attitude and what she’s looking for in a man.
It’s very rare that I don’t like a friend’s choice of partner. But, every now and then I come across a relationship where I think, “How on earth did you pick this guy?”
In one relationship I can think of, my husband and I challenged a couple to consider whether their differences in values and life choices would play out if they were married and whether they would be a deal breakers.
What I thought were the less-than-ideal circumstances of her situation made me fear she was choosing her spouse without taking the time to truly reflect on if he was the right man for her.
She was a good friend, so I was really invested in her happiness. I wanted to guide her through her feelings of infatuation, to reflect on what it means to truly love someone and the practicalities involved in laying a foundation for a solid and lasting marriage.
I was worried about my friend because I think she knew that this guy wasn’t the best for her. I encouraged her to set high standards, but it seemed like staying with her current boyfriend was less scary than taking a chance in the hopes of finding the right guy.
I tried to receive her responses as best I could, with an open mind and peaceful heart because I wanted her to feel comfortable talking to me about these things. But it was difficult. I’ve long felt that I’ve known what I want in a man and refused to compromise or settle. It was hard to accept that my friend’s expectations in a man didn’t match mine.
The day I found out she was pregnant was the day I fully realized my friend’s expectations weren’t my own. This wasn’t her first pregnancy out of wedlock, but it was a hard pill to swallow given she had made claims that “this time would be different.” While I rejoiced at the new life inside of her, I also knew that her life had just changed dramatically. She was bonded to this guy for life through the child they shared, whether they got married or not.
They soon got engaged. For the sake of the baby and our friendship I decided to bite my tongue. Now that she’s married to him my views have begun to alter. While so many things still frustrate and bother me about this guy, I try to see the best in him. She chose him. I remind myself that if my friend could fall in love with him then he must have some great qualities.
Besides, now is not the time to point out his failings. I need to be building up their marriage, not tearing it down. Even though her husband isn’t the man I’d choose for her, I’m rooting for both of them.