======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Last weekend, my lovely girlfriend was out of town for a work conference, and for the first time in quite a while I had an entire two day stretch to myself. Naturally, I used those free couple days to chill out, watch endless hours of football, and grind a ton of NHL 19. I also got out of the house for a few hours to visit my brother, who just got a new puppy. Despite all of these wonderful days of laziness to myself, on Saturday evening I had one obligation that she had left for me before she departed for the week.
One of her friends had just moved into a new place and was throwing a housewarming party. Although this was planned weeks in advance, when my girlfriend found out that she wouldn’t be able to be there, she did not ask me if I wanted to go or if I planned to go, but said I should go to “represent” her and us as a couple. Because apparently, we are now a nation that must send some delegation to the UN summit for this moving day party.
When she first made the “request,” I of course placated her and planned to just bail last second. I assumed that she was being her usual encouraging self, not wanting me to be alone on a Saturday night. As her departure drew near, I stayed in my holding pattern of going along with it, but I began to notice that she was mentioning it more and more. As if it would actually matter to her if I didn’t go.
This was a bit confusing to me because my girlfriend is fully aware of my tendencies towards introversion. Though she kept insisting that I would have fun being around people that I know, I felt uneasy because all my previous interactions with her friends were in the context of being out with her. It’s sort of a date plus group hangout scenario, rather than just hanging out with a group of my friends plus my girlfriend. While it may seem like semantics, it made me feel a bit awkward hanging out with her friends without her. Or more awkward than usual for me.
“Babe,” I asked her, trying to figure out some way of getting her to let me out of this obligation, “why is it such a big deal for me to go to Nikki’s housewarming party? I mean, I’m only going to know a few people there and they’re probably going to be with their boyfriends and other friends there, so I’d feel kind of awkward going alone.”
“Because it’s important that we have some representation at the party,” she said repeating the same line she’d been using for weeks.
“Yeah, I get that, but why is it so important to you? I mean, they get that you’re out of town and it’s not like you’re intentionally ignoring them.”
“But you’re still in town this weekend.”
“But they’re your friends, right? They’re not going to be mad that I’m not there if you’re not.”
She seemed a bit confused at that statement. “I thought you liked them?”
“Yeah, I do. They’re nice.”
“So why would you say they’re not your friends?”
Thus began a long and largely fruitless debate about the difference between her friends and our friends, but what it essentially boils down to is this: She feels that since we spend a fair amount of time with her friends, I should consider them my friends as well. For myself, I do get along with them, but it feels awkward to consider them my friends.
There are two major types of friends that you can have. There are your core friends, your best friends. These are the ones that you are always talking to and hang out with all the time. Then there are the fringe friends, the ones who are in your circle, but your connection to them runs through one of the core friends. If your life and your friend group was on a sitcom, they’d only make a guest appearance for a few episodes per season. They’re not in the main cast. You can chill with them in a group environment, but you’d never want to have 1-on-1 time. That’s not a knock on them, or me saying I value those people less, but when your main connection to a person is through a close friend or significant other, it’s hard to develop a strong relationship the overtakes the connecting one.
That’s basically how I feel when it comes to my girlfriend’s friends; they’re my friends, but not really. They’re more her friends and mine by extension, and vice versa when it comes to my friends. The difference is that she feels that her friends should be my friends too–independently of her. And I don’t think that’s quite how it works. Even though I did eventually make an appearance at the party, and had fun, there was still this bit of weirdness that I felt being there without her.
It’s not like there is some sexual tension with her friends, but it feels like I’m intruding on her friendships. Although her friends seemed more than happy with it, I know if I told my friends that I wasn’t going to be around but my girlfriend was going to come hang out with them, they’d question me. Not because they don’t like her, but because they’d wonder why she would want to hang out with my friends instead of doing her own thing. In fact, I did ask a few of them and their general answers were “sure she’d be welcome…but like why?”
And the unstated, but understood, “why” is this: why is she hanging out with her boyfriend’s friends instead of her own? Doesn’t she have her own life? And I think that’s just an indication of how much independence each person in a relationship wants. I’m fine being a bit more independent and doing things off on my own, but she leans more towards wanting us to be a team.
So I’m sure many people think that particular perspective of my relationship to her friends is normal. However, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like there is some separation, some invisible boundary that will never let me truly be friends with my girlfriend’s friends. Because at the end of the day, she’s the reason I know them. If I’m being frank, if I had a genuinely great relationship with one of them I’d probably want to date them instead of her. It’s almost a defensive mechanism, keeping these sorts of relationships shallow and surface-level, because to get deeper would be to invite temptation.
Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule or theory. You can obviously be friends with your girlfriend’s gal pals if you had a pre-existing friendship, there is zero sexual chemistry to go along with the emotional connection, or whatever. But my point is, it seems nearly impossible to introduce a significant other to your existing circle of friends and expect them to become just one of the group. Maybe it happens with more extroverted people, but I think most people tend to want to keep their personal and romantic relationships separate. Keeping these two aspects of your life separate, so that you don’t risk blurring the lines and feeling like you don’t have an identity outside the relationship. Keeping your worlds apart. .