I went to a boarding academy (I lived in a dorm) for my freshman and sophomore year in high school. While I was there, I started dating a guy, and we would literally be together 24/7. Actually it was more like, 16/7. We did everything but sleep together. Meals, leisure time, homework. When we ate meals together, we would try to join our friends, but we were so engrossed with each other that one time, the cafeteria lady had to interrupt us and tell us they were closing. We looked up from our little bubble and realized we were the last ones left. Yes, I was the 24/7 girlfriend.
As a result, I stopped hanging out with all my other friends. Some girl friends even took offense when I tried to hang out with them after hours in the dorm.
“So we’re just your dorm friends, huh? When you can’t hang out with him, that’s the only time you have time for us?”
It was true, but I felt like they weren’t being very understanding. Maybe they just didn’t want me to be happy or they were jealous I had a guy. Looking back, I bet they felt hurt because I had completely abandoned them for a guy.
Last night, I realized how important friends are. They are the family that we choose. A mother who leaves her children, a father who is a workaholic and neglects his wife, a spouse who strays… all these things are looked down on. So if our friends are the family we choose, we shouldn’t neglect them. When I neglected my friends after I started dating exclusively, it was like I was sending this message: “You guys were just fillers in my life until a guy came along.”
That’s no way to treat family. I have a very close-knit family. When I hang out with my brothers, I feel so undeserving of the kind of friendship I have with them. They know all my faults. Yet I can say, be, or do anything and they would love me regardless. They are committed to me and would drop everything to come to my aid. When we hang out, words flow freely because we never judge each other. It’s other-worldy how well we get along.
Now, I’m 25. It’s been 10 years since I played the role of the 24/7 girlfriend. I’ve realized what I have with my brothers, I want in my friendships. I want my friends to know they can be real around me, and know without a doubt that they are loved unconditionally. And more than that, I want them to know that I am committed to them the way I am committed to my blood family. I am committed to loving and serving them with my time and my abilities. Part of demonstrating this is not neglecting them when a guy comes along. Instead of sending the message that they are there to entertain me and fill my time with fun until a guy comes along, I hopefully want to send them the message, “You’re my family. You aren’t my entertainment buddies. You aren’t filler people in my life. This guy right now, he’s not family. And if he ever does join the family by putting a ring on my finger, I won’t forget that I had family before he came along.”
Deep down, I think that’s what we all crave: we all want to be loved because and despite who we truly are by people we know will never abandon us.