Men and women need each other, and they need to be friends. However, rarely do people write about what happens to precious, life-giving male-female friendships when friends find lovers that are not each other.
I’m lucky to have a lot of married/engaged/commited men in my life. I enjoy their friendship and mostly I love their women too. Sometimes, my dear male friends have become so because I loved their wives first anyway. I’ve successfully negotiated relationship mergers before.. guy friends who have married and their wives have become as close as the husband ever was.
But it’s tiresome, heartwrenching work because there are moments you have to sacrifice the role your boy bestie played, sometimes for years.
A woman like me, needs men in her life. Companions and champions. Buddies and trusted advisors. I need them because I have a wealth of women in my life but if I don’t continue to have positive, thriving relationships with great men – I might risk believing the press that no man you’re not sleeping with is worth your time.
Truthfully, I think these relationship transitions are more important than we realise. The fabric of social groups and communities is woven with the complexities of many different types of interactions between men and women. So while I am writing about my male friends, this is true for many of us regardless of gender.
Sometimes, a rare thing happens and you end up adoring the woman that makes your friend so happy, even more than you loved your friend to begin with. Those relationships are amazing and I’m lucky to have a few of them. Sometimes, the one you thought was never good enough turns out to be worse and you have to bite your tongue from saying all sorts of things. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything because you’re so relieved your friend is no longer suffering. That’s happened a couple of times.
Sometimes, you end up seeing your friends through their weddings, marriages, children and then through their divorces. That’s happened a few times too.
In any of those circumstances, there is a season where your friend is lost to you, replaced by a creature called ‘Stranger That Knows Your Deep Secrets’. Your secrets, once shared in trust between the two of you are now the shared property of your friend and their lover. You have to re-introduce yourself and hope they are equally as trustworthy. You have to hope that they choose to love you, as you choose to love them.
You hope happiness lasts for them, forever. You hope not to lose them forever.
Mostly, the change is within you. You learn to say goodbye differently and hello less often. You grow accustomed to a changed priority, a new role, a different place. ‘Stranger That Knows Your Deep Secrets’ is no longer as available, for good reason. They too, are undergoing personal adjustment. Avoid bitterness.
You have lost your friend for a season, maybe forever. You cannot retrieve him from the place he has arrived at; that’s not your right. You now have only the choice of waiting, hoping and nurturing some expression of a relationship that somehow bridges the stranger he has become and the memory of who he was. In it you become a stranger too; a stranger to his partner, a stranger to the friendship that you had that now merges to be something different.
More often than not, you are no longer on the inside of their life, even though once you shared dreams and thoughts. Indeed, crisis and tears and whispered words float past their ears, the smiling partner who knows enough of your face to warrant knowing a measure of your heart. You will whisper, ‘I miss you’ and it will go unheard in the depths where you needed to be heard.
You will pick yourself up. Your friend may one day return but you are less likely to have the same sense of comraderie you did before. You can’t be forced into loving companionship with his wife, and you can’t force yourself upon them, they are two, they are strong.. and they wholeheartedly go about their existence. This is the way the world should be.
You won’t talk too loudly about it, because boys and girls struggle so much to be friends anyway. You won’t be too demanding. There is no sensitive way to say I love you, but I do not know your wife enough to love her yet. There is a sadness admist your joy in your friend’s delight.
See, in the corner of your heart, you always fear that you had your friend by default .. that he has only room for his mother, sisters, wife and daughters in the woman-shaped spaces in his life. You wonder how you got there to begin with, and you know you’ll never be the same.
His empty space is shaped like a brother, within your heart.