By Nicolle

With the intention of making my unloading job easier, I once grabbed four dinner plates from inside the dishwasher. As I began to lift them, the wet, slippery underside of the bottom plate got the best of me. I dropped all four dishes on our ceramic kitchen floor.

That incident (along with a few others) convinced my family that I can’t be trusted with dishware (even though I’m still the chief dishwasher-emptier). I’m forced to absorb jokes and jabs about my butterfingers, and the mismatched dishes in the cupboard don’t do anything for my dish-breaker reputation.

My family thinks I’m just careless, that I don’t pay attention to how easy it is to break the dishes (I disagree and argue that if we just used plastic dishes or had rubber floors, the problem would be solved). Their arguments remind me that even things that are really quite delicate can sometimes appear unbreakable. Friendships are one of those things.

One of my closest friends is dating a guy I think is wonderful for her. I don’t believe in soulmates but if I did, I’d claim he was hers. That said, her relationship with him means she spends less time with me. And I get jealous.

Now, she’s also pursuing a degree, living 45 minutes away from me and in the middle of an internship, so I can’t entirely blame her boyfriend for the fact that I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like. But occasionally, I feel like she’s choosing him over me when her schedule opens up and she has a night free.

And, honestly, sometimes she does choose him over me. One of the reasons, we’ve recently discovered when we confronted this very issue, is that our friendship feels more dependable, more stable and more reliable. If we neglect our friendship for a few weeks (or months), we’re both confident that we’ll easily be able to pick right back up where we left off, no worse for the wear.

But, to neglect a romantic relationship for that same period of time is relational suicide. It clearly states to your partner that s/he isn’t as important as your job, your friends, your softball team or your book club.

In general, we demonstrate that we value our significant others more than our friends even though our friends are sometimes the people we turn to in our most difficult times. We devote more time and energy to our romantic relationships because they feel more fragile, and seem to need more attention, while our friendships seem stable, consistent and dependable.

There’s a lot of truth in that evaluation, especially to the unmarried. Right now, I’ve been “with” my best friends for more than six years. I’ve never had a boyfriend that long, so in my perspective, my friends are more dependable than a guy. I value my friendships more than any relationship I’ve had because my friends held my hand after my awful break-up, jumped up and down with me when I got my new job, visited me after I had my wisdom teeth pulled out and missed me when I lived in Australia. That kind of community is invaluable.

At some point, I realize, that could change. As my friends get married, their values have to shift in order to insure a successful marriage. I can no longer expect to share the same space as her husband on my best friend’s list of priorities.

While that shift is expected, anticipated and even welcomed (I honestly want the best for my friends), it’s not easy or fun. And until that shift is necessary due to formal nuptials, I don’t want it to come early. I want to remain a priority in my friends’ lives until they tie the knot.

We forget that our friendships need as much time, intentionality and deliberateness as our romantic relationships. Friendships take planning, phone calls, dinner dates, sleepovers and movie marathons to keep them thriving.

In other words, they take sacrifice. The fragility of our friendships is often hidden behind strong bonds, but to guarantee their success, we have to be as diligent about them as our romantic endeavors. We have to be willing to give up a little of our free time, a little of our sleep time and a little of other-relationship time to keep our friendships strong.

Without sacrifice, friendships, like my dishes, can easily be shelved, dropped or even broken. And while I can take the teasing about being a butterfingers when it comes to dishware, friendships are a much more serious and worthwhile matter.