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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.

By Eric

Have you ever had one of those weeks that makes you really re-evaluate yourself? Not a bad week per se, but just a stretch of days that really makes you think?  This is obviously a rhetorical question, because if you say “no” you are a dirty, rotten liar. In which case, kindly leave. (Kidding…mostly.)

Lately, I’ve had a lot of time to think because I’ve been jobless since September and essentially left to wallow in my own subconscious, which clearly has its pros and cons. I’ve been known to drive myself a little crazy with my over-analyzing skills from time to time.

The past week or so, however, the time to think has certainly been a good thing. As I’ve watched the people and world around me change on a daily basis, I’ve become more and more aware of how much I am changing as a person.

Even in just the last few months I feel like I have changed. A lot.

Some people embrace change. Some people fear change. Some people are so unable to change that they spend their entire lives doing essentially the same thing all day every day.

No matter how much or how little your day to day life shifts over time, there is one thing that will remain constant: your relationships. Not romantically, necessarily, but just the notion of surrounding yourself with certain people. The interactions within those relationships will change, and the people who you consider closest to you will likely change, but having people around you never will.

Trying to decide where you fit, and who is most important to you isn’t just about deciding where you fit, but deciding who fits there with you. I’ve always struggled with that, because I’ve always struggled with forming legitimately close bonds.

Looking back, everyone can think of friendships that have stood through thick and thin, and everyone can think of friendships that have fizzled. Not by design, but just because life forces people in different directions. People change. People move on. People drift apart. It’s a completely natural progression of life.

The fact is, someone you have known for six months could know you better than someone you’ve known for six years. Figuring out who is important in your life isn’t about quantity. It is it about quantity of time, and it certainly isn’t about quantity of people. Surrounding yourself with as many superficial relationships as possible isn’t going to make you happy. And spending your time with people you’ve known forever isn’t going to make you happy if that is the only reason you still hang out. Quantity doesn’t matter.

It’s all about quality. The people you know, trust and respect. The people who know you the best. 

As I sit here thinking about the people in my life, I can’t help but think of a quote from an essay by Mary Schmich that was turned into the song “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrman: “friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on.”

The key is deciding who those precious few are, and realizing it isn’t just how long you’ve known them, but how well.

By Nicolle

In seventh grade, a good friend of mine rolled into our first hour science class with her hair in butterfly clips (you remember those multi-colored hair clips that came in different colors and were overused by moms as well as teenage girls?). Now, this was not the “normal” way to wear butterfly clips (read: hair parted down the middle, one clip on each side). No, she’d taken it to a whole new level, with her hair in a ponytail, separated into eight pieces, all held to her scalp by a rainbow of butterfly clips. This resulted in her looking like she had spikes coming from eight angles of her head.

It was not a pretty picture, for anyone, let alone an awkward seventh-grade girl. So, when she asked me what I thought of her “cool new hair-do,” what exactly was I supposed to say?

“Well, I probably wouldn’t wear my hair like that,” I told her as I desperately looked for something about the ‘do that I could compliment. “But I like that you used four different colors of clips.”

That comment started a minor seventh-grade feud between my friend and I. She didn’t take my comment as well as I’d hoped, and I couldn’t justify lying to her, even to make her feel better. I was supposed to be her friend – I was the one who should be most able and willing to tell her the truth.

But that’s not always the case with our best friends. Often we count on those closest to us to back us up, to take our sides, to blindly support us, no matter what conclusion we come to. We inadvertently ask the people we consider our “besties” to lie to us.

An acquaintance of mine got married this summer, despite the fact that a few of her closest friends questioned her relationship. She even outright told one friend that she didn’t want any more questions about why she was getting married, what she loved about her fiancé or what steps they were taking to ensure their commitment would indeed last; she preferred only what she deemed “supportive, encouraging words” instead.

Though the “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all” adage seems like good advice, blatantly asking friends to keep their concerns to themselves is romantic relationship suicide. Our friends know us best – they’ve likely seen us at our worst, our most selfish, our most arrogant, our greediest, our most unkind. And they’re still our friends. Once we get to a place where we don’t actually want their honest opinions, maybe it’s because we know we’re doing something wrong.

It doesn’t have to be that blatant either. The same principle applies when we get defensive at friends who are kind enough to tell us the truth. Our reaction (ranging from quiet, passive frustration to blinding anger, both of which can result in broken friendships) can inadvertently tell our friends to stop being truthful with us. Though we want unquestioned support from our besties when we complain that our significant others don’t show us enough affection, maybe what we need is for a true friend to ask us hard questions about why we think we’re not getting enough cuddle time. In most situations, we can assume some responsibility for relationship troubles and our friends should be able to tell us when we’re the ones with the issue.

When we ask others to conceal the truth, we’re stripping them of friend duties. It’s their place to call us on our stuff – it’s their place to tell us when we’re full of it. And if we don’t, it’s detrimental to ourselves. If we encourage them to lie to us, we encourage ourselves to not see what’s really going on in a situation. If we get defensive when our friends gently tell us that maybe we were too controlling, maybe we shouldn’t have cheated or maybe we should assume some responsibility for that break-up, we’re telling them that what matters most to us is how things appear, not how things really are.

And as ugly as things really are, the truth is what we need. Because, unlike multi-colored butterfly clips, a reality-check will never go out of style.