Getting Stuck On The Sidelines Of Friendship

May 19, 2016

You don’t hear about the hours they spend memorising freckles. You don’t hear about the time they bought a pair of socks from Joy The Store at the train station – full price! £8 on a pair of socks! – so that you wouldn’t have to re-wear a pair. You don’t hear about the picturesque night they practised slow dancing when they got in from the club, an endeavour that ended with their first perfect kiss timed miraculously with a Bright Eyes chorus at sunrise, a moment so utterly cheesy it could have been a scene in a John Green novel.

You, the friend, miss all of these delights. You don’t hear about the simple pleasures, the loveliness of falling together with somebody, becoming enmeshed and entangled and engrossed. Instead, you get the slanted perspective shaded with doubt and worry. There’s no middle of the night text about a perfect shag but you’re first in line to hear about the argument that sprang up out of nowhere; the commitment issues; the failure to stick to vegetarianism; the ex-girlfriend drama. The all-night prang-out when one party accidentally blue ticked a message about what time they’ll come home. The sturm and drang of deleting Tinder.

   

Naturally you develop a dislike of the lover. Not just a passing unease but a deep-seated aversion, a calculated disapproval. Are they really right for your cherished darling friend? Your beautiful pal, who you’ve shared endless pints and god knows how many hilarious hours with, the same friend who just last week was so upset when this “amazing” lover went hot and cold on them. Does your friend really need or want all this hassle? Surely they deserve somebody more beautiful, more intelligent, more witty and more exciting. They deserve to travel a bump-free path, a sunny yellow brick road, a prang-free zone.

In one regard, the role of the friend is to sniff out the danger. To be ready with the objections and if necessary, smash the rose-tinted glasses. You guard your loved-up pal against the warning signs they miss when they’re too busy enjoying the ride. As a friend, we’re a step away from the picture and can see the cracks in the canvas a little easier. We know our friends better than we know ourselves. We recognise the upset on the other end of the phone for what it is and call it out with honesty and love (sometimes mistaken for envy) as our motivations: you always go for the needy girls. You need to learn to value yourself. You always rush things. Don’t let her pressure you into moving. Don’t let him stop you from going out.

In another light, those early flummoxes in a relationship are not a hazard to perceive, but a test. Not just a test of the lovers: of course they’ll work it out! One day they’ll have a flock of gorgeous children and an immaculate townhouse; fuck them off, they don’t need any testing. No, the early-stage fracas serves another purpose: it tests the friend. It asks: what kind of friend are you? What relationship do we have?


When you doubt the new love affair, your friend turns the questioning to you. Are you still my friend when I ignore your judgment and I stick with this girl? Are we mates when I ignore your message that I’m “getting into something bad”? Will you respect me when you seriously doubt my judgement? When I move in with her and away from you? And… how close are we? Will you let this lover of mine into your life, even though you nurse a deep-seated resentment that I do not understand? If something goes wrong in my relationship, can I still turn to you?  Will you be unbiased and understanding when I date a girl so far removed from you and our relationship and all the things we used to share? When my lover changes me into a better, stronger person , will you remember to forget the shit I did in the past? Will you catch up if I leave you behind?

What can they do, the friends on the sideline? Do they look away, avert our gaze, ignore the fact they no longer hang out? Wait for the couple to break up and come charging in with the tissues and boxsets when it inevitably goes wrong? Or do the friends look in, faced full on with love and optimism, quash our fears and say good luck? We wait on the sidelines, biding our time, taking the talks we’re offered, and wondering.

7 responses to “Getting Stuck On The Sidelines Of Friendship”

  1. Denise says:

    It’s a thin line, when we “know” that something is not right and then you want to tell your friend about it… and you don’t know what to do – if you share your opinion, your friend may get cross, if you don’t, your friend is at risk. It’s difficult! But that’s not the only concern – I fell out with a “friend” some years ago, and she fell out with me as well, because I find her interests very shallow, but that’s not up to me to “judge” – I just don’t find we have mutual terrain to be friends. She, on the contrary, insulted me because my tastes – it means, reading books, helping people, studying… but OK, as I said, I try to avoid such “friends” 🙂
    DenisesPlanet.com

  2. Rae says:

    Really powerful post – I think that friendship can become very complicated when one of those friends may be in a relationship the other friend does not agree with, or like you said, when the friend seems to not have time anymore. I always assume when my friends meet a new guy I will not see them for the first few months as they have found something new and exciting and I personally think that is wonderful! However, clearly over time, you do assume things will balance out as well. As far as friends who are dating someone that is unhealthy for them, unfortunately all you can do is support them and let you know your opinion and be there for them when the relationship inevitably ends.

    Rae | Love from Berlin

  3. Natasha says:

    You write beautifully Laila and this post was bittersweet to read. There are some very close friendships of mine which seem to have paled away to nothing since the end of university or moving away and sometimes it’s hard to know if those friendships are still as strong as they once were and how to reach out to them. Very powerful post, and I also hope your car turns up soon lovely – I re-tweeted your original tweet so hopefully it’s seen by someone. – Tasha

  4. Hey Sir/Madam,
    How were you doing there?I am George in Nairobi Kenya and i am happy to be connected with you here,indeed its adorable and awesome to meet here.My purpose to come here is to make friends and get costumers for my handcraft productions from beads hand made items and woods carvings handcraft and soft stones items

  5. jessthetics says:

    SO beautifully written Laila, and I LOVE the doodles. I think it’s really hard and it’s something that all of us have experienced with our friends, or as the friend in question. I don’t think that being in a relationship is a good reason to let your friendships slip, even though you might rely on your friends less if you get a lot of emotional support from your significant other. If I’m unsure about a friends new partner I think it’s best to point out your issue, but then drop it and support their decision if the don’t agree. If there is something wrong in the relationship, then your friend needs to work it out for themselves. Being unsupportive (in my experience) will only sour your friendship! It’s hard though, when you care so much about the poeple you love xx

    Jessthetics

  6. This is such a tricky situation, but you’ve written about it so beautifully here. In the past I’ve found (thankfully) that these things have a way of working themselves out and it doesn’t take long before the person begins to see what you see x

  7. winnie says:

    Oh Laila, I recognise this in some of my own friendships. I think it’s difficult when you have to support someone’s decision and also kind of realising that they have someone else who comes first before you as a friend. I suppose it’s a part of growing up and learning that dynamics of a friendship can change and we all know that even if you aren’t keen on their relationship, we just have to plod on as friends and stick by them. SUCH a good post and you’ve nailed some of those feelings and scenarios SO well.

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