Being a friend is like practice for my romantic relationships. I learn so many lessons within my friendships. The relationships and people teach me about myself, then I can bring that knowledge into being a better lover.
I can practice boundaries.
Boundaries are hard in any relationship, but in they’re incredibly challenging for me in romantic relationships. Practicing boundary setting with friends has allowed me to get better at setting boundaries in a tactful way. For example, I recently rescinded a commitment I made because I realized I had way overcommitted. I told my friend what was happening in a kind, communicative, and timely way. The whole interaction went very well and reminded me that these practices help me when it’s time to draw a boundary with a lover.
I’ve learned how to ask for what I need.
Similar to setting boundaries, asking for what I need is all about effective communication. I had a hospitalization a few weeks ago that allowed for practice in asking my friends for what I need. I sometimes had days where I was way too tired to have any visitors. The old me would have let people visit anyways, but instead, I asked my friends kindly to visit on another day so that I could rest. This was great for my well being and an awesome practice for getting my needs met in my next romantic relationship!
I can take people at their word.
I used to try to find a million hidden meanings in what someone said, like decoding a secret message that didn’t even exist. I mostly did this in romantic relationships, but friendships have taught me to chill the heck out. When my friends say something whether it’s “I’m too tired to get together today” or “I love you,” I believe them. I don’t read between the lines. This is a great exercise for believing a trusting lover.
It’s been a learning process of feeling out who is worth trusting.
I can’t (and shouldn’t) take people at their word if they’re actually lying or being passive aggressive, right? Well, the solution isn’t to play games with them, it’s to find better friends. Just like I wouldn’t accept a lover who messes with my head, I only accept friends who treat me kindly. I’m learning to slow down and tune into what my gut is saying about someone. Once I’ve deemed a friend worth trusting, I let down my walls for them. I don’t let my walls down for any old fool in friendship, so I try to do the same in dating.
I’m taught how to have disagreements and conflicts in healthy ways.
Friendships and romantic relationships aren’t peaches and cream all the time. In reality, we’re humans who are messing up and being awkward sometimes. The point is how our messiness is dealt with. I’ve had conflicts or disagreements with friends that I’ve had to learn to handle tactfully. In past romantic relationships, I used to act on my anger in attempts to get what I want. Now I handle conflict in a way that focuses on both preserving the relationship and trying to get what I want in a healthy way.
I’ve learned lessons in forgiveness and human imperfection.
The stakes are lower when I mess up with a friend and vice versa. I’m less likely to get rid of them as a friend after a mistake or two. On the other hand, in romantic relationships, feelings are more charged and the stakes are a bit higher. It’s harder for me to practice forgiveness and recognize human imperfection. Conflict with a romantic partner can low-key turn me into a maniac if I’m not slowing down to practice what I learned with friends. But, since I do have practice from friendships, I’m less likely to set fire to a relationship and more likely to practice forgiveness where appropriate.
I’ve found that no one person can ever really satisfy all my needs.
I can’t tell you how many times in romantic relationships I expected my partner to be my absolute everything. I expected them to meet all of my needs, fix me, and essentially be superhuman. This resulted in inevitable disappointment and breakup. I broke this pattern of codependency by having healthy friendships. I never expect one single friend to understand all of my plights and to fix everything. That’s an awful burden to put on one person.
I realized it’s crucial to have people in my life who make me laugh.
Laughter is one of the most important components of my life being happy. I’m the type of person who’s always laughing. As a result, I don’t jibe well with people who take themselves too seriously. Instead, I get along way better with those who have learned to laugh at themselves, who crack jokes, and who aren’t afraid to be silly. Just as I’ve found this to be a key to happy friendships, I’ve found laughter to be an essential part of a happy romantic relationship.
Friends reminded me how amazing I am.
Although it isn’t okay to be codependent on other humans, interdependence is totally appropriate. We humans need each other! Once I took a step back from depending entirely on another person but instead leaned on them here and there, I saw that my friends could really help me come alive. They reminded me how lovable and amazing I was when I had forgotten it myself. I accepted their words and their love, just as I accept the same from lovers.
They taught me that there will be people who’ll love and celebrate me for me.
Up to this point, all romantic flames have come and gone. They haven’t stuck around. You know who’s been there to catch me when I fall time and time again? My friends. They’re the ones who send me reminders that they love me just as I am and that I need not change in order to be worthy of their love. They also remind me that a lover that’s meant to be for me will love me just as I am because I’m totally worth it.