Unlike family, boyfriends and best friends are the people you choose to have in your life. For this reason, I have never known how to treat them. How do you treat the people you don’t need to have around, but want to? (Or, sometimes, don’t want to? Or shouldn’t?) I am no stranger to bad boyfriends or bad friends (we’ve all had a few), and I’ve struggled to come up with a way to sift through all the bullshit that comes with either of these strange, tenuous and wonderful brands of interpersonal relationship.
It took the perspective of switching the roles to understand who and what I deserved to have in my life. The snappiest way I could sum it up is ‘Boyfriends should be like best friends and best friends should be like boyfriends.’ I realized I should adore and trust my best friend like I would any partner in an ideal romantic relationship. Alternately, I should be my goofiest, grossest, most comfortable self when I’m with my boyfriend, like I would when I hang out with my best friend.
Let me get to the specifics –
1. Give your best friend some T.L.C.
There’s nothing worse than when a best friend drops off the face of the planet to be with her boyfriend. It hurt realizing that my best friend would rather binge watch Netflix and eat pizza with her new boyfriend than, well, binge watch Netflix and eat pizza with me. When I found myself, in my most recent relationship, becoming the dropper and not the dropee, I made sure to let my best friend know she was still important to me. She received a lot of random ‘I love you’ texts during that time, something that she (thankfully) found very touching, and not that weird.
2. Your best friend needs a date night, too.
I learned that the ultimate TLC is quality time (texts of “we should hang out soon!!” can only go so far), so you should honor that trip to Starbucks with your BFF the same way you would honor going to that Italian restaurant with your boyfriend. And once you’re with your friend, make sure you’re with your friend. Let her talk about her bad day at work or the assignment she’s super excited about. Don’t use every time she takes a breath as an opportunity to talk about your boyfriend’s X,Y, and Z. Trust me.
3. Talk to your boyfriend like a best friend.
This one seems obvious, but hear me out. I was the girl who figured her boyfriends wouldn’t want to hear her gush about Twin Peaks or complain about professors or listen to her feminist rants. And of course, any great boyfriend would listen and respond to those topics just like you would expect a best friend to. I realized that I was too worried about impressing my boyfriends, or worse, inconveniencing them – something I never did with my best friends.
4. Chill out.
I’ve found that people act like there are high stakes to a romantic relationship, and maybe there are. You could get married or you could break up, but I’ve never once stressed out about where this friendship is going or where my best friend pictures us in five years. I realized that I’m still young enough to chill out in my relationships. (Also, you would never worry about your best friend dropping you if she doesn’t text you back within 20 minutes, so don’t worry that your boyfriend is going to break up with you when he does the same thing. Chill. Out.)
5. You can break up with your best friend.
I’ve had a number of friend-breakups. (College kind of does that. College is weird.) They can happen for a lot of reasons and go down any number of ways. Maybe you realized your best friend is a lot more self-centered than you thought, or she’s actually the Queen of Backhand Compliments, or she’s actually trying to control your life (this happened once; the ‘breakup’ did not go smoothly). Or sometimes friendships, like relationships, just run their course and fizzle out. Hopefully the friendship breakup will end like amicable relationship breaks – you’ll resolve to remain “just friends,” meaning you won’t be inclined to talk shit behind their backs and you’ll make polite small talk when you run into each other in the dining hall. (But don’t drunk text your ex-best friend. Actually, don’t drunk text anyone. I feel the need to tell you this.)
6. Be picky with friends – like you would with a boyfriend.
It took me a while to realize my time, energy and vulnerability are precious. Just like you wouldn’t date just any guy who walks up to you at a bar (more on this later), you don’t have to get close with just any person who happens to be in your circle, sits behind you in class, or what have you.
7. Be picky with boyfriends – like you would with friends.
Let’s be real. Have you ever befriended someone just because they are hot? Just because they are good in bed? Just because they buy you stuff? No? Don’t have a boyfriend for these reasons either. The golden attributes for a boyfriend are, if I can generalize it, the same for a perfect best friend – you get along well, they listen to you, they make you laugh. Keep these in mind.
The boyfriends as best friends/best friends as boyfriends rule of thumb has worked well for me, but I’d love to hear what the rest of you think about this spin on relationship roles. Let me know in the comments!