Katie doesn’t have any experience with this topic—that’s why she’s opening up to all of you in hopes of learning more!
It's funny: a monogamous relationship can often involve a lot more than two people. Friends, family, and baggage can all be huge obstacles or stepping stones, but nonetheless are involved. I have actually learned several things about other people through my personal relationship with my husband.
A few years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) and I were going through some rocky areas in our relationship journey. I was talking with a friend about a fight we had. My friend spoke their peace and then there was silence. Followed up with a quick, "And if you really loved him, you would be defending him right now." I was really taken back by the statement. I was listening. Listening to the words, to the situation, to my doubts, and to my friends doubts. Believe it or not, I wasn’t thinking about how to rebuttal or counter the argument. FOR ONCE--I was actually listening. I thought my friend gave great advice, which is why I disclosed the nitty gritty. But this time, I sincerely disagreed. I understand why someone would naturally expect a loved one to defend another, but I still thought it was rather presumptuous. At the end of the day, only the two people in the relationship know the ins and outs of the situation. What happened leading up to the fight and how it fizzled, or has yet to fizzle. Who are you to tell me what I should or should not be doing in this situation? You weren't even there.
Maybe I was more taken back by my friends inability to see my processing state? It felt like a need to either break awkward silence or have the final last "wise" word. Neither, of which, were helpful. I ended up spending the rest of the evening thinking about the fight, which was vulnerable. But then also this moment were my friend felt entitled to speak on how I should be acting in this incredibly vulnerable state. I was a mess.
Things worked themselves out and we are happily married now but it's an experience I often think about because of what I learned.
A) Being vulnerable and opening up to a friend did help me process. I was able to verbalize and objectify what happened instead of letting it fester and grow in my mind. The words actually felt like something real I could hold onto and sort so I could move forward.
B) Watch how we respond in vulnerable situations. Yes, you may know how to "fix" it or could have even prevented it but that may not be the important thing in the moment. My mom allowed me to learn a lot of things on my own (part of that being because I didn't listen well). But what I remember most is that she never said, "I told you so." It wasn't necessary. I knew I had messed up and would never stick my fingers into the drawer again. If someone says there is a mouse trap in there, they aren't lying. Sometimes learning the lesson on ones own is the best teacher. But when someone is in the difficult stage of learning what that lesson is, lets try to remember how delicate it can be and that we've all needed just a shoulder to cry on and nothing more.
C) I probably don't even know half of the story. For several years, I have been working on judgement-checks. When someone confides in me about something, I actively try to listen and process ONLY what they share with me. I watch for the assumptions and judgements to start creeping in to my mind and I kindly ask them to piss off. I've seen the quote surface during the pandemic, "We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat." It's important to experience vulnerability and to be around people who understand how to care for you in those vulnerable states and not be concerned with their own preconceived notions.
This isn't a poke at my friend at all. We are still in touch and both happy! This is a testament to how I learned so much about relationships, in general, in that moment. And how I want to move forward with what I had learned. We aren't always going to be successful in practicing our learned-lessons every single day, especially with relationships--being that they are filled with many emotions. But, I think there can be some incredibly beautiful connections that are birthed out of scary, vulnerable, and new places. Let's not let that potential get blocked.