How often have we found ourselves talking about our friend’s girlfriend, boyfriend, latest breakup, or makeup? When there is so much turbulence in someone else’s relationship it seems like only we, the outsider and the friend, have the best understanding of what should be done, if only we were in their shoes.
I definitely fall into this category, I think we all do in some way. I think a portion of what drives this behaviour is the culture of celebrity around us. Every grocery store lineup smears us with news of a (probably fake) cheating scandal or drug overdose. When we see actors and musicians on television, the stage, or in our Instagram feeds, it feels like we have a direct line into their lives. When we can see the pores on someone’s face, it creates the illusion that we know these people when they don’t know we exist. This creates a massive imbalance in our perceived relationship.
Think of Miley Cyrus & Justin Beiber (for a microsecond — we don’t really need more). Those names are so loaded that you already have a reaction, opinion, an extreme like or dislike for these humans with whom you’ve never interacted.
But when you get a phone call from your girlfriend about an argument with her partner or get a play by play of a text message break up, it feels like we have that direct line into their situation. After all, we know the source. When you have close friends who confide in you, it’s an invitation to have a say or present your perspective. To pipe in when they spit out, “I don’t know what to do.”
The truth is that we have no idea what a relationship outside of our own is like. Nada. We’ve made other relationships the celebrities.
This conversation came up today with a friend when we were talking about close friendships: the people who really know us. They’ve seen us grow — so they know the parts of us that have evolved and what’s stayed the same. We know them in a way that is sometimes closer than the intimate romantic relationships they’ve had. But we do not know the couple – that’s a different matter entirely.
So where does this leave us, the relationship gurus?
Well, we make excellent mirrors.
Empathy is the most powerful tool we have when it comes to relationships, friendship or otherwise. The ability to feel what someone is feeling, and beyond that, being able to communicate back in a loving and understanding way. Not always easy, especially when the experience is foreign.
But when we are mirrors, a reflection of the other self, it is easier for our loved ones to see what they look like. We can’t see ourselves from the inside out – but when our closest friends see us so clearly, they know the way to communicate back. When it comes to offering wisdom and guidance to someone we love, I think the best thing we can do is not. Use the gift you already have, of knowing that person outside-in, to share with them what you see and what you’re hearing.
And while we don’t always want to look at what they see, our own perspective is usually the one we need to see the most.
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