I want to write today about something that is very important. I think that too many people do not take this seriously enough.
The people who you surround yourself with, who you turn to for advice, who you bounce ideas off of, who you call when you’re upset or elated…those people are so important. I don’t know a single person who would disagree that having friends is important.
But I think it’s also important who those friends are. Are they people who share your values? Are they people who will help keep you on the right path, or are they people who will pull you off onto side paths? Are they people who will tell you when you’re wrong, when you’re over-reacting, when you’re being silly, or are they people who will just be your cheerleader no matter what? Are they people who are leading the kind of lives we want to live – or at least trying to live the lives we want to live?
Since I’ve been so focused on marriage relationships lately, let’s pull in an analogy about marriage.
When I get together with my friends, as I’ll do tonight, we sometimes do some good-natured bitching about our spouses. It gets the frustrated feelings off our chests, so we can go home satisfied that we’ve been heard, we’re not alone, and our spouse is not uniquely annoying. (You know I love you, honey.) If someone’s having a legitimate problem or issue in their marriage, we can talk about that, too. And we also tend to balance out the griping with funny stories or nice things our husbands have done.
It’s not planned out that way – it just happens. Because, by and large, my friends are reasonable, normal, healthy, and share (at least some of) my values.
But we typically do not get bogged down in just Griping About Our Husbands. That’s not ultimately healthy, and what that does is just lead to more unhappiness at home, rather than less. I don’t know where the magic line is, but there’s a line somewhere. A line between “oh, let me get this off my chest!” and “isn’t my husband a horrible person?”
It would be destructive to my marriage if, for example, my knitting group turned into largely a Husband Bitching contest. Just like the music you listen to, the people you surround yourself with and the things they talk about can be highly influential. Listening to lots of husband bitching would be a negative influence on me, potentially poisoning the way I view my own husband.
(It is the same with parenting, by the way, which is one reason you often find that women who parent in radically different ways have trouble being friends. )
I have more to say here, but this is long enough already.