Everything Wrong With Trying To “Upgrade/ Trade-In” Our Friendships and Relationships

Featuring Guest Contributor Nino Brown aka. No Comparison

Today’s society is a hot mess. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we live in a world where we want the newest, the greatest, and best of the best. We live in a world where we don’t go anywhere without our cellphones and yet we’re happy to trade them in for the newest model every 4 to 5 years (or every year for the hardcore tech buffs). This is all well and good, but where do we draw the line? When we start treating friendships and relationships like dated technology, are we guilty of trying to trade in what we got for the illusion of something better?

The saying goes “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends.” Whether it’s childhood, adulthood, casuals, best friends or “bros”, we all have people in our lives who we can choose to associate ourselves with. There are also times where we are chosen by others. When it comes to the topic of Friendship I’m reminded of Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’ and Dionne Warwick’s ‘That’s What Friends Are For’. If you haven’t heard these songs, I highly recommend giving them a listen. These two songs perfectly describe how great true friendships can be. Friendships are supposed to be for better or for worse. Treating others how you’d like to be treated. In this Twitter-ran society however, the concept of Friends seems to be reduced to a simple click of a button. Verbal insults, and physical abuse aren’t as emotionally damaging as being Unfriended on Facebook. Being blocked by a longtime friend has the emotional value of losing a loved one in a tragic accident. When did this become the norm, that the value of friendships have been reduced to a mere status update?

Aristotle once described the relationship between friends as one soul dwelling in two bodies. He wrote often about the idea and the emphasis of true friendship as a true “meaningful” living.

Aristotle’s view on friendship is a far cry from what is depicted in the movie “The Social Network”. For those of you haven’t seen this movie, it’s about the founding of the Internet social networking giant called Facebook. With a tag line that reads, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies,” you have to wonder what the definition of “friends” is in this kind of social networking context. The relationships shown in the film, especially that between founder Mark Zuckerberg and his network of friends, definitely do not meet the standard of one soul in two bodies described by Aristotle that’s for sure.

Society spends so much time chatting/catching up with their social media “friends” that they do not put much effort in their real-life friends. What makes our friendships truly beautiful is real human contact, this is now being replaced by shallow friendships, that is, social connections rather than the kind of true friendships described and espoused by Aristotle. In our post-technologically obsessed society, there’s plenty of evidence that points to people having plenty of acquaintances, and very few individuals to whom they can turn to in sharing their authentic selves, and deeper intimacies with.

Friendships are not made to be perfect, they are made to whether storms. Nowadays, many people are so quick to throw away the very few individuals that they can turn to in order to share their authentic selves and deeper intimacies with the moment that person does not agree with something they say or believe in. Friendships are torn apart by political beliefs, relationships, families, and even by simple differences in opinion. The idea in society that we can find “more friends” if someone doesn’t fit into our square peg idea of what friendship should be is exactly why so many friendships fail in today’s world.

Aristotle‘s most famous work, Ethics, describes the desire to have friendship as instantaneous whereas the actually friendship itself takes time to develop. We share so much of ourselves on social media without even thinking, without even wondering if these people are worth expressing ourselves to, that we lose the opportunity to truly develop authentic friendships. While social media may gain someone new instant “friends”, they are not capable of providing society with genuine friendship which takes years of sharing your authentic self- close thoughts, intimate feelings, vulnerabilities and even fears to produce.

We are living in a world that is incredibly connected and yet intimately we are completely alone. Many Millennials have drifted away completely from true friendships and that profound sense of “community” and are simply existing in very reclusive lives. This reclusiveness spills into their romantic relationships where the need to resurrect the meaning and value of authentic relationships with others is absolutely dire.

Most of us can recall our first date with our significant other. The trivial things like how we met, where we went, and how the night itself went are obvious staples in any great memory, but there are some of us which even recall what our significant other and even ourselves wore that night. These things make for great stories to share the next generation whether they be children/grandchildren or nieces and nephews. One thing we never forget when we tell these stories is how our significant other made us feel. I remember asking my Grammy these things about my Poppy and watching her eyes light up as she recalled how he made her feel. As Nino and I share our stories of how we met and fell in love with our spouses, I invite you to read through them and share your own stories in the comments below:

Nino & Rebecca

The story of how I met my wife is a little funny. I had just gotten out of a pretty toxic relationship. I say it was toxic because by the end of it, I had lost hope in the concept of true love. I dated here and there but no one really changed my mind. I was doing my daily browsing on a dating site called Plenty Of Fish. Mind you, this was before the word ‘Catfish’ was becoming more than just a fish. I came across a rather interesting profile featuring a picture of a woman with the most amazing set of eyes I’d ever seen. Not long after reading her profile, I noticed that she and I had many of the same interests: Love of Tarantino movies, Golden Girls, quiet evenings at home, and a wide range of music just to name a few. We messaged each other back and forth, exchanged numbers, then finally met in person. She turned out to be exactly what was in her profile and more. Neither of us had our own place at the time, so many of our “dates” took place in a car. During this time, we shared our pasts, our fears, our secrets, and often even a pint of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Almond Swiss. Sure, we each have our flaws and insecurities but that makes us who we are. We love each other and all of our flaws. Up to the time we met each others families, I was convinced that she wasn’t an actual person…just a part of my imagination. Maybe I watched ‘Fight Club’ too many times, but we are so much alike and we truly completed each other. As our relationship progressed, we moved in together, and didn’t miss a beat. The relationship actually grew stronger by the day.

Like every relationship, ours too had bumps in the road brought about by a third party. My Ex, (who is also the mother to my two oldest children) often tried to ruin our relationship any change she got. What she didn’t seem to realize is that no amount of lies can stop true love. This experience brought us closer together. No matter what I know that she has my back and she knows that I have hers. We are a team. We are each other’s biggest fan. Soon after moving in together, we were married. During this time we grew and flourished as a couple sharing each other’s great times, not so great times and my last name. Just when we thought we couldn’t be any happier though, along came a baby boy, our son who’s the perfect blend of she and I. Eight years doesn’t seem like a long time when you’re having the time of your life with your soulmate. Our families get along great with each other, so there isn’t any dread when we speak of In-Laws but at the end of the day I can honestly say that Rebecca is the key to my happiness. I’m not sure where I would be without her in my life and I never want to find out.

Brittany & Thomas

My husband asked me out for two years before I gave him a chance. I met him through the long time friendship of my brother-in-law Mike and my cousin Ashley. We often would watch a hockey or football game together and bonded over our love of both sports and similar tastes in movies. It wasn’t long before Tom would ask to speak with me, if my cousin were to call his brother and he’d known I was there visiting. He’d often intercept the call and end every conversation with, “you know I’m going to marry you one day right?” And I would always laugh and reply, “whatever helps you sleep at night”. He was a year younger than me and I “only dated older guys” so I always rebuffed him but Tom never gave up. He’d always say, “you’ll see, one date and you’ll want to marry me too!”. This went on for years, and while I knew Tom had feelings for me and I definitely thought he was cute I was adamant in assuming because he was a year younger he wasn’t on my level of maturity.

Finally, after being fed up with my on again/ off again ‘friend’ that was never my boyfriend to begin with I agreed to one date with Tom. The weeks leading up to the date, however, a former friend of mine admitted to having feelings for Tom. People often get shocked when I tell them the date that was two years in the making almost didn’t happen because I wasn’t sure I could go through with it in good conscience knowing my friend liked him. I did promise her, though, that I’d find out what he thought of her and so as the weeks went on I got to know Tom on a deeper level then just my friend who I hang out with when my cousin wants to see her best friend.

I saw in Tom someone who shared similar values and morals as me. Also a love for family, dogs, music, and the Catholic faith. I began to develop much stronger and deeper feelings for Tom, feelings I wasn’t quite ready to admit to myself. When I confessed to him my friend’s feelings for him he explained to me that only one woman was for him: me and I was amazed. We ended up sharing our first kiss watching ‘ Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ and it was after the end of that movie he asked me to be his girl. I made him wait two days before I agreed, after making my friend aware that he and I had feelings only for each other.

The date itself, one I was almost loathe to keep, ended up being the single most defining moment in my life. The butterflies I felt, the smile on my face, the way conversation was so easy and natural I knew I was irreversibly in love with Tom. Two weeks later, in the basement of an old friend while shooting pool, he told me “I love you” and I said it back to him. The rest was history.

Tom and I were not without our flaws, a breakdown of communication led to a temporary split during which time I dated one other person for a short three months. It was during that time, I realized there was only one man for me. After a deep and honest discussion, which prompted me to dump the rebound guy I was with, we reunited and were engaged a year later. There was no one else for Tom during that time or since, and I then knew without a shadow of a doubt there was no one else for me too. Just like when we first began our journey, he knew before I did that it would begin and end with each other.

Five years later our families gathered together, happily, to watch us “finally get it done and be married”. We’ve long since felt a part of each other’s families but it was amazing to make it official. After the wedding was over, we when the real work began. During this time, we’ve had to grow and adjust to unexpected events like when I finally let go of my dream to teach and when he switched from day shift to night. We had to adapt and be resourceful when things in our house would brake and money was tight. We have confronted our own personal demons and came out on top together because we view ourselves as one unit, one team. Just like there is no I in team, there is also no one in this world that we would rather laugh with, cry with, grow with, share our dreams with and pray with. We renew the commitment of unconditional love and loyalty to each other every day and do so gratefully. Being together for 10 years and 8 months is work. Lots of hard work, compromising, laughing, crying, apologizing and just living. Tom’s thoughts on relationships are simple: he doesn’t judge others relationships simply because he or I can’t define anyone’s relationship except our own. Only the people in the relationship have that authority. That said, my husband Tom and I took the time to define our own. When I told him I would be writing this article we sat down and spoke candidly about our relationship, about how (after nearly 3 years married and 11 together)we would describe our relationship. The best way that Tom and I can describe this together is like this: Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes and saw absolutely no flaws at all? You feel that no matter what, (and I truly mean No Matter What,) nothing they ever do will ever make you love them any less or not at all?

Being a couple of deep faith we agree that true love makes you feel as though your significant other is the guardian angel the Lord assigns to you here on earth to walk with you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Someone who truly makes you want to be a better person, someone who loves you like God loves you, unconditionally. Relationships should exist because two people cannot imagine life without each other, not because of limitations, conditions or even because they tell you to be a better person. You strive to be a better person because you simply, in your own mind, want feel like you’re good enough for them. You also know that one day (it’s inevitable) you’ll experience true loss, which can only happen when you love someone more than you love yourself. Most people don’t seem to ever dare to love anyone that much. Like I said earlier, Tom and I don’t judge other relationships that’s just how we feel about our own relationship.

It’s not about always being right, it is not about it always being easy but I can promise you, if you dare to love someone more than your own self and commit to them without boundaries it’s always worth it. Being able to go to sleep and wake up next to our best friend and soulmate…

It’s ALWAYS worth it…

Our parents, grandparents, older aunts and uncles didn’t stay together because every moment was good, they stayed together because they remembered these good times, these joyful feelings when things got tough. As things did get tough, they leaned on each other for guidance and support. Could you imagine our parents or grandparents “trading up” for another spouse? If they did, more than likely none of us would be here. Bottom line is that loyalty was more concrete in those days. Isn’t ironic that technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today and yet people were way more satisfied with what they had rather than what they had not?

In today’s society, people feel like there’s so many options if their current relationship doesn’t work out they can just “trade up” instead of trying against all odds to work things out. See, this is a problem when people are already putting an expiration date on a relationship that they’re in when they think of the possibilities outside of it not working out. An ordinary person can set their perfectly healthy relationship up for failure when they put this mentality even in the back of their minds. As time goes on, and people become more comfortable, accustomed to, and even bored of their friendships and relationships they tend to take advantage of people sometimes without even realizing it.

The illusion of “having options” destroys more and more relationships each and every day. One thing that is important to mention was how back when our parents and grandparents were dating and married there was no social media to sabotage what they had. There were no old flames to message the older generations on Facebook. There was no feelings of boredom with one person which caused them to seek out likes and DMs on Instagram. As much as I loathe to admit it, the millennial mentality when it comes to relationships is: If this relationship isn’t serving me or my needs 24/7 then I’m onto the next. What this generation fails to realize is that with any relationship it’s about give AND take. For those of us who are Christians we are called by Christ to GIVE more than we take. In a society which thinks, “what have you done for me lately?” Having the illusion of an option is disastrous.

Sure, it’s easy to swipe left or right on dating apps such as Tinder or Match, that person only sees what it is you portray to the outside world. They haven’t seen you at your absolute worst and there’s no guarantee they’ll love you when you’re far from lovable. None of us are perfect, we’re all flawed in different ways, finding someone you connect with is so rare in this world that throwing a sure thing away should be the last thing we ever want to do.

Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t have filters. Marilyn Monroe was definitely onto something when she said “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”. If anyone is lucky enough to have met someone who loves you even at your absolute worst should hold onto them. Sure, the grass may seem a little greener on the other side. Take a moment to look a little closer and you’ll see that’s all that there is…grass. No home. No picket fence. No future.

One thing we must always remember as a society when thinking about testing the waters with someone else is to imagine your first fight with that person, your first family emergency, your first health crisis. The first time they see you sick or finances get tight. Most of us look at other people through rose gold colored filters, that we forget how wealthy we already are. One look at a celebrity Instagram account can make it easy to take things for granted. That’s the world we live in, but we must take ownership of our self worth as well as the worth of those who think through thick and thin that we’re already worthy enough of their loyalty and  love.

Love you. Mean it.

Brittany & Nino

Xoxo Xoxo

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