I asked myself this post’s titular question last week when I found myself at odds with two friends about the frequency in which they asked about my relationship. The first quarrel was initiated by a routine “catch me up” conversation via text with a dear friend of mine. We exchanged brief updates regarding the status of our sanity, work, and friends. I then asked her about her love life, in which she giddily revealed that her relationship had recently reached new heights. I was thrilled for her and expressed my congratulations with copious amounts of heart emojis, exclamation marks, and gifs of cartoons swooning.
A lover of love, the adrenaline rush I gained from our exchange inspired me to open up and offer an update on the state of my love life. I mentioned that my long-distance boyfriend and I were, slowly but surely, planning a trip to Amsterdam in the fall. Her response was “I hope you go, that would be fun.”
I hope you go, that would be fun. I dissected each word, wincing at the palpable dubiousness in hope and would. The emptiness in her response felt heavy, and soon my overly sensitive, word-obsessed brain started spinning. That’s all she has to say? No followup? No heart emojis or gifs of cartoons swooning?
I know how this looks. Enthusiasm and love should always be shared with no expectations, from a purely genuine and unselfish place. My excitement for my friend’s much deserved romantic win came from such a place. I was happy because she was happy, not because I was looking for validation of my own victories in the love game.
And yet there I was, spiraling into a tailspin of insecurity and anger outside of my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. After briefly weighing the pros and cons of my impending action, I told her how I was feeling. I shared that I was so tired of always caring so much about my friends’ relationships while they barely recognized mine. I told her that all of this ultimately made me question the depth of my friendships and whether my friends actually care about me.
The little resentments I gathered (and swept under the rug) toward my friends in the months since I reconciled with my long-time, long-distance love, all came out. Surprising my friend and even myself.
The second quarrel erupted when I told my roommate and close friend about the first disagreement. She understood where I was coming from, but challenged me, offering a counterargument that stopped me in my tracks.
“Kui, you don’t really talk about Will, which makes us think that you’re not comfortable talking about him or the relationship.”
Later that night in bed, I thought about that very accurate rebuttal to my frustrations. I played back social gatherings and one on one dinners over in my head. My reluctance to share the inner workings on my union was unavoidable. I rarely offered anecdotes about my boyfriend and I’s daily conversations, or coyly shared sweet nothings he tells me before bed. I didn’t feel safe for some reason and my friends had picked up on that energy.
So they didn’t ask.
Why was I so territorial over my relationship? I think we find ourselves fiercely protecting our relationships because the rarity and difficulty of sustaining a happy union are always present. For the first time in my life, I finally feel what it means to share a life with someone. I feel what it means to have someone be an intimate witness of my life and my being. I feel the strength in that, and the fragility in it too.
Like many others, my boyfriend and I have had a unique journey. We’ve been ripped apart and, after a lot of work and patience, found our way back to each other. All of this, sprinkled with an assortment of abandonment issues and distant memories of situationships past, have made it extremely difficult to let my loved ones into my love.
The instinct to protect your relationship is good. Something so precious and easily corrupted by outside forces requires a degree of shelter and care. But the people around you who also love you want to be involved in your happiness. A wonderful thing is when you give those people that opportunity…
Happiness is both something you should hold close to you and share generously so it grows.
I’ve been trying to multiply my happiness by way of letting my friends into my relationship. I’ll slip in an anecdote about us here or a fun fact about him there. It’s not second nature just yet, but I already feel closer to my friends and to my boyfriend. I was over protecting my relationship, but by letting go and letting others in, I’m starting to see that love can truly be abundant.