Honk if you've ever yelled "how can you guys be friends!" at a friend.
I’ve been thinking about loyalty lately.
Here’s a version of loyalty: I had a friend who got divorced under awkward circumstances. Though the partner had committed what in my mind was a pretty major offense, they’d copped the misdemeanor to aging. So there was forgiveness. However, this did not stop the offending partner from dumping the victimized friend. I need something else. And this really bothered me more than anything else. Really it should’ve been the other way around. I can’t possibly forgive you. So I immediately cut all ties with the partner, unfollowed or blocked them on all of my social media accounts; made loud guffawing sounds whenever their name came up and rolled my eyes if it was inappropriate to make noise.
At one point a couple years later, my friend told me I was being unreasonable about the ex. They said “I’m giving you permission to be cool, especially if you run into them at this point.” I said that it was in public that I would feel most emboldened to ice the partner. I didn’t think they deserved my regard. However, I agreed to my friend’s suggestion because they said it would make them more comfortable. A few days later the partner texted to congratulate me on some public thing I did, and I realized that the two were in communication and almost certainly had a conversation about me. That was their loyalty to each other, manifesting. And I thought that was actually kind of lovely.
Here’s another version of loyalty: I was dumped by a friend (platonic but “dumped” all the same) a few years ago because I was unsupportive of their partner. That her loyalty to her husband superseded some clear red flags did not surprise me, but that I never got the chance to explicitly call out the flags or naturally outlive their relationship, did. I was heartbroken and crippled by my sadness for weeks. I missed my friend so terribly. Through fits and sobs, I rebuilt my ego with a therapist who (reluctantly) suggested I may have run into a husband with a personality disorder who was now leveraging loyalties between his wife and me in order to protect himself. Making his partner and friends beef was his way of gaining control. Time away from them did not have any dimming effect on my capacity to love people, thankfully. And what do you know…I even had a chance to resolve the conflict with this friend.
My last story: I changed how I organize my professional relationships forever when I found myself on the painful end of a legal dispute. I thought compartmentalization was enough, but it turns out it is not. I still need love. I need love to enjoin all of our relational capacities—professional, platonic, romantic and otherwise.
So I am desperately trying to mature my understanding of loyalty. I want to stop assuming an offense to me is enough to change the world. I want to stop waiting to be rescued by strong connections. I don’t want proof that I matter. I wish so badly it did not matter how people availed themselves to me. I wish it did not matter how you avail yourself to me.
This form of loyalty is a liability.
Loyalty should be a commitment to the heartbreak rather than the anger. I would rather commit to the heartbreak than to rescuing its perpetrators with any more acrimony. True loyalty would mean forgiveness. And I wonder if I can be that loyal.