I will have to admit at this point that I can be a tough cup of tea to swallow at times. I’m blunt. I’m bold. I’m outspoken. I speak my mind; and I do not let injustice or ignorance slide without speaking or doing what is right. I believe that lying is one of the worst things a person could do, so as a result I am overtly honest – too honest at times.
But I consider these to be good qualities – in fact, I believe that more people should be this way. Too often people patsy around the truth; or keep silent when something should be said. People dumb themselves down with rumors, gossip, and Old Wives Tales; rather than seeking to learn and grow. Often it seems people take information and knowledge to be an affront to them personally, rather than a way they can use the power of information to make themselves grow. And if people have the ability to help or make a change, to stand by and make excuses why they cannot (when really these are nothing more than excuses) – I think is one of the worst things a person could do. Complacency and comfortability is the cause of the stagnation which has ruined our society. We should want to strive to be better people at all times.
But there is a constructive way to do it and an unconstructive way to do it. There is a fine line between being honest and being rude – and, often, each circumstance must be evaluated carefully in the interest of preserving peace while staying true to honesty.
Ideally, we surround ourselves with people that are just like us – or like the way we strive to be. Thus, I am surrounded by some of the best and brightest people a person could ever have the good fortune of being around. This is not to say that I am the best or the brightest – it is to say that I surround myself with these people because I wish to be in the presence of good people so that maybe one day I can truly be good as well.
And then I got married.
Marriage brings in a much different set of people to your life. It brings in people that your significant other has in their own personal circle from family, friends, co-workers. It brings in people that may have different goals or motives to their relationships. It brings in others that act differently, prioritize differently, and communicate in a way that may be completely different than you. And just because you surround yourself with a certain set of people for a certain reason, this does not necessarily mean that your significant other surrounds themselves with people for the same reasoning. What I have learned in all of this since marriage, then, is that just as you can’t pick your friend’s spouse; you can’t pick your spouse’s friends.
This is not to say that I do not enjoy the company of my husband’s family, friends – even his coworkers. In fact, I enjoy their company sometimes more than that of my own circle. It is refreshing to have a different set of people around – with different ideas and experiences to learn from. But as I have mentioned before, the “hard cup of tea to swallow”-nature of who I am (or, perhaps, the way I communicate) – even when I have intentionally gone against my own code of conduct and filtered it in an effort to maintain peace; in conjunction with the different ways and motives for the way these other people are – has proven why these are my husband’s circle and not mine.
So you cannot pick your spouse’s friends. But (as I also mentioned) you cannot pick your friend’s spouse. It seems this is an easy way to lose friends, then – by taking the position that you actually can pick your friend’s spouse. To take this position is a grave one; for by implying that you can choose your friend’s spouse is to imply that your friend is incapable of making his or her own choices. I do not surround myself with people that think I make bad choices; and in fact, this is an easy way to lose friends for I do not know many people that do.
But to even further that, it seems that another way to call into question your friend’s ability to think for him/herself is to take it a step further and not only (a) imply that your friend cannot choose a spouse wisely, but also (b) imply the position that you refuse to maintain your friendship if that person’s spouse is around. When I first moved to California, I learned this the hard way, actually. I had a friend named Amber with a boyfriend named Mark – who I thought was a complete jerk. After a while, I filled myself with such righteous indignation that I truly believed that my friendship with Amber would persevere, even if I told her that Mark was a jerk and I didn’t want anything to do with him. Being young, immature, and naive, I did so – and I have not seen or heard from Amber since.
In 1937, Irving Tessler published his hilarious commentary “How To Lose Friends and Alienate People.” This book is a spry, witty commentary on the easiest ways to lose friends and isolate oneself from society. In the introduction of the book he begins by mentioning that one only need to follow the instructions in his book if avoiding weekly bridge games is desired (bridge was, of course, the thing to do in the 1930’s). Written over seventy years ago, among the top things a person could do to lose friends listed in Tessler’s book, bad-mouthing the spouse ranks the highest – the easiest.
It is so easy to be nice to people; to preserve your friendships, despite the changes each friend has in their own lives – and to do so and even still be yourself. If I (the blunt, outspoken, and overtly honest young woman) can consider this to be easy, it really is.