So this piece is going to be controversial perhaps, particularly in our current world where abusive romantic relationships seem to be commonplace at times. And I am certainly not discounting friendship or family bonds. True friendship and an honestly supportive family are two of the most miraculous, beautiful things someone can experience in life and they definitely shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The thing is though? Not everyone has true friendship and not everyone has an honestly supportive family. And I don’t enjoy reading advice that tells people how to prioritize their love based on the label on the relationship.
I put my small family of J and our son over everything. That’s true. But my extended family? I mean, they want outsiders to believe they’re all always there for each other no matter what, but the truth is…they’re not. I have 24 first cousins…not counting in-laws or ‘once/twice/thrice removed’s’…MAYBE one of them would show up for me if I needed something, several of them have actively let me down, and yet, all of them would have been pissed off if they weren’t invited to my wedding to J. ?????
So I don’t put the family I grew up with over everything, and I don’t feel like people should be made to feel guilty for not doing enough/sacrificing enough even for their small family. If you’re an adult, and your parents were/are abusive or neglectful or otherwise harmful and unsupportive, you don’t have to give up your career or move back to the city you grew up in to mend fences with them as they get older. You really don’t. Same with siblings. And certainly with family members who are more distant and tenuous connections. It’s not wrong to want reciprocation in a relationship…the feeling and confidence that the other party is putting in effort just like you and can be counted upon just like you and values you the way you value them. It’s okay to not pour into people who only take and don’t give back and never have given back.
Family doesn’t have to be placed over everything.
These are silly, arguably offensive sayings featured in goofy sitcoms, but I’ve seen this same advice doled out in more tactful, serious ways on countless occasions. Yes, true friends and a supportive family will look after you and want your health and success and happiness to flourish, so if they express concerns about your romantic partner, those observations and opinions shouldn’t be wholesale discarded. And if you are lucky enough to have a true friend and/or a supportive family, forsaking them for new relationship energy like you no longer value them is unwise and hurtful. Maybe your friends and family HAVE been there for you for years to decades and their judgment isn’t clouded by new relationship energy like yours might be. Maybe their feelings will be hurt, like they’ll feel like you were just using them until you found a romantic partner if you just drop into social obscurity when you’ve found a new romantic partner. Maybe it scares them if your behavior has changed because of a new romance (or even a new friendship), and they worry you’re sacrificing important parts of yourself for the sake of a new, potentially temporary relationship. I get all of that. I really do. But sometimes ‘friends’ and family members are using YOU; and the encroachment on your availability to them and your willingness to make plans with them by a new person in your life (even if it’s just a new friend, not even a romance), regardless of your own happiness is enough for them to project negativity about that new person to you. And if you’re a person like me…someone whose family and ‘friends’ don’t really KNOW or even care to know the deep, important parts of you…someone whose family and ‘friends’ have never made you feel safe and accepted…someone who has learned through repeated attempts to trust and repeated efforts to form real connections that their family and ‘friends’ can’t be counted upon…it’s OKAY to put your romantic partner ahead of those people if your romantic partner DOES give you ‘safe and accepted’ and ‘can be counted upon.’
In my life, J and our son come first. I know it’s expected that my child is my top priority, and maybe it’s even expected that J is on the top of that list too, because we’re married and have been for years. But with me personally? J has come first since almost the moment we met. J IS my best friend. He’s proved he can be trusted, relied upon, and that he values and accepts me all the time, which is something I never got from my family or ‘friends.’ I’ve had self-proclaimed well-intentioned people in my life question my behavior because of J’s presence in my life. They think I’m deluded because at long last, when J entered my life, I seemed HAPPY. When your happiness becomes a red flag to people in your life, they might not be your friends.
I’m not saying everyone should prioritize their relationships the way I do and have. I’m certainly not advising anyone to place a romantic partner (especially a new one) over their CHILDREN. Or over anyone else that makes them feel safe and valued. But if your romantic partner IS the person who makes you feel content and calm and safe and loved the most? It’s okay to not put ‘bros before hoes,’ or ‘ovaries before brovaries.’ It’s okay to not put ‘family over everything.’ Some arbitrary quote backed up by social pressure to appear a certain way to other people shouldn’t cloud your judgment about which relationships fulfill your life and deserve your attention and effort. Your own moral code and logic and emotions and perception of connections should guide those priorities instead.