Jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins, and yet it’s so ingrained in human nature that it can seem inevitable. True satisfaction is incredibly hard to obtain, as we’re always comparing ourselves to the person next to us. Often, jealousy manifests itself into something that is inherently self-conscious and paranoid, fearing that another subject exists as a threat to our own happiness.
From the first friendships we make, on the playground during toddler days, we learn that loyalty is one of the most important aspects of sustaining these relationships. Soon, this loyalty translates to exclusivity, professions of one friend being the closest to us. For the first few years of interaction, this is how we define kinship, by who puts us first, and who won’t leave us.
In many ways, this feeling translates into the existence of a “best friend.” A quick Google search informs that this person is defined as “a person’s closest friend.” While implicit from the title, this can also be very telling about this social status: the word “closest” implies singularity, a distinction above all others.
If you ask most people about the person they consider their best friend, their answers will typically revolve around memories reminiscent of earlier, more innocent times. These narratives can be manipulated by many factors, like when, where, or how they met. Whether two best friends met while making macaroni necklaces in Kindergarten or in an office cubicle as adults, they have a certain fondness about them, a wistful nostalgia for a time where they didn’t know how their memories would unfold. Similarly, if you ask most people about a best friend who they no longer consider a friend, their answers share similar themes. At its core, most responses carry an element of betrayal. Breaking this relationship is antithetical to the definition stated before, that these two were supposed to be locked together in friendship. When that person is no longer “closest,” the bond is broken.
Based on this, it should be no surprise that many “best friend” relationships can turn into a sort of competition, an effort to ensure that the other doesn’t betray the principle of closeness. As such, in can be difficult to be happy for a best friend strongly cultivating a relationship with someone else. It can seem that, as one friend gets closer to another, the idea of a best friend unravels. Ironically, more often than not, it is this fear that destroys the best friend dynamic, as it reveals a lack of trust, even if it doesn’t come from a malicious place. But when your best friend begins to become close to someone else, what is the right step to make?
Many times, the best approach to take is a rejection of the concept of a “best friend” in its entirety. Having to label a relationship in specific terms can reveal hidden insecurity and lack of trust. True best friends should understand the closeness in their relationship without needing a social moniker to validate it. Furthermore, the idea that any new friend will complicate this initial relationship beyond repair is a reductive mindset. Defining your relationship individually, not comparatively, is often the best move.
Of course, if someone you consider your best friend is engaging in any action that upsets you, reaching out about it is crucial. If your friend begins ignoring you, using a new friend as leverage, etc., these behaviors are emotionally manipulative and need to be confronted. However, in the majority of cases where feelings of jealousy are not intentional, going beyond a reductive “best friend” definition allows for the best relationships. After all, many of the best parts of friendship are unspoken.