By Veronica Wells
I like to joke that my father ruined me when it comes to public declarations of romantic love. From an early age, I remember watching some romantic comedy and him, leaning over to tell me something to the effect of, “Whatever you feel about the person you’re in love with, that’s something for only the two of you. No one else cares.”
And while I know that’s not entirely true, those words had a real impact on me. I consider myself a romantic and a lover of love, still; I often find myself rolling my eyes when people speak about their romantic partners. Not because I believe they’re lying or I’m not happy that they’ve found what we’re all searching for in one way or another. But mostly because far too often, people rely on cliches. And they make me wonder if folks are speaking from the heart or saying what they’ve been conditioned to believe is the right thing to say.
By now, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. Remember when Jerry MaGuire was released in the nineties? At the climax of the movie, Tom Cruise interrupts Renee Zellweger’s book club meeting to tell her not only does he love her but that she completes him. It was a good line. And for years afterward, it was the go-to. The penultimate way to express your love for someone. “You complete me” showed up in all types of wedding vows, anniversary speeches, illustrations on the internet, complete with interlocking puzzle pieces. It was everywhere, for years.
It wasn’t until Oprah, along with Dr. Robin Smith, debunked the myth of needing another person to complete us that people started to consider the fact that requiring another individual to make us whole is indeed problematic.
These days, the phrase has changed. There’s a new, acceptable way to speak about our love relationships. It’s “S/he’s my best friend.” Now, before y’all start throwing pitchforks, let me say that I know friendship is an important foundation in all relationships. And I don’t believe everyone is lying when they say their partners are their best friends. I just wonder if they really mean what they say, or they’re just repeating what they believe is the right thing to say. It’s all too common, everyone seems to be married to their best friend.
I think there’s value in being friends with your partner but also having relationships that fulfill our need for companionship and connection outside of romance. Platonic relationships are necessary because you’re not expecting or required to complete the same type of transactions you do in a romantic relationship. There is value in that difference.
|Tamar & Vince|
If you’ve watched the latest season of “Tamar and Vince,” you know that none of us would want a best friendship like what we’re seeing between these two right now. The whole season of the show can be described as Tamar inviting her friends on trips, telling them secrets and taking drastic actions instead of talking to her husband, her best friend, about what she’s feeling. And, in her defense, Vince hasn’t exactly made himself accessible or easy to talk to in the process. Whenever she broaches a subject he doesn’t like, he either talks about her attitude, tells her to “shut the f*ck up” or walks out of the room.
That’s just not friendship, not by anyone’s standards. I know Tamar and Vince are an extreme example. It’s clear that in the midst of all their dysfunction, she’s still trying to convince us that their relationship is something that it is not.
But that’s the point, Tamar is not the only one trying to sell us something. But perhaps the use of these phrases is not so cut and dry. Maybe these descriptors are so widely accepted because the feelings of love we have are often too deep and too vast, so we get lazy or overwhelmed and rely on what someone else has already said. We try to fit our relationships into someone else’s definition and then find ourselves hurt and disappointed when the label is not entirely accurate.