This time a year ago you'd probably find me sat on a train swamped with pages and pages of personality questionnaires, hoping that my answers would find me a lifetime companion, the person that would be my best friend and partner forever. I had so little faith in my own relationship decisions that I thought a TV show would fix it for me. Well, as you know, that's not exactly how it went. What I did find was not only a group of amazing new friends but a renewed love and appreciation for the ones that had been in my life for months and years. Now I definitely wouldn't recommend going through what we did to get to this realisation but I do believe that you don't have to marry a stranger to learn more about companionship and commitment.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people will walk in (and out) of your life, each with a purpose and at least a few memories and lessons. I'm lucky enough to have met a lot of really great people...including these ones...
The Ones You've Had For Years
These are the ones that I learn the most from. Their loyalty doesn't waiver. They've known you at your best and your worst and they're still here. Don't underestimate the honesty you can have with these friends and apply it to everyone you value in your life, from your mum to your boss. These are the ones that you can't bullshit and will call you out on it if you do.
They will also fiercely protect you in your truest form. One of my closest friends genuinely tried to hire someone to kidnap me on the morning of the wedding because he thought I would get hurt. Turns out he didn't have the £15k to pay the kidnapper (and I'm sure he could have spent it more wisely than that!) but he tried everything in his power to stop me and then, even after he was proven right and my magical TV marriage so surprisingly failed, he never said 'I told you so'.
My oldest friends are my voice of reason and often they know me better than myself. These are the ones whose voice you should search inside you when you're making those important decisions in your other relationships and they're the ones who deserve your time and respect. Don't underestimate their wise owl abilities and certainly don't neglect them when they need you too!
The Ones You Talk To Every Day
So I'm talking about the friends here who you get a million whatsapp messages from a day (I had 800 once from the MAFS whatsapp group when I didn't look at my phone for a few hours one evening...I was with J and didn't want to neglect him, despite the constant glow and flash from my phone!).
These guys are crucial to those little decisions as well as some of the bigger ones. They may have been around for a few weeks or years, they may disappear tomorrow, but they know you, as you are right now, Day to Day. They'll tell you which boots to buy (always black or brown), where to take your date (Caro gets points for the floating garden here!) and if that message you sent last night after 8 glasses of Pinot was a huge mistake (nearly always, yes.). They'll disappear sometimes when they're living their own life but they'll still be there, watching those notifications pop up on after the other, keeping track of your meltdown about your mum calling your boyfriend your ex's name all night (thanks Chrissie). Use them but absolutely under no circumstances abuse them. They're your daily advice column and 'Dear Diary' and there will nearly always be one of them around when you really need someone (even when they're in Miami and it's 2am and you've woken up with an anxiety attack...thanks Sonia!).
The Ones That Have Walked into Your Life Recently (or stayed briefly)
I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason and that includes people coming into your life for a short amount of time. These are the ones that teach you about making a great first impression and (in some ways) being the best person you can be. Let's be honest, once someone's been in your life for a little while you let go a little (again this can be great, I'll come to that in a bit). I sometimes feel like I am the happiest, most fun and easygoing I can be when I first meet someone. Those that have known me for longer (and saw that fantastic edit...thanks Channel 4) will tell you how much of a pain I can be; I overthink, I control and I could definitely lighten up a bit!
At the start of every relationship, we make quick judgements but we also forgive some of the little things because we see the shiny new positives. This is something we can definitely learn from further along in relationships, remembering how much effort we made for the other person and how much we enjoyed getting to know them.
The Ones Who Hang Around In The Background
They might be your bestie's friend from uni or your cousin's wife, your friend from primary school you haven't hung out with since you were 13 or just someone you don't have that much in common with. I have a lot of these people in my life and I definitely know more about them through their Facebook pages than their real life lives. There's no massive investment here but you would happily have a drink with them once or twice a year.
These guys sit somewhere in the middle. You're a nice person around them and you enjoy their company but you probably wouldn't go out of your way to please them. Don't dismiss these relationships though, they're incredibly helpful in your life and your longer term relationships!They're your marker, the judgement of when something is really worth your energy and emotion. If your partner of 6 months asks you to do something you're not that keen on, think a little of the background friends. Don't take me too literally here and stand up your boyfriend for dinner just because you can't be fucked after a long day at work, but think about what really matters to you and him and make your decision based on that.
Learn from them.
Don't forget any of them.