Within the domains of both male friendship and female friendship exists a certain rule book, guideline or code of conduct that is rarely ever spoken of unless it is infringed upon or one sees the threat of it being infringed upon.
We know these codes of conduct as guy code and girl code.
The reason they are rarely ever spoken of is because they operate on the basis of empathy and if you don’t at the very least understand empathy, there’s little to no reason you would be permitted into a friend group in the first place.
No one wants to have to deal with someone who needs an explanation as to why you don’t date someone’s siblings, crush, or worst of all, someone’s ex. From what I’ve seen this seems to be the number one rule for both male and female friendships. Certain people are simply off limits.
But is this an absolute rule? Should it be an absolute rule?
I remember having a conversation years ago with someone who was an absolutist with the code. He believed that under no circumstances should he date anyone that their friend is interested in, was interested in or is related to.
My take was a bit more nuanced. By rule, people should try to steer clear of their friend’s past and present interests, in addition to their families because if things don’t work out, people have a tendency to choose sides, which sows seeds of enmity between people that didn’t need to be there if people just looked elsewhere.
However, if my friend came to me and told me that he was interested in someone I was or am interested in, I might have no issue with this. Maybe even if it involved a sibling. What’s the caveat? What if they actually love each other? Am I really going to stand in the way of two people being happy together?
Maybe you would agree with what the absolutist said because he simply would’ve instructed those two people to redirect their attention elsewhere. This is where I raised an eyebrow.
Is girl code and guy code put in place to maintain friendships by minimizing the threat of romantic overlaps, or does it have a shadow function of maintaining the insecurities of everyone in the friend group?
If I genuinely loved someone that my friend was with and I had to choose between my friend and this person that I love, it’s a surefire way to know how deep the love really is.
But it is important to not let your decision be dictated by the emotional frailties of others. (That is, unless, you too have those same frailties.) You cannot make the mistake of thinking that you are responsible for the emotions of your friend. They are the only ones who have control over that.
Ironically, the absolutist ended up breaking bro code but so did I. The difference was how we handled it. He hid it for months, I confessed to it as soon as I could in person. Unfortunately, neither of the scenarios had anything to do with love.
Despite my failings, I still have to admit that if two people love each other and they happened to be a friend and a former flame, as much as it would pain me, I could get over it and be happy for them.
Maybe I’m lucky to know people that this had happened to and moved past because the love in romance and the love in friendship were too strong to allow insecurity to win. But this raises another point: as powerful as love is, lust is clearly quite powerful too.
It’s astounding that despite how sex-crazed society is, people still think they can side-step their libidos when in the presence of someone that sets off a spark that burns down the Appalachians. It’s naive really.
Whether it’s love or lust, it’s on and the more you fight against it, the more it will consume you.
In the same way two people can come together and feel the most transparent around each other, two people can come together innocently but then something sexual takes over that to deny it is an impossibility. Even if the two were to stay away from each other, their fear of each other reveals their actual feelings to anyone observant.
But before people start to accuse me of going back on what I said earlier about the code being important, I bring up the power of lust so that we learn to just give each other a break.
If you have never broken the code physically or in your heart and mind, that’s awesome. But I wonder if you’ve ever really been tested before. If you did and you passed, more power to you! When my test came, not only did I not recognize it, the tryst had the one thing that I desperately needed at the time — an apology.
Sounds absolutely strange, doesn’t it? Never knew an apology was such an aphrodisiac, but that’s my point.
Things can happen that you wouldn’t expect. Much like actual law, the code sometimes gets broken. You run a light, you kiss your friend’s ex. These are wrong because it illustrates that you lack empathy for your friend and other road users, but the guilt and shame doesn’t make a lot of sense when you remember that you’re a fallible human.
This is why you must admit if you mess up. Maybe you won’t have to go to traffic court, but you wouldn’t want your friend to be ignorant to the truth because then you’ve compounded selfishness with even more selfishness.
It may be hard but this is why I think that while the code will be broken sometimes, we need to extend love to each other and forgive when it happens.
Forgiveness should be a more explicit part of the code, although repeated failings should be enough to terminate the connection, in my opinion.
Between a friend who literally never messes up and a friend who messes up and sincerely apologizes, I don’t know which is better because I don’t know if anyone can claim to be an infallible friend.
But as someone who never thought he would ever break it, years later I’m still thankful I was forgiven.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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