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Expert: How BFFs can ensure besties’ romantic relationships last

Friends can play a vital role in shaping their close friends’ romantic relationships. They tend to act as influential third parties whose impact on the OG relationship can be profoundly positive or strikingly negative. In particular, “Best Friends Forever” (BFFs) occupy a unique position of trust and intimacy – able to provide much-needed support, honest and raw advice, and act as a sounding board for relationship challenges.

However, this closeness also means that their opinions and actions can inadvertently introduce bias, insecurity or conflict. The influence of BFFs on romantic relationships has seen some couples break up when their friend’s partner does not talk, act or behave ‘right’ in their eyes, treat them in a certain unexplained way, or is not ‘right’ for their friend according to some distorted set of standards.

So what can BFFs who have their friends’ best interests at heart do to break away from the stereotype that BFFs tend to ruin their friends’ romantic relationships, especially if they have unspoken feelings for their friends? How can they be the “spark” that could ignite their friends’ romantic relationships, encourage them and ensure their relationships last?

According to Nairobi-based counselling psychologist Audrey Oluyole, BFFs should find a way to strike a balance between supporting their best friend and respecting the romantic relationship.

“There should be healthy boundaries, effective communication and mutual respect to maintain individual romantic relationships and close friendships. This includes understanding and valuing each other’s needs, feelings and boundaries,” Ms Oluyole said.

“Best friends should recognise that their friend’s romantic partner is an important part of their lives. This means understanding if plans change or if their friend needs to prioritise their partner.”

“Best friends should avoid projecting their experiences or prejudices onto their friends’ relationships. Instead, they should offer objective and subjective advice. Promoting independence and respect means encouraging friends to make decisions about their romantic relationships rather than trying to control or overly influence those decisions.”

She said healthy boundaries between BFFs mean the romantic relationship is protected and not overstepped in the name of support.

“Friends should have discussions about the time they spend together versus the time they spend with their partners. This includes understanding when it is appropriate to have friends-only time and when it is appropriate to include partners in social activities. It is important to respect privacy in both friendships and romantic relationships, and this means that BFFs should not pry into every detail of their friend’s romantic relationship unless they are willing to share it. That’s respecting your BFF’s personal space and privacy,” adds Ms Olyuole.

But how do you deal with a BFF who is jealous and insecure about their friend’s romantic relationship?

According to Ms Oluyole, open discussions should take place, with boundaries set so that all parties feel comfortable and any instances of the BFF undermining the romantic relationship in the future.

“Open and honest communication is key to maintaining both friendships and romantic relationships. By having regular check-ins and honest conversations about how everyone is feeling, any issues that arise can be addressed in advance. These check-ins can ensure that boundaries are respected and potential conflicts are resolved early on. When discussing sensitive issues, using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements can help express feelings without sounding accusatory. For example, ‘I feel like we haven’t spent much time together lately’ instead of ‘You always put your partner before me’,” Ms Oluyole explained.

She went on to advise clear expectations about how much time best friends can expect to spend together in light of the romantic relationship. In addition, taking the time to listen to each other’s perspectives on the romantic relationship without interacting or offering immediate solutions can help BFFs and the romantic partner better understand each other’s needs.

“Compromise is essential in all relationships. So friends should work together to find solutions that respect both their friendship and their romantic relationship. Balancing a close friendship with a best friend and a romantic relationship requires mutual respect, well-established boundaries and effective communication. In this way, best friends can support each other’s romantic relationships while nurturing their own friendships. This balanced approach can ensure that both relationships thrive in harmony,” concluded Ms Oluyole.

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