Want Healthy Relationships? Ditch Loyalty
This tired ideal does a lot more harm than good.
Love triangle didn’t quite cover it. We were more of a pentagram. My best friend had told my fiance a secret. One that he wouldn’t share with me. Until I threatened to dump him.
That’s when he told the truth. My best friend had slept with my second best friend’s fiance. Seven times.
So there I was, caught between the most important people in my life. They were all going to make me choose.
It’s the kind of thing that can make your head explode.
Or your heart. If you have one.
My fiance didn’t like the ultimatum. He said, “I can’t believe you’re making me do this. She made me promise not to tell anyone.”
Long term, none of that mattered. My fiance and I split less than a year later. So did my second best friend and hers.
Something else always comes along to claim your loyalty. The concept means almost nothing. Other words do a way better job at describing our relationships.
We’ve all grown apart since then. Not just because of the betrayal and sabotage. People move away. Start families. New priorities rise up. Something else always comes along to claim your loyalty.
The concept means almost nothing. Other words do a way better job at describing our relationships. Responsibility. Duty. Trust. Respect. Mutual interest. Personally, that one’s my favorite. No bullshit there. People work together toward a common goal.
You know you can trust someone when you both stand to benefit. Nobody’s going to screw you if it means screwing themselves.
Sound jaded? Don’t worry, throwing away the idea of loyalty will make you happier. You don’t need it.
Loyalty carries a lot of baggage, along with words like obligation and sacrifice. I mean, come on. If you really want to spend your life with someone, then you’re not sacrificing anything.
You’re making a choice about what you want more.
In a perfect world, everyone who decides to become a spouse or parent would stick with it. In my worst moments, I’ve never wanted to actually leave my family. And I can’t think of a situation where that would change.
The last thing you want is someone hanging around only due to a false sense of loyalty, pride, or obligation. Screw that. You deserve better.
Meanwhile, I’ve known enough shitty husbands and dads. Wives and moms. People who ruin their families, or just walk away.
My advice: let them.
The last thing you want is someone hanging around only due to a false sense of loyalty, pride, or obligation. Screw that.
You deserve better.
Mutual interest does a lot more legwork than you think. It was the only thing that convinced my fiance to tell me the truth.
My friend had sought his loyalty. I, on the other hand, simply told him it was impossible to trust someone who kept secrets. Especially if they also told me they were doing it — apparently to seek my sympathy.
That’s right. He wanted me to feel bad for him, for choosing to keep a secret from me, for my own best friend.
My fiance had to make a choice about what he valued more. His weird, misplaced loyalty to my friend. Or me.
He chose me, that time.
You know, I probably should’ve just dumped him.
After that, I had to decide what to tell my second best friend. A lot of thought went into my options. Ultimately I told her nothing. Loyalty offered no guidance here. In the end, it just wasn’t my place to get involved. Staying silent felt disloyal. But it felt right.
Telling my friend would’ve been self righteous. After all, who was I to decide what should happen?
Loyalty usually offers nothing but a couple of trinkets and a t-shirt. It takes everything, though. Blind trust. Allegiance. Sacrifice. Someone who wants your loyalty doesn’t give a shit about you. They want you to serve them. Or a higher purpose. Watch out for those, too.
Some people love to pledge their loyalty. The word conjures up lofty images and makes us feel important. But it really only applies to a small handful of situations. I’m thinking of a secret service agent who takes a bullet. Or a soldier who gives up their life to save their unit.
Yes, that’s loyalty.
Most of what we do in the civilian world never approaches that level of commitment. So let’s lay off. Stop abusing the word.
Loyalty usually offers nothing but a couple of trinkets and a t-shirt. It takes everything, though. Blind trust. Sacrifice. Someone who wants your loyalty doesn’t give a shit about you.
We over-apply loyalty to relationships. Say what you want about the institution of marriage, but people have broken their vows ever since it was invented. Infidelity doesn’t pose a mortal threat to anyone.
It just sucks.
People cheat on each other and abandon their families all the time. A single mom or dad struggles on.
Responsibility makes a lot more sense when it comes to every aspect of our lives, including family and marriage. For example, every couple shares responsibility for the basic stuff — food, shelter, clothing. Transportation. Bills. If you think you’re loyal for contributing to your family, get over yourself. You’re really just meeting the bottom tier.
Congratulations, you’re not a shit bag.
You can take a small amount of pride in carrying your weight as a regular, decent human being.
We owe our spouses honesty. As in we’re not supposed to sleep with someone else, without telling them. And so on.
Beyond that, relationships aren’t that hard. You get what you put into them. Some of my friends of yore have wanted too much from me, and others didn’t give enough. We couldn’t meet in the middle.
So our friendships ended.
The best thing you can ask for in a relationship is long term mutual interest with benefits. That doesn’t sound very romantic. But it works really well. And it’s a lot harder to find that than you think.
Same thing applies to life partners. Right now, I’m in a relationship where we give and take equally. We don’t feel compelled to tell each other absolutely everything. But we don’t hide, either.
I’m not sure loyalty is the right word to describe what we have. More like long term mutual interest with benefits. We like having sex with each other, and in addition to that we trust each other’s judgment.
That doesn’t sound very romantic. But it works really well. And it’s a lot harder to find that than you think.
Loyalty makes us do stupid things. It carries an unfair sense of expectations. You can’t show loyalty to everyone. So stop trying.
None of my advice means you should only act out of self interest. A mature adult realizes that there’s no such thing. Your values and goals always get tangled up with other people’s.
Stop trying to be loyal. Cultivate honesty and fairness. Nothing comes in the form of lifelong guarantees. Build your friendships on mutual interest and respect, and you can’t go wrong.