When I’m out with my friend group—and no one’s partners are there—a party setting always creates some friction. As much as we try to ignore it, there’s a split between those in an exclusive relationship and those who are single. Although I can’t generalize all friend groups, I think it’s common for this divide to exist.
The friends in a relationship are often pressured and guilted by the single friends to party harder than they intended or to even go out in the first place. There might be a judgemental, “you can still have fun without your partner, you know?” or a nagging “come on, don’t be boring. Who cares what *name of s.o.* thinks!” Meanwhile, those in the single camp might be reprimanded with a firm, “dude, stop running off” or a bothered eye roll by their cuffed friends when they opt to stay out later than planned.
Everyone wants to be on the same page, but I think this hope is what creates discord. We are used to being on the same playing field as our friends. Growing up, they usually live nearby, share the same school workload, and even participate in the same extracurricular activities. Everyone’s head is in a similar place with comparable responsibilities and commitments. Those friendships were convenient and straightforward to navigate. Because of these initial experiences, I think people sometimes feel they need homogeneity to get along well. But we run into trouble when we continue to depend on unanimity to support our relationships.
In her article, “Do Your Friends Have a Toxic Pack Mentality?” psychologist Dr. Caroline Kamau-Mitchell explains how destructive this mindset can be. It results in tendencies symptomatic of “groupthink,” where friends police each other into conformity. It might be more under the surface than overt policing, but we all know the power yielded by a close friend’s look of disapproval. I don’t think it’s healthy for these moments of tension to arise when people have differing party mindsets. It’s appropriate for people to behave differently depending on their relationship status, and I think that if we respected this, our frustrations with one another would dissipate.
Inevitably, the two parties have somewhat opposing interests and objectives for the night out. Single friends feel that the possibilities are endless. They could fall in love with a stranger, stay out till the sunrise, or end up at a nearby bar they’ve never heard of. Meanwhile, those in relationships typically have someone to check in with or come home to. They might also feel more guarded around strangers and alcohol to avoid flirting amidst the club and bar scene’s ever-present hookup culture. Nonetheless, I think these two modes of partying can be compatible.
If we remind ourselves that each of us is in our own, perfectly valid lane, we can ease our irritation. For instance, if your friend wants to stay out till 3 am and you are done for the night, it’s perfectly okay to say your goodbyes and get your sleep. Or, if your friend does not want to drink and you do, you still have every right to! If we accept our own choices and respect our friends, we let go of the judgment paranoia that brews unspoken tension.
The further we progress into adulthood, the more crucial it is to come to peace with our friend’s varying priorities and predicaments. Whether your friend is going crazy or being tamer, talking up a storm, or focused on dancing, what matters most is that you look out for and lift up each other all the while.