Being A Good Girlfriend Is A Part-Time Job

Picture this: you’ve been invited to two weddings that fall on the same day. One is your close friend of 10 years, which you’ve known about for seven months. The other is your boyfriend of two years sister’s, which you’ve known about for a few days. You end up choosing the latter.
This real-life conundrum has been circulating on TikTok, with bystanders putting their stakes in the ground, firmly declaring who’s right and who’s wrong. “Your partner is th[e] biggest decision you make in your life. It determines everything. She’s choosing the life she’s building. I get it,” one comment reads. Others declare it to be “friendship ending” and a “betrayal”. 
Salacious friendship drama is social media’s raison d’etre, but this particular incident points to a much larger, recurring question: which relationships do you prioritise once you enter a romantic relationship
Showing up — enthusiastically and consistently — is an expected part of being a girlfriend. Proving yourself to a partner’s friends and family in hopes of receiving the tick of approval is part of the hazing process. 

This is what girlfriends do. Girlfriends plan, prioritise and please. Being a girlfriend is a part-time job. 

I attended years of weekly social futsal games my boyfriend played. He never asked me to come, but I felt it was my obligation to become a courtside WAG. I carved out time from my Wednesday nights to sit in the BO-heavy community gym, alongside the other girlfriends and friends of the players. 
Even Taylor Swift, arguably one of the most famous and busy people on Earth, has attended 10 Kansas City Chief games since September. And you'd better believe that she shows up dancing in custom merch and a matching red lip, even when temperatures dip well into the negatives. 
This is what girlfriends do. Girlfriends plan, prioritise and please. Being a girlfriend is a part-time job. 
A friend of mine shares that every year, she’s expected to attend 20 to 30 of her boyfriend’s family’s events. That’s a birthday, christening, anniversary or celebration almost every fortnight. We’re allocated little free time when we work full-time; weekends make up only 28% of our week. That sacred personal time only shrinks when there’s a significant other and their commitments to consider as well as your own. 
This isn’t an inherently bad thing, of course. There’s a lot to gain from the joining of two lives; double the friends and family, for one. But the telling answer lies in who sacrifices more in a pair. 
There’s a hidden gendered expectation when it comes to this in heterosexual relationships. After hearing about the wedding invite debacle, TikTok user Brittany Paige recalled this passage from Dolly Alderton’s memoir, Everything I Know About Love.
“A woman always slots into a man's life better than he slots into hers… She will be the one who makes friends with all of his friends and their girlfriends. She will be the one who sends his mother a bunch of flowers on her birthday.
“Women don’t like this rigmarole any more than men do, but they’re better at it — they just get on with it. This means that when a woman my age falls in love with a man, the list of priorities goes from this: family, friends, to this: family, boyfriend, boyfriend’s family, boyfriend’s friends, girlfriends of the boyfriend’s friends, friends.”
This phenomenon sees many women prioritising their partner’s family and friends over their own. It’s not dissimilar to the origins of marriage, where women would leave their family to join a man’s, symbolised by the physical leaving of the home and the changing of last names. (At the same time, in 2024, some women can’t even get their boyfriends to peel an orange for them.)
What’s considered being a ‘good girlfriend’ is wrapped up in innumerable layers. You have to be a best friend, a cheerleader, a lover, a walking Google calendar. You have to hold the potential of being a good wife, a good mother, and a good child-bearer. We have to embody all these attributes at once; a Madonna-whore amalgamation. Can we say that men are held to the same standard in heterosexual relationships
Time, effort and energy are markers of care, and girlfriends often shuffle around their own needs and wants to accomodate their partner. The hierarchy of priorities, as laid out by Alderton, shifts. Romantic love is held up to be the ultimate form of connection in Western society, to the point that it can eclipse other important bonds in your life. When you’re at one of your boyfriend’s engagements, is it at the expense of one of your own? 
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