Most of us like to think that we’re loyal to our family and friends – it almost goes without question. However, what people think of as ‘loyalty’ can differ greatly from one person to the next.
Some families pride themselves on being loyal to one another, no matter what the circumstances. This can sometimes result in an exclusiveness or ‘inner circle’ into which no-one else can intrude partly because they don’t know what the ‘rules’ of that circle are and because family members are so loyal to one another that it makes them tight-lipped about ongoing issues that might otherwise be resolved.
Loyalty is often thought of as an honourable character trait and implies that you have the ability to put others before yourself and to stick with them no matter what happens. There are some ground rules about this though and where friendship is concerned, and I am detailing a few of them below. Further on I will look at how loyalty, or lack of it affects your partner and your relationship. Here are some of the ground rules regarding friends:
- Taking time to look at your friends’ needs – this is about being generous with your time, making sure that you listen to them when things are hard and helping them out by being an extra pair of hands. It’s also being there to laugh and cry with.
- Being supportive, no matter what – this means supporting/being loyal to a friend, not because you want something back from them but because you want them to be happy.
- Not talking behind their backs – if you’re having a problem with a friend, don’t stab them in the back by starting a rumour or by talking to other people about them. Instead, talk to them and learn to share your feelings with them as this will usually keep the friendship strong and healthy.
- Give them your honest opinion – don’t just say what they want to hear but at the same time, be tactful when you’re doing so. Sometimes it’s hard to give your opinion but if you can back up your opinion with solid reasons, it will be easier for them to hear.
- Balance your loyalty to one friend with loyalty to another – sometimes you will find yourself in a tight spot because being loyal to one friend might mean being disloyal to another. Don’t pick sides and try to be fair – explain to both friends where you’re coming from and hopefully they’ll recognise that you respect both of them and their opinions. If they hold that against you then maybe they weren’t the friend you thought they were.
- Finally, balance your loyalties to friends with your own day-to-day needs. Being loyal to a social organisation or volunteer group at the expense of your family and friends may well result in feelings of loss and suffering regarding your relationships. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
Where your partner is concerned, thinking about the following can be helpful where loyalty is concerned:
- Loyalty is something that usually builds up over time – it’s like trust that needs to be increased on the basis of evidence but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have boundaries for yourself or others.
- Don’t put yourself in situations where your loyalty could slip – we’ve all been in those situations. Maybe your girl/boyfriend is going out or is away and another friend you’ve been a bit flirty with, suggests meeting for a drink. If you’re honest, you know it spells trouble so be loyal to your partner, even if you’re not entirely sure of them.
- If you’ve crossed that line and done something to lose the trust of your partner, it’s going to take time to regain their trust. Stay loyal from now on, spend time doing something they love and make an effort to get on with their family and friends, hard though that may be sometimes.
- If you need a little help being loyal – think about what you’ve got to gain. Your loyalty will usually inspire their own loyalty and the reward is feeling secure, happy and trusting.
- It really hurts when our loyalty leaves us open to vulnerability – but that’s not a reason to distrust your partner automatically.
- Behave in a way that you’d like your partner to behave – that is, with integrity and principles.
If you’re struggling to be loyal to someone close to you or you feel that someone has betrayed you and not shown loyalty, counselling could be a way of helping you to come to terms with what’s happened.