Sex & Relationships

A Case For Celebrating Friendship Milestones

Two female friends celebrating their friendship milestone on a sand beach
Courtesy of Griffin Wynne

The night before Thanksgiving, I stopped at the packie (that's Boston for "liquor store") to pick up cheap beer, a deck of cards, and a case of black cherry White Claw. As I walked back to my car, a flurry of group chat messages flooded my inbox. "Can someone grab cards?" One friend wrote. "Will Venmo for seltzer," another texted.

"I got you," I replied. What I really meant? "We got each other."

We've been practicing this tradition for nearly a decade. It's our version of celebrating an anniversary, a friendship milestone we honor annually. My hometown friends and I all live in different states and have separate jobs, interests, social lives, and responsibilities. Getting together takes an extraordinary amount of effort and coordination, but we always congregate at someone's parents' house the night before Thanksgiving for townie bars, drunken card games, dancing, bad British accents, and ordering Domino's before bed.

Being there for my friends feels as instinctual as blowing on hot coffee or turning up the radio when Sheryl Crow comes on. And this night serves as a loving reminder of our long-term commitment to each other.

Going out of my way for my friends feels as second nature as doing something for myself.

Blame it on an early obsession with Britney Spears or watching too many 2000s teen dramas, but I grew up placing more value on relationships than friendships. When you were someone's "girlfriend," it seemed, you got special treatment: presents on birthdays, flowers on anniversaries, and a reserved spot in the front seat without needing to call "shotgun!" Friends just got warm Bud Lights and had to double buckle in the backseat.

In his 2006 essay, “For Lovers and Fighters,” writer and trans activist Dean Spade investigates the societal prioritization of romantic relationships, especially for women and AFAB people. "[Normative ideas of romance] define women's worth solely in terms of success at finding and keeping a romance," Spade writes. "[Women] measure themselves against this norm, working to change their bodies, behaviors, and activities to meet the requirements of being suitable for romance."

In hetero-monogamous culture, a romantic partner is something to be won, making friendship seem like a consolation prize. But Spade explains that the prioritization of romantic relationships can be harmful to friends and partners alike. Thinking your friendships are less important than your romantic relationships limits the support and connection you receive from your friends. It puts pressure on your partner to be your only source of social and emotional connection.

One way to dismantle this ingrained sense of hierarchy between romantic and platonic relationships is to "treat the people you date more like your friends and treat your friends more like the people you date." That doesn't mean making out with your bestie or forcing your partner to watch bad chick-flicks with you. It means giving your friends the "special treatment" you may traditionally give a partner, including celebrating relationship milestones.

Tell your friends you love them, commit to your future together, make a point to spend time together, and celebrate friendship anniversaries in order to acknowledge that their friendship is a priority for you. Maybe you go out for dinner each year on the night you met or get together each winter to ski or each summer for a camping trip. Perhaps you pick one Thursday night each month to catch up on Zoom. You can even fall into the same routine you've had since you were teenagers — the night before Thanksgiving.

My hometown friends give each other a type of "special treatment" that I never knew existed: We go out of our way to spend time together just because we like to spend time together. And going out of my way for my friends feels as second nature as doing something for myself. When we do get together, it's like no time has passed at all.

Through the years, my friends and I have dated too many people to count, but we've always been able to count on each other — and that's something worth celebrating.