Is Girl Code A Thing?After a friend violates a boundary in the worst way, I examine my own history in breaking the girl code.

Is it in middle school that we learn about girl code? That bucket of unwritten, somewhat unclear rules that serve as a moral compass for how to treat your female friends makes up what we call girl code as adults. Included are rules like never talk badly about your friend’s girlfriend. Never prioritize your girlfriend over your friends. Never spread a rumour about another friend. And so on.

Then a few years ago, I ran straightaway into my biggest boundary-crashing friend ever. I had just broken up with my ex, and we were stupidly trying to remain friends. As the weeks wore on and we hung out together with mutual friends, something prickled in the back of my mind – an awareness that I shrugged off as paranoia at the time.

The message was: Ex and my friend are dating each other. It wasn’t confirmed until the eleventh hour when I could no longer avoid the truth and saw the evidence that they were dating right in front of my face. I was devastated. Not because of my ex. Pissed maybe, as I suspected she was formerly known as a friend before we broke up. I felt she could have just told me the truth, it would have at least allowed me some dignity. But mostly, I felt betrayed by my friend. Who does that? Dating friends’ exes is a classic girl code violation, right? At least until they’ve been broken up for a while? Putting aside my bruised ego, I realized for my well-being I had to quit hanging out with our mutual friends.

There just wasn’t anything healthy for me there, at least not at the time. Months later, as I cleaned out photos on my phone, a virtual trip down memory lane, it finally hit me. I drew people into my life with poor boundaries because I had poor boundaries. I could continue to feel like a victim in this situation or I could own up to my part in it.

I had no idea what this meant or how to do it better. But I did know I wanted to practice taking responsibility for myself, starting by stepping out of the victim role. I began by asking myself where have I made poor choices?

Then, because I thought I might need some help in this self-awareness journey, I took a course with Brene Brown, using her book, The Gifts of Imperfection (Brown, 2010). By completing some of the exercises in the course, I began to feel more self-compassionate and that helped me open my eyes and examine my role in the broken girl code situation.

A few years prior to dating Ex, I recalled that I cheated on a girlfriend for the first and last time ever. With a friend! Then, years later Ex and I started dating when we were just friends– sort of moving from friends to girlfriends in one post happy hour daze. I justified it at the time because we had both been single a while and I talked myself into believing it was a good idea to date a friend.

This realization gives way to the undeniable truth I had been avoiding: the solution to my perceived problem of women with poor boundaries in my life is to have better boundaries myself.  When it comes to girl code then, does it hold true that if I wish to attract people in my life who generally follow the girl code, then I just have to follow it myself? I don’t know. But I do know, that these days, rather than giving my friends or girlfriends the side-eye on the lookout for shady behaviour, I am more apt to check myself with one question. How are my boundaries in this situation?

After all, that’s all I can really control anyway.