As a few of my friends are currently navigating their way into new romantic relationships, it brings me to write a post about how these blossoming romances affect their existing friendships. In a perfect world perhaps, this would be a smooth transition, however the reality is, new relationships do impact friendships, and not always in the most positive ways. At first, anyway.
I have to start by acknowledging that it does seem to be human nature, at least at large, in the society in which we live, that the desire to couple up is the strongest desire. I am not insinuating the choice to be single is invalid, just less common. As we age, the dating pool seems smaller, and singleness is less and less desirable. This is especially so for women in my age bracket hoping to have children, however in my observations of my life and the people in it, the urgency to be coupled up seems no less strong amongst women who have already completed their family in terms of reproducing.
While it is easy for those of us not facing the loneliness and isolation that single people often face, to tell them to enjoy their single time and make the most of it, I think it is fairly safe to assume that in similar circumstances we would also be keen to find a mate. In the process of doing that, friendships become paramount. They become our source of human connection, enjoyment and conversation. We are suddenly available again for girls nights, coffee dates and movies.
I have found my conversations with my single friends, and our catch ups far greater than those of my coupled counterparts. It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear from a single friend on a daily basis, but only to hear from a married one on a monthly basis or sometimes less. (This does not apply to ALL my married friends!) Communication only increases as a single friend enters the dating pool and wants to share with you his or her experiences with dates, the people they are seeing or chatting to, the disasters, heart breaks and funny stories. There is so much for them to share with you.
The seeking romance and dating stages are actually good for your friendships, regardless of if the friends are both single, or if one is loved up. It’s not perfect, nothing is. If both parties are single there can be an element of competition and jealousy, whereas if one is loved up, the single person may ask for more time and attention than the coupled party has to offer. That said, I still feel like this particular phase of dating is beneficial to friendships.
Of course, single or not, we all want our friends to be happy. So when she finally meets someone, and they change their status from “dating” to “relationship” you are actually genuinely happy for her…. However, and yes, you knew that was coming… It is part of the human condition to interpret all information through the “how does this impact me?” lens. You cannot deny that it will impact you. Suddenly the weekly dinners or work out sessions start getting cancelled, or moved to slots when the new partner is unavailable. Whereas you may have heard from her frequently before, suddenly there is radio silence from her. In extreme cases you may actually lose her as she just doesn’t have room for both of you in her life, and wants to give every waking moment of her time to her partner.
This hurts. I cannot and will not deny it. It can leave you questioning your whole friendship, did she ever like you at all? Was she just using you for something to do until someone better came along? Why doesn’t she value your time together anymore? Doesn’t she miss you? The truth hurts ladies. No she doesn’t really miss you, not at first. While there is a hole in your life, hers is suddenly fuller than ever. Do NOT take this personally. It is NOT about you!!! She is so busy thinking of her partner, she hasn’t even thought about you, and that has to be ok, at least for a while. Give your friend the space she needs to have this relationship and be happy. There is no point in fighting it or forcing it. Make yourself busy and start spending time with other people and doing other things, do not wait around for your friend to come back!
That sounds bleak. It isn’t. Be prepared to hear from your friend sporadically, when their partner is unavailable and they remember everyone else still exists, and be prepared to listen and be happy for her and supportive as she gushes about how happy she is. She deserves this. Resist the urge to be angry or resentful, to say unsupportive things or pressure her to be in touch more. Also resist the urge to compare. No relationship is perfect, not yours, not theirs. It seems to me, we have more to say when we are unhappy then when we are happy, so take the silence as proof that your friend is happy!
Keep your friend in your thoughts. Reach out to her with positive intentions and vibes, but expect very little. Have confidence that when the honeymoon period wears off, and it will, your friend will be back. She will need your support through disagreements, challenges and she will seek your advice about gifts, celebrations and family life. If you want to still spend time with her, do it willingly when her partner is unavailable. Be convenient, if you can be. Make it easy, not hard.
When your friend does seek you out once more, be open, warm and honest. Tell her you’re happy she is happy, but you have missed her. Ask for what times are convenient for her, and see if you can match something up. Be open to seeing her with her partner sometimes too. Welcome them. Point out flaws and red flags with caution, gently and make sure she knows you support her whatever she chooses.
If you are the friend in the new relationship, you’d be wise to remember who your supports were, and nurture those connections. You never know when you may need them again. If you are not the one in the new relationship, be patient and understanding and don’t take it too personally or seriously. Be forgiving and open. The friendship can survive…..
I’m going to be honest with you, it’s not going to be how it was before…. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be valuable.
Your Best Friend ForNever