The importance of having friends in life cannot be emphasized enough. Maintaining friendships outside of your relationship with your partner can lead to an increased feeling of individuality and can feed your soul in ways that no other relationship can. This social diversity can help you feel fulfilled in life and ultimately, make you a better person and partner.
In my private practice, my clients often tell me they can’t seem to find a balance between their friends and their partners. In our busy, fast-paced lives, people face the challenge of “fitting it all in.” I have seen many love relationships suffer when one or both partners allow their friendships with others to wither away for what they believe is the sake of the relationship with their partner. Contrarily, I have also seen some friendships threaten the security of the love relationship, weaken it, or even end it altogether. In the article “Fifteen Reasons We Need Friends” from Psychology Today, psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne explains that having an emotional and social connection besides your partner can lead to greater happiness and a better sense of self.
So how do you create a balancing act between your love relationship and outside friendships, and encourage friendships that help support and maintain your relationship?
1. Talk About Your Friendships. Openly discuss with your partner the importance of your friendships and the reasons you value time with your friends. Explain why friends are an important part of keeping your life balanced.
2. Encourage Outside Interests and Friendships. Allow your partner the opportunity to pursue and develop outside interests and friendships. Your partner’s life outside of your relationship is equally important to yours. You both need the balance between your relationship, friendships, and personal interests.
3. Honor Your Commitments. When you make a commitment to spend time with your partner or your friends, stick to it. A commitment to spend time with someone is a promise to live by your word. So, don’t break plans with one for another.
4. Protect your Relationship. If your partner expresses concerns about one of your friends, listen and be objective. Avoid acting defensively. This allows for open discussion about your partner’s concerns.
- Set boundaries. Avoid potential conflict with your partner by discussing ahead of time how much of your free time you would like to set aside for friends and how much you would like to spend together.
- Be honest. Think honestly about when you would like to spend time with your partner or your friends, and when you prefer to just be alone. When you’re happy about where you are in the moment, you are better able to put your whole self into that moment.
- Make an effort to meet other couples together. Whether you meet other couples at the gym, in a hiking group, or in your community, having mutual friends creates an environment for having fun together with friends.