Yesterday, I called Rosie to make sure we were still on to hang out. We hadn’t seen each other in weeks, both being slammed with work…and other priorities. I was looking forward to hearing all about her life over a thick stack of pancakes. My dreams were quickly uninflated as soon as she picked up the phone.
“Hey, sorry, I’m not gonna make brunch today!” she says. I’m silent on the other end. We’ve had these plans for two weeks. We’re supposed to be meeting in half an hour.
“Sure…” I finall say. “No problem. Why, what’s up?” I ask.
It’s a ruse. I already know exactly what’s up.
“Ah, Tim just got here and we’re going to have breakfast in bed!”
Balancing friendships is important to me.
I tend to put more effort into my friendships than my romantic relationship.
With my partner, it’s easy. We have so much in common, we live together, and we see an awful lot of each other. Off-the-cuff plans are common, and so I don’t need to invest a lot of time or energy keeping in contact with him, because our default evening plan is hanging out together.
Conversely, friendships have to be cultivated. You have to make time to catch up with people, organize events, keep in touch, all proactively. It’s easy to let it slip, and once you do, it’s hard to recover.
But I’m beginning to realize I’m in the minority.
One by one, as my friends get new boyfriends or girlfriends, they drop out of my life like flies.
Last minute flake-outs. Social recluses. Even at events when I do see them, they spend the time with their new lovers instead of mingling with rest of us.
Let me make something clear: I get it. When you’re in a new relationship, it can feel so amazing and magical and overwhelming that you’re with this incredible person who wants to be with you, too! I remember how it seemed miraculous, that feeling of being in love with the right person. And I can understand how sometimes, that makes you want to put that new, special person first in your life.
But I’m not talking about the occasional drop-out. I’m not saying you can’t leave parties a little earlier or edge more towards relaxed events rather than clubs.
I’m saying the majority of my friends are so caught up in their new loves that they are dropping everything.
No matter how in love you are, that’s not an excuse to ditch all your old friends, nine times out of ten, and assume that when this person dumps your ass in six months’ time, we’ll all still be here to pick up the pieces.
You don’t get to neglect us and think that these relationships won’t wilt, at least a little.
Do I sound selfish and uncaring? Do I sound like a Grinch? Maybe. But consider that all relationships are a two-way street.
For example, if I started ignoring my boyfriend and only spent time with my friends, he’d rightfully want more of my time and attention. Likewise, when Rosie cancels plan after plan after plan to hang out at home with her dull man, Tim, we stop inviting her to things. She’s made her priorities clear, and it’s unfair to expect that we’ll pick up the slack of maintaining the relationship when she’s clearly no longer invested in us.
Friends are hard work.
Harder than romantic relationships, in my opinion. Without the built-in reason of “romantic love,” you have to make time, keep plans, reach out and foster relationships with your friends. It’s not always easy, especially as you get older and busier.
And when you neglect them, they start to wither, like anything else.
You’ve already invested so much time into making friends and developing your friendship with them — don’t let a new fling come between you and the people you’ve grown to love.
For some reason, I think a lot of people expect friendships to be an easy, casual, low-effort benefit that you can maintain with no input. And they’re completely wrong.
Friends have been there for you.
Every time I’ve cried, I’ve been lucky enough to have a shoulder to do it on.
Every time I’ve had a crisis, I have had friends who talked me down from the ledge.
Every single time I’ve needed a friend, every time I’ve reached out for whatever reason, I have instantly been surrounded in love and support from my friends.
Partners can and do support us, all the time, but when you have a new love, sometimes you miss all the cues that your friend is in trouble and might need a helping hand. It’s a shame to watch some of my pals turn their back on others when they’re in need, the same people that consoled them after they were dumped the last time, only because they’re too busy being in brand-new love.
Don’t forget that people around you have given so much to you already, and it’s up to you to know and recognize when it’s time you can return the favor.
Friends broaden your horizons.
You know what the great thing about friends is? You can have more than one. Like, way more. There’s actually no limit on the number of friends you’re allowed to have.
Significant Others? Unless you’re doing a more unconventional relationship style (which is fine if that’s what works for you!), you’re only allowed the one.
People, like it or not, shape you. They change who you are, showing you new things, new experiences, new ideas. If you spend all your time with the same person, though of course, you can grow together, you’ll find that your ideas might stagnate, or you become a little static.
Friends introduce freshness into the mix. They break up your routine and widen your horizons beyond what your everyday life is, and they bring you out of your rut.
What’s the takeaway? Feeling in love with someone for the first time can feel all-consuming, but don’t let it be. Your friends mean a lot to you — and even though that can be temporarily overshadowed by a single person, don’t let it take over all your relationships.
It’s easy: spend time with your friends. Let them know they’re valued. Strengthen those relationships, and ensure that they know just because you have a new special someone, they won’t be forgotten.
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