By Kaarin Moore. Slightly amended from a post published on SexReally.com on June 6, 2011.
Friends are forever, but we often put more attention toward romantic relationships. Maybe you found the perfect guy—handsome, smart, funny, and everything you hoped he would be. Or, maybe you haven’t found a partner yet, but you are having a fabulous time flitting from date to date, then dishing to your gal pals about every glorious moment. Maybe you are starting to notice that your girls are acting a bit odd every time you start chatting about romance. What’s going on? Why are they tuning you out? Isn’t the point of having a group of girlfriends that they listen to every story about your dating life? You may be committing one (or more!) of the 5 rookie mistakes of the romance-friendship balance. Read on and, if you realize you’re doing any of this, get back on track before it’s too late.
1. You drop your friends.
You are in love, with a capital “L” and want to spend every waking moment with your significant other. You are so smitten that your calendar soon fills up with movie nights, reality-TV evenings, and romantic day trips. Your friends don’t even have a chance to respond to your dating life anymore because you aren’t around to tell them about it.
If this is you: This someecard was popular when the first Sex and the City movie came out. I got such a chuckle out of it because it exactly described what I observed happening to some of the women in my life. The ones who had completely abandoned their friends didn’t have anyone to see the movie with when their husbands/boyfriends/fiancés wouldn’t go.
It’s hard not to get sucked into the Love Bubble*, especially if you are experiencing your first taste of a real relationship. But always, always remember your roots. It’s important to keep up with the people you had in your life BPC (before Prince Charming). For one thing, if your relationship blows up, you will need those people. Otherwise you will be without your guy and without your old group of friends because they moved on when you weren’t paying attention.
Even if the relationship is The One and you will be with this person Forever and Ever, it’s still incredibly important to have a variety of people in your life. Friends enrich your life, bring you fresh perspective, and keep you true to who you are.
How to get things back on track: Your friends are your friends for a reason. Chances are they are wonderful, kind people who will forgive and forget, especially if you acknowledge your mistakes. Depending on how much time has been spent away, it may take some effort to rebuild bridges, but get started right away. Invite one of them out for coffee. Spend an evening just chatting. And shut up about Prince Charming—ask your friend how she is doing.
Also, in the future, make time for your friendships even if you are in the best relationship of your life. You had people you cared about before your significant other came along and a couple hours apart are not going to kill either one of you. It actually might help your relationship!
2. You are always scouting.
You are out with your wonderful gal pals having a night on the town. Or, maybe you are doing something tame, like having brunch on the weekend. No matter the location, you are always looking around for people you’re attracted to. Now, if you are out and the group goal is to meet as many attractive people as possible, that’s one thing. But using your friends as a means to continually scout potential partners is not only rude, it can be frustrating to the people you are out with.
If this is you: This was the case with a friend of mine. Every time we went out together, while she pretended to listen she was actually looking around for her next boyfriend. It went a little further than that—she would pick tables, events, and places to stand and talk based on the proximity of an available man. When we were out she was all dolled up. On the trip back she would put her hair in a ponytail, put on her glasses, and actually make conversation with me. It’s as if she switched on and off her persona. It’s okay if you want to get all divalicious, then relax when the night comes to a close. But if you are becoming two separate people within the course of one evening, something is wrong.
How to get things back on track: If you are going out with your friends, go out with your friends. It’s okay to run into someone new along the way or start a conversation with an attractive person, but don’t use your friends as a means to meet other people. Go out, have a great time, listen to your friends, and become engaged with their lives. Confidence and actually having a life will always be sexy.
3. You talk non-stop about your significant other.
Your significant other is amazing. He does 100 cute things a day, and you want to list them one by one to anyone who will listen. Here’s the big news flash: no one really cares. Okay, that sounds harsh, and it isn’t 100% true. Your friends do care about your relationships and they do want to know what’s going on in your life. But they don’t want to know Every. Single. Detail. The only person who has that minutia level of interest in your daily relationship life is you. That doesn’t mean you have to keep mum all the time. It just means keep things in check.
If this is you: If you are happy, chances are your friends are happy for you. Every now and then it’s okay to gush about the latest romantic thing your partner did, or a funny story about his work. Remember, though, that the world doesn’t revolve around your relationship. Your friends have stories they want to tell, too.
How to get things back on track: Ask your friends questions. It’s as simple as that. Every now and then the topic of conversation will be all about you, but make sure there’s a balance. It’s wonderful that you are happy! Don’t feel the need to hide that feeling, but take an active interest in other people. And don’t just wait for a pause in the conversation to make it all about you once more.
4. When you talk about your relationship, you only talk about the bad stuff.
No matter how much we love our partners, chances are one day they are going to do or say something really stupid. Or, the two of you are going to get in a fight…or fight about the same thing for the 300th time. When those things happen, you are going to want to talk about it. But if all you are doing is telling friends awful things about your significant other, guess what? They aren’t going to like him.
If this is you: Again, wanting to vent about your guy is natural and it happens to everyone. Check yourself, though. Are you only telling your girls the bad things? Your friends love you and want you to be safe and happy, so if the only thing you are telling them is that he’s the scum of the earth, they are going to believe (surprise!) he is the scum of the earth.
How to get things back on track: You have three choices. You can a) admit that even though your guy might drive you crazy sometimes, really the good things outweigh the bad. Tell your friends about the good stuff, too. Or, you can b) realize that you spend a lot of time complaining, regardless of subject, and make an effort to start watching what you say about other people in general. Or, c) if your stories are really bad, it might be because you are in a bad relationship. If so, get out. Life is too short and there are too many wonderful people out there to be miserable all the time.
5. You make decisions without thinking about how they affect those around you.
You had unprotected sex. Or are in a relationship with someone who is married. Or are dating someone who is actually dangerous. It is your life and you can make any decision you want, but remember your actions can affect the people who care about you.
If this is you: Part of growing up is learning how to take responsibility for those actions. Your body is your body, and you really can do anything you want, but people are invested in you and your life, so if you put yourself in a dangerous or difficult situation, it can influence their lives as well.
How to get things back on track: If you have had unprotected sex, get tested for STIs and pregnancy (and if it’s been less than 5 days, use emergency contraception). Then learn about your contraceptive options and invest in condoms for STI prevention. If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t treat you well, get out as soon as possible. Basically, love yourself as much as your friends love you. You don’t always have to agree them, but if they are worried about you, listen to what they are saying. They may have a point.
Life is all about balance, and balancing work, love, and friendship will always be a bit tricky. But it is possible to have a solid relationship while cultivating your friendships at the same time. What are some of your strategies for balancing relationships and friendships? Have you ever had a friend do one of the above things to you? How did you deal with it?
*Love Bubble [luhv buhb-uh l] noun, Invisible force field around two people who are in love that keeps them focused only on each other. Signs include spending countless days/nights together, googly eyes, pet nicknames, and inside jokes.
Kaarin Moore is the owner of Closet Caucus, a fashion consulting company located in Washington, DC. Her goal is to help clients express who they are through the medium of clothing. You can reach her at www.closetcaucus.com or on twitter (@closetcaucus).