My Partner’s Great, but I Need My Friends
In a world that idolizes romantic relationships, it’s important to cultivate and maintain friendships for our overall health and happiness.
Jun 12, 2023
It’s tempting to make your partner your best friend, lover, caregiver, provider. In the beginning, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new relationship. The addictiveness of all those chemicals and hormones is hard to counteract resulting in hours of time together and hours wishing you were together when you’re not. As the physiological and emotional excitement begins to settle, you’re likely to find there are roles your partner doesn’t fulfill. This may sound like relational red flag, but it’s a huge responsibility to be everything for someone. It’s a responsibility I definitely wouldn’t want. That’s where friends come in. Each person in our life plays a specific and important role. Friendships give us the gift of joy and help distribute our needs so that we have a wider net of support with the benefit of reducing the burden our partners can experience.
My partner and I are so different. It’d be impossible for either of us to meet every role we both need. Instead of this being a point against our relationship, we each recognize the importance of having the space to do what we enjoy. Part of this equation includes having people in our lives that fill spaces the other can’t. I love to travel. My partner hates it. Thankfully, I have my friends to take a trip or two with throughout the year. He loves watching sports—soccer, baseball, basketball, anything. I hate sports. Luckily, my partner has his brother and friends to drink beer and watch sports with during whatever playoff season we’re in. Without our friends, these situations would place an undue burden on the other.
Making friends and keeping friends is hard, especially the older we get. Responsibilities increase and the chances to spend time with other people decreases, which is challenging when lasting friendships require time, effort, and commitment. Time is necessary to kindle a friendship. Effort is fundamental to helping a friendship last. Commitment means you have both made the choice to sustain the relationship. All friendships take work and equitable effort from all those involved. This is another reason it becomes easy to turn to our partners: convenience. The sheer amount of time spent with our partner, especially when living together, makes it incredibly easy to rely on them for all the support we need, but maintaining friendships offers more than social support.
Sustaining friendships is good for our mental health and overall happiness. According to the Mayo Clinic article, “Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health,” friendships provide an increase sense of:
- Purpose and belonging
- Confidence and self-worth
Friendships are also instrumental in helping to cope with traumas and avoiding or overcoming unhealthy lifestyles. Warning, good friendships can and may lead to a healthier and longer life.
This is all to say I love my partner, but I need my friends. In the hierarchy of relationships, romantic relationships tend to take the lead. The predominant cultural script tells us our partner should fill the many needed roles in our lives, but I don’t want to place that burden on my partner nor have that burden placed on me. Friendships have the incredible benefit of providing sheer joy and contributing to our overall wellbeing. So, take a moment to text a good friend or a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or a person you’d like to be good friends with and tell them you’re grateful for them. Then, schedule lunch or dinner to celebrate their presence in your life.