I've always been the type of person with lots of friends and lots of things going on, whether it's trips or events or parties. In my last relationship, though, I was dating someone who was more low key and didn't like to go out as much. Actually, they used to get upset with me if I wanted to go out and they wanted to stay in and watch a movie. Because of that, I lost touch with a lot of my friends. Has this ever happened to you? How do I "mend" those friendships and also how do I make sure I don't do that again? Or is that just part of a serious relationship?
Dear Lost Touch,
The first guy I ever fell in love with was a year younger than me. So when I turned 21 (and all my friends turned 21), he wasn’t old enough to go places with me. That was hard. I let that determine where I went and who I hung out with because I wanted to be with him. Luckily, we eventually found a happy medium and most of my friends were quick to forgive and open back up to make plans and build bridges once more. So I wholeheartedly believe your situation is salvageable.
If you want to mend those friendships, the first step is honest and sincere communication. Apologize. Tell them you were lost and wrapped up. These friends, if they are true friends, will understand. I don’t know that it will be easy. And I can’t promise all of them will be quick to let you back in. But if you are persistent and honest, I really feel you can resurrect these relationships with time.
In any situation where we make a mistake, the “never doing it again” part is the hardest. We are all human. We have trouble breaking bad habits. We get sidetracked. But the fact that you’re aware of what happened is a huge step. In your next relationship, from the beginning, make sure you have “together time” and “alone time” and “friend time” and that you communicate the importance of a social life to your partner. When you start with clear expectations at the beginning of a new relationship, there will hopefully be less friction.
Also, everyone needs a bit of structure in their lives. Communicate with your partner and your friends. Plan your weeks to make sure you are getting all three times: together, alone, friend. And maybe they overlap sometimes. Perhaps Sunday is reserved for brunch with your friends while Wednesdays are date nights with your partner. Maybe Thursdays are movie nights for you and your best friend and Saturday afternoons are hiking adventures with your love AND your friends. I promise, the balancing act is possible.
You asked if losing touch with friends is part of serious relationships. It’s natural to hang out with your friends less in order to accommodate a serious relationship, but a healthy relationship allows you to maintain relationships and activities and hobbies that are important to you. Being in a relationship at the expense of yourself is never healthy. You should each feel comfortable being separate and having your own friends and interests, while happily functioning as a “team.” Step back from yourself for a moment. Did you stop seeing your friends because you were scared that your partner would leave if you didn’t agree? What kept you from communicating with your partner that maintaining a social life was important? You may need to dive into those reasons before you begin your next relationship. And if it's really important to you that the person you're with likes to be social too, maybe that's a quality you look for next time.
We all get swept away by love sometimes, especially in the beginning when everything feels so wonderful and fresh and exciting. What we have to remember to ask is: does this relationship allow us to cultivate what's important to us? That’s the mark of a healthy relationship. It sounds like socializing with others and maintaining an active social life is important to you, and that should continue to be important even when you’re with someone, no matter how much you love each other. I’m confident you will find that. And that when you’re in the throes of the honeymoon phase, you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it too.