I’ve been out of the relationship game for a year now, so I admit I’m slightly out of touch when it comes to what’s new in the world of coupledom. And yet after spending five years dating someone, I feel confident in my ability to understand relationships even though I’m not currently in one. Because of this, I’d like to offer a public service announcement that I think needs to be reiterated: you can have a significant other AND friends. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Many of us know this already. I know plenty of people who are in happy relationships and still have great friendships. But there’s also this phenomenon that happens sometimes when a person starts dating someone. It’s like they cross The Relationship Divide and leave the world of The Single And The Social to become a shadow of their formerly friend-focused self. I’ve known many girls and guys who have crossed The Relationship Divide when they met their significant other, never to be heard from again. Or to be heard from only after a traumatic breakup.
I’ll admit that I started to drift across The Relationship Divide myself for a while. The thing about the Relationship Divide is that it feels so natural as you’re crossing it. You’re so wrapped up in this great connection you have with your significant other that you may not even fully realize what’s happening. But eventually when you’re sitting at dinner and realize you have nothing new to talk about because you’ve spent every minute of the last three days together, you start to re-evaluate.
Like I said in this post, I’m rewatching “Sex and the City.” As much as I love that show, it really makes me mad how quick these women are to drop each other for a guy. They jump over The Relationship Divide after three weeks of seeing someone, no questions asked. And each time that the romance fizzles, the other ladies are there to pick the crestfallen one up, despite the fact that she’s bailed on them endlessly and given their friendships little to no attention.
I know, I know. This is just a TV show don’t get so worked up blah blah blah. But I think a lot of people expect that this is how real life works too. That you can press “pause” on your friendships and then “resume play” when your relationship ends or when it’s convenient for you. But in a world that isn’t available to stream on HBOGo, upon doing that, you find that things feel a little different when you jump back into your friendships. Maybe there are inside jokes or memories you missed, or your best friends have made other friends in the time that you were on the other side.
The other issue is this: when you’re dating someone and become an inseparable unit, you’re putting far too much pressure on your relationship. Even the strongest connections can break from the strain. Yes, your significant other should be your best friend. But they shouldn’t be your only friend. If you’re relying on one person to fill every role for you all the time, that’s a lot to expect from one person. The healthiest and most vibrant relationships are those where you spend plenty of time together, but are also free to enjoy time with family, co-workers, friends, and others who make you happy/give good advice/don’t mind dealing with you when you’re hangry.