A Therapist Tells You Why Friendships Are Essential To Your Romantic Relationship
The fairy tale is incomplete without the love and support of good friends.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | May 20, 2023
The novelty of a fresh romance can be exhilarating and make us want to spend all our time with our partner. Spending all your time together and doing things you wouldn't normally do can feel effortless and exciting during the honeymoon phase.
However, when the initial high levels out, we realize that to survive life we need more than just our partner. We need our friends, whom we often relegate to live in the shadow of our primary relationship. Good friendships play a pivotal role not just in our well-being, but also in our love life.
If you find yourself wondering about the last time you spent time away from your partner, here are three reminders why you need to start now.
#1. They fulfill needs that a partner cannot
We are inclined to choose a partner that we think can shape our lives and be by our side through thick and thin. But the idea of being 'someone's everything,' i.e., sharing every interest, like and dislike, is an outdated, overly-romanticized, and unhealthy notion.
Since it is emotionally and physically impossible for a human to be able to satisfy their partner's every need, it is unfair to expect it in the first place. In fact, experts might even suggest that this expectation is indicative of an anxiously-attached individual that struggles with setting boundaries and therefore expects their world out of their partner.
Research explains that social relationships outside of a romantic one, like quality friendships, contribute to higher life satisfaction. Spending time talking about serious or frivolous matters, sharing meals, and even exploring entertainment avenues have been shown to reduce stress levels and increase well-being.
Most importantly, a strong social network reduces the overwhelming burden of being another person's whole life and gives them the space, time, and autonomy anyone deserves in a healthy romantic relationship.
#2. They can help salvage your relationship
Having conflicts in a relationship is natural, but resolving them can be a challenge, especially when emotions run high. This isn't always possible without the support of others.
Arguments can get ugly and out of hand, sometimes to the extent that the only sign you see is the exit. To open more doors, one needs a fresh pair of eyes and perspective that only people close to you can provide.
A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science states that during rifts between couples where the relationship's foundation is threatened, individuals seek out friends (new or old) and family to feel more secure and connected.
The authors of the study, led by Elizabeth Keneski, state, "These close others serve as important sources of relationship support, providing a shoulder to cry on during times of relationship strain as well as serving as a sounding board to process relationship events."
A close friend's company can help you stay calm in the eye of the storm and approach the situation with a more collected state of mind, increasing the chances of reconciliation.
#3. They save you from yourself, literally and metaphorically
Prior to spending time with your significant other, there was a different order of life that you probably followed, one where you might have had more time for hobbies, passions, and perhaps trips and outings with friends.
It's important to remember that your partner fell in love with who you were before they were a big part of your life, too. Maintaining those pre-existing relationships and hobbies is essential to keeping that identity intact.
More importantly, research in Health Economics shows that frequent interactions with friends has a positive impact on our health and helps cut down on physically taxing habits like smoking, potentially extending our lifespan.
Friends help keep us accountable and prevent us from losing ourselves in the relationship bubble, allowing us to maintain our individuality. This not only benefits us as individuals but can enhance the relationship itself as it allows both partners to maintain a sense of independence and self-fulfillment.
It's okay for a romantic partner to take precedence in your life. However, we must do it without undermining the value of friendships and other relationships. Each connection has its own value and role in providing love, safety, and comfort. Remember to cherish your friendships alongside your romantic relationship, and strive for a well-rounded and fulfilling life.