Sunday, May 15, 2011

Your Girlfriend, Your Boyfriend, & Your Friends - Finding The Balance In Relationships

As we approach life in our mid-20s, I'm sure we've all noticed that we live in a world where our friends are starting to get engaged, or are settling into relationships they expect will last their lifetimes (clearly, we aren't 18 years old anymore).

I turn 24 years old in a month, and I've sure as heck noticed the engagement phenomenon. And the "coupling-up" phenomenon. You know, when the "I" turns into a "we" and you show up at every social event together. I get it. We're at an age where people are starting to realize that, university has ended (well, for most of us, anyway. Boo to me), we've settled into the working world, we've grown up, we're adults, and that, for some us, come a few years, we'll be settling down and starting families of our own.

Erm. Side note. I can't believe I turn 24 in a month. But, moving on.

Anyway, I understand that people are "looking." Lavalife doesn't make all that money for nothing. And I understand that, once people find someone they actually really, really like, they'll want to spend all their time with them. Spending all your time on the phone, texting each other at work, making weekend plans. I get it. And, I'm happy for you. There's nothing I love more than seeing my friends find a significant other they truly, truly care about.

But, let me share a story with you, my friends. A story that, I'm sure, many reading this can relate to.

This is a true story of a friend of a friend of a friend. Generic enough that, really, it could be about anyone. This is a story of a group of friends who have known each other for years. Since high school, in fact. A close group of friends, you know? The kind you'll know for the rest of your life, the kind who have lived your most embarrassing moments with you. But, you see, one day, things changed. Because, one day, one of these friends met a girl. A girl he grew to know and love. And as he began a relationship with said girl, he stopped seeing his closest friends. He stopped taking their calls, stopped answering their text messages. He just stopped. Cut off everything. And, it wasn't even on purpose, really. He just wanted to spend all his time with his girlfriend, you know? Said friends tried all they could to contact him, to get to know his new girlfriend. But, this friend. He stopped hanging out with them, stopped attending social events, dinners, lunches. He spent all his time with said girl and her friends that, two years later, upon his break-up with said girl, he picked up his phone and realized that... he had no one to call. He had grown apart from his closest friends, he had estranged himself so much for the sake of a relationship that eventually ended.

And so, here's another true story. Of a friend of a friend of a friend, of course. A story of a group of close girlfriends. They've known each other for years, you know. The kind of girlfriends who have known you long enough that they attended those horrid middle school dances with you. And yet, one day, things changed towards the end of their university careers. One of these girls met a boy. And, like all these stories go, she grew to know him, and to love him. And, just like the boy in the story above, she grew distant from her closest girlfriends. Spending everyday with said boyfriend. She stopped hanging out with her girlfriends, stopped taking their calls. She spent all her time with him and his friends. It wasn't on purpose, really. She was just so consumed and invested in her relationship that she just, I guess, forgot about her friends. And, upon their break-up three years later, she picked up the phone and realized that... she had no one to call. She had ignored her friends for the sake of a relationship that eventually ended.

Friends, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. I've heard these stories time and time again. That a friend spends wayyyy too much time with his girlfriend or her boyfriend. That a friend never comes to parties anymore because he/she is hanging out with his/her significant other instead. They don't come to dinners, lunches, annual camping trips. I have friends who have pushed their friends away to the point that they basically become strangers. Everything you are, everything you do is about your significant other. Nothing else.

Everything is a "we." The individuality is gone. And the closest, most treasured friendships grow distant and eventually fall apart because these individuals are so consumed in their relationships with their significant other.

Basically, there's no balance.

Now, I'm not disapproving of having a significant other. God, no. Please don't misunderstand. I'm not sitting here as a spinster grad student (god, I hope not, anyway) disapproving of young love. (Although I do have the granny glasses to pull it off!)

What I'm saying is, simply put. Don't forget about your friends.

The thing is, I completely understand where the two people in the stories above are coming from. I completely understand what it's like to be in a relationship with someone you care about. That your schedules revolve around each other, that you talk on the phone everyday, that you text each other while you're at work. I understand that. And that's normal, of course. And for those of you who have found this relationship, I'm sincerely happy for you.

But, life is complicated. And finding that perfect balance between spending time with your girlfriend/boyfriend and your friends can be difficult. And it's especially difficult when you and your significant other have separate groups of friends. Who don't know each other. Who don't hang out together.

I have no answers for you. Just plain, old, vague advice. Find that balance in your relationships. You can have your dates and hang out with your friends too, you know? Introduce your significant other to your friends. Hang out together. Party together. Have dinners, lunches, snacks, outings, together.

Because, you see, while you've found a girl or a boy you think you may want to spend the rest of your life with, there's something you may forget. That, if handled with care, you'll be spending the rest of your life with your friends too.

Don't carelessly forget about them. Don't let them become strangers.

I've seen too many friendships fall apart because of the above reasons. And, as we grow older, and it becomes increasingly difficult to make new friends in these busy lives we lead, treasuring the ones we have is essential.

These are the people who want to get to know your significant other. These are the people who you'll call to excitedly tell about promotions at work. Who want to be there when big changes in your life occur. These are the people you'll call when (if you choose) you get engaged. When you move into your first home. These are the people you'll call on those Christmases down the road, who you'll hang out with on New Years Eves in the future. These are the people you've grown up with, and, perhaps, you'll grow old with.

We've lived a sufficient amount of 20-ish years where we can say that many people have walked in and out of our lives, drifting in and drifting out. But, we have close groups of friends that haven't walked out.

And, if these friendships handled with care, perhaps they never will.

Find that balance. It's more important than we realize.

"If there is ever a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think, but most important of all, even if we are apart, I'll always be with you."
- Christopher Robin to Pooh

"I have friends in overalls whose friendships I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world."
- Thomas A. Edison

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”
- Mark Twain

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