Are you stressed about your relationship? Spend time with friends
“Today, one person can provide what a whole village used to: a sense that grounding, meaning, continuity. We expect committed relationships to be romantic, emotionally, and sexually satisfying. It is no wonder, so many relationships collapse under the weight of all this. – Mating in Captivity
Never before have our expectations been higher of our partners. While we still desire security, children and property, and respectability, our expectations of our partners have changed. We now want to see our partner love us, be interested in us, and want to share the same goals. We want to marry our “best friend”, our confidant in all matters, and someone we can tell everything to. They should be more than a great co-parent. Depending on what they need, they should be a skilled co-decorator and sous chef, a financial wizard, a motivated jogger partner, and a hilarious gossiper.
How did we develop the idea that one person can provide all aspects of human emotion? This didn’t happen when we were locked down in 2020. However, it did increase our dependence on our primary relationships. It didn’t start when we went into lockdown in 2020, although that increased our dependence on our primary relationships. Sometimes it feels like the world has disappeared. When we open the door, it is important to ask ourselves if the world has disappeared or not.
Diversifying our Relationship Portfolio
Ambrose Pierce stated that love is temporary and can be cured by marriage. Everyone who has been married knows that marriage comes with its absurdities. It’s absurd to believe that our spouse can give us the same support and connection as we received from our friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, teammates, and even our nemesis. Our young lives are spent building a whole network of relationships. While some friends may leave, the growth of our relationships tends to be more rapid when we are partnered up. Partnered folk can learn a lot from their single friends. One of the most important is: Relationships don’t have to be in a couple. They’ve been there all along.
This is especially important when your primary relationship is under stress. It is a good thing to let go of some of the stress. Remember that we can’t love or live in isolation. It is helpful to have different expectations of our partners. However, if we want to make lasting and meaningful improvements in our relationships, we need to diversify, as Elaine Cheung, a social psychologist, explained. It doesn’t mean that we are taking emotional energy from our primary relationship by expanding our intimate relationships. Let’s do a little assessment:
- Are you willing to share all your problems with your partner, or are you more open to the advice of the person closest to you who is most familiar with the issue?
- Are you prone to only share with friends what you don’t want to talk about with your partner? Do you think so?
- Which person in your family is the most knowledgeable about decorating? Cooking? Breast-feeding? Grief after the death of a parent
- Have you ever thought of the wisdom, tradition, or skills you would like to have a friend come to you?
It’s a balancing act to spend time with friends.
Eli Finkel, the author of The All-or-Nothing Marriage, has stated that people who have a special social network — seeking out Tim to celebrate their achievements, Donna to cheer us up, or Kyoko to soothe anxiety–feel more fulfilled than those who look to just one person to do everything. They are also happier in their romantic relationships over time.” This is not an easy model. Finkel says that this “winnowing” of our intimate social networks will work for some people. If we are fortunate enough to have a spouse who can be a partner in many ways–fun to share, supportive when we’re down, and understanding when we’re embarrassed–then it is possible to live fulfilled, even if we have few other significant others (Osos). This is a risky strategy as many spouses are more compatible than others. And, of course, it’s not possible to be there for everyone. Our spouses can be particularly affected if they are sick or on a deadline for work.
We focus on the importance and value of friendships outside of primary relationships. It is important to remember that healthy friendships should not be a one-sided, utilitarian relationship. There are always a few friends who call only when they have a problem. If that happens, it’s time to question if you’re that friend. What do you think?
- Do you find that you reach out only when your partner conflicts?
- Do you place additional pressure on a friend who is not in a relationship?
- Do you know the feeling of losing a friend?
- Do you know why a friend has died? But don’t know what to do?
New friends are great, but so are old ones.
Sometimes our friendships can weaken as we move through different stages in life. It’s often because we have kids, move away or grow apart. Sometimes, we have had a major fight or harbour resentment we don’t know-how. Friends can still come together and make new friends. Our friendships are like our primary relationships. They go through phases. It is not unusual for friends to re-discover each other after years of being apart with social networks. Some friendships can pick up from the left, while others start anew. Sometimes, a friendship’s break is the best way to create growth in the future. This can help us reintroduce our friends and family as we wish to. Knowing that romantic relationships require mystery, it is important to have friends who can share in some aspects of your life. It is possible that “absence makes the heart grow closer” could be a spiritual translation of this saying. It can be as simple as asking this question for many of us who have lost close friendships. “I have missed you, and I would love to meet up and see where your life has taken me. Would you be interested in spending some time with me?