For four years, I was in a serious, committed relationship with the person I thought was my soulmate (spoiler: he wasn’t). It was near-perfect while it lasted, full of mutual respect, shared jokes, and dreamy plans for our future together. But alongside that relationship, every single one of my friendships suffered.
Looking back now, I can see where I went wrong. My priorities were all muddled up, and I couldn’t accurately weigh the importance of my relationship and my friendships. Without a balance between the two, both were destined to fail.
How I Failed at Balancing My Relationship With My Friendships
At the time, I was head-over-heels in love with this boyfriend. I absolutely adored spending time with him. Whether we were watching a movie on the couch or aimlessly driving down the back roads and scream-singing along to the radio, we just always had a good time together. When I was with him, there wasn’t anywhere I’d rather be. I was happy, and in a selfish way, that’s what mattered to me.
What I was forgetting about were my friends.
Later, well after I’d broken up with that boyfriend, one of my best friends said to me: “I honestly don’t know if we’d be friends right now if you were still together.” I felt that like a punch to my stomach. It made me look back at my relationship from my friends’ point of view, and I started to see the glaring ways I’d failed them.
When my friends and I hung out, my eyes were often glued to my phone as I volleyed texts back and forth with my boyfriend. I only half-listened when they talked about their boy problems, my mind focused instead on my own relationship. I cancelled plans with lame excuses, making time for my boyfriend when I was “too busy” for my friends.
One Friday night, my friends made plans to have a movie night and sleepover. It was the first time in several weeks that we could all hang out together, and I declined the invite.
My excuse was that I already had plans to hang out with my boyfriend that night (though in reality, our plans only consisted of re-watching How I Met Your Mother for the millionth time, which we could do whenever.) I felt my friends’ disappointment when I said I wasn’t coming, but I stuck by my decision and hopped in my car to head off to my boyfriend’s place.
Then, about a mile away from my house, my car started acting up. I pulled over to the side of the road and called my mom to help me figure out what was wrong. She advised I turn around and come straight home, and I instantly felt a rush of frustration that my night’s plans had been ruined.
And then it hit me. I had just blown off my best friends to go hang out with a boy, and maybe this was the universe telling me I’d made a mistake.
My friends didn’t deserve to be cast off to the side or made to feel less important. They didn’t deserve cancelled plans and halfhearted attention.
So instead of going home, I drove straight to my friend’s house, where everyone else had decided to hang out without me. I had my apology ready the moment I pulled into the driveway, and thankfully, my friends listened and understood. They knew that I wasn’t treating them fairly, and finally I saw it, too. I was lucky to have friends who could see my failures, accept them, and help me do better moving forward.
Seeing the relationship now from the outside has helped me understand even more clearly how and why I failed to balance my relationship with my friendships. It wasn’t simply being in love or spending time with my boyfriend that made my friendships suffer. It was because the relationship got so big that it started to overshadow everything else. And, more importantly, I now realize that the relationship was all-consuming because I let it consume me. I let it swallow up other vitally important things, like my friendships and even my relationship with my self. The relationship ate up the pieces of my life until I didn’t know who I was without the other person.
That failure was a lesson learned and a mistake I hope I won’t make again. Because relationships and friendships can coexist happily. You don’t have to choose one over the other. And I can only be thankful my friends stuck by me while I figured that out.