How to make time for family and friends

Mental Health

Our connections with other people are truly joyful things, but balancing how we spend our time with each special person can be tricky. How can we strike the fine balance between pals and partners?

Having a partner you adore and a couple of very good friends is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, trying to divide your time and attention between everyone can lead to hurt feelings, jealousy, and stress – especially if you and your pal were super-close before you started dating someone.

But by just being a little bit proactive, you can make sure all the people you care about feel tended to. Here’s how to ensure you show up for all the special people in your life.

Be especially mindful during the ‘honeymoon period’

When you first get into a relationship, it’s easy to want to spend all your time with your new person, and all your time not spent with them talking about them. But the start of a new relationship is likely when your friends are going to be the most worried they’re not going to see you anymore. So make sure you’re ready to talk about a few other topics, too. It’s not that your friends don’t want to hear about you and your partner, but communicating, “I’m still the same person and this friendship still matters to me” early on, will go a long way to ease any anxiety they have about losing you.

Set up designated hangouts with your friends

Pick a day and time that works well for both of you, put it on the calendar, and treat it as sacred.

Standing hangouts are great because they give everyone something to look forward to, and allow you to avoid the endless back and forth of trying to find a day that works. When everyone has a lot going on, it’s all too easy to let a few weeks and then a month or two go by without catching up. But a regular hangout will hold you accountable, and ensure you stay in touch.

Be present with the person you’re with

Most of us don’t want to spend time with someone who keeps giggling at their phone or trailing off mid-sentence because they’re responding to messages. So don’t try to be everything to everyone all the time. When you do that, no one gets your full attention and you’ll just feel distracted and drained. So whether you’re watching a movie with your partner, or having coffee with your pal, put your phone away and give the person you’re with your full attention.

Don’t try to fast-track a relationship between your partner and your friends

Intimacy and fondness aren’t transferable, and just because you love your partner, or would trust your best friend with your life, it’s best not to assume they feel the same way about each other. If a friend wants to talk to you about something, there’s a good chance they’ll want to talk to you alone. So do your best to treat any group gatherings as a bonus, not a substitute for a one-on-one hangout.

Remember that you can’t be a good friend or a good partner if you never let yourself recharge

Accept that being less available to friends might sting

It makes sense that as we get older, and get into more serious relationships, there will be a shift in our priorities. But even if your friends get it, they might still be pretty upset. If your pal is disappointed that you have less time and energy for them than you used to, that’s OK. Just like you’re allowed to change your schedule to accommodate your relationship, they are allowed to be a little hurt that you’re not as available. So be kind and patient, and don’t expect them to get over it immediately.

Make time for yourself, too

When you’re stressed about maintaining all your relationships, it’s often easy to find more time by cutting into your self-care routine. But we all need time to ourselves to do chores, cultivate hobbies, practise basic self-care, and just be alone with our thoughts. So if the friend-dates and date-dates are piling up, and you’re feeling burnt out, give yourself permission to say “no” to an invitation. Remember that you can’t be a good friend or a good partner if you never let yourself recharge.

‘The Art of Showing Up’ by Rachel Wilkerson Miller is out on 25 June 2020 (Orion Spring, £14.99).

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