You’re used to hanging out with your friends all the time. But now, all of a sudden, a new person has entered your life and begun to gobble up huge amounts of the time you used to spend with your friends.
The good news is that you have lots of people in your life who want to be with you. But when they’re all clamoring for your attention, it can create a great deal of stress, especially when you’re trying to please everyone whom you care about. If you are in a position in which your old friends and your new partner are resenting the fact that you’re not spending as much time with them as they want, then you know how difficult it can be. Here are some practical steps you can take to deal with the situation in a way that, while it may not please everyone, will at least let you prioritize those relationships while also taking good care of yourself.
Diagnose the Problem
One of the first things you need to do is to get clear on exactly where these negative feelings are coming from. For instance, when it comes to your friends, are they simply missing you and are therefore having trouble adjusting to the change in your relationship? If so, that’s perfectly normal and understandable. On the other hand, if they are jealous and having a hard time being happy for you, then that’s different and raises certain questions about the nature of your friendship.
You can ask the same type of questions about your partner: Is their insistence that you spend more time with them evidence of a controlling or needy personality? Or is it just that they enjoy being with you so much that they simply want to be with you more often? The former is a major red flag. But if they’re simply in the giddy “I want to be with you all the time” phase of your relationship, then that may not be a problem at all.
Talk to your friends and to your partner about what you are sensing from them. Avoid blaming or accusing anyone, and instead just check things out. One of the best ways to do this is to use “I” statements like “I feel like something’s going wrong here — am I reading things correctly?” “I” statements are much more effective than “you” statements like “You’re always pestering me. Why won’t you give me some space?”
So ask questions and talk about how you are feeling, and then discuss how these negative responses are affecting you. If you work hard to listen to what other people are saying and also express clearly how you are feeling about this new conflict, then you will have a much better chance of making sure that everyone feels cared for and understood.
Be a Thoughtful Friend and Partner
Most likely, the conflict and frustration you are sensing from your friends and partner are produced by fear—fear that they are not as important to you as they want to be. So the best things you can do is to assure them of the important role they play in your life and show them how much you value them. Reassure your friends that even though there is a new person in your life, you still care for them as much as you always did. And let your partner know that your continued commitment to your old friends in no way threatens what you two are building together.
So find ways to demonstrate how much you care for these different people in your life. Make a quick phone call. Send a funny email or text message. Give them a small gift that reminds them of something you’ve done together. Small tokens can go a long way toward letting people know how important they are to you.
Consider your Own Needs
Ultimately, this is the recommendation you have to follow. Yes, you want to be a caring friend. And yes, you want to be a loving partner. But it’s not healthy to try to fill these roles if it means that you are not taking care of yourself.
So ask yourself what the right balance is here. It’s not easy, but somehow you have to find a way to take into account the feelings of your friends and the feelings of your partner, all while still paying attention to your own desires and needs. That’s a lot to have to work with. When we face a situation like the this, too many of us forget to take care of ourselves. But remember that trying to please everyone else is a recipe for disaster.
Considering your own needs may mean simply shooting straight with your friends and partner, explaining to them that you intend to continue being someone who is committed to both your friendships and your dating relationship. Or it may mean finding time to be by yourself so that you can be clear on exactly how you want to divvy up the remainder of your time. But regardless, make sure that as you look for the healthy balance in your relationships, you prioritize your relationship with yourself.
And again, remember that this is a good problem to have. The fact that you are even dealing with this particular stress means that you have people in your life who care about you and want to be with you. That sure beats the alternative, doesn’t it?