This article was written just for us by Rachel A. Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC. Thank you Rachel! A good read for anyone juggling friendships and a romantic relationship, as well as family, children and all of our relationships. Pay attention to the 5 tips she gives us; which one can you put to use for yourself right away? ~ Dr. Saskia Coté, Relationship Editor
By Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC
Friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts. From early in your life, you explore the meaning of connection and develop bonds with friends that deepen over time. You continue to grow your social network and learn valuable lessons about trust, honesty, companionship, forgiveness, love and loss through your friendships.
The lessons that you learn through your friendships and other significant relationships help to prepare you for healthy dating by teaching you about yourself and how to be emotionally intimate and communicate effectively.
As you build a relationship with someone you are dating, it might feel tricky balancing your new relationship with your other relationships and commitments. It is common that infatuation and growing love lead you to want to spend every waking moment with your special someone. The key is to make space for dating or a developing relationship with a new partner while not ditching your friends, other personal goals and needs. In some moments you might feel torn, so it is important to be true to yourself and be mindful of how and who you are investing your precious time with.
It is unavoidable that all relationships grow, evolve and change over time, leading us to deeper bonds in some situations and goodbyes in others. The hope is that you can go after the love that you are looking for and make dating a priority while understanding that the time you have available might change as you deepen your relationship with your partner, however, you can still have high-quality, rewarding friendships. Embracing this reality takes the pressure off and helps you and your friends not personalize how a new relationship, baby, job, move, etc. might impact your time together or dynamic to some degree.
It is also important to remember that regardless of your relationship status (and the relationship status of your friend), a genuine, solid friend will be there and be happy for your dating and personal successes. If she or he isn’t, it is time to assess the quality of your friendship.
So, how can you have a happy love life and fulfilling friendships at the same time?
Below are five important concepts to utilize for managing a healthy dating life and social life.
- Surround yourself with friends who love you, uplift you and are there for you through the inevitable struggles of life and continuously nurture all of the relationships that are important to you.
- Know that the healthiest romantic relationships involve a healthy combination of togetherness and separateness. As dating is the means to achieving a committed relationship with a partner who you are interested in, this understanding will help you take on a proactive approach and create more personal and relationship health. No matter how much you want to spend all your time together at the beginning of your relationship, refuse to neglect the rest of your life and set up healthy relationship patterns of time together and apart to guard against co-dependent tendencies.
- Allow yourself to say no! It is better to say no to plans, dates, events and activities than to overwhelm yourself, overbook yourself or say yes out of guilt or pity and then back out last minute. Although many consider saying no one of the most intimidating and anxiety-provoking conversations, setting appropriate boundaries and not taking on too much is a crucial piece to your health and life satisfaction. Practice checking in with yourself instead of saying yes on autopilot or out of fear and be true to your own needs. Also notice how gratifying it feels to say yes because you want to versus saying yes because you don’t know how to say no. This involves dating at your own pace, having time alone and listening to gut feelings during the decision-making process to ensure that you have energy to enjoy life and be truly present in all of your relationships.
- As tempting as it may be, especially for women, remember that you do not have to tell your friends every last detail about your dates or relationship. In fact, to build trust between you and your partner and improve your relationship, you shouldn’t over-share. Good friends are incredible listeners and sounding boards, but involving too many people in one relationship can easily create too much chaos, confusion and complication. When you struggle with your partner or an issue in your relationship, it is healthiest to go directly to your partner.
- While investing in your relationships with your partner and others, be sure to invest in your relationship with yourself first and foremost. Carve in time to meet your own needs, seek healthy solitude to clear your mind, engage in your hobbies and interests and treat yourself with kindness, compassion and non-judgment. By enhancing your own health, happiness and wellness, you naturally bring more positive energy and love into your relationships with others.
About the Author
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Rachel is a co-author to Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life, an International Bestseller, written to support single women in forming and maintaining healthy loving relationships. Rachel also serves as a Relationship Expert for eHarmony, http://www.datingadvice.com/ and other dating and relationship advice websites.