Depending on the number and type of connections you have in your life, you may or may not have noticed that our friendships are not often our primary relationships. The relationships we typically define as our most important ones are those with family members and romantic partners. This manifests itself in several ways for the individuals with whom we share friendships.
For example, many of us have experienced losing a friend once a romantic partner comes into her life. As it plays out, it’s not the familiar dance of mutual companions figuring out how and when to plan time together as they incorporate this new person into their circle. Instead, we feel the emotional devastation of realizing that we, as a friend, no longer seem important. Or, worse, believe we were just a placeholder until something better came along.
There’s a lot of information and advice in the media about navigating romantic relationships and dealing with family. But where is the advice on friendships as a primary relationship? Or how long-standing friendships fit into new arrangements when the primary relationship changes for one of the friends? For a single woman, for whom friendships may be the primary relationship, it is possible, although certainly difficult, to be with people who see friends as more peripheral. To those people for whom friendships are their primary relationship—how do they navigate in a world where the same is not true for others?
Friendship is the most flexible category of relationship—it can ebb and flow with the tides of busyness; it can stretch and contract to fill whatever space people make for it; it can evolve over the seasons of a life; it can weather a long dry spell or wither away. Friendship’s strength—and its weakness—is that friends choose one another. And with no shared cultural script for how a friendship should progress, like the one that exists for romantic relationships, friends have to figure it out for themselves.– The Friendship Files, The Atlantic
No matter how you define the role of friends in your life—be they primary, secondary, or somewhere in the broader range that includes co-workers and the guy behind the counter at the post office—friendships are vitally important to all of us. We think it’s a shame that friends seem to be the also-ran in this particular pantheon.
Our friend relationships really shouldn’t be forgotten when thinking about how valuable connections with other people are to each of us. These friendships, no matter where they fit on your list, are vital to our health! Friendships help us live longer (thanks to strong social ties outside the family), they share our interests (hello fun!), and they keep our minds open (new perspectives and honesty that might be hard to come by elsewhere).
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to balance your relationships and any changes of primary relationships (friends, family, romantic partners). Each person is unique, each situation is unique and the success or failure of the new look of a friend relationship rests with those who are a part of it.