Your romantic relationship doesn’t exist in a bubble.
Just like your friendships, health, and work, it impacts and is impacted by every other part of your life. This is why a fight with your beau can make it harder to focus at work the next day; why you walk with more pep and hint of mystery after amazing partner sex; and, why not having people to talk to about/outside of your relationship can feel so lonely.
Putting romantic relationships above all others can hurt the relationship
Saying that your spouse/partner is the most important person in your life not only puts a lot of pressure on them but it also often leads to ignoring and/or not cultivating other relationships that provide different and complementary support. It robs you of the opportunity to have a village of support instead of only—or even primarily—one human.
No single person can have capacity to support you 24/7
Just like you can’t—or shouldn’t—be expected to be there for everyone, all the time.
For womxn, and especially for womxn of color, being a carer is embedded in our DNA. It’s tied directly to our worth and breaking free of these expectations can be painful but ultimately freeing. It also gives more clarity around the importance of having a circle of people supporting you and your relationship versus only you and your partner.
Your partner is not required to meet all your needs
I physically recoiled the first time I heard this. But, as I practiced this and shared it with clients, I watched it work in real time, leading to deeper relationships with self, partner, and community.
The #1 person responsible for meeting your needs is you. Being able to identify what those needs are and then ask for help is one of the hardest and most important parts of being human. Being able to accept that not everyone has the capacity, in that moment to support you is one of the hardest and most important parts of being in a relationship with someone. And, being at peace with these truths and finding the support you need—whether self-generated, from your partner, or from your circle—is one of the most rewarding.
You don’t have to be best friends with your partner…
Consider this your permission slip to have a best friend (or multiple) AND a partner. These two roles are different and asking one person to be both is a huge burden. You can love and like each other deeply and also have a bestie (or several).
…or share the good news with them first
I’m a squee-er. When I get good news I scream and squee and dance around and I love to celebrate with people who match me in that energy. My beloved partner is not that person. He is my rock, who will hug me tight and say “Congrats baby, I’m so proud of you.”
My beau is usually the third or fourth person I tell after I SQUEE with my besties.
None of this means that your beau should never come first and vice versa.
It simply means that you/they don’t ALWAYS need to come first. Have a conversation about what those moments are. In what scenarios are you absolutely each other’s #1? These can range from hobbies (e.g. a performance or game) to more serious situations like illness, holidays, etc.
You’ll also want to chat about friendship non-negotiables. What are the things you absolutely won’t miss for friends? What are the things that you will drop everything for in order to to support a friend? Chat about these with your beau AND make a contingency plan for what happens if/when both sets of non-negotiables happen at once. It’s not likely but having plans A (ideal) through F (fucked) helps you navigate the trickiest scenarios.
Making friends as an adult is hard
And it’s harder still in these COVID times when actually meeting up with people is limited. While virtual connection can’t replace in-person, it can offer many of the same benefits: an opportunity to support and be supported; to listen and be listened to; to witness and be witnessed.
Thriving relationships take a village
This support—from friends, family (chosen or biological), coworkers, healthcare providers, coaches, therapists, partners, and more—buoys you through the hard times; celebrates your milestones, and most importantly reminds you that you aren’t alone.