Do We Feel Guilty for Falling In Love?
I can’t speak on behalf of everybody, but the vast majority of us love to be loved, and love to love. Even those who haven’t been having the best of luck lately know how blissful and euphoric the feeling of being in love is; but at the same time, most of us might be familiar with a tingling feeling of guilt, as we unintentionally begin to distance ourselves from our friends to spend more time with our partners. It’s natural- friend love is different from romantic love, and they call it the honeymoon phase for a reason. As Valentine’s Day starts to peek from right around the corner, that same old feeling intensifies when faced with multiple Galentine’s dinner invitations that don’t seem of interest anymore- nothing tops spending quality time at home with your boo, but at what expense?
As with all other things, balance is the key to everything. I know you’re probably oh-so tired of hearing it, but it’s true, Rachel Brathen was really onto something. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t enjoy Valentine's and Galentine’s day equally, without feeling like you’ve disappointed somebody you care about, and the same energy can just as easily be carried through to the rest of your year and the entirety of your relationship.
So, treating this piece more as an open question, rather than a solution– do we feel guilty for falling in love?– I wanted to take you (and myself) through some of the very simple, but important, boundaries you can set with yourself, and those around you.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
…about the people who you keep around you. Sometimes we feel like because we’ve known somebody for a long time, or because they were there for us during a difficult time, we owe them our time in return.
But bestie, friendships and relationships are not a quid-pro-quo contract, and sometimes letting them fade out (or intentionally phasing them out) is the only right step towards finding balance in who you want to give your time to. This is not to say that you need to give up on a friendship just because you haven’t seen them in a while- we all know how difficult it is to schedule a cocktail night in adulthood, when your Google Calendar is booked up until Thursday, but your girlfriends’ happen to have pilates on the one night you’re free (see you in March, I guess?). The more important thing is figuring out who you actually want to make time for, and it won’t feel like such an effort to balance friends and relationship at once.
CONSIDER LOVE AS SOMETHING WHICH EXISTS TO ADD TO YOUR HAPPINESS
…as opposed to filling some sort of void or emptiness
I think it becomes easy for people to get sucked into the whirlwind of relationships, especially if they didn’t necessarily start dating at a time when they were ready. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that love, just like anything else in our lives, is something which adds to who we are and how we feel, as opposed to being at the bottom of it. In the same way that a new dress won’t make you happy if you’re feeling unhappy, a relationship ultimately won’t do that either (but it might give you a temporary dopamine rush- this usually comes with a brand new set of rose-tinted glasses).
In exactly the same breath, we might begin to fill up all of our time by spending it with somebody who’s a stable element in your life (your partner) in order to avoid potential alone time, and avoid coming face to face with the feelings we’ve chosen to mask. There’s nothing wrong with relying on your partner for stability, but coming to terms with being alone with yourself needs to come first. Having said all that, spending ample time with your friends again will become just as effortless as spending time with your partner.
(about the time you give to yourself, your partner, and your friends who’ve been there before your partner was in the picture)
Do you really want to spend a 5th consecutive night hanging out with the same person, or are you in dire need of some alone time? Are you meeting your friend because you’d really like to spend some time together, or do you just feel guilty because you made plans, but now you don’t really feel like it and you’ve cancelled twice already? There’s no right answer, but sometimes we forget to focus our energy on intentionality and go with our gut feeling when it comes to these things.
HAVE OPEN DISCUSSIONS
One of the best things you can do for yourself and others is just to be very open and transparent with your friends and partner. Since the beginning of our relationship, my partner and I have dedicated time every Monday to sharing anything and everything that’s on our mind (both the good and the bad) with absolutely no filter. This lets us talk through anything before it even has time to fester and turn into something bigger than it is.
I’m not saying you need to dedicate a day each week to have these discussion with all of your friends, but a little nudge every once in a while, reminding them that if anything is bothering them, you’d rather them talk to you about it, than let it fester into annoyance or resentment. You feel like we’re not spending enough time together? Tell me. You feel like I’m not listening when you tell me something? Tell me. You think our matching couple t-shirts are the most hideous thing you’ve ever seen? I would hope you talked me out of that one before it even happened.
MAKE PLANS IN ADVANCE
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m really not a last-minute-plans kind of gal. Once I’ve internalised the idea of staying home, or the fact that I don’t have any plans, good luck dragging me out of my flat. But putting my lack of spontaneity aside, making plans in advance (with both your friends and your partner) is the best thing you can do to sidestep subconsciously prioritising one over the other. It also gives you time to create more meaningful experiences, and do things you wouldn’t normally do, like going to the theatre instead of just grabbing brunch at the same place that basically knows your order off by heart. Or planning to cook together instead of going out for food. With social media being so present in our lives, we trick ourselves into thinking that we’re more present in our friends’ lives than we actually are, through the medium of Instagram stories, but when was the last time you actually caught up with that friend whose story you reacted to last week? Maybe it’s time to make some new memories together.
There’s a lot more to be said, and the conversation isn’t finite in any way, shape or form. As every case has its own individualities, navigating your way through balancing your own life, friendships and relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model (this isn’t Brandy Melville). But sometimes being prompted to think about these things is a necessary little push to make sure we’re guiding ourselves towards being on the right track.