Your Partner Can’t Fulfill Every Relationship’s Role
If you’ve been in a happy and healthy romantic relationship, you probably know what it’s like to see your partner as not only your partner, but also your best friend. And to some degree, that’s a good thing. A partner should be someone you feel especially close to, are supported by, and trust.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that your partner can’t fulfill the role of every relationship for you. In other words, your partner can’t simultaneously be your partner but also your friend, parent, therapist, etc.—especially if they’re the only one in each category. Expecting this applies too much pressure on them. Plus, we all can benefit from a wide-reaching support network to help us handle our various emotional needs.
Partners Should Challenge Us More Than Friends Do
Seeing our partners as our best friends can be unhealthy since the roles are so different. In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Ellyn Bader pointed out that seeing your significant other as your best friend can be a red flag for conflict avoidance. While friends can more easily accept each other for who they are, couples probably want to work out their differences.
“It’s the in-between ones, when they use the language of friendship, my stomach turns. It’s a red flag for a lot of conflict avoidance and intensity avoidance,” Dr. Bader explained. “It often means they’ve given up on the complexity of being with somebody. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, well, that’s who they are,’ it’s better if they try to work things out.”
She continued to explain that romantic relationships are a great place to challenge each other to be better. She said a good marriage is when people “push each other, challenge each other, encourage each other and, yes, change each other.”
Outside Friendships Help Our Romantic Relationships
According to therapist April Eldemire, maintaining outside friendships can help married couples by modeling good relationships, connecting you and your partner with the community, giving you extra outlets for enjoying your hobbies (and handling stress), and helping you maintain a healthy level of independence.
Otherwise, your life won't be as full. After all, it’s more fun to enjoy your favorite activities with people who love them just as much, and your partner may not be one of those people.
If we try to make our partner fix all of our emotional needs, we can weigh them down. It’s better to spread out our venting and support sessions. A relationship unfortunately may not last if we have unrealistic expectations that don’t match what someone can give.
Outside Support Matters
Besides leaning on friends and family for your emotional needs and pleasure, it can be useful to seek professional support. We could all use a therapist to help us handle life’s challenges. You don’t need to have an active or severe mental illness to benefit from a counselor of some kind.
You can also practice self-care independently. Buy self-help books. Engage in relaxing activities, like reading in a bubble bath or listening to music while going on a walk. Sleep and eat enough. Practices like these will help you feel fulfilled in your life, regardless of your situation with your significant other.