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How to Approach Your Friend About Spending Less Time with Their Partner

Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT

We have all had friendships in our lives; from daycare to retirement, naturally, we deal with many ups and downs, but overall, they are beneficial. Friendships impact our health and well-being, but developing or maintaining friendships can be challenging, especially if new relationships are forming outside the bond that two people share. When you understand the importance of social connections, you understand the need to continuously cultivate, develop, and nurture those connections because friendships are essential.

We love our friends, and when they start a romantic relationship, we want to support them. Healthy relationships should be supported, and it is important for your friend that you do so. However, part of a healthy relationship with another person is being an individual. Both partners should have their own separate lives, as well as the life they share together. It can become unhealthy if they constantly do everything together.

Have you noticed that one of your friends has been bringing their partner to every social gathering? What used to befriend time has now turned into friends plus their partners. Is it starting to irritate you or even other friends in your social circle? Are you craving that alone time with your friend? These feelings you are experiencing are completely normal and valid. It is important to communicate this to your friend, but what is the best way to do so with the least amount of conflict? Here, we are going to explore the best way to properly communicate these needs. But first, let us see why friendships are important to us.

Friend feeling left out as couple holds hands

What are the benefits of friendships?

Good people are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship. Friends can also:

Increase your sense of safety, belonging, and purpose.

  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress in your life.

  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth.

  • Help you cope with traumas.

  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive

  • Drinking or lack of exercise.

  • Challenge your thoughts and actions to sharpen your character.

  • Support and protect you.

Research shows that people with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure, and even an unhealthy body. It has been said that people with healthy connections live longer lives. Because friendship offers so many positive things, it can be difficult to lose access when a friend enters into a romantic relationship and starts to spend most of their time with their new partner. This is something that most people want to address as they start to feel the change in their connection with their friends. As I said earlier, it is necessary to communicate your desire for solo friend time gently, but it can be beneficial to check in with yourself first.

Here are some things to consider for yourself before having the conversation

Are you respecting their honeymoon phase?

Give your friend and their partner time to get to know each other and grow their connection as a couple. Sometimes, it may look like they are spending too much time together, but ask yourself, “Are they spending too much time together, or am I just missing my friend and feeling alone or excluded?” This is a tough time for most friendships, and it is important to self-evaluate before bringing up any concerns. We are emotional beings, so it is only natural to “feel” about it.

Question yourself: do you feel threatened by the relationship?

Part of this might be tied to your friendship's lack of structure since family and romantic relationships come with structure and future expectations. Realize that changes in your friendships are a part of growing up and getting older. It may be tough at first to see how you fit into their life in a romantic relationship, but it will balance itself out at some point. As each of you finds love and starts your own family, your time for friends may lessen. However, it does not change the value of that time.

Do not demean or belittle their partner or their relationship

Keep negative opinions of your friend's partner to yourself. It is probably in your best interest to keep your mouth closed about what you don't like about your friend's partner unless asked. They might just shoot the messenger, and you end up on the bad side, and now the two of you are in a conflict. Romantic partners have a great influence on platonic friendships, and if you are rude to a friend’s partner, they may be asking them to spend less time with you because of the negative or disrespectful energy you carry. 

When your platonic relationship gets disrupted by your friend's romantic one.

If you start to notice your friend bringing their partner to every hangout, canceling plans to hang out with their partner, or neglecting to spend time with you, leaving you craving quality one-on-one connection with them, it may be time to express how you are feeling. No one wants to have a conflict with their friends, so it is easy to avoid speaking up at all, but that just leaves the victim feeling negative, and it doesn’t give the defender any room to address and fix the situation. 

It is time to talk with your friend after assessing yourself and still feeling it is an issue. The important things to remember are to express how you feel without blaming them or their partner, be sure that you are communicating about your needs, and not placing blame. Be aware that they may not have noticed because they are “in love,” so come with patience and understanding.

Let us discuss some effective strategies for gently communicating your desire for solo friend time without causing tension or strain on your friendship. 

Here is what you can do:

1. Be direct and honest

Contrary to popular belief, being direct is not always rude. Communicating precisely and directly without holding back anything but refraining from blaming or insensitive language is a positive way to communicate. Being direct and honest makes a person feel secure in their relationship with you and builds or solidifies trust. Approaching the conversation this way protects the foundation of the friendship. When the goal is to get quality time for you and your friend, ensure the conversation caters to that goal. It is also helpful to keep the focus on change for right now that leads to the future instead of dwelling on the past missed opportunities. 

2. Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment

When calm, rational thinking guides our decisions, we can land on a solid solution for everyone. However, strong emotions constrain that clear thinking, and our thoughts become unfiltered and foggy. When addressing a friend or anyone about a concern you have, it is necessary to make sure you do it when you have a sound mind free from heightened emotions. For example, if your friend broke plans with you tonight, it may not be the best time to communicate about it because the hurt or anger is fresh. Sleep on it and address it before the next time you all have plans.

3. Set gentle yet firm boundaries

Instead of pointing fingers or blaming, express your needs directly to your friend. Use "I" statements to emphasize how you feel, such as "I really miss having one-on-one time with you" or "I would love to catch up with just you." This approach ensures open communication and avoids potential defensiveness. You don’t want your friend to feel as if you are attacking them, so be gentle but clear about what it is that you need.

4. Propose separate couple’s nights

Suggest planning specific activities exclusively for both partners, giving them an opportunity to spend quality time together. This shows your support for their relationship, and simultaneously, you can schedule hangouts focusing solely on you and your friend, ensuring a balance between partner and friend time. There is value in both relationships having private time to connect.

5. Propose group nights or events

Get to know them. When trying to get to know your friend's partner better, it's wisest to get to know them in the presence of your friend as well. Take this time to meet your friends’ partner and look for the good things in them that are also good for your friend so you can support them if/when they need it. This also gives you time to connect with your friend until a one-on-one is feasible.

Organize activities tailored to individual preferences

Take advantage of activities your friend's partner may not enjoy. For instance, if your friend loves outdoor adventures and their partner does not, plan a hike or any other activity aligned with your friend's interests. Selecting activities that cater to your friend's unique preferences can help create rewarding and tailored experiences. It’s important that you aren’t making your friend choose between the two of you, so sometimes include the partner to maintain a good rapport with them. 

After assessing yourself, being direct and honest, managing your emotions, setting gentle yet firm boundaries, proposing couple and group nights, and organizing activities have all been done, if your friend responds poorly, it may be time to seek help from professional counselors. Sometimes, this response may indicate an underlying issue that needs addressing. This doesn't mean you should end the friendship; instead, approach the conversation with empathy and try to resolve any concerns or conflicts through open and honest communication. Setting and maintaining firm boundaries is crucial, so carefully choose your words and actions as you share your concerns.

Let's support each other in navigating the complexities of friendships. 


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