My girlfriend got really mad at me because I told her that I wanted to spend Friday night with my friends. We’ve been spending all our time together, and even though I really like her, I also want some time away from her! Is that ok?
Wanting to spend time with your friends isn’t just ok—it’s great!
TV shows and pop songs make it seem like love is an immediate, all-consuming emotion—you’ll want to spend ALL your time together, think about them ALL the time, and make them the center of your life. And while it’s normal to want to spend a lot of time together—especially at the beginning of your relationship—it’s NOT healthy to center your whole life around another person.
One person or relationship can’t be responsible for fulfilling all of your needs.
That’s way too much pressure to put on another person! It’s also isolating—if you never see your friends, you’ll eventually become distant from them.
It’s healthy to have your own hobbies, interests, friendships, and space. A partner shouldn’t be someone you hide away from the world with—it should be someone you face the world with. Healthy relationships are built on respect, and involve boundaries. In this case, you can think of boundaries as where you end and your partner begins. Everyone’s boundaries are different, but some common ones include not sharing passwords, not showing up at someone else’s house without warning, and not insisting on having the same interests. Boundaries mean that you each have your own life outside of the relationship.
Boundaries are great because they let you grow as an individual.
In your teens, you should be exploring your interests and figuring out who you are. Spending ALL of your time with your girlfriend makes this REALLY hard. Establishing boundaries helps you figure out how to be independent. It’s also great practice for figuring out how to set boundaries in future relationships.
It’s not cool that your girlfriend got mad at you for wanting to spend time with your friends.
If you feel safe and comfortable, calmly ask her why that made her angry. It’s possible that she’s feeling insecure, or isn’t sure how to approach being in a relationship. Explain that while you care about her, you also care about your friends and don’t want to lose them. Tell her that you hope she keeps seeing her friends, too, and pursues the goals and interests she has outside of your relationship. Remind her that taking a break from each other can actually make your relationship stronger.
If your girlfriend gets mad again or tries to guilt trip you into not seeing your friends, think about whether your relationship is healthy.
Does your girlfriend normally respect your boundaries? Or does she…
- …insist on knowing where you are all the time?
- …get upset when you don’t immediately text her back?
- …ask for your passwords?
- …frequently get jealous?
- …put down your goals or interests?
- …purposefully hurt your feelings?
- …ask to see private texts or messages with other friends?
- …insist that you’re “all she needs”?
These are all considered red flags for abuse.
If the answer is yes to any of these, think seriously about whether this relationship is worth it. This is manipulative behavior, and it isn’t ok. When this behavior is repeated as a way to gain power and control in a relationship, it’s considered abuse. While physical violence is NEVER ok, abuse doesn’t need to be physical to be, well, abuse. Emotional abuse is just as serious.
If you’re afraid to bring up these issues with your girlfriend, or otherwise feel unsafe with her, that’s a definite warning sign that your relationship is not healthy. Talk to a trusted adult. Read about what emotional abuse is, check out the power and control wheel, and read about how to set boundaries in relationships. Consider connecting with a therapist, who can help you learn communication strategies and coping skills.
If you’re 10-22 years old and live near NYC, you can make a free, confidential appointment with a therapist at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.
A version of this post was originally published in June, 2017.