As I type this, I am aware that what I’m about to discuss is a complete first world problem and in the scheme of Things To Worry About, it barely registers. It is something that has been niggling at me for a while, however, and I would be interested to know if it’s something that others have experienced as well.
Ever since leaving university and scattering to the four corners of the country – and globe – it’s become harder and harder to meet up with friends. People who previously lived just around the corner are a train or car ride away (or 24 hours on a plane!), and so a quick text to see if they fancy a pint on a Tuesday night is no longer an option. Weekends and holidays become the only time it’s possible to get together.
On top of the geographical issue, any time together has to be planned with military precision months in advance. Spontaneity seems to have gone out of the window. I think the reasons for this are those that come with getting older. As soon as you’re in a relationship, you suddenly have two sets of friends to see and your social life, if not quite doubling, certainly does increase because of this. The age we’re at is also a contributing factor to the busyness: late twenties and early thirties are the prime times for weddings, hen nights, stag dos and milestone birthdays. And once children are in the picture, priorities alter for ever.
Because of these commitments and having to plan so far in advance, everyone’s weekends get booked up for the next six months, and if you call people on Thursday to see if they have some free time on Saturday, it’s unlikely to be the case.
It seems to get busier in the summer. This year, as with previous years, our free time has been gradually whittled away and before we realised, most of our weekends were completely booked up from May to September. On the rare weekends free, when we’ve thought, yes, let’s call so-and-so and see if they’d like to do something, no-one is free as they’re attending a wedding in Wales or have long-standing plans to see family. It also means that chances for just the two of us to hang out and see where the weekend takes us are becoming increasingly rare.
You end up with a catch 22 situation: you want to spend time with people you love so you plan things with them in advance, but then you lose the spontaneity to either do things with other people who happen to have some spare time, or by yourself.
Before you start thinking I’m an ungrateful wretch who is whining about nothing – I know, I know. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends and family who I love spending time with – and who want to spend time with me too! If the worst of my problems is that oh my god, my social life is too busy, then I am truly blessed. Trust me, I am very aware of how whiny this sounds. I just want to try and find a balance.
Because that’s what we’re struggling with at the moment, the balance: spending time with people we love, but also making sure we grow our own relationship and have time for each other. I think S’ and my relationship is in pretty good shape – we’re each other’s best friends, we love each other very much and we rarely fight – but I can be guilty of taking it for granted and not giving it as much time and work as I do my friendships. I do have the habit of assuming that because we wake up together, and eat dinner together, and watch TV together, that this is enough time. Instead of this, I need to dedicate time to us, rather than making do with the scraps that are left after planning to do other things. To make sure that yes, we do have things planned in our diaries to look forward to, where we get to catch up with people and have fun with them, and we nurture our friendships, but that we also have weekends where nothing is planned, where the day stretches out ahead of us as a gloriously blank page with no appointments and no commitments, and we can enjoy exploring it together.
Is anyone else finding this a challenge? Fitting it all in, making sure we’re there for our friends and family, making the most of our lives and opportunities that we’re offered, but also having time for our partner – and ourselves?