You're in Love! Now Don't Ditch Your Friends!

Since your eyes locked over lattes at Starbucks, you and your soul-mate have been inseparable. You eat together, study together, sleep together and occasionally slumber together. You feel a twinge of guilt that you've flaked on those weekly breakfasts with your pals, but then, you guys just don't seem to share as many interests these days.

Or could it be that your only interest is cataloguing each and every one of your beloved's extraordinary qualities? Has your preoccupation with your relationship made being around you about as much fun as a case of the flu?

Falling In Love and Out of Friendship "That first love relationship in college is unique," says Norman J. Pollard, Ed.D., Director of the Counseling and Student Development Center at Alfred University in Alfred, NY. "Most students are away from home for the first extended period of time. Because they're able to be with their partner 24-7, there's a tendency to develop tunnel vision and lose contact with friends."

Students in this scenario typically piss off friends in one of two ways. The lovestruck person overwhelms pals by gushing continually about her boyfriend or crowding roommates when Mr. Wonderful becomes an unwelcome addition to the dorm room. Or friends feel rejected because they never see their old pal, who spends all his time with the new girlfriend.

Why Love Isn't Enough Although the myth of going away to school and meeting that special someone abounds, Dr. Pollard emphasizes that the whole point of college is to learn about yourself. "If a young person is absorbed in any one thing, he's limiting himself. People need friends for balance," says Pollard.

Journalist Sandy Sheehy, author of Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendship, adds that "close friendships are good for you and good for your relationship in the long run." Unlike a love interest who has a stake in the outcome of your decisions, friends may be more objective in helping you decide if you should take a semester abroad or where to apply to grad school.

Maggie Kozicharow, a junior at Davidson College in Davidson, NC, describes her relationship style with Peter, her boyfriend of one year, as being "pretty independent. We're better together, but we don't need to be together." Maggie makes a point of having weekly dinners with girlfriends because "I have a different kind of fun with them," she says. "We watch chick flicks over and over and analyze our boyfriends for hours!"

How To Keep The Friends You've Made In the long run, the friendships you make your freshman year may be more significant than your college sweetheart. "Not till they're sitting in rockers in the retirement home will college kids again be surrounded by such a wide variety of people their age," says author Sheehy. "They need to carry those friendships into the real world."

So how do you let your friends know you're not going to dump them now that you've fallen in love?

  • Communicate with Your Significant Other. Sheehy advises telling your boyfriend how much your friends mean to you, that you're not going to outgrow them.

  • Maintain Activities with Friends. Dr. Pollard urges students to continue doing the same things they did with their pals before they were smitten. You may not have as much time for casual friends, but keep that Friday basketball game or Tuesday dinner date with close chums in your palm pilot.

  • Double-date. Pollard suggests including your boyfriend in activities with friends. Maggie reports that double-dating has been a good way to spend time with her boyfriend and their mutual friends.

Damage Control If you and your best friend are on the outs because you've been consumed with your relationship, acting as if nothing's changed will only make the situation worse. Dr. Pollard offers the following tips to get your friendship back on course:

  • Admit You Screwed Up. Be open and honest. Admit you've had a bad case of Love Fever and you want to make amends.

  • Be Empathetic. If your friend is single and/or doesn't date much, this is a good opportunity to be supportive. Reassure her that you're not throwing her away now that you're with someone.

  • Rehearse What You're Going to Say. People fumble on words when they're stressed. Rehearsing ahead of time what you want to say to your friend can help the conversation go more smoothly.

  • Location, Location, Location. Pick a neutral place to have the conversation so no one's turf is invaded. Make sure you're in a setting where you won't be distracted so you have each other's full attention. A public place such as an off-campus restaurant might help keep the discussion civil and private.

  • Make a Date...with your friend. Plan things the two of you can do together on a regular basis.