Friendships After Marriage
About a month before my wedding I met up with a really lovely, really old friend for the usual, never gets old, chat over coffee and (in her case because celiacs are still much under represented am I right?) cake, at which point a little bomb was dropped on my unsuspecting bride to be brain.
‘Please don’t become one of those girls who completely changes after they’re married,’ she said with a smile, ‘I can’t stand it when people get married and then like literally talk about their husbands all the time.’
She offered me a refill as I sat there, taking in what she said.
‘Do people do that?’ Said I.
‘So much, its so infuriating. They become completely different people, they don’t do this,” waving at us seated at the table, looking like normal people with unidentifiable relationships statuses, ‘They always have to spend time with their husbands, and it’s all. they. talk. about.”
I promised her I wouldn’t.
Because naturally, it makes perfect and total sense to promise someone I won’t spend time with my husband after we’re married. It makes perfect and total sense to promise someone that I won’t talk about the person I have to share every waking moment with. No pressure.
Now, I have nothing against this friend of mine. I really love her. I had no intention of becoming like one of them, for I in fact, had not known up until that point, that they even existed.
But I couldn’t quite forget what she’d said or how she had said it.
What happens to friendships after one of you gets married?
Like what really happens, not the surface level every thing’s just the same, thing. Not the, let’s coast along, I’m just secretly seething about you to someone else on Whatsapp, screenshots and all. No, what really happens?
I wasn’t sure, and only four months in, I’m still not sure by any means (let’s be real, we haven’t had kids yet and I know that’s going to take any and all friendships through the proverbial wash), but I have an inkling.
And this is what my inkling says.
Friendship isn’t the same after you get married, and it’s best to face that fact head on.
Here’s the cincher though: if your friends aren’t married yet, they may not even realize it.
I can almost hear people disagreeing with me as I type this, and I totally respect everyone’s opinion and experience, by no means am I suggesting that my experience is the universal one. Only that, it may be more common than we want to admit, and more people may be feeling this way than they want to admit.
No one wants to think that friendships they’ve worked on and nurtured for eons, have suddenly changed because of a big party and a bigger dress (or a big dress and a bigger party, whatever floats your boat). No one wants to feel like maybe the people they most related to, they… don’t entirely relate to anymore. Everyone wants to say, oh nothings changed between my girlfriends and I, we’re still exactly the same.
Except you’re fundamentally not.
There are some major milestones in life that we all accept societally, amongst them getting married or moving in together, having a baby, graduating college, switching from Starbucks to like some niche coffee shop with words like Chemex chalked on the wall (this one has not and will never happen to me). Admitting you binge watched The Circle and then getting help for it.
And yet, when it comes to our female friendships, we tend to want to glaze over some of these milestones. Yes my life has entirely changed, inside and out, and I’m always afraid someone has used my toothbrush, but no, nothing has changed when it comes to you. Yes, by default I have now have an entirely new identity and quite possibly a new home and family, but nothing has changed, not when it comes to you.
I guess what I’m trying to say in a totally not you know negative way, is it possible that we’re a little precious about our female friendships?
And a good chunk of that time, by default, goes to the person you share a bathroom, but hopefully not a toothbrush, with. By the time 8.30 am rolls around, I have already had a shot of human interaction. I have already told someone about the ridiculous dream I had, or what I’m planning to do today, or what’s new on Instagram. Not. Because I am not that person. I don’t go on Instagram first thing in the morning. Nope, that slot is reserved for YouTube.
When my husband’s out the door and off to the office, I actually like having no one to speak to. This is the time when I gather my thoughts, when I start working, if we can call this working, when I make sure that I’ve eaten breakfast and done all the healthy admirable things I feel terribly guilty for if I don’t do. And by the time that lunch rolls around, I really just want some entertainment.
And that entertainment, hello Amazon Fire, bleeds into chores and work around the house, and then cooking dinner because the Mr. is about to get home, and then when the Mr. is home, honestly I feel rude to be on my phone. And then before you know it, it’s time for bed. And really is there anything worse than a spouse who spends their time on their phone before falling asleep? No there is not. So I resist the pull of every thread on Twitter, and then I am asleep.
I don’t message friends whilst I am asleep. I am not that skilled. I am not that millennial clearly.
The upshot of which is: I don’t message my friends all day.
This is of course, a slight exaggeration, because I do message my really good fiends on most days. Not all by any means, but many, if not most. But it’s gone from being a break down of every hour and every waking thought of my day, to being, that awfullest of all, a check in.
I’m the girl who does the check in’s… how times have changed.
But the truth is, whilst I am fully aware that I am not making as much of an effort as I used to, I am not at the point where I am an enlightened or ‘together’ enough human being, to be able to stretch my social currency any further. Now that I have an in built best friend living with me, my quota for the day is filled. I am as inherently selfish as the next person, and so, I go quiet, I don’t message, I forget to ‘check in’ because I am too busy watching the fashion segment for over 50’s on This Morning.
I’m not saying I have good reasons.
I’m simply explaining that I have reasons.
And I am reasonably ashamed of said reasons, but they are there nonetheless. And the fashion segment is really quite fascinating especially when they pull out the leopard print I would never wear.
Maybe there’s a deeper reason for this than me simply being a bit of a rubbish friend. And that reason is, I genuinely don’t think my life is that exciting for my friends anymore.
It’s more than exciting enough for me, but honestly how would this conversation go?
My friend: Hey!
Me: Hey!!!! (I’m the one who uses far too many exclamation marks).
My friend: How’s your day going? (We’re very proper, we use all the grammar all the time).
Me: Just finished cleaning the bathroom, going to quickly catch up on blog writing and then I am going to start making dinner. I haven’t been able to get the supermarket because no car, so I’m just going to use our frozen veggies. Actually. I usually use them because it’s not the easiest getting nice fresh ones here. I think I’ll make chicken.
My friend: (Many hours later) Nice!
I know that this is silly, and I’m not saying I feel like way all the time, all day, or that it bothers me in any real way…
But sometimes, just sometimes, I do feel a little boring and old being the married friend. My friends have weird and wonderful stories from Tinder and Bumble and whatever the kids are using these days, and angst that reminds me of when we were all still bumbling through college together, and just sometimes, I feel a bit dull and colorless in comparison.
Now. That doesn’t mean I would exchange my days making dinners and meeting my husbands colleagues and doing the other wifely things, for a blind date off Tinder, because no that thought is terrifying to the best amongst us, but nevertheless..
When you’re settled and your friends are still fancy free, it does make you feel very settled indeed.
And that’s not a value judgement there, it’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. But to suggest that there is no change, is frankly, a little ludicrous.
I’m very fortunate that my closest friends are girls I quite literally grew up with. We not only went to high school together, but mostly to middle school and primary together, and we literally saw each other at our most embarrassing selves. It’s hard to beat friendships like that, am I right? And even friends I’ve met as adults, are still people who followed somewhat of the same trajectory growing up as I did, and so we have a lot, a lot, and a lot of formative things in common. And it’s great. Everyone should have lifelong friends like that.
But when you’re no longer experiencing those same transformative events on the same timeline, how much does that impact how much you can empathize and understand each other?
On the surface of it of course, good friends will put themselves in your shoes and vice versa. But for the person who has left the Circle (I have definitely got a penchant for trash TV, I apologize), the contrast can appear more stark, than for those still in the groove of the life you lived together.
And I think it’s fine, in fact better, to actually admit that and say it out loud. Because the consequence of squashing that sensation down and pretending it simply doesn’t exist is that it becomes all the more important in your mind for the fact that it’s been ignored and unrecognized.
I realize that I sound like an absolutely negative friend, definitely prone to mass generalisations. But that’s not how I mean to come across at all. I still talk to my closest friends every single day and I still can’t wait to meet them when I travel home, and I still have every bit of interest in everything that is going on in their lives.
But on some level, some things are different.
And we’ve only been married four months.
I imagine as time rolls on that at least to me, more and more changes will become apparent.
What’s the way forward to this age old conundrum? Do friendships have to change when we bring in partners, and maybe one day, children?
Is the strength of your friendship proven by a lack of change or is that just a silly measure and one that’s bound to make you feel like a failure as a friend?
Do we all just have to accept that we can’t remain the same as when we were in high school or college together, or discovering new things together for the first time?
Or are our differences as move ‘ahead’ something we can use to our advantage to grow deeper and stronger friendships with our girl friends, that aren’t based on what we have in common but what we strive to share and understand about each other?
I don’t know why I’ve posed so many questions because I most definitely don’t have the answers! I’m finding out at the same rate as everyone else, but I’m willing to bet the friendships I have are still as solid as ever, even if they’ll never be quite the same again.