Kissing Friendship Goodbye?
- Christianity Today Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 8 Aug
How did I handle the challenge of feeling like I'd lost something when one of my best friends/roommates got married? First, I had to realize I wasn't as high on her priority list anymore, but she still cared for me and for our friendship even if she wasn't as available as she'd once been. I had to accept she and her husband were making new friends with other couples and families. There were times when it was frustrating and I was tempted to just let the friendship go. But I realized it was important enough to me to hang on. I just had to be flexible. Most difficult, but most important, I had to accept that as her life was moving in new directions, mine had to as well.
So, I focused in on other things I was called to do or was interested in. I got more involved in church. I took classes and seminars, and I went by myself! And I gradually peopled my empty life with new friends, married and single, male and female, older and younger. As someone once told me, there are "friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for life." I've got dancing buddies and walking buddies and coffee buddies and talk-for-hours-on-the-phone buddies. Some of them have never met the others. But together they fill my life.
And the friend who got married? She's still one of my best friends. She always will be.
My friend and I both have been divorced a long time—me for 10 years, she for 17 years. When she got remarried, I made the mistake of not calling her for a while. She let me know that was unacceptable! So we talked about it. I let my friend know I loved her, but told her I'd let her take the lead for a few months.
We shifted our frequent dinners to lunches, and I try to avoid calling during evening "family time" since she has a stepson. Her schedule is much less flexible, so we have to arrange big outings, such as nights on the town, far in advance. We e-mail more and call less. Spontaneity is limited, but everything else is fair game.
The worse thing single friends can do is assume their married friends don't need them. A spouse isn't all the social life married people need, even if it takes a few months to work out a new routine for the friendship. The strong ones will survive the marriage.
I have two best friends who are married. One has been married for ten years, one for four years. It's important to realize you won't have as much access to your friends, and that you now have two friends instead of one. Get to know their better half, and give them space. Whether or not their new wife or husband likes you can determine whether you still have a friend or whether it's time to say goodbye and fade into an acquaintance. Though I know of people who have dumped a best friend for their girlfriend, I'm grateful that my married/dating friends still make time for me.
My only other single friend got married about a year ago. While I was happy for her, I was devastated and depressed about my own situation. However, I took some time by myself to re-evaluate my life. I realized I wasn't passionate about anything. So I decided to do something I've always wanted to but hadn't been able to because I was too busy with friends. I enrolled in massage therapy school and am seven weeks away from going for my national certification. I'm pleased not only with the accomplishment of becoming a massage therapist and finding a trade I'm passionate about, but also with realizing that just because I'm single with no single friends doesn't mean I'm dead.
I've also benefited from taking this time to move closer to God. I signed up for daily e-mail devotionals and spent a lot of time reading the Word. Don't get me wrong, there were still lonely times. But building my relationship with the Lord and picking up my Bible in those tough moments got me through.
I've experienced the frustration, sadness, loneliness, and fear associated with "losing" close friends to marriage. You're so happy for them, yet you mourn the loss of the old friendship and struggle with feelings of guilt because you want the old days to return.
I've found the best way to deal with grief over the loss of an old friendship is to build new relationships. I built new friendships with other singles, because no one fully understands what it's like to be a single Christian except other single Christians. And I built new friendships with people who have been married a while, because these people have gotten past the "goo-goo" stage of new marriage and have a more balanced approach to all of their relationships.
It's also key to pray hard about what you're feeling, being really honest with God. Fight to be righteous and "rejoice with those who rejoice." But also realize God loves you just as much as your soon-to-be-married friend, and he knows exactly what you need to get through the hurt.
I think first you have to realize your friend is caught between two worlds—her former single life and her new married life with all the changes that brings. The soon-to-be-married friend probably feels anxious, excited, and even a little scared of losing her "self." As long as you're empathetic toward that, things should be fine. Be there to listen when she needs a friend's ear. Also, continue to invite her, and sometimes her husband, to events that you think she, or they, would enjoy.
One of the best things about having a good friend who's married is that you get to see how they handle normal marriage issues. You get to see, hear, and essentially learn what works and what doesn't work in a marriage. Hopefully you can take that knowledge with you into your next relationship.
It's important to be realistic about your expectations of your married friends. Their first obligation is now their family, and if you're respectful of that, there's no reason why you can't continue to have a strong friendship. Luckily, I've developed enough friends that if one isn't available when I really want to be with someone, another friend is available.
My second tip is to become friends with your friends' significant other. My girlfriends' husbands are good friends to me, too, and give me good insights about guy perspectives. When I visit a married girlfriend, I always take time to talk to her husband and ask him about things I know he's interested in. Also if a male friend of mine dates or marries, I'm very friendly to his girlfriend/wife and I'm careful to do nothing to come between them. Rather than looking on your friend getting married as you "losing" a friend, you can take the perspective that you're gaining another friend. That's been my experience.
Personally, I'm glad not all my good friends are single. My married friends remind me of what a good relationship looks like, and I get to be an honorary aunt to their kids—which is great fun.
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