Christian Singles & Dating

Navigating the Ebb and Flow of Friendships When You’re Single

Navigating the Ebb and Flow of Friendships When You’re Single

I’ve cycled through several groups of friends since college. If you’re involved in a singles ministry long enough, you probably will too.

For me, the scenario usually goes something like this:

A few of my friends start dating people, both inside and outside of my church’s singles group. Within a year or two, they’re all married and have moved on from the singles group. I tell myself that’s just the way life goes, and I transition into other friendships. Those friends start dating other people, too, and within another couple of years, they are married as well. Once every few months—maybe on someone’s birthday or for a holiday—the old gang gets together, but for the most part, I rarely see them except on social media.

I’m not sure why it has to be this way, but there’s a bit of an understanding that once singles get married, they can’t/won’t/don’t hang out with their singles friends any more. Often I’ve seen it happened that a bride’s single friends get her down the aisle, and then her married friends pick up the friendship from there.

And lest you think I lay this blame at the married people’s feet, I don’t. It’s a two-way street; singles buy into it too. We back away and quit calling our married friends. We think our married friends are too busy cultivating their relationship with their spouse, nesting in their new home, having sex, and spending all their time with other married people to want to see their old single pals.

I think one of the most difficult parts of singleness, for me, has been the ebb and flow of my friendships. One minute you’re basking in the glow of hanging out with a group of people you love and then the next minute one-by-one they’re being drafted into the “Big Leagues” and we all act like there’s some sort of unspoken rule that says we can’t hang out anymore.

If friendships are life-giving and sustaining for everyone, married or single, then why do we do this to ourselves and act as if we’re on different teams?

After watching this strange occurrence a few times, I realized it was ridiculous. I wanted to make sure, though, that if it was happening because of me—because of choices I was making or assumptions I was holding onto—then I needed to allow the Holy Spirit to do some work in my heart.

Now, when my friends get married, if I sense some weirdness or distance, I try to go back to these 3 things to ensure that I’m doing my part to be the friend to them that I want them to be for me:

1. Check My Heart

It’s easy to place the blame on my married friends and believe that they don’t have time for me anymore. While this might be true in some instances, if all of my friendships fall apart when friends get married, then that means I’m not handling something well.

“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life” (Psalm 139:23-24, The Message).

Am I jealous or insecure? Am I afraid I’m going to be hurt so I try to hurt them before they hurt me? Am I being a poor friend because I don’t like the change their marriage has caused to my life?

These questions certainly aren’t fun ones to ask myself, but allowing the Holy Spirit to probe the depths of my heart and my motivations is necessary to uncover the truth and to be able to move forward.

2. Make Concessions

When people get married, their lives do change. That’s a fact. Life is no longer about one person. Instead, it’s about two people, which means two jobs, two calendars, two families, two sets of friends to merge. So it’s important for me to remember those details when I feel like my friend isn’t making time for me.

I might have to be the one to make the first move to get together, and even then I might discover that Friday night dinners aren’t the most convenient time anymore. In fact, weekly meet ups might cause more stress for my friend. Once children are in the picture, I might even find that we have less in common than we once did, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to be learned from each other in this new phase of life.

Finding a new middle ground and what works in the 2.0 version of the friendship is called “growth”—and growth is always worth the struggle.

3. Assume the Good

God has brought some wonderful people into my life over the years. I am astounded at the quality of the people I have the privilege of calling “friend.” So why is it that I’m so quick to jump to conclusions or get my feelings hurt over trivial matters?

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).

So about those concessions I might have to make…

If plans have to be changed or if I’m the one who has to make the first move or if my birthday isn’t commemorated like I’d hoped, I want to be a person who believes that my friends don’t do things to intentionally hurt me. It’s exhausting to always be looking for the worst in others and to nurse resentment or bitterness. It’s much more freeing to believe that the people I’m surrounded by are for me and are seeking to be a good friend to me, too.

I’ve been learning, albeit slowly, that my assumptions rarely serve the good of our relationship. I don’t want to be a person who assumes the worst, especially about my close friends. I want to give them the grace that I need them to give me.

What other tips do you have to help navigate changing friendships?

A former junior high English teacher, Jessica Bufkin currently serves as Editor for SingleRoots, a website that encourages Christian singles to be intentional with their lives and offers many resources for to assist them, including a review of Christian dating sites.

Publication date: April 22, 2014