Friendship After Marriage


One of the themes that has emerged in Friendship Month is just how hard friendship is. We so often give ourselves an out by telling ourselves that other people have friendship figured out, that it’s easy for them, and that we can avoid the sometimes painful work of friendship because we’re just not very good at it. Posts like this one from Kentina remind us that friendship is often hard, and none of us are off the hook. In my life, friendship has never come in the How To Be Best Friends model. It’s looked a lot more like this: fights, jealously, renegotiation of friendship, and ultimately life-long (complex) loyalty. This one is for those of you who have never had it easy (but may well have it good).

—Meg

Friendship After Marriage  | A Practical Wedding

by Kentina Washington

We spent our summers in Chicago, young, single, and fabulous, my best friend and I. A ninety-minute journey by car on the Indiana Toll Road a couple of times per month brought us much needed girlfriend time to laugh, eat, party, and share. We were inseparable, having supported each other through graduations, career moves, breakups, and make-ups, the bittersweet glue of life experience, the very substance that held us together with a unique and sacred closeness unmatched by any other friendship. She was my sister, my “friendship soulmate,” and on this particular day, a day I will never forget, my friend had come to say goodbye.

You see my best friend had fallen in love, and as we sat in a local ice cream parlor, enjoying a cold treat on a warm summer day, she had something to share with me, something that she knew would simultaneously bring me both delight and heartbreak. I had journeyed with her during the ups and downs of long-distance relationship with her beloved, a wonderful man who lived two states and more than six hours away. I’d watched from the sidelines and cheered them on as their partnership flourished, and ridden the roller coaster as their relationship took a more serious turn with them both searching for employment that would bring them geographically closer together. On this day, my friend had come to tell me that she had found employment in her boyfriend’s city and that they had made the decision that she would be the one to move. She would be packing up and leaving the ninety-mile radius that we had held so dear—and soon.

As I stared down at my swollen belly, seven months pregnant with my first child and facing uncharted territory as a soon-to-be (single) mother, I instantly felt sadness and dread. I was happy for my friend, happy for how love had come into her world and turned it upside down in so many wonderful and exhilarating ways… but I also felt left behind. I had expected that she would be by my side for this—this uncertain and scary time in my life—in the same ways that she had been there for me before. How could she leave now? All of these emotions rushed into my mind and heart in that moment, and as I clinked my spoon on the edges of a now empty ice cream dish, I had no idea that how deeply my feeling of being “left behind” would impact the tenor and dynamic of our friendship moving forward.

My best friend left and started her new life. She and her boyfriend would be engaged by the end of that year, and married the following spring. My baby was born that September, and my best friend was, as she promised, by my side, getting on the road from Ohio in the wee hours of the night when I went into labor, and arriving to hug and kiss me and my newborn shortly after she was born.

I cannot pinpoint for me when the feelings of resentment and jealously took root. I think for many months after she left, they were quietly stirring just below my soul’s surface. We continued to talk and keep in touch as we always did, but could not see each other as often. She had a small wedding with just her, her husband, her son, and her own daughter who would be born six months after mine. We swapped mothering stories, she asking me tons of new baby questions as her last had been ten years prior, and she encouraged me that single motherhood was difficult, but would not break me. She and her husband became my daughter’s Godparents, the two that I knew would take care her of as well, or even better than me, if anything were to ever happen to me. And, yet for all the ways that we settled into this new rhythm of our friendship, I was angry and sad. Angry that she had left, angry that the lyrics of Etta James’ “At Last” had not come true for me, jealous and bitter and doing my best to put on a front of something different. I did not want to admit it to myself, to God, and certainly not to her, but it was there, and it was ugly and it was eating me alive.

Just as I cannot remember the exact moment that these negative feelings set in, I do not remember the exact moment that they bubbled to the surface and exploded. What I do remember is a strained conversation, raised voices (which rarely happened between us), tears, and my admitting—finally—what I had been swallowing and feebly attempting to suppress for so long. I remember hearing the intense hurt in my friend’s voice, and sadness, and I remember driving to her home a couple of weeks later, and her holding me as a I wept—wept with shame, wept with sadness, wept with guilt, and asked for forgiveness. Despite all that was or was not going on in my life, I desired to be fully present and happy for her. I knew that would require me doing some intensive head and heart work to get to the root of my own issues, face them once and for all, and manage the triggers. The health, vitality, and longevity of our friendship meant that much to me.

I can unequivocally say that my best friend’s marriage has been a blessing to me. She is the most self-aware, honest, transparent person that I know, and has modeled for me how to successfully cultivate and navigate friendship after marriage. I have watched her and her husband beautifully blend their families, embodying a true partnership, and it is an inspiration for me. As with any wound, if one is not diligent about carefully tending it, it can be reopened at any time, and result in worse pain and worse injury than previous. And, so, I take special care to tend to those wounds that threatened to take root and destroy our friendship after my best friend got married, forgiving myself and receiving her unconditional love and forgiveness always.

Photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos

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  • dawn

    Thank you for this very honest piece. I’ve been “left behind” in different ways before. I’m about to get married, but I’m not moving. My goal is to make every effort to stay available and connected, particularly to my single friends.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for this. I moved across the country 8 months ago to be in the same city as my then-boyfriend, now fiance, soon to be husband. I’m struggling to keep up with old friends and also meet new ones at the same time. Friendship is difficult.

  • Emmers

    These edits always make me sad. I know you’re probably just trying to help, but especially when they’re the very first comment– it’s like pointing out a tiny error with a beautiful story. Kind of like pricking a beautiful balloon.

    • http://www.smittenchickens.com SarahHoppes

      Speaking as a former journalism student who errs on the side of anal when it comes to grammar, I think most people who post the edits are just trying to help. I’m also guessing they’re assuming their comment will be deleted after the staff either makes the change or decides to leave it as is. APW puts out a ton of content every day, a large majority not written by the people who publish it, so I’m sure copy editing must be loads and loads of work.

      I’ve stopped calling attention to typos or grammar errors since the editz button went away, because I was never sure how long the comment would stay up before it was deleted, and I didn’t want the original poster to think I was being rude or judgmental. I would love to have that back so I can be helpful with my grammar nerdery without feeling inappropriate!

      • Rebekah

        The last time I felt the need to chime in about an edit, I simply emailed the team with the details. Maddie emailed me back that time saying thanks, and that it was fixed. It gets the job done without making it public, in case anyone wants to try it in the future.

      • Emily

        Sadly, Editz is a WordPress plugin that stopped working, and hasn’t been updated since 2010. It was helpful while it lasted!

        That said, if you guys could shoot me a tweet instead of commenting, that would be kind of awesome and, quite frankly, easier for me to fix. @PracticalEm

    • Sara

      I hear you. That said, these types of errors are very distracting to me, especially when they occur right at the beginning of the post! I comment early b/c I live on the East Coast and like to read APW before I leave for work, certainly not b/c I’m trying to prick any balloons. I take complete responsibility for the fact that I allow my grammar-nerdiness to interfere with my enjoyment of otherwise excellent writing. I recognize that it may not appear this way to others, but I think really highly of APW, and my “Editz” are my way of contributing to the site’s quality. However, I have noted Emily’s request below, and my future Editz will be tweets.

  • Anon for this

    Wow. You are an amazing friend. I have a dear friend whose story I think this is, too, but she has not taken it on herself to address the issues she has that are hurting our friendship. I commend you for your honesty and courage, and I am now debating whether or not to share this with my friend for whom it might ring very close to home.

  • Kristen

    Kentina, I have to just say how proud and respectful I am of your strength and ability to recognize a flaw that was hurting an important relationship and being brave enough to try and fix it. Self awareness isn’t something we talk about much (or I don’t hear much about it) but its an integral part of how I live and I absolutely love when I recognize it in other people. When you became aware of thoughts and attitudes that were harming a bond and determined you would change it, that to me is beautiful.

    I feel like I’ve lost friends for the exact reasons you just described were your problem and honestly, I would have been so grateful if just one of them had been honest and open about what was the real problem and allowed me to help fix it. When friends aren’t willing to put in the work, it makes you believe they never really cared about you very much. The way you handled this is spot on. Your friend is really lucky to have you.

  • Jessica B

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been feeling jealous of some friends new journeys and adventures, and have been feeling very left behind and overwhelmed that I suddenly am in a position where my closest friends are going to be hundreds of miles away. I’m trying to be honest with my friends so the jealousy and negative feelings don’t start to rot, but it’s hard to show I’m more happy and excited for them than jealous or sad.

    Friendship is complicated, but hopefully friends will understand (no matter how hurt they may be in return).

  • carrie

    This was beautiful. You are strong and wonderful for telling the story and for going to your friend to make it right. Thank you for telling your story.

  • Laura C

    This strikes so many chords for me. When my best friend decided to do non-academic work and move a little over an hour from where we were in grad school, it was one of the hardest things. I really, really struggled with it, partly because we’d met in grad school, so I was worried that our friendship wouldn’t survive with both physical distance and doing different things with our lives. And I am so, so thankful that she was patient with my struggling and that I was wrong. She moved to California, then moved back to the east coast, only by then I was hundreds of miles from anywhere for the first six months she was back. I lived in her basement apartment for six weeks while looking for my next job; that’s when I started dating my fiance. I moved four hours away from her. She had a daughter. I moved back to only an hour away. Five months later, she moved to Canada. She had twins. She’s still the person I email with pretty much everything going on in my life and feel like I’ve gotten a gift when I hear back, who I text with things that need a quick decision (should I buy this final sale dress I haven’t seen in person??? etc). Now, I feel sad when she moves, but I don’t doubt that our friendship will survive.

  • Ruth

    Ketina, your piece really moved me. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad someone is talking about the power of friendships in parenthood, as I feel like that receives so little attention in our culture, that many of us can’t even imagine what this kind of support looks like. I am also grieving the loss of my best friend, who moved cross country, and is sometimes unable to talk on the phone due to mental health issues. Your piece really touched my heart and was a reminder of why these soul friendships are worth fighting for – and worth overcoming resentment / forgiving for too. Thank you

  • Annoymous

    “I cannot pinpoint for me when the feelings of resentment and jealously took root.”

    I feel like all my friends have moved on in their lives, making strides in their careers and their relationships. We’re all in the same place, but I feel like I’ve been left behind. I’ve tried really hard to be happy for them and to be a supportive friend. But I feel like I’ve gotten to the point that I’m so jealous and resentful of them that I actually am avoiding them because I just can’t be around them and be in a happy place for them. I hate admiting this because it makes me feel like a bad person.

    • Kristen

      I think these feelings and the shame they create are so normal, but they also get us so stuck. If we try and remember that we can’t live through other people’s lives, but only our own, it might help turn the lens inward which is where it needs to be. The best “trick” I learned in therapy was if I was happy, I wasn’t jealous of my friends successes or happiness. Instead I rejoiced in it with them. So when we feel resentful or jealous, maybe if we took care of ourselves and figured out why we were unhappy, we could avoid these bad feelings.

      Sounds kinda hippie dippy, right? But it works. Get happy yourself and I guarantee you’ll lose all the resentment or jealousy weighing you down.

    • rys

      Resentment and jealousy dig in and they’re so hard to kick out. I’ve felt this acutely — less often because of friends getting married and moving and more often when my friends tell me they’re having kids. It’s a moment that is filled with joy (for them) and hollowness (for me), as I’ve felt that even the friendships in which both of us are working so hard to circumvent distance, babies just change that dynamic in ways that make long-distance friendship maintenance so.much.harder. And when one of my closest friends dangled the possibility of coming to a conference I’ll definitely be at and then took it away 5 hours later, I was so angry and resentful. I’ve worked through it, several months later, but I wish I had had the strength to say something. I know she didn’t mean to hurt me, but it hurt bad.

      • A

        I know exactly what you mean about being resentful about friends saying they’re going to visit and then taking it away. I moved away from home a year ago (4 hour flight/30 hour drive) and my best friend keeps saying she is going to visit and then goes back on it. At first I understood because other things come up or you get busy, etc. But for months she has been planning on coming to a conference a 2 hour drive from where I live and she was going to come visit after. Then she and a friend who is also attending that conference decided they would go to a vacation to France (cheaper flight from the conference location than home). I got it- Europe is nice. But now they are not doing that because it is going to be too expensive/they couldn’t both get a month off. So I extended my invitation to come and see me again (her friend is welcome too). She said they would talk it over and plan things out. It is only a few days before the conference and I have not heard a word. I am taking that as she will not be coming but it is so frustrating. It is rude to not reply, and I don’t understand why she would miss this ideal opportunity. I am becoming very resentful of the whole thing.

    • Breck

      I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things (the Dear Sugar book), and she offers some really good advice on these feelings: other people’s success and happiness doesn’t mean there’s any less out there for you. There’s not a finite amount. It’s not a zero-sum game.

      I’m not sure if it’ll make any difference for you, but it really helped me put things in perspective, since Lord knows I’ve felt this way many times before.

  • S

    This rings so many bells for me. I have a girlfriend, who was once more like my sister, and she too had love “happen” to her. In the rush of new love, suddenly I wasn’t important. In the wake of my own relationship issues when she popped up with a ring on her finger I was quietly devastated. And then the baby. And she’s moved into motherhood. We are not as we were. We won’t be. But I’ve wrestled with myself for a year and am finally in a place where I can say I am so happy for where she is, and for where I am….regardless if those two places never meet in quite the same fashion again…

    • E

      Exactly. There’s always a sense of mourning when you realize that the relationship between you and your closest friend will never be the same again. But, there’s also beauty in growing to love what now exists in that space. In college, my closest friend and I were attached at the hip, living together and even dating guys who were best friends. Shortly after graduation, she met her husband and got engaged very quickly. She got pregnant with her first child shortly after their wedding. It took a few years to get used to the new dynamic of our friendship, but I’m so glad we’ve hung on to it, and feel that, in some ways, our friendship is stronger than ever.

  • Anjali

    This is so beautiful, and one of the truest thing I have ever read. Sometimes when our own stories don’t take the paths we want them to, it is so hard to watch someone dear to us get the happy ending – even when they totally, unequivocally deserve that kind of joy. And it’s so hard to admit that resentment/jealousy when we don’t WANT to feel those things – but that doesn’t make those feelings any less valid and real. Grown-up friendships are hard!

  • Emily

    Beautiful story. I have a very dear friend who I suspect is going through these emotions. I am younger than her, about to get married, planning a home and kids, and she, while so incredibly smart, beautiful, and outgoing, has not found the stability and love I know she wants. She is very honest about her struggles. What can I say and do to be supportive? I feel like everything I want to say could come out patronizing… “you’re so amazing!” “any guy would be so lucky to find you!” It’s all so trite. any advice?

    • Kristen

      I think like any problem a friend has, letting them know you understand it sucks and you’re sorry they have to deal with it goes a long way. In my experience, folks rarely want advice or for you to make them feel better about tough stuff, they want empathy and support.

    • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

      I agree with Kristen. I always want to offer helpful thoughts to people, but I’ve learned (slowly) that sometimes a better response is a sincere, “Wow, that DOES suck. Here, I’ve got this round.”

  • Blair

    You know what popped into my head while reading this one? Roles.

    This piece reminded me of a good friend. I actually talked to her on the phone (!?) for a few minutes last night. We live close by but since my engagement I’ve seen less and less of her.
    We are so indivisibly similar in terms of personality that at times we have to be careful around each other or the envy or uncertainty slips in. But she’s also the kind of friend that will fiercely mirror me for the rest of my life. We could probably go years without contact and she would still be a personality twin.

    I am fortunate to have so many friends, and so many amazing people, that sometimes it’s shocking to see bits of myself in all of them, and in different ways. The introverted friend that always seems to know what’s best, the mirror friend that you find yourself competing with because she’s just so. damn. talented., the sister friend that slides right back into conversations like the last 1 1/2 years didn’t even happen.

    They all have a role. I interact slightly differently with each of them but each of them are a critical part of my makeup. What an amazing thing.

  • Abby J.

    Man, I’m going through this from the other side right now. A childhood friend and I are watching our paths diverge, and it’s causing alot of friction between us. She married earlier, got into financial trouble, she and her husband never got their careers off the ground, and never fixed their financial issues or their weight troubles. I married recently, husband and I have made great strides in our financial security, purchased our first home and are expecting our first baby.

    I’ve done my best not to make any comments to her, as I know she would hear any advice from me as judgment. But she makes snipes at me that I know are coming from a place of jealousy/insecurity, and her husband constantly feels the need to verbally one-up my husband via bragging. They really invaded our privacy by dropping by our house unannounced the day after we closed, when I had spoken to her on the phone and invited her to set up a time to come by later in the week.

    If she and I had met now, instead of in 4th grade, we probably wouldn’t be friends – we’re just two different people. But considering I’ve now known her more than 20 years, I just don’t know what to do.

    • Helen

      I totally hear you – my childhood friend now lives in a rural seaside town, has two babies on he own and lives her life at a much slower pace than me. She’s always been poor and has no drive to change that. By contrast I’m urban dwelling and career focused. I get the feeling that because I’m ‘rich’ (ha ha – I run a small business) and childless I’m the one with more resources and therefore should give and do more. I’m the one expected take a weekend out, fill my tank and drive for a visit. I’m the one she calls when she ends up in my city and needs a lift some where. She makes remarks that imply that I’m living a shallow, materialistic life, that I work too hard and should be pitied for buying into the rat race. It’s all so completely untrue and makes me resent the shit out of her. So the last time she demanded ‘when are you coming to visit me?’ I said ‘when are you coming to visit me?’ And that was kind of it. I should have talked to her like a grown up, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve spent ten years fighting her big-city-heartless capitalist perception of me, that it was a relief just to give in to it. ‘Yeah sure, I’m a total bitch. I Judge you because you’re poor. My spiritual and emotional life is husk and all I care about is money. Have an awesome life.’

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