Ask Team Practical: Finding Time for Friends by Liz Moorhead My wedding is coming up in a couple of months and I’m the first of my friends/cousins/extended family to get married. One of my friends lives with her boyfriend, but she lives in another state, so I don’t see her much. None of my other friends or family members are in serious committed relationships, nor do they cohabitate with a significant other. I find myself worrying about how my life is going to change once I’m married, especially regarding my relationships with friends and the amount of time I spend with them. I have a feeling that not only will my day-to-day life change drastically (I currently do not live with my fiancé), but the amount of time, money, and energy I spend on going out and seeing friends after work, on weekends, etc. will also change. My fiancé is not one of those guys who expects me to be home to make dinner every night, doting on him or spending all my free time working on/cleaning our new apartment. We are respectful of each other’s outside interests and friendships, and I know that will continue into our marriage. At the same time, we are trying to save money for a home, pay off debt, and get settled into a new routine together—financially, spiritually, emotionally. I know that I want to devote myself, first and foremost, to the new challenges, responsibilities, and rewards that marriage will present to me. To do this, I feel that my time spent with friends will need to be more limited than it is now—going out with friends can be expensive, and at the current rate, time-consuming. In the process of planning my wedding, I’ve had two friends express to me that they’re worried about my priorities. (I am not letting the wedding run my life—I have a job and a recently finished Master’s degree.) I’ve expressed that time, money, and energy have been limited lately because I am making a few different major life transitions at the same time, and I’m spread thin right now. But they don’t seem to understand, and it’s heartbreaking. I realize that growing a spine and defending my new lifestyle when friends don’t “get it” is the first step, but how can I do this in a tactful way? How have married women learned to manage their relationships with friends post-marriage? What if my friends don’t understand my new set of goals and priorities? Thank you! Scared Librarian Intimidated by Marriage Dear SLIM, Hello, marriage trailblazer! I know how you feel! I, too, was the first of friends to marry, and it’s a weird place to be. An important thing to remember is that, married or not, as we get older we ALL experience a shift in priorities—away from friends and toward work, dating, career, family. The fact that I don’t have time and money to go clubbing every night has less to do with being married and more to do with being a grown-up. (Paying rent and waking up at six in the morning sort of get in the way of that whole thing.) But that growing-up business doesn’t always represent a change in priorities. Sometimes, like I said, it’s just a shift. My life might not completely revolve around hanging out with friends and listening to Boyz II Men the way it once did, but friends are still a priority (and so are Boyz II Men, let’s be honest). I’m gonna make an assumption and say that your partner is already a big piece of your life, even though you’re not yet married. In fact, I bet he takes up a good chunk of your time, money and energy already. That might not change as drastically as you think after the wedding. Who knows. Some folks find they have more time and money for friends, hobbies, and other pursuits once they’re married for the simple fact that now, someone else is pitching in with the chores and the checks. Everything won’t be on your plate alone. Those big adult responsibilities are split. Plus, there’s a happy settledness to being married. I still set aside special time for my husband, but I don’t need to do so as much because I live with him now. I get to see him during dinner and when I fall asleep. Seeing him is the default, now, not another thing in the long checklist of obligations to schedule. What I’m trying to get to in my own rambly, roundabout way is that having a community of friendships around is invaluable. Hunkering down into your blissful newlywed bubble may be tempting. You may feel a little introverted at first as you focus on one another and laying that emotional, spiritual foundation you mentioned. But, keep in mind that eventually you’ll need to come up for air. You’ll need your community. They’ll need you. And maintaining those friendships is worth the investment of a bit of time and money. For several reasons! I mean, you care about these people, right? Plus, it’s a good policy to have some close friends during a time of big life changes and transitions. You’re getting married! You’re facing the possibility of some serious highs and extreme lows pretty soon as you adjust to this marriage stuff. For flat out selfish reasons alone, you’ll want to make time for these people for your own emotional health and stability. Also, so much of your life becomes entwined with your husband through marriage—your living arrangements, your families, your long-term goals, possibly your finances—having some friends and hobbies of your own is really important to maintaining a sane sense of independent self. Unless you want to become one of those couples in the matching jogging suits and fanny packs? (Hint: no one wants to become those couples in the matching jogging suits and fanny packs.) And less selfishly, more altruistically, being married may provide the stable foundation to allow you to give back to your community. Because my husband and I are a team, we can work together to offer money, a meal, a place to stay when a friend needs help. We combine not just our finances, but also our complementary abilities to be able to help friends in a wider variety of ways. And luckily, because my husband and I have so much in common, he’s naturally inclined to like the same people I like. Of course, that’s not always true for everyone. But even if your husband doesn’t love all your friends the way you do, the hope is that he’ll respect their value in your life (whether or not he chooses to sit out of the midnight Boyz II Men karaoke hour at the bar). So, that’s all well and good in theory, but what does it have to do with you? I’m not just talking about the imagined future of yourself as a married lady. Your friends have voiced concern that you’re neglecting them now. Now’s the time to do some soul-searching. Are they being overly sensitive during a time that’s just been flat busy for you? Or are they clued in to something you’re missing? Hear them out and give it some thought. We all have seasons of harried chaos that don’t allow for us to do much more than breathe, but be sure that those are short-lived. Finishing that Master’s thesis may mean a week of nothing but fast food and dirty laundry, but after that week, you get back to eating healthy and showering regularly (I hope). Be sure to pick back up on caring for your friends the way you do in caring for your body and your house. We all can survive short spurts of neglecting the things that keep us healthy, but it’s never good if it’s prolonged. If after some introspection, you think your friends are off base, explain that to them that right now your resources are tapped and your life is strained. Explain, essentially, that it’s not them, it’s you. Then, ask them to help you consider ways that you can make them feel cared for within the current restrictions on your schedule and budget. After this chaos of Master’s theses and wedding planning, consider setting weekly time budgets. Maybe “diet” is a better word, even though I typically shudder when I hear it. Sit down every Sunday night and look at your week ahead. Map out your schedule with consideration to all the components necessary to keep you healthy and well-balanced. A little bit of husband time here (not spent folding laundry or balancing the checkbook), some friend time here, and even some “me” time over here. If money is truly strained, consider having a potluck for friends. Maybe have them over for coffee. Hell, walk around Target together. The important thing isn’t what you’re doing—it’s that you maintain those significant relationships with care, for their benefit, but also for your own. ***** Team Practical, have you found that a serious relationship has allowed you more time or less for friends? How do you let friends know that your partner is a major priority while still finding time for other important relationships? Photo: Moodeous Photography. If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.