Letter From The Editor: Friendship

Dear APW,

Last week, I was down in San Diego, tagging along on David’s business trip, and hanging out with friends that I don’t get to see enough. The baby and I had margaritas with Jamie, a friend I made through wedding planning on the internet, and her family (well, I had margaritas and he ate his toy). And I got time by the pool with one of my ladies who I’ve been friends with for the last twenty (!) years. We’ve been through three weddings together (hers, mine, hers but way better), and three pregnancies (hers, mine, hers again). This made me think (margarita in hand) about the way friendships helped me make it through my wedding planning, and how friendships are one of my patented marriage secrets.

Let’s be for real. If you’re female, and you tell me that you have an uncomplicated relationship with friendship, I’ll think you’re lying. Friendship stretches its tangled roots back as long as we can remember. There was the friend I made because we had the same bus stop. The friend I made by inviting her to my Halloween party in kindergarten. Matching BFF first day of school outfits from JCPenney’s the first day of 4th grade (but not knowing if my friend was as into them as I was). Friendship bracelets and pen pals at Girl Scout camp. Friends you passed fancy folded notes with. Friends who broke up with you by letter. Friends you thought you’d be close to forever that you lost touch with. Friends you never thought you’d talk to again, who have been there for every life marker.

This shit is complicated, ladies.

Wedding blogs present a blissful image of friendship—lifetime friends in artfully mismatched hip dresses, grinning at the camera. Once we get past the fact that it’s insanely hard to find artfully mismatched dresses without employing a design professional, who the hell has a wedding party made up of only lifelong best friends these days? Most of us are mashing together our high school friends, with college friends, a sibling or two, and newer friends that we’re not sure how to honor. We’re hoping that our high school friends don’t say something to offend our college friends, and that our college friends won’t be too insulted by the antics we get up to with our hometown crowd. We’re wondering if so-and-so will be insulted if we don’t include them, and if so-and-so will be weirded out if we DO include them. We’re trying to make our wedding fun for our friends, not impose, and ask for help, all at the same time.

This shit is complicated, ladies.

For me, the rubber meets the road when it comes to friendship and marriage. We’ve talked a lot on APW about the validity (or not) of the phrase, “Marrying my best friend.” Personally, I did marry my former platonic best friend, and as such, I no longer consider him my best friend. He’s my husband. It’s a totally different role. For me, this is a reminder that the role of friend has to be filled by others. All of my relationships can’t be handily balled into one person.

And it turns out, friendships matter.  I mean, scientifically speaking, not just friendship-bracelet speaking. They matter to our health, they matter to our marriages, and sadly, we’re getting worse and worse at friendship. We may be friending more people on Facebook, but we’re losing real life in-depth relationships. This year, according to The State Of Friendship In America Report (yes, that’s a thing), 75% of Americans said they were unsatisfied with their friendships and 63% said they were not confident in their friendships (amazing info-graphics here). Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no relationship between number of Facebook friends and satisfaction with actual friendships. Plus, we now have fewer close friends. Studies show that in 2004 people had an average of only two people to confide in (down from three people in 1985), and 25% had no one to confide in at all. More pressingly, according to USA Today, “The percentage of people who confide only in family increased from 57% to 80%, and the number who depend totally on a spouse is up from 5% to 9%.” Why does this matter? Well, besides the fact that it’s dangerous to make one person your entire safety net, The New York Times reports that, “Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships,” according to Rebecca Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Tara Parker-Pope’s article further explains, “Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.” And according to For Better, also by Tara Parker-Pope, involvement in a wider community strengthens marriage too.

It turns out, at least for me, the science is right. My marriage is strong when my outside relationships are strong. Luckily for me, this particular scientific solution means more margaritas, not vitamins, so everyone wins. It does, however, mean I have to do the hard work of maintaining those friendships, because I deeply need them. I need my pack of girlfriends to listen to me bitch about family and relationship issues, and to give me advice after I lay it all on the line. I need my local friends to come over to barbecue, to house-sit when I’m out of town, and to gossip with me. I need to go out to dinner with the friends I made online through wedding planning, and giggle over the kids interacting, and talk about motherhood and tequila. I need to get excited about new babies with my lifelong friend, and laugh at inside jokes we’ve had for twenty years. Each of those relationships strengthens a different part of my personality. They allow me to come to my partnership with stories to tell and perspective gained. They give me a chance to be my true self in a very different way than I am in partnership.

Getting married made all those years of broken-heart friendship necklaces worth it. They gave me a primary relationship to come home to, which in turn made my friendships so much more important.

And by the way. I’m pretty sure friendship bracelets are back. Luckily, I still mostly remember how to make them. I’m gonna get on that this month. Happy July, kids. Happy Friendship Month.



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  • Shiri

    Those infrographics are amazing, and really validating.

  • AmandaS

    Please have a friendship bracelet tutorial! I only know how to do a basic three-strand braid. Lameness. Friendship anklets sound like a great bridal brigade gift!

  • For more info on social connection in the United States, read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone.


    Wow – the Lifeboat website is awesome! Definitely going to put some of those tips into practice.

    • Tim here from Lifeboat — thanks! So glad it resonates for you.

  • Margi

    I’m very much looking forward to reading about friendship. For me, as a 32 year old woman, I’ve found it hard to maintain friendships as friends have gone through life transitions (marriage, babies) that I have not gone through and that I may never go through. How do you sustain friendships through such life changes is something that I struggle with on a day to day basis.

    • I struggle with that as well too. I also struggle with how to remain close to far flung friends from past phases in your life. I have college/grad school/post school friends all over the country and yet my life is centered in my living room. Can I still call them my best friends if we go five years without seeing each other? Six months without talking?

    • I lost one friendship to this. Once she had kids, she couldn’t talk about anything else and couldn’t seem to take an interest in my child-free life. It was hard to let go since we’d been such good friends and it scared me because she was the first of my close friends to have kids and I didn’t know if the same thing would happen with the rest. Fortunately, it hasn’t, so I have to think this is just person by person. You have to make sure to take an interest in their new stuff, but they have to continue to take an interest in your life as well. Having gotten married later than most of my friends makes me hyper-conscious of making sure I ask about what’s going on with my single friends and celebrate their non-marriage milestones like I wanted people to do for me.

    • Hey Margi — Life transitions are so often the reasons friendship frizzle. A friend of Lifeboat just wrote a piece on this yesterday actually, titled: The Ones That Got Away. It’s got some great tips. http://getlifeboat.com/friend-blog/avoid-drift/ Thanks for sharing and helping normalize this struggle.

      • Margi

        Thanks, Tim. I will read this and look forward to reading more on your site. What a great resource.

    • meg

      Hum. So Maddie and I have been talking about this idea a lot lately, with both marriage and babies (we were both first-ish in our social circle for one of those). So. I guess we should get on a post about that!

      • rys

        I’d love to read it! I’ve been puzzling over this a lot lately, as more and more of my friends are married and having kids, and some stay good friends and some drift away. I want to be able to see a pattern to it and find a way to make sense of it, but I’m mostly at a loss.

        In addition, I’m feeling really really frustrated (with myself) about the brewing resentment I feel toward a good friend who is doing her hardest (regular phone calls, alongside 2 kids, a third on the way, a job, etc) but, in 2 years, has not been able to commit to meeting up in any way (including me going to her, attending an annual conference that bridges our professional fields, accepting an invite to speak near me next winter, etc). I feel bad feeling resentful and feeling like we are growing apart when I know she’s making an effort but I need more (in part because other friendships in similar situations have been nourished by being able to share a meal, meet at a conference, etc and that does make a difference, at least to me).

        • anonymous from europe

          I have struggled to maintain a friendship with a longtime friend, but recently I have really learned something.
          We have been friends from kindergarten and grew up in the same village. We went to high school together, but afterwards our lives shifted in different directions. We both faced difficulties, but couldn’t relate to each other difficulties. Then, we she developed anorexia, it became really hard for me to reach out to her. It felt like she was avoiding contact with me (and probably she was) and I have felt very guilty for not stepping up my game and really look passed my ego to help her.
          But, now as our lives have gradually changed for the better and we both chose our paths, we both feel like our friendship should not be wasted. She does everything differently than I: different ambitions, different passions, and overall different way of life. Plus, she has chosen a boyfriend/to-be-husband that I do not find healthy for her because of his strong focus on dieting and exercise. I have felt very bad about this. But then I said to myself: I will approve of anything she chooses, as long as she is truly happy. And she genuinely convinced me that she is.
          She is, and always will be, one of the few people that really know how I have become the person I am today. That is so valuable to me that I have stopped focussing on our differences, and start focussing on our shared history.
          On the other hand, I recently ‘broke up’ with a friend after many, many efforts to keep in contact that were totally ignored. I mourned this situation for a while, but I have come to terms with it now. Friendship needs to come both ways.

          Oh, and then something off-topic: can we see more European weddings on APW? I love this community, but some parts of the ‘American wedding’ I cannot relate to..

          • meg

            Send them in! We run what we get, and if we got European weddings, you can bet they would be on the blog in two seconds flat.

  • The lifeboat website is AWESOME! I’m going on it to devour tips. I’m not exactly finding balance between work and life, and I need a kick to change that!

    • Sarah, so glad Lifeboat could be helpful!

  • Irene

    I have tried to start a story for this theme so many nights, but writing can be so difficult when you are trying to keep the details obtuse enough to protect the privacy of all involved. I lost a best friend in the course of planning my wedding (not dead, but now dead to me, at her request. Long story short.) Wonderful things happened and my wedding was amazing and friends came out of the woodwork to show support even without knowing the details. It was easier with the wedding to focus on, but now that there is no major focus in my life (work, house, sure, but we can’t remodel every weekend … Or can we?) I feel a little bit like I am stuck on an island of my husband+I waving at these passing ships with their own busy lives while the person who I talked to every day is gone. (Plus my husband and I now live 2 hours from my social circle, at best.)

    How can one get started making new friends and starting over without a best friend as a married person? (I’d write the post but I don’t really know.)

    • C

      I am going through something very similar! I lost a friend through wedding planning as well, and my fiance and I live 1.5 hours away from both friends and family, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can be when friends are getting together during the week and they expect you to drive that distance to see them (but won’t return the favor). Thankfully we are planning on moving after we get married, to a new city where we both have friends already. I can’t wait, it will be such a good change for us.

    • Amanda

      I highly recommend this blog for anyone who is actively trying to make new friends (it’s hard as an adult!): http://mwfseekingbff.com/. This lady blogged about her “quest” to find a new BFF, and delves into not only “how to meet new people”, but all kind of other stuff related to friendships. I don’t think it’s active anymore, but the archives are great! She also wrote a book about it which I enjoyed.

    • Moe

      Ditto here.

      Weddings seem to have become the litmus test for friendships now. I ended a friendship before I began wedding planning because I just could not breathe in a really dominating friendship and I wanted it to be over before I sent out invitations.

      Getting married meant relocating across the city, far from almost all of my friends. It’s only 90 minutes, but in LA traffic it might as well be the east coast.

      I love my husband, he’s my favorite person to spend time with. But he won’t go get pedicures with me. He’s no fun while shopping at Sephora and no matter how hard I try he just won’t discuss the latest Kardashian news with me. I need estrogen in my life!

    • meg

      Write it, submit it with your email and a note that you want us to help you make it more anon. We’re pros around here about changing details as needed and knowing what’s just enough to share and what’s too much. That’s… basically my job :)

  • Megan

    Looking forward to all the posts this month (and every month!). Wedding planning has definitely opened up a lot of fissures and cracks for me regarding friendship, and I have such a complicated history of friends and best friends and broken-up-with friends.

    Though I absolutely see the importance of having close buddies in your life, I personally have a tough time breaking through the “acquaintance” to “good friend” to “super close friend” wall. Without throwing myself a pity party (and oh, how I want to sometimes!), friends always seem to let me down. I call my fiance my best friend because . . . he is.

    • Not only is it hard to break through those barriers, but even when you can it can be hard to be on the same page about what those sort of designations mean to each other. Does close friend mean constant conversation and seeing each other frequently, or is it as simple as being there for each other when you need it? And sometimes the more superficial friends can take the most time in our lives, but flake out when things are hard whereas the people who we don’t get to spend as much time with are there when we really need someone. And everyone’s idea of what’s most important in our friendships is so different. It’s so hard to navigate.

      • Megan

        Very true, Sheryl. I try not to get my feelings hurt when it seems like friends’ expectations are totally different from mine, but . . . after a lifetime of not being “on the same page” with friends, one starts glancing around sheepishly and thinking, “Yeah, it’s totally me, right? It’s me.”

  • Kristen

    I was sure I’d spend this month reading about all the awesome, life long friendships everyone else has and feeling terrible at my own lack of friendships and history of friendships gone wrong. But the comments here are making me think I’m far from alone in having had a love hate relationship with friendships. I might not even be the only person who realized too late in life I chose the wrong people to be friends with and that like romantic relationships, friendships take work and finding the right fit is paramount.

    All this to say that it seems maybe instead of fearing APW this month, I might find solace and comfort in other’s stories of friendships and horror stories of how wedding planning can destroy friendships.

    • meg

      Oooo! Want to write a post about this, “I might not even be the only person who realized too late in life I chose the wrong people to be friends with and that like romantic relationships, friendships take work and finding the right fit is paramount.” ??????

      • Kristen

        I’ll give it a try.

    • I’m in your boat, and I realized pretty recently that I hitched my wagon to some friends who were very, very wrong for me and were, in fact, not friends at all. (People who belittle my accomplishments, insult my spouse, or have no interest in our actual friendship, just in upholding the tradition of calling each other friends.)

      It turns out I had a desire when I was younger to make LOTS of friends and be REALLY social, so I collected close friends from all my different groups, activities, and experiences. But so many of them were really only my friends because we had superficial things in common, like living in the same dorm room, being at the same job, or being in the same city. When you took that away, we had nothing. And even knowing that, it’s hard to walk away from what’s familiar, even when it’s no good for you.

      You are most definitely NOT alone in this! But, it’s good you figured this out and can make changes where you need to.

      • Kristen

        Such good but painful lessons to learn. I think for me it was realizing how the terrible treatment from my family of origin set me up for allowing terrible treatment from friends my whole life. Once I figured out I am way too nice and sensitive a person to let just anybody in, I gained back control (my favorite) of this aspect of my life and it feels great!

  • becky

    I completely agree that friends and girl time help keep my relationship with my fiance healthy. I think we both need friend time and it keeps us both sane!
    Margi, I am also 32 and I know what you mean about having difficulty maintaining friendships when you’re in different “phases” of life. I find myself not calling my friends who have little ones because I assume they are busy…and before I know it, it has been a couple of months without contact. While there isn’t always time for marathon phone calls, I try my best to keep in touch, even if it’s just an email to check in. It’s definitely hard/different than things used to be. Looking forward to this month’s posts!!

  • shayna

    As the person who wore that matching outfit with you, I just want you to know: I WAS TOTALLY INTO IT. Though I could have sworn it was third grade. Nope, maybe you’re right, maybe it was fourth grade. Now I feel compelled to find the pictures to confirm. We were so cute and dweeb-y.

    • meg


      I had a funny line about Erin being David’s first girlfriend, but I edited it.

      4th grade. GOD THOSE OUTFITS. I remember because I hated our fourth grade teacher so much. I can still kindle a crackling dislike when I get thinking about her. And I loved our third grade teacher to the moon and back. She basically taught me to read.

    • Kat

      This comment makes my heart happy.

  • Hey Meg — Tim here from Lifeboat. What a great piece you wrote here — glad the report could help!

  • Anon

    I am really looking forward to this month.

    I am crap at maintaining friendships. My job (as a teacher) has been super social, so that all I want to do when I get home is sit and be quiet. I don’t want to talk to other people, even if I love them. I try to reach out, most often via email, but I’ve found it hard to find the energy to maintain relationships with my friends. I’ve been living far from friends for the past few years and I’ve made like 2 or 3 new friends in nearly 5 years, so maintaining lines of communication with most people has been made harder by distance.

    That said, I felt SO MUCH LOVE at my wedding. It was a small crowed–both my fiance and I invited our 10 “closest” friends. Deciding who made the cut was a weird process, but ultimately it came down to “I really want this person there to support my union with my partner” and “I will be sad if they are not there.” These people, most of whom I have not kept in great touch with, were there with so much enthusiasm! Many of them traveled across the country and were so happy to be there.

    One of my dear friends has suffered terribly from depression in the past few years, and she has been super hard to stay in touch with. I’ve reached out to her more than almost anyone. I moved heaven and earth to attend her wedding last year, and she brought her infant and husband to mine. At the reception right before leaving to get the baby home, she pulled me aside to tell me how much all of my efforts have meant to her. I’m one of her few old friends (high school/college peers) who haven’t dropped off the map since she had her son (we’re both relatively young, so she’s the first of any of her friends to have a baby). She was the first (and only!) person who made me cry on my wedding day… and it was because I was just so, so happy to have her there.

    While it was true that the choice to have a small wedding may have put the nails in coffins of some already waning friendships, my wedding did so much to remind me of how awesome my friends are and how I should try harder. I love my friends fiercely, and it was so great to feel their love for me.

    • Helen S

      Thanks for this, Anon. It seems to be a similar story across the board for teachers (I hope!). I have a friend who’s a teacher, and I just don’t ever hear from her. If we speak, it’s me doing the dialing, if we see each other, it’s me doing the inviting (and 3 out 4 invites are turned down). I she can’t make my birthday party, she doesn’t suggest a small catch up as an alternative. Our once incredibly close friendship is now reduced to bumping into each other at birthday drinks for mutual friends. It’s hard not to take it personally, especially when she has two other girlfriends I suspect she sees more. Am I boring? Do I make her feel bad or something? But those other girls are teachers too, so maybe I just don’t get it. I work around 12 hours a day, but I know when one of those days is running a training session, I’m completely drained. Maybe that’s what it’s like for her every day. So I don’t know. I’ll stop taking it personally, but I also think I should probably stop trying too. It’s been nearly three years of what feels like rejection, and I’ve had enough. I’m letting her go do what ever she’s doing (who knows these days?) and move on.

  • Brenda

    This article from the New York Times this weekend about a father finally understanding Facebook at his daughter’s wedding was lovely: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/what-i-learned-from-my-daughters-wedding/?_r=0

  • I’m writing from the other side of this. Going through a really sh*tty breakup a few years ago caused me to lean heavily on some friends, and they pretty much held me up when it was hard to keep going. I value those friendships so much, and try to make time for maintaining them.

    That sh*tty experience also taught me to really ask my friends how things are going, and be there when it’s rough for them too.

    It’s not always easy, esp. when our life paths diverge and we live in different places or make different life choices (getting married/staying single), but in all, I wouldn’t trade my friends with the world.

    It is easier to stay in touch as a single lady. When I’m in a relationship, so much effort goes toward that other person, that I really need to be conscious and make a concerted effort to reach out and make friend dates.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Because inviting my whole church, which is mostly elderly people, was my #1 guest-list priority, I didn’t invite too many age-peer-friends to our wedding. I feared a bit about what it would mean for our friendships, and I have to say, I haven’t seen it meant anything. If their feelings were hurt, I never heard it. I haven’t felt alienated or left out or anything. (I was also really good about not discussing the wedding with them, before or after.)

    But almost 8 months after the wedding, I’m often lonely. My husband is great, and a great friend (and everything else a husband must be), but he has ADD and sleep apnea. The ADD makes it hard to keep the apartment clean. The sleep apnea means one person sleeps in the bedroom, while another sleeps on the living room floor – so, more problems cleaning the apartment. He has other medical concerns, and he’s unemployed, so money is really tight.

    Dirty, cluttered apartment = no guests; No money = limits on going out. It combines to make it really hard to see friends. We’re just now figuring out what kind of effort would be necessary to get the apartment presentable. Summer weather may allow for picnics. But you just never know what’s going on in a bride’s life that makes her seem distant.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Elisabethjoanne, I have no clue if this would help you, but I mentally tier my friends based on how messy my apartment can be (according to me) when they visit. It helps me have goals of cleanliness. (And there are some friends who are allowed over no matter how messy it is.)

      It helps that I have friends whose places are definitely messier than mine, and I still love going over to visit them. I remember fun times with them more than the clutter.

  • You are keeping it real girlfriend…REAL!! Great Article.