Ask Team Practical: Losing Friends

I was hoping maybe one of these days you would address the topic of losing friends after a wedding. I know I’m not the only one who’s had this experience and I’m trying to make sense of how getting married suddenly means that your friends go away. This has happened to both me and my husband. At least half the members of our wedding party no longer speak to us, and not over a particular event or falling out, more just out of mutual losing touch. Perhaps this is partially related to just dealing with adult relationships, but I think that marriage is intimately tied to this.

—Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I wish I could give you a hug. This is definitely the not-so-fun part of my job. (Meg didn’t warn me I’d have to give out bad news! She just said I could spout opinions and boss people around!) But, the sad truth is sometimes, it just happens. Friendships shift and change, and folks outgrow one another and slip away. I think there’s a point where that’s less a result of marriage, and more a result of adulthood. Think about it. When you’re younger, most of your friends are friends just by nature of proximity. This guy sits next to me in pre-calc, that girl shares a waitressing shift with me. You become friends with the people around you, and usually by default, they’re in the same “life stage” as you. You’re both college freshmen! You have so much in common!

As you get older, that life stage stuff becomes more complicated and more pronounced. Sure you’re all adults now, but who’s married and who’s working on a PhD, who’s having kids and who’s traveling abroad become bigger pieces of where you are and what you’re doing, to the point where maybe you don’t have as much in common with that guy you sat next to in pre-calc any more. Even though you care about each other, even though you have fond memories, maybe there’s not as much shared experience and common ground. But more than proximity, more even than shared experiences, friendship really comes down to who shares those core commonalities with you—interests, ideals, and that intangible “click.” Sometimes, the diverging paths of adulthood simply lay bare the lack of real commonality at the core. When we no longer have classes and favorite bands in common, do we have anything to talk about? Do we care about the same stuff? Sometimes, painfully, the answer is no… or even, “meh.”

That’s kind of sucky stuff to lay on you; don’t let it overwhelm you. The happy thing is the reverse. Sometimes, the changes in life only emphasize for you who your true friends are—those pals who call no matter how far you’ve moved, who remember your birthday even when you haven’t spoken in months, and who still have tons to talk about when you both are on crazy different paths.

Before you give up hope, let’s look at a few things you can do about it. I always try to do the smart thing first and assume there’s a possibility that what’s happening is partially my fault. Introspection! Be honest with me, miss. Are you making time for your friends the way you always have? Are you available when they need you, up for drinks when they want to hang? Double-check that stuff, and I say that for two big reasons.

First, there is a smidgen of truth to that old trope about married folks getting settled into a boring routine. Not that the routine is boring, no, but that it’s easy to settle into it. Whereas before, there was stuff to do and people to see, well, now you have this comfortable couch with this smoking hot spouse sitting on it and a full season of Breaking Bad on Netflix. It’s not hard to ease into coming home to that every night and being completely content with it, and that’s fine! As long as it’s not interfering with other important things like friendships and sunlight and human interaction.

The second big thing is that your friends just might assume you’re too busy for them, now that you’re sophisticated and married and all. The more “responsibilities” you take on (apologies to your partner for lumping him into that category), the more the onus is on you to do the reaching out. Tack on a full time job, a husband, a baby, coaching a youth swim league, and for each added responsibility, your friends (perhaps mistakenly) will see you as having less time for happy hour drinks. So, don’t sit around waiting for friends to call you. Shoot an email and see who’s up for hanging out. Dispel that myth that married people are both busy and boring.

A part of making yourself available is being okay with not dragging your partner along to everything. Maybe he’s stuck at work tonight. Go without him! But, making space for just-me-and-friends-time isn’t just about making room in your schedule when your partner isn’t available. Sometimes your friends just want to see you. Sometimes his friends just want to see him. Are you okay with leaving him on the couch with the cat and a bowl of chips while you go out and have a blast? Conversely, are you okay with being left at home with those chips? It’s good for you both! Honest!

Friendships do sometimes slip away—that’s the sad truth of it. But, make every effort you can to hold onto the ones that are dear. Make time for them, reach out to them, suck it up and go out for expensive coffee drinks with them! With a little luck, and some expensive coffee drink times, the good ones will stick around. (Why do I know this? Because the ones that stick around tend to be really good ones, and them sticking around is part of how you figure that out. It’s circular logic, but it’s also often true.)

 

*****

Team Practical, how do you handle shifting and changing friendships? Did you find any friends grow distant after the wedding?

Photo by APW sponsor Leah and Mark 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!

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