In our culture, we often talk about marriages as insular units. You do everything together! You share interests! You’re each other’s best friend! You never share secrets with friends that you wouldn’t share with your spouse! And while happy marriages often include some of these elements, there is danger in becoming so dependent on each other that we cut ties with the outside world. It’s such an easy and socially encouraged path to take—staying in and watching Netflix when you could go out, not bothering to call your friends back—but it can be dangerous to isolate ourselves. Amy’s brave post explores why we need a broader community to give us support, and tells the story of the road back home.
I was twenty when I made a gigantic mistake. I married the man I was madly in love with surrounded by my extended family, most of whom I see once every two to five years now. Only one of my close friends was there. The rest? They weren’t invited because my groom didn’t like my friendships with them. I should’ve recognized this red flag, but my mother had never had many close friends in her life, so I thought that was just part of being married.
I was twenty-four when I found the courage to leave. I didn’t tell anyone in the city that I lived for at least a month. I was alone with little family support and only one friend who I thought I could call. When my distraught husband showed up on my doorstep late one night telling me he had bought a gun, there was no one to go to that would calm me down or help me feel safe.
I was twenty-seven when I moved to Canada. I was still depressed and carrying with me the shame from my first marriage ending. I had drifted through a series of unhealthy relationships, afraid to be on my own. I moved to re-evaluate my career. Little did I know that in addition to finding work that held meaning for me, I would also find a group of amazing women who would help me find myself. They showed me how to be a self-fulfilled, confident single woman. They modeled how being in a relationship doesn’t mean closing your heart to other people. I discovered that I love to cook and hike. I lost weight, gained a better wardrobe through clothing swaps, and found joy in a community of friends who supported each other through challenges big and small.
I was twenty-nine when I reconnected with my friends from my freshman year of college. I showed up at their annual New Year’s Eve party and they welcomed me back with open arms. The decade I had spent not interacting with them was erased by their love and forgiveness. I talked with them until 6:00am, cramming years into one night. We kept in touch. I returned from the holidays to Canada and less than six months later met the man who would make me want to say, “I do” again.
I was thirty when he moved into my cozy apartment. I celebrated my independence with a solo trip to Berlin on my birthday, but slowly opened my life to him while guarding my time with friends like a precious jewel. I subconsciously waited for him to try to limit that time, but he embraced my friends as his own and the dinner parties I enjoyed hosting became larger as his friends mixed with mine. When our first holidays together arrived, he suggested we find a way to see everyone, so we drove 6,000 kilometers together in just over a week, visiting his friends, his parents, my parents, my grandmother, and once again spending New Year’s Eve with my dear friends I had once thought I had lost. He proposed while we were hiking. I said yes.
I was thirty-one when we moved across the continent to the West Coast. In our new city, we struggled with the decision of where we should be married. We considered eloping, but neither one of his could bear the thought of not having our closest friends beside us. We debated where would be most convenient for our friends, prioritizing locations near major airports, and struggling to find a place with meaning before deciding on the obvious choice—our new city that wasn’t quite home yet, but would be by the time we married. We searched for a venue until we found the perfect location—a house we could rent for the weekend, so that everyone could stay with us.
I will be thirty-two when we marry. This time, there will be no extended family there. Instead, I will be surrounded by the family I have built through friendship. This time, instead of being married by an officiant I’ve only met once before, I will be married by one of my best friends. This time, instead of being given away by my father, we will ask for our friends blessing on our union. As they vow to stand beside us and not between us, I will silently vow to do the same for my husband’s relationships with his friends. This time I will not let go of my friendships and I know he will not ask me to let go. Friendship is a gift not to be taken for granted. I will prioritize our limited vacation time and funds towards maintaining the relationships that I cherish. This time, I will celebrate my new marriage with laughter and dancing, knowing that while I might not be able to find the words to express how much my life has been enriched by their presence, they will feel how much I love them.
Photo: Gabriel Harber