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Dating Maze #385: Married and Friendless

August 8, 2013 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Now that I’m married, my single girlfriends are backing away. What happened?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I recently got married at age 39. During my single years, I made many friends along the way. When I became seriously involved and then engaged, some friendships endured and some did not, which is to be expected.

However, I am really struggling as far as my two close girlfriends with whom I’ve been special friends for many years. They’re both single and I know that my engagement and wedding were hard for them. I know how they felt, because I've been in their shoes. One friend and I remain in regular contact, but the other has really pulled away and we don't talk much anymore. I miss her so much but feel I need to respect her need for space.

I thought that after the wedding things would get better, but if anything, I feel farther from them than before. Does getting married really mean saying goodbye to my single friends?


Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Rosie and Sherry's Answer:

Dear Ellie,

First of all, mazel tov on your recent marriage. We wish you and your husband a wonderful life together.

Like all newly-married couples, you're finding that sharing a life with someone involves many adjustments, some of which you never imagined you'd have to make. One of those adjustments involves relationships with your friends. Even the closest friendships have to change, to some degree.

Friends who used to hang out on weekends are now displaced by a husband or wife.

As you have seen through experience, those changes begin when a dating couple starts to develop a strong emotional connection. As they spend more time with each other, share experiences, confidences, hopes and dreams, clearly some of the time and energy they used to devote to their friends gets directed to their relationship. This increases as they plan a wedding and set up a new home. Friends who used to hang out on weekends or go on vacations find that they've been displaced by a husband or wife.

Although you may not have intended this consequence, this is inevitable – no matter what age you are when you marry. This is part of the process of building and maintaining emotional intimacy with your spouse. At the start of marriage, newlyweds are in a bit of a bubble, enjoying spending time with each other and being absorbed in learning about and adjusting to each other.

It may take a while to figure out how to fit your friends and your separate interests into your new life. Even if your feelings about your friends don't change when you go through this process, they understand that the nature of your friendship has changed.

This doesn't mean that you have to lose your friendships once you join the couples' club. You can still meet for coffee, go to lunch, work out at the gym together, invite each other for Shabbat meals, and have an occasional girls' or guys' night out. You can still laugh at the same kinds of jokes, listen to the same music, engage in the same deep discussions, and enjoy doing things together.

Fill the Void

Why, then, do some friendships endure, and others don't? There are many reasons. Some friends can't deal with the deep pain of being single. Although they may be happy you've found the right person, you are a constant reminder that you've achieved something precious that still eludes them.

This can happen no matter how sensitive you've been to their feelings, by toning down discussion about wedding arrangements and details about your new relationship.

Some people may claim that they can't relate to you anymore because you're no longer able to get together at the last minute, drop everything to do something silly, share dating horror stories, or commiserate about how hard it is to be single. Those feelings are understandable if these activities defined your friendship.

Other friends, often the ones you're closest to, may experience a sense of loss because you don't have the same amount of time for them anymore, and you are no longer as available to hang out and share confidences. They may distance themselves as they try to fill the void. Or, in an act of true friendship, they may intentionally be giving you the guilt-free space you need to loosen your ties with them so that you can bond with your new spouse.

Take the Initiative

We understand that it's difficult to feel happy when – after a long search for the right man to build a new life with – you simultaneously feel that because of this you've lost some close friendships. But friendships can be fluid, and it's possible that after your couple-absorbed newlywed "bubble" dissipates, you'll be able to revive some of these friendships, or simply adjust to their changed nature.

Take the initiative and let your friends know that you miss them.

It's worthwhile to take the initiative and let your closest friends know that you miss them. Ask your local friend to lunch or coffee, and see if your out-of-town friend likes the idea of keeping in touch every week or two. If one of them accepts your invitation, focus your conversation on work, current events, and shared interests. Limit discussing marriage-related topics such as what you and your husband do together and how your new apartment is coming along, even if your friend asks about them.

If you're inclined to ask her for advice about your husband or relationship, don't. This will only further complicate the friendship, and in general single people are rarely able to offer a wise perspective on married life.

Regardless of what transpires, there are a few things you can do for your friends, whether they are still a big part of your life or they have backed away. First, keep them in mind when you meet your new husband's friends and family. Do they have a single cousin, neighbor, co-worker, or tennis partner who might be a good match for a friend you know well?

In addition, try keeping the door open for your friend to reconnect when she feels ready. Give her a call before Rosh Hashanah to wish her a Happy New Year, and consider asking her if she'd like to join you, your husband, and other girlfriends for a Shabbat meal.

Although things may not work out exactly the way you hope, in time, you and your friends should adjust to this new stage of life and find a new equilibrium that meets everyone’s needs, in light of the changed nature of your friendship.

Rosie & Sherry

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