By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
Friendship is a great blessing. Can you imagine going through life without friends? (We sure can’t!) Our friendships make up some of the closest relationships in our lives, and that doesn’t stop when we get married.
But when we go through a huge change in life, like beginning a dating relationship or getting married, it shifts the landscape of our relationships. Even though these changes occur, it’s important to find a new balance together, because maintaining our close relationships is important. So how do we do that?
FOCUS ON YOUR MARRIAGE FIRST
When you get married, it can be difficult for your friends (especially if you’re the first one in your circle to tie the knot) to accept the inevitable changes in your relationships with them. They don’t want to “give you up,” in a sense, for you to embark on something new. But it’s impossible to keep pouring the same amount of time and effort into your friendships as before, while cultivating intimacy with your new spouse.
It’s important for you and your spouse to understand that you’re both going to have to make some adjustments to the amount of time you invest in your friendships. You’re starting a new life together, and you need this time. Be empathic toward one another, and work together to make sure you’re meeting one another’s needs, as well as honoring one another’s need for your other friendships.
It’s also important to show empathy toward you friends, who may not understand your need to pour more time into your marriage. If you need to, you can explain that there have been some changes in your life, and right now you need to honor those changes as you start this new chapter.
Remember, your single friends will probably start getting married soon, and at that point, they’ll have a better understanding of where you are right now. In the meantime, you’re the pioneer, so start setting some great patterns in motion. Your friends will see your example of dedication to your marriage, and that will give them a strong model to follow when they get married, themselves.
CREATE SHARED FRIENDSHIPS
One of the greatest joys of a healthy, happy couple is having a shared circle of social connections. Shared friendships enrich your life, but it’s tricky to create a social circle within your marriage that works for both of you (and for those you bring into the circle).
When you gather friends together, something magical happens. You and your spouse get to know the deeper layers of each other in the process, particularly if you have a shared past with some of these friends. Enjoying friends together will deepen and enrich your relationship.
It’s easy to find a single friend we’d like to spend time with, but when it comes to forging friendships with other couples–and creating a relaxed, comfortable dynamic–it takes work, and it’s not as easy to pull off. All four of you need that natural chemistry, and that can be a challenge to find.
But when you and your spouse do “click” with another couple, it’s so rewarding. Not only are you friends with each of them; the mentoring that occurs when you watch another marriage play out in front of you is a huge bonus. When it comes to friends like this, the whole really is greater than each individual.
MAINTAIN INDIVIDUAL FRIENDSHIPS
While we’re big proponents of shared friendships (especially with other couples), this doesn’t mean you can’t also have individual friends. Our lives are enriched by keeping connections with friends from the past, work colleagues, classmates, and others. Communicate openly with one another about these friends, and allow one another the space you need to continue cultivating these individual friendships.
Sometimes we have a sense of responsibility and ownership for friends who have been loyal to us over the years (especially the single years!). It’s important to try to pull those friends into your shared life, but there are times when some of the friends you choose might not be your spouse’s favorite choices, and vice versa.
If your spouse has a friend he or she wants to maintain a connection with, open your arms a little wider to this person. Honor your spouse’s shared history with them, and allow your social horizon to expand. Your spouse is loyal to their friend, and it’s important to show grace and to respect your spouse’s desire to keep this friend in your lives.
Over time, you may find that the friends who aren’t in the center of your shared social circle draw closer to you as a couple. Relationships shift and evolve over time, and you may find that a friend of your spouse’s–who might not have been your top pick at first–turns out to be one of your most loyal friendships.
If you would like help with this balancing act of marriage and friendships, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.