Marriage changes our relationships with friends. We once shared all the details about the guy we were dating, now we have to practice censorship out of respect for our spouse’s need for privacy. Laughing over cocktails at happy hour has been replaced with quiet dinner parties and kiddie play dates. My friends’ priorities have changed and I wanted our friendship to stay the same.
Since I was a late-bloomer to matrimony, I was usually the friend that others outgrew. I am someone who wants one-on-one time and friendships became more of a group event. It first starts with the coupling process and being the single friend when others want to double-date. Then “going out” at night turns into “staying home” for the day as new suburbia home-owners host backyard barbeques. The next stage is when “get togethers” really mean pool parties with kids screaming all over the place. With each new life stage, distance grows in life experiences and interests. Sometimes friends move forward with you into grown-up land, while others linger behind.
This is the ninth blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. This week, we will be looking at “Drawing the Line” with Friends. I’m taking the theme of the book chapter and expanding on some of my own ideas. As individual needs evolve, old friendships need new boundaries. We need to redefine what we can offer our friendships so others can be clear of what to expect.
1. High-maintenance friends need to be put on notice. The friend who is always recovering from a break-up or seems to attract drama needs to be told where the line is. Getting married (or starting a family) means there will be a limited amount of energy to invest in friends. Priority goes to home-life. You will no longer be available every week for a shoulder to cry on.
2. Privacy in marriage needs to be protected. There will be some pieces of yourself that only your spouse will know. There is no longer unlimited self-disclosure because protecting your spouse’s trust and public image is a higher priority.
3. Keep friendship opportunities open. If you only have mommy-friends, then your world view stays limited. It is unwise to insulate yourself too much into one type of friend. If you are only friends with your siblings or parents, then you are blocking new perspectives. Having a variety of types of friends helps you remember different sides of yourself that can easily be buried under your roles of spouse or parent.
4. Abandoning friendships because life changes is unacceptable. Priorities shift and time-availability becomes limited. Relationships that are worth keeping still require an investment. You may not be able to heavily invest like you have in the past. This may mean that you have to block out time on the calendar further in advance in order to make a friend-date a priority. You may need to schedule workouts together on the weekends or plan phone dates with long distance friends for your commute home. “We learn that the bonds of true friendship are not easily broken. And we learn that, in a good relationship, we can set limits that will strengthen, not injure, the connection.” Friends can adapt for a phase in your life. They don’t want to be dumped.
When life gets messy, friends are the ones who will rally to your aid. Friendships are important to cultivate even when priorities shift. Husbands can leave through death or divorce. Babies grow up into adults who don’t need you anymore. Friends are the ones who will be there to get you through all the seasons in your life. They are the ones who will help you remember who you were before you were married or had kids. They will introduce you to parts of yourself you never explored before.
I accept that quality time with friends may not happen as often as I prefer. Being the late-bloomer, I understand that I have to be the flexible one because there are limited openings in a friend’s kid-free schedule. This means that I have to put more work into keeping myself on their social radar.
As a quality-time person who values undivided attention, let me share with you where my boundaries are: I don’t want to compete and lose for your attention. This means taking your kids to Chuck E. Cheese and you refereeing their interaction doesn’t count as spending time with me. Inviting me over to a house party of 20+ guests doesn’t count as spending time with me. I have boundaries too. “Drawing the Line” with friends means we communicate that we love them and there is a limitation of availability. From there, we can negotiate how to stay involved in each other’s lives that works for both of us.
Marriage changes friendships: HOW it changes is up to you. We may just discover how much we need our friends to help us through another stage in life and to help us remember how far we’ve come.
Reflect & Share: How have you had to adapt to your friends’ changing home-life priorities? What is one thing you can do to reconnect with friends?
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Blogs & Resources:
Conflicts with Friends (article)
10 ways to build and preserve better boundaries (article)
Healthy Boundaries (article)
The boundaries of friendship (article)
How to set boundaries with friends (article)
The Key to Stronger Friendships: Respecting Privacy (article)
Needy friends: A friend indeed? (blog)
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