I have to say that I couldn't be more proud of my friend, Erin, for simply being willing to write this post. It's one that required her to be more honest than she probably ever cared to be. I am so proud of her for having the courage to share an explanation to single women that are hurt after losing their friend to marriage. The reason why I asked Erin to write this actually is pretty simple and has everything to do with why she is my friend. Erin isn't the kind of girl that tells you what you want to hear to temporarily make you feel better. Nope, she will speak the truth because she loves you and knows you deserve honesty. She is always willing to admit her fault in the situation and also admit that she still doesn't have all the answers. She has a unique desire for us as woman to have healthy relationships with one another. I think this is why I've been so drawn to her as a friend. Some other things you should know about Erin before you read on, is: she might have the best laugh I've ever heard, she can pull of any haircut and color, she can make anything you've pinned on Pintrest, she can't turn down a good dessert, she fights for causes that are worth fighting for, she has muscles I didn't even know were possible (maybe being a personal trainer and nutritionist help with that) and she really is a fabulous mommy and wife. Chris and I are thankful to call the DuBrocs friends and I can't wait for you to meet her!
(Note: Erin & I decided to make this a 2 part post since there seems to be more to respond to have 3 posts from the singles perspective. She wants to be able to give a full response to help everyone have a healthier view and, ultimately, healthier relationships.)
When Becky asked me to write an explanation-type blog post to a single woman from a married woman’s perspective, I have to admit I felt pretty overwhelmed and a bit intimidated. I had been reading the guest posts consistently and not only did I feel pressure to write as well as the great authors before me, I carried a weight of responsibility for sincerely and compassionately communicating a response the most right and excellent way. [Cue David Bowie’s “Pressure” now.]
After fully digesting what had been so poignantly expressed by these other women, I definitely felt a wrestling in my spirit. At first it looked a lot like guilt – about not handling some of my single friends with enough care and intentional communication after I got married. Then it looked like a muddled mess of confusion – how could I reconcile what happened to those friendships with how drastically my world had changed post-wedding? I was essentially bouncing back and forth from guilt to justification. It seemed deficient to write and say “I’m sorry for hurting you, single friend” whilst also attempting to provide an explanation for why it happened.
Becky was kind enough to bear with my “just-let-me-run-this-by-you” phone calls and texts. I had a bit of trouble siphoning a pretty and effective three-prong thesis from the swirling vortex of thoughts in my brain. After phone call number three, my mental horizons cleared and were broadened by a thought –
maybe this goes way beyond single and married friends, but every type of friendship that ever endures a major change of scenery.
What could I share that would really broaden our scope, challenge our attitudes, bring healing and make us better friends to anyone and everyone? That’s my aim in all of this now.
However, I would be remiss not to start with the microcosm first, and give a little explanation for married friends often feel and act the way they do. Here’s my story.
Despite being a full-time graduate student, working as a part-time graduate assistant, spending time with my grandmother with whom I lived during those grad school years, and being very involved at church, I had a lot of free time as a single woman. I honestly find myself in awe of it when I think back to those days. I had so – much – time. And so many activities! My calendar always seemed full of social events. And if it wasn’t, I could easily fill the time with a simple phone call to another single friend. Besides, I knew they’d probably be available. It’s just how it was when I was in the singles group at church. Things were planned for Sunday morning, Sunday lunch, weekly small group (with coffee talk before and after), countless dinners out, Thursday nights at Wild West, random concerts, runs at Memorial park, movie nights, birthday parties for people I hardly knew but who were also in Summit (our church's single adult group), and on it goes.
There always seemed to be somewhere to go and someone to go with. It was all a blast and perfectly appropriate – it’s not like I didn’t ever have solitude, but I’m afraid it may have created some faulty expectations. Looking back, I did, in fact, feel pressure to be at everything. Self-induced pressure (“I don’t want to miss out on something fun”) as well as outside pressure (getting a phone call from five friends asking where I was) often led my decisions. Social boundaries were somewhat limited. Besides, miss out on a potential meeting with my future husband? I had to go! [Note: I still struggle with control issues to this day.]
It was a great time in my life – I learned a ton of things, but in hindsight all of the instant-social-gratification seems like it was a well-meaning recipe for relational disaster.
The downfall became two-fold; for myself, I became a bit codependent with my friends. I took on responsibility for their happiness that wasn’t healthy. I felt like it was my job as a friend to be there anytime, in any way possible, for as long as they needed me. In turn, I began to expect the same from them, and I’m afraid I wasn’t the only one. Friends became a lot like Jesus to me during that time. The expectations placed on friendships simply weren’t fair. And again, I began to feel the same way about the expectations placed on me, but not until I was engaged.
It was almost uncanny how awkward it felt to walk down the single young adult halls at church the Sunday following our engagement. I swear that I’m not being paranoid – my very level-headed husband felt it, too. People diverted their eyes when we walked by – people who just two weeks prior would have given a shout out and said “hey, where are y’all doing lunch?” The discomfort and weirdness was almost tangible. We felt like intruders. To add insult to injury, when I told one friend I was engaged, she started crying uncontrollably at our table in Ruggles and said “no, you can’t, it’s just not fair.” Granted, there were some issues she was working on that almost prepared me for that response, but the consequence was hard to avoid. I wanted out of there to run away with my man – now!
I know this will sound incredibly condescending, but trust that I’m completely sincere when I say that I honestly felt like it was better for everyone for me to just disappear to married young adultdom (dum, dum, dum….the third floor).
Many of my friends had perfectly respectful and encouraging responses to our engagement, lest you think I responded only to the extremes. Invariably though, we were ready to move on from that social scene and investigate what God had for us as a couple approaching marriage.
The new learning module for us was characterized by three words: leave, cleave, and weave.
I’m sure many of you have heard these spoken at weddings. It’s what’s permanently engrained into newly married brains. You have to leave your old life – way of thinking – priorities – comforts – preferences – everything. And be cleaved with your husband to weave a new life. New ways of thinking, feeling, communicating, financing, working, cleaning – everything. It was a rather immediate transition for us to begin chewing on these ideas as we began attending the Newlywed or Close class very soon after our engagement. We felt we might be run out with pitchforks if we didn’t scurry on our own. [I’m kidding. No really, I am.]
Thus, I began a completely new chapter of life. And after the honeymoon – no, after year one of marriage – it was hitting me like a ton of bricks. New expectations, new time constraints, new budget and a new way of doing friendship. Gone were those single days of seemingly endless free time. It was cut in half if not more. My emotional, mental, spiritual and physical loads were hefty, and I won’t lie and say it didn’t take a few years to really reach a place of balance and (albeit, shifting) confidence about it all.
I needed grace from everyone I knew, especially my friends.
But now, here comes the hard part of the explanation. Even during my social butterfly phase where I was always happy to add new friends to my life and numbers to my cell phone, deep down I believed what my Dad had always told me – you can count your true, lifelong friends on one hand. Even those lifelong friends with whom I share a healthy, mutually beneficial friendship five years of marriage later, they look different than they ever did when I was single. There was a big learning curve to friendships after marriage. I remember feeling like I was starting over – not with all new friends (though definitely some that my husband and I both wanted to pursue as couple-friends), but with how to make friendship work given my new reality. They couldn’t be my everything-social-and-emotional anymore. For a while, I transferred those jobs to my husband which was detrimental in a whole new way, but that’s another blog post for another day.
They weren’t ordained to be my primary relational outlet anymore.
I know Jesus is always supposed to fill that need, but when it came to the tangible and earthly, my husband was to come first. If it makes anyone feel better, my mother felt slighted, too.
Lastly, some friendships faded away post-marriage, because they weren’t very strong and deeply rooted to begin with. The few times I was alerted to the idea that I had stopped being a good friend to someone, it ended up coming from a person that I just didn’t feel very close to. I hated that the change in our friendship hurt them, but it was as though natural selection had taken place and it just was what it was. Before you think I’m a total jerk, hear me out. This had, has and will happen again to me, too. This is where I’m asking you to think bigger.
More to come in Part 2... Read it here.
Want to connect with Erin more? Read her blog, friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
Check out some of the other 2012 relationship guest posts:
Erin DuBroc (Why things had to change: Part 1
& Part 2)