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Marriage and Friendship

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Did you ever have a really good friend with whom you believed you would have a relationship for your entire life only to discover that once they got married or once you married, the friendship came to a crashing halt?

I stumbled on an article from the Washington Post that brought back a flood of memories from my young adult and early marriage years. The article is titled "The Great Divide" and was printed on July 25th of 2006. The writer focused on the impact that marriage has on friendship relationships. The major point of the article was that once a marriage intrudes itself into a friendship relationship things change fast, often leading to the end of the friendship.

I recall growing up in New York City with a close group of friends all of whom expected to remain close forever. However, as each of us found girl friends and married our group slowly but surely diminished. First, those who married seemed to have entered into a new universe from those of us who were single. Second, the married people were no longer available to "hang out" any longer. Third, they were certainly not about to go with us to parties for the sake of meeting girls. Fourth, searching for that "sexual liaison" no longer preoccupied the newly married since sex had become a moot point. However, fifth, the most important point is that the newly married seemed to have disappeared, vanished, and evaporated. In fact, in some cases, the new couple managed to purchase houses and move away from the city. When these couples moved away we all felt an intense loss and sadness.

All the remaining single young men in the group would meet and compare notes about how we felt. We shared feelings of anger and resentment about some young woman having taken our friends away to the strange new world of marriage. Yet, I remember feeling jealous that those "guys" had achieved something that I did not have. I believe some of the other single men felt the same way. I clearly remember experiencing a type of pressure to find some one to marry.

It is important to remember that we were young during the 1960’s when the vast majority of people married and when remaining single was rare, unlike today when more than fifty percent of people in their twenties, thirties and forties remain unmarried.

Of course, as the remainder of us paired off into marriage, we followed the same route out of the city and away from old friendships. Although some people manage to keep best friends, that did not happen in our group. Some of us did meet many years later but it was not the same as when we were young and single. We had moved on and were no longer the same. Perhaps that was a function of being male. In my experience women seem to do better in keeping friendships over the long term. However, this is merely an impression and is not stated as fact.

What is most fundamental about the information in the article that spurred my memories and this log entry is that people exert pressure in relationships to maintain the status quo. When someone comes along to change or threaten that status quo, group members place pressure to keep that intruder away. Perhaps that is the reason why each of us had to leave the group as we married. In other words, to maintain those friendships we would have had to spend time, energy and money away from our wives. This was not something any of us wanted to do. We wanted to marry and had voluntarily entered into marriage at a time in our lives when we were ready to build new families and start having and raising the next generation.

During the years of my private practice as a psychotherapist I have come across many newly married couples struggling with one another over whether they should be socializing with their single friends or going out together with married friends and family. Statistics show that, as people marry, they spend less time with friends and more time with family. Once these couples have children, they spend even more time with family as opposed to friends.

I do not mean to imply that people should reject their old friends when they marry. Quite to the contrary, it is valuable to maintain old friendships. The ability to maintain those connections depends upon everyone being patient with changes that must, of necessity, occur. For one, the wife or husband becomes the new best friend, or should in a successful marriage. Second, there will be less time for old friends to be with one another. Understanding these facts requires patience, understanding and the willingness to fight the feelings of jealousy that get aroused when marriage occurs.

I remember a line from some television show several years ago in which one character says to another, as they work to maintain a long friendship that has become very strained, "We cannot make new old friends." I no longer remember the show but the quote has stuck in my memory because it is so true.

If there is a moral to this log entry it is to stress the importance of your marriage, where most of your energy should go, while allowing some amount of time to keep in touch with those old friends. Remember, "You cannot make new old friends, at least not very quickly."

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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