Do You Ever Feel Like All Your Married Friends Are Moving On Without You?

I love Heather Havrilesky's writing.

It's deep, lyrical, bad-ass, philosophical, practical, and almost always spot-on. Not only that, she, like me, is a happily married author who graduated Duke in the 90's.

In her advice column in New York Magazine, Havrilesky takes on a question from a reader who is sad that all of her friends are getting married and leaving her behind.

It's a common feeling and one that I've yet to address on this blog. But if I did, I hope it'd turn out like this long, thoughtful reply about the realities of married peopleHavrilesky opens with sympathy and understanding for the letter writer's predicament but doesn't shy away from some tough love, either.

Havrilesky opens with sympathy and understanding for the letter writer's predicament but doesn't shy away from some tough love, either.

"Regardless of what you end up doing with your life, you have to reject this image of you, all alone, left in the dust. You also have to recognize that no one is lonelier than recently married people or brand-new parents. I still remember the feeling I had, right before I got married, realizing that I was going to spend my entire life with one MAN. I mean, come on, WHO WOULD CHOOSE SUCH A THING? It was madness. Where were my girlfriends and why couldn’t they move in with me? I think this state of panic explains why some women go batshit over bridesmaids and bachelorette parties. They are legit freaking the fuck out about being stuck with a dude all alone forever and ever, and they want to crawl into some communal lady world filled with flaming tequila shots and rhinestone crowns, where no one says things like “Calm down, you’re not making sense” or “Hang on, I have to take a piss.”

But what really hit me hard - and the reason I'm sharing this piece - is because of Havrilesky's brutally realistic take on adult friendships.

That said, I probably fought too hard for some of my friendships, trying to make sure that nothing would ever change when change was inevitable. I romanticized old friendships that were no longer working. I threw big parties that included kids and parents and single people that mostly added up to a big, please-everyone-all-the-time-themed nightmare. I forced things. I tried way too hard. I threw myself into new friendships prematurely. I expected very different friends to befriend each other. I expected unwieldy groups of people to get along. I’ve pushed and nudged my friends. I’ve also raged and sulked and felt left behind.

I hope you’re starting to understand how hard it can be, because having great friends and not feeling neglected takes a fuckload of toil and trouble as an adult. You need to know that. You need to know how to stay open to making new friends at all times, and you need to know how to forgive your old friends, and you also need to know when to give up and walk away. You need to learn how not to expect too much from every single friend. You need to learn how to allow people to have a bad night or even a busy year. You need to know how to ask for exactly what you want and you need to hear people clearly when they say “I just can’t manage that” or “I’ll try.” But you also need to hear when they say, in their own ways, “I’m not sure you’re worth it to me.” You need to check in with yourself and ask “Is it worth it to me?”

And even if you reframe your language, you’ll still feel left out occasionally. WE ALL DO. Having friends as an adult is nothing like having friends in your 20s. Plus, people can be so fucking careless these days. It blows my mind, honestly. I wish I could prepare you for that part. It’s hard when you’re sensitive, single or not single, kids or no kids, to prepare for the many disappointments ahead, friendship-wise.

This could have - and sort of did - come out of my mouth just last year.

When you get married, have kids, and a full-time job, the time for friends quickly dissipates, even though the need for them does not. I wish it weren't that way, but it is. Which is yet another reason that it's ultra-important to marry your best friend and not just some dude you're attracted to. If you're going to spend every day for the rest of your life with one person and only see your best friends a handful of times each year, nothing is more important than figuring out what kind of man will make you happy forever.

When you get married, have kids, and a full-time job, the time for friends quickly dissipates, even though the need for them does not.

Havrilesky ends on a proactive, positive note about self-definition for the OP.

"You have to redefine what “moving forward” might look like to you. Merely mating and procreating is not necessarily moving forward. Merely being single and childless is not stagnant. Figure out what feels like forward motion to you (and you alone!) and embrace it and own it and savor it with all of your heart. You are the author of this story. Throw that sugary, simplistic board game out the window, and learn to respect the grace that lives and breathes in every cell."

Amen.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    S.

    Here are the quotes that stood out to me:

    My personal opinion is that people don’t take adult friendships seriously enough. So the very best advice I can give you on the friendship front is to be a loyal, true friend to others and to make sure that when you find a good, steady, true friend, you hold that person very close and tell them often how much you appreciate them. That kind of person is rare and precious.

    I totally agree.  I do think your spouse can be your best friend. But I think you can have other best friends. And you should.  What if something happened to your spouse?

    The second I stopped apologizing for myself and started to cultivate my own private interests and desires, things that had nothing to do with what other people approved of or found impressive, I became so much more relaxed, and I was encountered in a new way by the people who know me.

    This.  You also have to be your own best friend sometimes. Even if married. Even if single. Sometimes in the middle of the night it comes down to you and your choices.  I like what she said about cultivating in interior life that you enjoy. I can’t express how important this is and how no one ever talks about it. It’s not about being childfree and loving it. It’s not about being an introvert. It’s about being your own best friend every day and doing things you love, partnered or not.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. 2
    Elle

    Wow. Really powerful piece by Heather Havrilesky. So glad you shared it. Has really got me thinking not only about the realities of my adult friendships but also the concept of what “moving forward” means to me. That last paragraph is priceless. Look forward to reflecting more on these issues. Thank you.

  3. 3
    Angel

    Why almost all married people always say to their single friends something similar to this: you know what, marriage is not a happily ever after stories, it’s better to be single, you can do many things and meet many people, you can travel to see the world, pursue your career bla bla bla……? (Usually they’re saying this just after they tell a happy stories about their spouse n kids…..)

    If single life was so fascinating and interesting why don’t they all got divorce and be single again?? Yeah…. talk is cheap, rite?

    They thought they’re cheering us up but they only making us feel even worse… so stop keep saying that …..

    1. 3.1
      Emily, the original

      Angel,

      They thought they’re cheering us up but they only making us feel even worse… so stop keep saying that …..

      I belong to a women’s group and hear a lot of, “I’m not close with my family. My friends are my family,” but then they fall off the planet, get married or move across the country to be with their family.

  4. 4
    Lilly

    I think it’s a untrue that no one is lonelier than the newly married, but there is an emotional toll on both sides of the friendship equation when major life changes occur.

    My husband relocated from the other side of the world for me, he’s a partner in an advertising agency so can work from here remotely but has an unusual work rhythm to keep to European timings. A typical day for us is me getting up at five thirty to be at work around seven, he having finished his last work day around midnight sleeps until eight so we miss each other in the morning.

    I go to the gym at lunch and he goes when he gets up so our fitness doesn’t eat into our time together, I leave work at around four and head to a yoga class as it’s stull a busy time for him work wise and because I don’t like bringing the stress of my day home. I’m home at six and we cook dinner and eat together and spend an hour or so quality time before he has to start work again. I go to bed at ten.

    So we dont get much time together during the week, for us our weekends are important for us to reconnect and protect our relationship. We even get a cleaner twice a week so we can have those hours free to relax together because being married and having careers is hard.

    Ive tried so hard to balance friendships into this but my single friends don’t want to hang out with a couple, he travels a fair bit back to Europe for work so I try to make up time with my single girlfriends then but it’s resented as they feel I just want to see them because I have no other option. Which isn’t true at all, but the hard truth is something else is my priority now. If it’s a choice between cocktails with the girls or date night with my husband I’m going to pick the latter because it’s a chance I won’t get back all week. I know how this sounds, I really do and I carry enormous guilt over it.

    When I do see my single friends I rarely discuss us, I am so worried about coming across as smug. I laugh and enjoy my time but when they’re chatting to groups of guys it feels wrong for me to be there.

    I stay though to keep them happy, the same as I miss precious time with my husband for them at times so I can’t be accused of using them when he’s away, I listen to their ups and downs of dating but don’t feel as though I can discuss the ups and downs of marriage in case I upset someone – I often feel like I can’t win.

    1. 4.1
      Emily, the original

      Lilly,
       he travels a fair bit back to Europe for work so I try to make up time with my single girlfriends then but it’s resented as they feel I just want to see them because I have no other option.
      Can’t you explain that you and your husband have limited time together so his travel time is the perfect time to see them? That sounds reasonable to me.
      If it’s a choice between cocktails with the girls or date night with my husband I’m going to pick the latter because it’s a chance I won’t get back all week. 
      I think it’s fine to have a priority, but if you always prioritize him and months go by and you don’t see your friends (I’m assuming you saw them at least — what? — at least once a month before you married), they may feel neglected.
      I listen to their ups and downs of dating but don’t feel as though I can discuss the ups and downs of marriage in case I upset someone – I often feel like I can’t win.
      You should be able to discuss your marriage as they should be able to discuss dating. You shouldn’t have to avoid talking about a topic that is so important to you — your marriage.

  5. 5
    january

    As a longtime lurker here, and a fan of Ask Polly, I’m very glad to know you’re a fan, too.  Gives you some extra cred 😉

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