Does Marriage Change Friendships?

friend.jpgSteve left an interesting comment on the previous post regarding friendship. I’m hoping that we can get a discussion going to provide a few answers.

In part, this is what he had to say:

Here’s a question I battle with everyday. I could be generalising here too; Why do single friends phone and come over your place every weekend and then once they get married, you never hear from them again.

Does marriage make life too busy? Does your partner refuse you to still have your single friends?

Steve was part of the church I grew up in many years ago. It’s been a long while since we’ve caught up. 

I left a lengthy reply in the comments section of the last post but I though it’d be worth getting some other perspectives? Are you a married person who no longer hangs out with your single friends or a single person who is losing married friends? Have you found that things stayed pretty much the same after marriage?

Here are some of the thoughts I shared in my reply.

Relationships certainly do change after marriage. I know that in some relationships one or the other partner will ‘forbid’ their other half from getting together with some of their friends. I’d hate to be in such a relationship. I would never dictate such things to Pauline and she would never dictate such things to me.

I think it’s right that a greater emphasis is placed onto building the marriage partnership than on other friendships. Things can’t remain the same forever. On the other hand I think it’s wrong to become so insular in a marriage relationship that you break long term friendships. Even married couples need to remain as part of a wider community.

Friendships are based on a lot of things including shared interests and proximity.

I think marriage does change your interests somewhat, even more so when you add children into the mix. A single person will often have different interests to a married person.

As for proximity, Pauline and I are now living across the other side of the city from where we used to live so there are many people, both married and single, that we no longer see as often.

I think that friendships begin, change and end for a variety of reasons. We all go through various ‘seasons’ in our lives. Things change, we move on.

I’d also have to say that it’s not all down to those who are married. It goes both ways. A number of our single friends stopped staying in touch after we married. While scheduling is sometimes an issue we’ve never said ‘no’ to an invitation to get together with a single friend.

So what do you think? Have you felt hurt when a friend has moved to a different phase of their life? Have you noticed this phenomenon in your own life?

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Hey Rodney – you’ve put together a well-considered reply. My experience is that , once I was occupied with my girlfriend/fiancee/wife, I had very little social connection outside of her which I thought was fairly natural at the time.

    You point out that people still need to maintain their other friendships and I agree – I should’ve!

    Just that that’s got to happen between you and your “someone” first, than with others second.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work!


  • Interesting discussion, Rodney. I was in a slightly different situation in that I moved countries to get married (in the first year, then she moved for the rest of her life!) We had a fairly social life in that first year, as I recall, as Andrea’s family was pretty close by and we settled into her church.

    But, a lot changes. Some of the time you used to spend hanging with friends you now need to invest in your marriage. Some of the time you used to ignore keeping house you now need to invest in house keeping! If you like doing things together, you’re not necessarily going to get along with all of each other’s friends. Andrea relates to people in different ways to me (I’m a loud big group person, she’s a quiet small group person), you re-negotiate new friendships. Kids come and you don’t get extra time to fit them in, you have to use the available time.

    The gender thing comes into it too – is it appropriate for a married person to spend much time with a single, or married, person of the opposite sex? Personally, I wouldn’t.

    But I’ve stayed connected to some single (and married) friends, they’re sort of ‘our’ friends, which is probably why it’s worked, but I don’t think Andrea would stay in touch with all of them if I wasn’t in the picture. And vice versa. I think that’s important as the marriage is not meant to fulfil all your relationship needs – I don’t think that’s fair on anyone.

  • I’ve had friends that have ignored their friends because they want to spend all their time with their partner. It’s really hard to be on the end of that. I also wonder what happens when their partner dies and they have no other friends outside their marriage.
    On the other hand, I’ve also seen it done really well. I think it takes work from both parties to keep a friendship after marriage. I personally make it my goal to be friends with all my friend’s partners so they don’t mind me spending time with their partner when married hehe.

  • Thanks Thomas. I don’t think you’re the only that has been totally absorbed by a relationship with someone special. 🙂 I reckon that’s one of the wonderful stages of being in love.

    Obviously we move through that and while we can maintain that passion we do start to see that there are still other people on the planet.

  • Alex, I think you raised a very important point about friends of the opposite sex.

    I used to have several close, female friends. It was never anything more than friendship but it was close. When I started getting serious with Pauline I realised that those other relationships couldn’t never be the same. It would be inappropriate for me to continue such a close relationship with any other female.

    We’ve remained friends but the boundaries have changed.

  • As you point out, Rach, it really does take an effort for both the single and the married friend to keep a friendship alive. I think both have to realise that the friendship will change and develop in different ways. Some people can’t handle that change and so they break a friendship. Others, like you, know that life requires us to be in a constant state of change and it’s about adapting to each new circumstance.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Hi Rodney, This is an interesting question. I believe that marriage has to alter friendships, and I like to believe that any friendships that are supportive of and adaptive to the marriage should remain. Obviously there needs to be understanding and growth on both sides, and sometimes because our outlook and focus changes (for both parties) there comes a time for the friendship to adapt or move on. I know I found it tricky when my closest friendship had to change, I tried to nurture the friendship but some things just couldn’t be the same any more, both our outlooks were changing and we were unable to find common ground. I have however found that other friendships have lasted and there has been adaptation on both sides. There has also been room for some new ones. Many of the friendships I once had with singles of the opposite sex have not remained, however one or two of those friends have become good friends to both my husband and I. Our friends are important assests to our marriage, but our marriage is our first priority.

  • We have a joke in our family that people become “boring” when they’re married…and even MORE boring when they have kids! Of course, you get a whole lot more responsibilities (looking after a house etc) when you’re married so we don’t take the “boringness” issue too seriously!

    However, what annoys me is when people are dating and forget about the rest of their friends. I have a good mate who i used to see most weekends, he got a girlfriend and we didn’t see him for about 6 months even though we invited him to heaps of things….then they broke up for a bit and we saw him again, and now they’re back together and i barely see him. It’s annoying that your friends come ‘crawling’ back to you when they break up with their gf/bf and expect you to just welcome them back into your group as if nothing ever happened. Of course we do – it’s always great to catch up – but it’s just annoying that we only seem to matter to him when he doesn’t have his gf around.

  • I agree with everything that’s written here. As someone who’s about to get married in six weeks, it’s a challenge I know I have to face.

    A friendship definitely has to have effort coming from both sides. I have often wondered why the friendship between a single and some newlyweds often starts to disintegrate. I know when I was single, that I just assumed that newlyweds would be stuck in their own little love bubble and wouldn’t have time for me or that they’d only want to hang out with other couples. That seems to be a pretty common perception among my single friends – couples only hang out with couples – so they stop making the effort with their married friends. But then I’ve heard from married people that they find this mentality so frustrating and untrue – they WANT to maintain the friendship with their single friends.

    I agree with Alex about the opposite sex friendships thing and plan to blog about it soon. While it is unfair for spouses to dictate and control who the other sees, I would be concerned if Duncan was spending heaps of time 1-1 with another woman and had the same level of emotional intimacy as he has with me. Likewise I should listen to him if he was concerned about another bloke. Unfortunately there are lots of examples out there of innocent friendships becoming emotional and then physical affairs. Rodney hit the nail on the head – the boundaries do change.

    One of my greatest worries about getting married is that we’re also moving away. We’re really hoping people will make the effort to come and stay with us because when we go to Perth, it’s impossible to see everyone in one weekend.

    Sorry for the long comment

  • I’m really enjoying this thread.
    When I got married, it was on the other side of the country. I hardly had a long term friend living nearby. A bit like Alex – I moved from Perth to Queensland. So most of those new friends only got to meet and know the ‘married Peter’. Mrs Smiley had only moved to Brisbane a year before so she didn’t have many friends either. Interestingly, one of her friends was a contact/friend of mine who moved to Brisbane the same time Mrs Smiley did…
    But we were 9 years in Brisbane so got to meet lots of people and maintain long-term relationships. We were child-less in those days too, which does make a difference. We had lots of single friends who felt that we were approachable, supportive and able to maintain our friendships with singles. We hosted the parties for single people, we hosted the home group of mostly singles, we were the ‘go-to’ people (sometimes as a couple, sometimes on our own) when people had questions, prayer needs, counselling needs and sometimes even confessions. While we never set out for it to be ‘a ministry’ – that was the natural extension of who we were. But these people never had to endure the transition from us as singles to a couple…
    Those friends who knew us before as individuals, rarely knew the other of our couple. Mrs Smiley’s friends never knew me before we married, and my friends never knew her until we were a couple. While I’m sure many people discussed how it wouldn’t last – we were both many kilometres away in Brisbane, blissfully unaware of the lost or changed relationships.
    We left Brisbane for Melbourne and started all over again. Because of the move and distance, we lost contact with lots of friends from Brisbane days (both singles and other couples). Thanks to facebook we’ve caught up with a few again 🙂
    Then another 7 years laters, we left Melbourne for Perth again! And with a few exceptions we’ve had to start over again. Mostly those single friends are people you grow up with and then you get married sometime and they don’t. But for me, I’ve hardly had a chance to maintain those relationships because of moving around so often! I can only maintain a handful of relationships from the previous city where I lived… most of these people are married.

  • Shelley, I don’t mind being boring … too much. 🙂

    Ah yes – those dating days when no one or nothing else matters. Thankfully we were able to understand that other people existed back when we were dating. (They might not have been as important to us as each other … but they existed.)

  • Sarah, you certainly don’t have to apologise for a long comment. I’m always more than happy when someone’s prepared to think through an issue and have their say.

    Thanks for your excellent input.

  • Peter, I suppose we’re a perfect example of friendships changing.

    There was a time that if I turned up anywhere alone the first question was, “Where’s Peter?” I don’t know if you got asked where I was. Maybe it’s just that most people preferred your company. 🙂

    These days we don’t catch up nearly enough. Schedules get busy and it just doesn’t happen.

    I will admit that I always enjoy our far too infrequent lunches. Must be time for another curry very soon. We’ll have to get a lunch in during the next month, before I go to Haiti.

  • This is a great conversation Rodney. My wife and I dealt with that issue 27 years ago when we got married, now we have a different problem. We are even drifting away from our married friends because our kids have gotten married and so each child added new inlaws and greater time demands to the mix. The answer seems to be the same though. We have to work harder to keep those old friendships alive under new boundaries I guess.

  • Great to hear your insights, David. I guess your situation emphasises the fact that we’re always moving through different seasons of life and the things we do and the people we spend time with with change naturally as we, and those we know, move through each season.

  • Great conversation. I think it depends largely on the couple, but that its somewhat natural for a married couple (in the beginning of the marriage especially) to spend less time with their single friends. Its happened to me several times and I didn’t take it personally.

  • When I got married my wife and I did kind of go into our own little world for a while, and really stopped interacting with some of our single friends as much. As time has gone on, however, we’re slowing moving into a new phase where we have a lot of “married couple friends” that we hang out with, while still being able to hang out with single friends.

    The funny part is, a lot of the single friends we had, are not single any longer. They are almost all married now as well.

  • Barbara, I think we’ve all lost touch with friends for various reasons over the years and marriage certainly seems to be a common reason.

    It’s helpful when people look at the situation maturely, as you’ve done, and realise that most of the time it’s not a personal thing.

  • Pete, sounds like the normal pattern. I know that when we first got married there was no longer the same attraction to hanging out with others all the time. We still socialised but time together was more important.

    We married in our late 20s so many of our friends were already married but we still had single friends. As in your situation, many of our single friends also married.

    I suppose the difficult thing is when a handful of those friends don’t marry and are left feeling like they’re on the outside.

  • This is a great thread. I’m a single person and I am finding that all my close friends are married or getting married and they seem to have found new social circles either through having more ‘couple’ friends or through moving and new church friends. And even though two of my friends are not living far away, I dont get invited to there new social circle.. and they only meet me for coffee or lunch.. which for me is making me feel less and less apart of there life and more like a Sunday Coffee Friendship… there is no depth any more and I feel more and more that I am having to chase them to see them or ask if any thing is happening to invite me to .. I am tired of making new single friends to only then loose them!! I like the ones i have.. and it’s like getting dumped again and again, which doesnt feel good because it feels like .. am i not good enough to be a part of there social circle any more..

    am curious as to when if I meet someone if suddenly as a couple I will be invited to stuff! ouch!

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