Marriage is my definition of 'get hitched, start to ditch!'
I admit its a rather grey area for many millennials who have a modern perspective on friendships.
Personally, I have always struggled with this subject most of my adult life.
But to be more specific I want to talk about married friends!!!
Not friends you acquired after they had far long established their marital statuses but friends you have known way before they got married.
For me, its friends of the opposite sex, male friends, who I have journeyed with through life and then subsequently watched them get married.
In recent decades, people are now getting married (or remarry) later in life i.e late 30s/40s even 50s. Some are just not.
Most of these adults are bringing into the marriage, long term, (sometimes decades of) friendships with them. And whilst being single, these friendships were often considered healthy, cherished and endearing because you are in total control of navigating the dynamics of the friendship, in a marriage, its different and could potentially pose a threat depending on the spouse.
There are generally two options in cases of bringing or ditching a friendship into a marriage and there is usually no grey area around this.
Its either you stand the chance of being assertive to your spouse about brdiging boundaries and the potential of finalising those friendships with the opposite sex and sounding like a right moron or a cold hearted fish…
…you 'man' up, be mature about it and accept these friends into the marriage, accepting that there could be a healthy opportunity of welcoming these friendships into your marriage for the sake of your partner.
Or on the adverse side, accept the friendships of your spouse and risk that it could potentially become problematic to you and your marraige. So this is where it gets tricky and most people decide its easier to ditch their friends and focus on the one single person who is important to them.
But logically, this is where open communication should play a vital role, no?
Now, hear this. I grew up with this friend whom I spent most of my lazy youthful days with. He became one of the closest people to me. We also worked together at one point. We spent almost every single day together! Our families know each other.
We had friendly meal dates together, listened to hiphop together, spoke about our lives and growing up, our past and future, our partners, the idiots in our lives, our careers, life and love, all the rubbish of our youth.
We would go out together, hang with each other's friends together; we invested in the same dreams. Yeah? We were like siblings and yes stuff like that still exists in its purity.
He relocated to the States. I was in my early 20s.
He knew my flaws, my perfections, everything. He reprimanded me in a cute and healthy way for my dumb mistakes. I was comfortable in my friendship with this human being, I could be vulnerable with him without fear of judgement. He was an excellent friend to me.
Notice how I use the word 'was'?
So now, hear this, this is a male friend of mine, a best friend, unmarried, not dating, single as I was, no feelings of sexual intimacy involved, no sex involved, an innate establishment of the pure fact that nothing will EVER ensue between the both of us.
The friendship increasingly became exceedingly precious to me because it's unbelievably difficult to develop and maintain a genuine, platonic relationship with the opposite sex, right? Well, I perosnally failed at it because most guys wanted sex with me and were totally upfront about it.
We live in a fucked up world of scepticism, man-made standards, rules, should-nots, can-nots, constant suspicion. We are ethically bankrupt that even the simplest things of life, we negate them and we build them like legos on a bed of paranoia, doubt, ulterior motive, suspicion and a lack of trust.
The concept of things being so straightforward between male and female has ceased to exist. There is no longer truth in simplicity. Purity has ceased to exist. Friends are increasingly becoming friends with benefits. Friends that can validate our existence. Friends we can benefit from. Ones who benefit from us.
So with years of a beautiful friendship, bonds shared, moments lived, my mate and I walked our separate ways. We geographically separated. We grew up. We moved on - from our lazy youthful days. We left dependency from our parents and became independent.
With this geographical separation we still cling to our friendship. I dated, broke up, got my heart broken (well so I thought) he found love. He lost her. He had a health scare. He struggled with his studies, a job, dynamics with his family and all through all our individual and unique ups and downs, we remained present for and with each other, cared about each other (still) 'kept it real' with tech- FaceTimed, Skpyed, and regular text.
He lived in New York at the time and due to time zone, I would wake up to his texts in the morning or the middle of the night and his line was "yo, I will hit you up on FaceTime later" The American way of saying I will ring you at some point. He would ring me after work, London time. It was endearing.
He, I understood the value of our friendship and the role we both played in each other's lives. My sister was his friend. He knew my brothers and they would talk about the latest news on hiphop, football or whatever boys speak about.
I knew about the condition of his heart when he spoke about the loss of his mum, living without her. Bless her soul.
He was keen to help me build my business when I and my sister set up. We used his address in New York to receive our online delivery parcels.
See? huge part of my, our lives. My best friends still ask of him.
We even shared the same dumb ass stockbroker when we decide to start investing as young adults with our first salaries. We used to laugh about the scruffy little poor man! Not laugh at him but laugh about him! We often wondered how a stock broker looked so sheepish and scruffy on a daily basis with no business charisma whatsoever.
So love comes, well, it did, to him! He finds comfort, friendship, heartfelt love, a safe haven. He bounces back into life, a girl he used to know. I am happy. He tells me about it all. I, naturally (but selfishly) saw my friendship with him potentially hitting the rocks. It was threatened but I needed to be happy for him. I was. I am. I envisaged a loss.
Calls went down from thrice a week to once a week, to every other weekend, to once a month, once in six months and then deteriorated to nothing...
The friendship was silenced.
In that time I never realised he had gotten married to the girl he spoke a lot about as we never really spoke again.
You know what they say about boundaries? I kept them. He didn't only keep them. He was extreme with them. I learned why later.
We had to recognize these vaguely raised and grey boundaries. We never so much spoke about it or planned to develop them but subconsciously ended up doing so.
So he got married. I recognized a massive 'wall of China' had literally and figuratively been raised.
It's interesting. Fast forward this to recent days. After becoming buddies with his wife, I then learnt from her that all the time I was gradually mourning my friendship with her husband, she, on the other end had identified red flags in my relationship with him and as a matter of fact considered me a threat.
She couldn't understand why we spoke so frequently and why he always talked about me as one of the closest people to him. And you know what?. If roles were reversed, I would feel the same way. It would be a massive issue for me. Personally, because I do not see 'grey' in these things as she probably did.
But perspective is a powerful phenomenon.
Theory of mind, moreso.
But there were no grey lines with him. I loved him genuinely, purely and unconditionally. It wasn't superficial. When I love or care about people, I go all the way. Ask about me. My love is all the way. It was never going to be romantic even when we joked that if we were 32 and we had not being married, we would marry each other. Nah.
So even the birthday, Christmas, New Year, Easter, wishes stopped, it was silenced! I became a paranoid piece of bacon. Wondering if I had done anything wrong but also not being able to communicate because of this thing called boundaries.
His wife drew closer to me. I let her into my life. She is amazing and I love her for him.
Subsequently, in the girl-code-bid to support a single female-friend -of her -husband whom she had also become quite close to, she decided to hook me up with a friend of hers whom she thought would be great for me.
I met said guy, we talked for a number of months. I subsequently visited him in Florida It didn't work out with said friend.
My lost friendship even became more ostracised.
In that same trip to Florida was when I saw my mate after 6 years since he relocated. It felt quite awkward to even give him a proper hug.
Oblivion wasn't here, rather it was a full sense of awareness, appropriation, purity, heart.
Conversations were minimalist. I saw him twice in a visit lasting about 3 weeks in Florida. He lived and worked in Tampa. We never could catch up on anything after 6 years. That was it!
We spoke at length (about 30 mins) when I returned to England. I was excited to see his name on my screen. He asked me if I had a good flight back and was calling to check if all was well. We spoke a little bit about the guy I dated briefly, he asked me if I was ok. Said he missed me and ended the call.
I just couldn't salvage it.
And with time zone, geography and distance, wife of my friend subsequently withdrew. More awkwardly after said friend and I never worked out.
The tiny bit of link I had to my friend was her. She drifted. I drifted.
So that was it!
In my evaluation of the situation, I didn't realize that when people say 'I do' that this was the end of sustaining old friends. Your spouse becomes your forever 'go-to' person. I didn't recognize that.
I then asked. Do our spouses satisfy all our needs.? Do we bin our invaluable friendships because we become married?
Now the fact is if I have known you for decades and I didn't end up with you, date you, sleep with you, marry you, divorce you, then what makes you think or perhaps consider that my continued friendship with you could threaten your marriage? Except there is something I do not know?
Shouldn't a healthy marriage with happiness and love be dependent on having a support network outside your spouse? Am I deluded and naive? Or just too non-conformist for conventional constructs?
I have another male friend who has done the complete opposite here and has integrated me into his family because he couldn't afford the risk of losing me as a friend. I am the god-mother to his daughter. I hang out with his wife. We have been on a few double dates. He values our friendship so much that he refused to throw it away because of growth.
So in my bid to try to understand life, I believe I have gone through a painful process losing this friend of mine. Everything, a friendship that meant the world to me is dead.
The lesson is that I think females who make a lot of male friends in their youth (which I did as I have always preferred men as friends) could suffer the risk of losing friendships in the long run- because by default as these friends get hitched, they will ditch their female mates not necessarily because they choose to, but because they are made to do so. It's an interesting one I never thought about.
So this is what I tell my partner now and a in a lot of these life situations, common sense needs to be applied:
"I am happy with you keeping your female friends because I want to keep my male friends as long as":
I am aware of the friendships, the histories and the dynamics of these friendships. I take friendships seriously and I tell him- if he has had friends over a long period of time, way before I came into the picture, then I think it's unfair to make him lose those friends. Genuine ones, I must stress.
So my logic and emotional intelligence prevails and I must ask the following questions:
Is or was there an attraction physically or emotionally with said friend(s)
Would you act any different with so-called friend if I was there or not?
Would you feel our marriage is threatened if I had the same level or quality of relationship with the opposite sex (that you have with yours)?
Do you ever compare them to me (sub) consciously?
Would you discuss things you don't feel comfortable about - with them rather than with me?
Do you always discuss me with them?
Would you entertain inappropriate flirtatious messages from them even though you don't text back? Emotional cheating?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions then we could potentially have a serious problem. If it's no on all fronts, I welcome your friendship into our marriage.
I use it as a yardstick to measure the status of my boundaries with my male friends and it gives me a clear stance of how (un)/healthy my relationships are with married friends.
I scored negative on all points upon reflection on my friendship status with the BFF.
I rest my case...
Written Feb 11, 2016