On Friday night, when I was catchin up with my friend, we spoke of the marriage. He and his wife have been married about seven years now, and he said to me, it’s like so many of their friends have slowly disappeared, dissolved into the background.
I have spent much time, much longer than between Friday and now, thinking about this. It happens. It’s a casualty of coupling.
There were women at my wedding I seldom speak to now, whom I still adore, but we don’t get together two or three nights a week like we did before I got married.
Some of the dissolution was almost instantaneous.
I felt, initially, like I was being shunned for taking on the role of wife, or maybe mother. It’s hard to say. I never actually asked, “Why don’t you wanna hang out with me anymore?” or “Why don’t you call?”
Truly, I was too busy being wife and mother to give much thought to it, or to call, but I was aware.
The Mister was the first to mention the absence of his friends. I won’t forget the night he said, “You are my best friend.”
Well, he wasn’t mine. For years and years, my relationships with girlfriends were much closer. I mean, men don’t even prattle on like women. It takes a long time to develop such a deep understanding of a person. We’d been friends a dozen years before we got married, but he never did prattle on about how his mother set impossible standards, or what he prefers in a handbag, or what aesthetic he was drawn to.
Besides, life experience taught me MEN LEAVE. And who would be there when he left? Women. My girls. I would need them for ice cream and martini therapy, casting aspersions, and whatever else fuckery came after.
About four years in, The Mister and I had the ‘downs’ as opposed to the ‘ups’ and that’s when I realized he’s my best friend. Because, when you are in the down together, then it’s just the two of you mannin the tiny rowboat of your life. Headin toward a waterfall, you wrap your arms around each other, squeeze your eyes tight as you can, and with every bit of your faith, you pray that at the bottom of the falls, your boat is still fully intact. You just gotta hang on. No one else knows what that means to you. No one else feels same fear or shares same relief.
Oh sure, there are plenty of people who love, care, support, pray, and cheer from the sidelines — But they’re not in your boat.
They have their own boats, and their courses are set on different currents at a different speed. They love you, but maybe they’re into booze cruises, or always heading west, or heavily invested in solo exploration, whatever.
Eventually, in your own river, you find other people who also share their boats. In attempt of a social life that comes close to resembling your single one, you try to keep pace. This is complicated.
As it turns out, couples dating is about three times worse than actual dating. So, like, if you had twelve lovers and three of them were phenomenal company, then your couples dating ratio is more like one in a dozen couples make for good company. Cause you know, she never shuts up, he’s too handsy, their kids are wild animals, she’s a lush, he never wants to end the evening, plus they suck at euchre, and we don’t think they’re gonna stay married.
We are all like this to someone, the odds are not in our favor. When it’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s not, we remember how much we like our own fuckin boat, thank you very much. No, thank you for asking, but we would rather stay in our own boat and stare at the stars in silence.
What I said to my friend was:
Remember when you were single and your space and time belonged completely unto you? There was no compromise, no sharing, no one asking for or expecting anything from you? Remember how happy you were?
And then she came along and she was worth the compromise and the sharing and you chose her. She had to be so incredibly fabulous for you to WANT to give up your independence. You had to feel like you were gaining more than you were losing. Remember?
It’s the same thing now.
We’re happily married. We LIKE being with one another. We’d rather be with our person than anyone else. That time is precious. So when people want us to take time away from that… it comes down to what it’s worth.
And everyone else feels the same way.
He said that was insightful, so I’m sharing it with you.
Everyone has priorities.
Work eats a pile of time, you pursue your hobbies, you squeeze in self-care, you steal away time as a couple, and you make time for those you care most about. If there are kids, depending on ages and stages, well, that’s… you know, or maybe you just suspect. No matter how much you love and care for someone, it all comes down to priority.
The truth about being happily, unapologetically married is that any time you share with anyone else is a time to reflect on how amazing that friendship is. How wonderful it is to enjoy such a delightful creature. To raise your glass and break bread with someone who’s still there after all that time. To laugh too loud or even to cry. What a blessing it is to have friends who will carve out time, to line up the calendars simply to enjoy the pleasure of your company. That’s a beautiful thing.
Those are the people who will pull you out if you end up nearly drowned at the bottom of the falls. The rest? Smile and wave — and always, always pray and cheer from the sidelines.