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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Marriage and Friendship

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 23rd 2007

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."

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    me too - baby girl - Oct 27th 2009

    this seems to be the exact thing im going through what is a girl to do when she is in love

    Marriage, Maybe - Allan N Schwartz - Feb 18th 2009

    Hi Julie C.,

    Many young women have consulted me about this very same problem. The wonder of it, at least to me, is why these women stick around with these guys who are always putting them off. You can guess where I am going with this. It seems to me that it is time to tell him, "S--t or get off the pot." Sorry, don't mean to curse but just to get the point across. I am suggesting that you give him a firm ultimatum with a definite date. If he does not move forward by that date, cast him loose, there are "plenty of fish in the sea," as my long gone Grandma used to advise me. Best of luck.

    Dr. Schwartz

    Will he ever marry me - Julie C - Feb 18th 2009

    My boyfriend and I have been living together for 6 years now. Two years ago he asked me to marry him and I said yes. He said not now but soon.Well im still waiting for it to happen. Ive asked him several times when are we gonna get married and he just says, we will soon. I try to get out of him when soon is, but he says when the time is right. It seems like he is just putting me off and doesnt really want to marry me but doesnt want to loose me so he says soon. He says he promises me he will. Well I think about this 24 hours a day and it seems like he never wants to discuss it or do it. Im going crazy! I just want the truth, marriage or not!And why wont he tell me.

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