Surround Your Marriage with Friends
The life of a young single person is filled with friendships of all degrees. Think back to your college days and the boundless number of friends that you had. Each relationship achieved a particular purpose. They weren't formed out of some utilitarian purpose, rather, as each friendship was cultivated, it ended up meeting some need that you each had.
After graduation, when your friends dispersed across the country and around the globe, some of those friendships faded and were replaced with others. Perhaps you found friends at work, in your apartment complex, or in your parish. Again, you had needs that needed to be met, like the need for a confidant, the need for a sounding board, or the need for a social wingman.
The single most radical relational change that we experience as adults comes on our wedding day. Your wife, your marital relationship, is designed to meet all of your essential relational needs and most of your peripheral needs.
Your wife is your best friend, your sounding board, your emotional support, your confidant, your career coach, and so much more. While your marital relationship meets all of your essential needs, there's still room for other relationships. These relationships are certainly important, but they're no longer urgently needed.
This is the single biggest struggle for any newly married couple: maintaining old friendships while investing the majority of work, time, and effort into the newly formed marital relationship.
While it can be sad to admit, the relationships that one has during their single life are instantly diminished on one's wedding day. This doesn't negate their importance, but it does mean that those old relationships must take a back-seat to the relationship with one's new spouse.
Balancing out those relationships in a new paradigm is important work. Although the friendships are no longer in first place, that doesn't negate their overall importance. Married couples need to still rely on these non-marital relationships because they do have value and they are still a part of one's social life.
The married life brings with it the difficult task of navigating this new reality. I've found that it requires intentionality to foster and continuously cultivate these friendships. I would argue that your marital relationship is enhanced by these friendships.
All of this brings out the great marital trap: couple friends. In movies and media we are often confronted with images of perfectly aligned couple friends who share their lives together. It's presented as something that's effortless and crazy fun. In reality, finding couple friends is incredibly elusive. If we believe that there's a couple exactly like us out there and spend all of our time trying to find them, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
More likely than not, you'll have couple friends that share some commonalities with you, but are not necessarily going to be the "share this life together" variety. In those instances, I'd encourage you to embrace the commonalities that you share, enjoy your time with them, but don't force the friendship to be something that it's not.
As spouses, we need to be okay with the fact that our wife will be friends with people that we're not necessarily friends with, and vice versa. It's important for us to support her in that relationship and to expect the exact same with the reverse. Your wife should support relationships that you have with people she might not consider to be friends. Again, it’s all about finding common ground. It's important to choose your friends wisely, to maintain friendships you had prior to your wedding day, and to cultivate relationships with new people.
Your relationship with your wife is the most important one that you have in your life, but remember to surround yourselves with high quality friends.