Lately I've thought a lot about something I'm sure all new brides find themselves musing over now and then: friendships - and how they may change. We've all heard the cliche sayings before about how "once you're married everything changes." Well...it does. And...it's supposed to. However, I think such things are usually said with some sort of negativity or frustration when - if examined more closely - they really don't need to be.
When people discuss how things will change between friends after someone gets married it usually comes from the standpoint of lamenting the fact that you may not ever have another sleepover with your girlfriends, you (for most people, I'd imagine...but certainly not all) probably won't go out to the bars late at night on a regular basis with your friends/without your spouse, and you probably won't be able to drop everything to go spend a weekend with all your girls, etc.
Well, why is that such a terrible thing in the eyes of so many?
If this is the type of friendship every single one of your girl friends wants then all of you must be willing to commit to never putting anyone else (besides those of you in your friend group) first at any point in your future lives. You can see how this would start to be problematic if anyone put their career first or wanted to ever get married or have children. I can envision a scenario where a child is lying in bed with a high fever and their mother decides to go visit her college bestie who lives 7 hours away because her friend is having a rough day. Mother of the year, right there....
If I were single and my married friend constantly hung out with me and/or our group of friends without her husband I wouldn't be rejoicing in the fact that nothing had changed once she got married. I would genuinely be concerned that maybe she and her husband don't take their marriage very seriously - or perhaps they prefer the company of their friends to the company of each other. Whatever the reasons may be, from my perspective this would be a huge red flag that something is wrong.
When we get married we take vows - and in the Catholic church these vows mean we basically agree to play an active role in this person's salvation. If we get married (and we take our faith seriously) it means we love each other and care about the eternal resting place of one another's souls. Even if/when married couples argue and don't "like" each other much, they still know that they have a responsibility to be there for that person, pray for them, and place the importance of their salvation just as high as their own. Truly we are not responsible for anyone's salvation but our own, but nonetheless we do have a responsibility to help our spouses on the path to heaven as much as possible (as long as it will not hinder us on our own paths - but typically when we help others to heaven we are also helping ourselves).
Do I want to help my friends get to heaven, too? Yes, of course!!! If there's anything I can say or do to help them on their journey I certainly hope that God would use me in such a manner. However, at the end of the day, I haven't taken vows to actively play a role in their faith journey. While I absolutely care about what happens to my friends, God does not ask me to lay down my life for every single person I've ever had a friendly encounter with. What an impossible, daunting task that would be for anyone but Himself.
No, God realizes we are human and can only do so much. The rest of it is entirely up to Him. But when He calls us to a marital and familial vocation this must be our priority. These are the relationships in which He clearly depends on us and uses us in intimate, special ways to be of service to one another.
This isn't to say that friendships aren't important. On the contrary, I think maintaining solid friendships outside our marriage is very important - for our mental health as well as our souls. God doesn't call us to hide from the world and only tend to the people immediately in front of us - although He does desire us to care for these people within our families first before going out and doing this for everyone else in the world. As Blessed Mother Teresa once said,
"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home."
When I reflect on all of this it becomes obvious exactly why things should change within our friendships. When we are single we are free to go help whoever needs our help whenever we see it fit. Once we're married, we can still be there to help our friends and lend a supportive ear, but we mustn't do so at the expense of our relationship with our spouse. This can be a tricky balance for some, but I believe that if we are in a good place with our spouses and they too recognize their own need to maintain connections with their friends, they will support us in being there for our friends when we are needed and vice versa.
So will things change with our friends once we're married? Yes, in some obvious ways (like not regularly having girls' night sleepovers). Is this something that will put an end to our friendships and somehow signify that we will never call or care to keep in touch with one another? Hardly. It simply reveals that our number one priority is and should be the person we took vows to be there for...but beyond that we are fully capable of still loving and supporting our friends just like we did before.
|Spending time on my wedding day with 9 amazing women and one very special flower girl|
At the end of the day, really good friends will know and recognize this, too. Solid friends don't ditch one another whenever they begin to follow different life paths (or if one person walks down a particular path before the other). Rather, good friends will be there and remain supportive as things change and they will even be joyful for you. The best friendships are those that can withstand time, changes in geographic location, and will evolve and mature as each of you do...even if you move forward on different paths or at different times. For many, the number of friends that fall into this category will probably dwindle with time...and that is okay, too. We must trust that God will provide for any friends that time and life changes cause us to drift away from. As an unknown author once said, "it is better to have one true friend than all the acquaintances in the world."
I could not agree more...and I look forward to growing in friendship with my husband and all the friends God has generously placed in my life or will introduce me to in the years to come.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
-Blessed Mother Teresa