Thursday, June 20, 2013

Forming Friendships after Marriage, Part 1

+JMJ+

When some people first get married they settle in an area where they are surrounded with pre-existing friendships or there may even be family members nearby. Others get married and move somewhere new, plunging into work or grad school, beginning to form new friendships, and slowly building a new support system around them. Neither of these scenarios have exactly been the case for Michael and me.

So blessed and eager to begin our lives as husband and wife. Brian Powell Photography.

I've mentioned before that Michael works as an engineering consultant, which often translates into: we are here temporarily. Even if the project he is working on is scheduled to end on a given date, timelines and budgets are constantly evolving and we must always be ready to search for a new project and pack our things at any moment (or be prepared to stay longer than we initially anticipated, as has been the case here in Ann Arbor). Our hope is that future projects will better communicate their plans for consultants in advance, but as it is right now we are never comfortable scheduling anything in our lives more than 2 weeks in advance. Getting back to what I was saying earlier about friendships and support systems, you can probably begin to see at this point how my husband's work begins to impact this aspect of our lives.

Amazingly enough, within the past 6 months or so two of Michael's friends from college (one being the Best Man from our wedding) landed full-time jobs at the very same company Michael has been doing his consulting work for. Not to mention, my husband attended college in Toledo, Ohio (45 minutes away from Ann Arbor) and still has friends - and his sister, who just graduated from medical school - there. To have so many of his friends and his sister nearby has certainly been a blessing, although the facts remain that 1) we are all busy people and don't see each other as often as you'd imagine and 2) even though I love spending time with several of these people they aren't really my friends so much as they are my husband's.

In the nearly 9 months since we've been married and I joined Michael here in Michigan I've relied heavily on phone calls, texts, and Skype to stay in touch with my family and closest high school and college friends in order to remain socially connected in some manner. I've worked on getting involved in our parish - substitute teaching, seeking out the unofficial "newlyweds" group, getting connected to the "Moms" group, and have yet to find anyone I can call to meet up during the day with me. We love fitness and have a gym membership, but this has yielded no friendship prospects either. I know there are people here that I can easily forge friendships with but for some reason I have yet to find them. So many factors have contributed to this, but especially my husband's job - which is such a crucial step in his career path that we are both on board and willing to make sacrifices for it (and as I've mentioned before, there are also several blessings we are given because of his line of work - so I in no way want to paint the picture that I am unhappy with his career. I'm very proud of him!).

This is a photo I snapped of a painted window downtown - the biggest little city in the middle!

When we first got married we anticipated being in Ann Arbor for only a few months...but God had other plans. Neither of us tried extremely hard to meet people those first few months since we thought we'd soon be moving on to a new project and new location. As it became apparent that we'd be staying longer we tried a little harder. Every time we get close to finding social networks something happens to change it all, which leaves me in this odd place of being a (normally) very social person without anyone to socialize in person with. My husband and I have discussed this several times (and Lord knows I've prayed about it) and we recognize that it isn't healthy. Although at the same time, we've cherished all the quality time we've had alone together as newlyweds and as we prepare for a baby to enter our world and forever change our family dynamic. We recognize that our vocation is to one another and our growing family, but we also recognize the importance of friendships and that they are crucial to individual and marital bliss.

I've never mentioned it on here, but this has been one of the greatest struggles I've encountered in the past (almost) 9 months. My husband and I are very outgoing people and he manages to get a decent social fix through work and the guy friends he now has in the area. I, on the other hand, haven't been doing any full-time work because we anticipated having to move...and then I became pregnant which gave me zero motivation to get out of the apartment much those first few months as I battled fatigue. Since then I've sought out various avenues of getting involved and while we've met some great people, I still haven't found anyone to spend time with. Another component in this has been the pregnancy - because it has placed me in this odd limbo where I'm not yet a stay-at-home-mom (or SAHM, for you mom bloggers out there) but I'm mostly available during the day (like SAHMs) when other not-yet-SAHMs are in class or at work. This makes me look forward to the birth of our son even more - because I cannot wait to finally fit into a social demographic that will make it easier for me to find some friends, regardless of whether or not we stay here longer or move somewhere new (for the record, I recently got hooked up with our church's moms group, so I fully plan to meet these women soon). From what I can tell, there are so many mom groups out there to help keep SAHMs sane!

Since I'm being so honest, I might as well share that last week I had a total 31-weeks-pregnant emotional meltdown as I cried to Michael about not having local friends even though I've tried so hard. I've had a few of these meltdowns lamenting my lack of friends over the past several months (although this one was probably the worst), but each time this happens I usually encounter something else to carry me through and give me a renewed sense of hope.

This week that renewed hope and strength came as a result of one friend's tragedy...which just goes to show that God truly works in mysterious ways....

In part 2 I'll share with you how God has brought me to such a place of comfort and peace in my own struggles while one friend has been given a very heavy cross to carry.

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
-Blessed Mother Teresa

8 comments:

  1. so i've been in cinci for a year now and i'm pretty much in the same boat on the friendship front and have had several meltdowns like that (except i have no hubby so i was crying...alone....in my apartment....lame!!!). i've tried multiple avenues of meeting people and am just convinced that friendships in the real world take much longer to come across and forge than in school so i'm keeping that in mind. i have three good friends, none as good as my friends from home or college, but still...that doesn't leave me a lot of social options if they are out of town and actually Christine is joining the convent in September so I'll be down to two friends.

    Long story short, I feel you. And I'm incredibly jealous of people who live in the same town as their family/friends and have easy, natural relationships that have just formed naturally overtime....i took those relationships so for granted!

    ps - the first time i *really* prayed for God to send me a friend I met Christine like a week later :)

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    1. It's definitely true that friendships in "the real world" take much longer to come across and forge...even if we intentionally pursue avenues that seemingly *should* introduce us to others in a similar stage in life and/or with similar goals or priorities. Your postscript about Christine gives me hope, though, because it makes me wonder if I've *really* prayed for God to send me a friend or if I've simply thought about it over and over and/or discussed it with Michael.

      Even if I don't yet have genuine friends to spend time with here, I'm so very grateful for friends like you that I have kept in touch with. I know that God works in His own time and I'm glad to have people like you that support me and I can relate to from afar! And I do recognize that I'm very, very blessed to always have my husband. My heart and prayers definitely go out to all the single people trying to forge new friendships. <3

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  2. I'm sure you already know this, but oh, how I understand this post!

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    1. I had a strong suspicion that you would! ;)

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  3. I can so relate to this post! We moved to a new area 2 years ago when I was pregnant with my fifth baby. Between mourning sickness, and colic, I feel like I haven't done any local friendship building. I'm super social and being alone in a new community is a hard cross. I'm finding some hidden benefits. I feel like enforced solitude has let me get to know myself better. I'm starting to play the cello at age 38 and learning how to garden. Now as I slowly get to know people, I feel like there is much more to build on other than being just the "sweet funny girl."

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    1. You bring up some really great points! I also feel like I've learned even more about myself since moving here - and it has given me time to learn new things, read more, etc. In some ways I cherish this time because of all the time with my husband and the realization that I'll be much busier when the baby comes. That is so neat that you're learning the cello and gardening! I've been trying to seek out more recipe ideas and mainly trying to read more lately. Most burdens can become blessings when we learn to view them as such and even the most difficult crosses can bring more love into our lives. :) Thanks for reminding me!

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  4. Hi Stephanie! I can relate to what you have been saying in htis post...Jim and I have been struggling to meet other friends who are married too. I recently have let go of a friendship with a girlfriend I had known for 10 years from highschool, she was even in our wedding...but she had gotten to be manipulative and I think we are just in different places on our lives. It was sad, but I have peace.
    When we pray together, we ask God to help lead and guide us to find other Christ centered friendships with other married couples.
    Maybe sometime you and I could meet up soo, lol? I know the baby is coming, but it would be fun if we both can swing it...especially if you won't know how long you'll be in Ann Arbor.

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    1. Umm yes, we should meet up! Michael officially got extended a couple more months (although all of this always seems subject to change, so who knows?). Plus, I'm pretty sure we have a million things in common...! I also had to let go of a friendship with someone who was in our wedding party - which was difficult but it sounds like you understand. I'm going to send you an email right now, actually. :)

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