As weddings have taken up so much of my life lately, I figured maybe they should take up a lot of my blog as well. Here’s a special wedding season series – some questions I get asked (or ones I don’t), some things I survived, some truths I’ve been learning. And, an extra bonus: one very special wedding!
I get asked all. the. things. during wedding season. But I think there’s something that we fail to talk about as all your friends get married: the transition your relationships go through.
My friends, once committed girlfriends, are now wives. They have husbands. Some things stay very much the same, yet other parts are forever different. As someone who has never gone through that specific transition, sometimes it’s a little strange to walk through it with them. How do you travel alongside a path you aren’t on? Other times it’s frustrating to walk together – as we seem to be heading two different directions.
I got together with my friend and fellow blogger Heather to chat about it. I really respect Heather’s ideas and also really respect her marriage. We became friends after she got married – so we didn’t personally navigate this transition together. Aka we were able to real honest about it all! It was fun to laugh about the silly things single friends told her when she was newly married, as well as things that newly married friends have told me. We rolled our eyes together at the unfair assumptions placed on people in different stages of life. And we got to have a really cool conversation about how we wish people would handle this often touchy situation. There’s so much, but we wanted to share the highlights.
People, please stop assuming…
That I no longer eat box macaroni and cheese and wear sweatpants.
I’m serious, it’s true. Some people assume that once you’re married those lounge days are over! I always feel super weird when someone talks about their relationship status by saying they love being single because they can eat whatever they want, wear whatever they want and the house can look however they want! I don’t want to burst their bubble cause if this is helping them feel positive about singleness, I don’t want to ruin that. But truth be told, your habits still follow you. I’m a hard-core yoga pants, top knot kind of girl. And that has not changed since being married. I still love box mac’n’cheese, want everything clean before I can relax and still love my popcorn. When I was single I made the bed every day. Now that I’m married, I still make the bed every day (or my husband does) I don’t shower any more now than I did when I was single. I realize not everyone may feel this way but I feel grateful to be very comfortable in my own skin with my husband.
That I can no longer relate to their life or understand their problems
Nothing’s more awkward than meeting up with a newly married friend, and they seem hesitant to talk about… life. They’re scared to say the word “husband” – and therefore rub in the fact that I don’t have one. (Although we definitely just spent the past 2 years gushing over your “boyfriend” and you had no problem with that word). They’re worried to discuss anything that involves marriage – aka their whole life – so stick to basic, awkward small talk. God forbid they mention sex – we’re Christians! We can’t use that word outside of marriage.
I’m your friend! I want to know about your life – every part – just as I hope you want to know about mine. What’s more hurtful is when it’s assumed I can’t understand “married problems.” When married friends complain about issues and I chime in, it’s like my ideas are tolerated, but pushed aside to the kids’ table. A patronizing smile with a side of “you’ll grow up and understand one day…” Sure, I don’t know how to share money with a spouse, but I know a lot about living on a budget. Maybe I haven’t had to split up chores with a husband, but I have had that conversation with roommates. I still very much understand relationship dynamics and the need for communication; I have experienced pain and hurt from another human; I, too, have held silly grudges. I get that our lives are different now – but our lives have always been different. Please don’t discredit my ideas, experiences, or beliefs now that you have a ring on your finger and I don’t.
People, please stop saying…
“Do you need to ask your spouse for permission?”
My husband and I are a team, we are a partnership and we hold to egalitarian values. We both lead and we both follow. So I always have to remind myself to inhale a big ol’ breath of oxygen when someone says, “Do you need to ask his permission first?” He’s not a dictator or an authoritarian; he’s my best friend! We both like to discuss things with each other because we care about each other’s opinions and preferences (like you do with your friends) but that is far from needing to ask for permission. The other night I was at the mall with my husband. We passed (read: avoided) a group of animal rights activists as we were in a hurry to pick up some gifts. Later that night, when I walked by without my husband, one of the guys at the booth said to me, “Now that you got rid of him, can I talk to you?” First of all, this is insanely presumptuous because he clearly assumed I could not talk to him earlier only because I was with Scott. It makes it seem like I was just waiting to “sneak away” so I could be free and talk to him. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I had no desire to talk to random animal man in the first place. I said, “yeah right!” and walked away. I don’t submit to Scott in the traditional sense and he’s doesn’t lead in the traditional sense. There isn’t one of us calling the shots, such as you “you are not allowed to go talk to animal man.” Obviously we share a lot of things and when you share stuff it’s important to be respectful (things like finances and scheduling and the bed) but that doesn’t mean one person is calling all the shots. #endofrant A better question would be, “Hey would you like to check in with your spouse before you make a decision?” This questions respects my relationship without sounding patronizing or offensive.
“I just live vicariously through your dating life!”
Ummm. I totally and completely understand that my romantic life and your romantic life look different. I totally and completely understand that my highly humorous and strange dating experiences are fun to talk about (and I am the first to laugh at most of them). However, you wanting to “live through my life” puts strange pressure on me to have fun stories (sometimes my dating life is the opposite of exciting). It makes me feel like a novelty and not a person. And, honestly, it’s a bit creepy. What if I kept telling you I’m living vicariously through your marriage?? Weird.
“You ‘wear’ marriage well. I’m just too independent for it.”
This is one of those phrases that gives you a little stroke and then a swift kick in the shin. It’s an insulting phrase because it insinuates that married people can’t possibly be independent people. This married person was actually single at one time (shocker I know) and potentially had to work through a lot of commitment issues. This person might actually be doing a very brave and courageous thing by allowing a secure attachment in their life. When someone says this to me it sounds like “You’re needy so marriage works well for you.” I wouldn’t tell someone, “You ‘wear’ singleness well.” Rather than making assumptions regarding someone’s relationship, maybe ask questions to find out what it is really like. Also, please don’t compare my marriage to a seasonal fashion. It isn’t something to wear for the Winter and discard in the Spring.
“Ah! Now that my wedding is over, let’s hang out!!”
Okay, maybe it’s not said as bluntly. But it’s typically 2-3 months after people get married, which is after they already fell off the face of the earth for 6 months leading up to their wedding, they’re so excited to hang out! They have free time! They want to see you!!
Here’s the thing, friends – I get that planning a wedding is incredibly stressful, time consuming, and hard. I get that the first few months of marriage takes some adjusting to and you have a lot on your plate. I hold none of that against you – but please understand that it’s hard when you drop out of my life for 9ish months, and then all of a sudden want back in like nothing happened. It’s hard when you expect everyone else’s life to revolve around your wedding, simply because yours did. But mine didn’t – I had a ton of other life to keep living (as well as a ton of other weddings). Life that you weren’t around for. There’s grace! I love you! But also acknowledgment is needed. “Hey! I’m super busy in this season, but thinking of you” texts go a long way. 10-minute, I-have-no-free-time-but-I’m-on-my-way-to-the-store phone calls go a long way. Some blunt “I’ve really missed you, I’m sorry I’ve been a bit MIA, I’d love to catch up on life now that I have some more space in mine” honesty goes a long way.
People, you can start saying…
“Do you want to hang out?”
Yes! It’s true! Married people want to hang out too. Sometimes people put all the relationship responsibility on the married person because newlyweds seem “so busy.” But that’s a lot of pressure to put on one person, to expect them to be the ultimate pursuer. Married people want to feel included and they want to feel wanted. I might be different than some people but as soon as I arrived home from my honeymoon, with boxes and wedding gifts literally everywhere all over our small one bedroom apartment, I told my friend to come over and to bring lunch. Even though I’m married, it’s not like I decided after the wedding that I only wanted married friends. The people who have been with me through it all, single or married, are the people I want by my side. So call me! As a single person I avoided asking married people to hang out on the weekends because I didn’t want to interrupt family time or date night. Besides I could just sit at home and watch Gilmore Girls instead of going out. Now that I’m married, I avoid asking single people to hang out on the weekends because I figure they are too busy going to parties and having a social explosion. And really I just want to watch Gilmore Girls with a bowl of popcorn on the couch. Has anything changed? So you can see that this can be a vicious cycle. On both ends of the spectrum I’ve assumed things about different stages of life for people. I’ve been learning to stop assuming and start asking. Maybe they will be free, maybe they won’t be but it never hurts to ask. People love to know they are being thought about; single or married.
Just ask questions, before making sweeping statements
Please don’t decide for me I’m lonely and struggling; please don’t assume that I’m loving the single life. Just like I don’t expect you to be madly, passionately in love with your husband every time we hang out, please don’t expect me to always have exciting, juicy details of my dating life to gush over. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is talk about the last date I went on. Sometimes the only thing I want to do is talk about the last date I went on. Ask me how I’m feeling about things, instead of implying that you know. Ask me where I’m at, instead of assuming you know. Ask me questions that have nothing to do with my dating life! I am much more than my relationship status, just as I choose to believe you are much more than your new marital status.
People are people. Old, young, single, married, whatever. I wish we could see that more, instead of boxing people into categories we think make it easier to understand them. Marrieds go over here… singles go over here… We don’t need to be separated! We don’t need opposite sides of the room like dueling siblings. We don’t need separate bible studies and conferences and vacations – we need to realize that we need each other. We can learn and grow from people in any season in life, in any stage. Sometimes, as a single person, my life is so incredibly similar to my married friends’. Sometimes, as a single person, my life is so incredibly different than my married friends’. In both instances, I have things to learn from them, questions to ask of them, life to live alongside them.
No matter what your relationship status, I am here for you and will celebrate and grieve with you through all the “statuses.” It’s really weird being 30 because I’m friends with people who are in a lot of different stages. Some are single, some dating, some are engaged, some are married without kids, some are married with kids and some are getting a divorce. I’ve realized that if someone is my friend, they’re my friend regardless of relationship status. I won’t abandon them when they get married and I won’t abandon them when they are potentially single again. I’m not close to people just because they’re married or single. I want to believe that my friends will stick by my side and will celebrate and grieve alongside of me. We need each other!
We kept coming back to the simple idea that communication during this season – during any season – is so key in healthy relationships. Don’t shy away from hard conversations just because you think your married friend might be busy, just because you’re afraid your single friend doesn’t want to hear the word “husband.” Try not to snarl when your married friend does say the word “husband” and show sincere interest in this life altering relationship. Stop assuming your single friends are out partying constantly. They like Netflix, too. Ask questions. Be honest. Voice your needs. Give grace freely when friends fall short of that. Show up everyday. Love each other for who they are – not depending what their relationship status might be.
Heather Sherwood McGhee knows how to do a waterfall braid. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Scott and their little fuzzy dog, Leonard. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist by day and a book reader/show watcher by night. She loves the smell of rain, pine and fresh chocolate chip cookies.
To read more of her writing or find out more about her check out heathermcghee.blogspot.com