How to deal when your best friend settles down WAY before you do
Several years ago I had what I thought was the kiss to end all kisses. The guy and I had been flirting for months. It happened in the pouring rain. It went on for over an hour. It was my ultimate “The Notebook” moment.
The first thing I did afterwards? Race to my best friend’s place to regale her with every juicy detail. I didn’t even call. It was an impulse. A reflex. And then we spent the next two hours sprawled across her bed giggling and dissecting everything about the kiss and what he said.
Fast forward more than a few years and now when we want to see each other to share fun news it’s more likely that we spend days, occasionally weeks, trying to coordinate schedules just to squeeze in a lunch and maybe maybe if the gods are kind, some shopping.
Why? She is married with kids and I am not.
She lives and works in suburban New Jersey while I work and spend all my time in New York City. City life-and single life-provides more of the luxury of the impulse drop-by with friends whereas suburban life does not. Suburban life requires calculated plans. Driving. Sometimes babysitters. Although geographically we aren’t that far from each other, lifestyle wise we might as well be on opposite coasts.
It doesn’t deter us. That’s the thing about friendship. Like any relationship, if you want to see the other person you’ll find a way. I work fourteen hour days. She has a six month old. We are both always exhausted but as long as it takes, we will find the time where we can sit down with each other and catch up on life. In person. Face to face. (And have I mentioned that her baby is adorable and smiles ear to ear when he sees me? It’s the best feeling).
What I do know is that not all relationships have the strength and the bond that ours does. I have lost touch with other friends who went suburban after getting married and/or having children because they made it clear that they only wanted to spend time with other people who were married or were parents.
I totally get this. I do. It’s easy to forge relationships with people who are facing the same daily events and can relate. I have no idea what it’s like to have to get up every two hours and feed an infant. The same way that my married friends have no concept of what dating is like via apps like Tinder or Hinge. (I actually don’t either. I don’t use them because technologically I’m a bit slow but they assume I know all about it). Regardless, I AM dating and they are not.
Basically? The same way that we all grow and adapt to change as people should be true of our friendships. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in bridging the great friendship divide.
Except for liking pictures and commenting on status updates, do not use this a replacement for real conversation and hang out time. As great as social media can be for sharing info and photos, it is truly just a glimpse of a person not the whole package. Nothing can replace that one on one time with a friend.
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
Don’t say “we should have lunch sometime” or “we need to catch up” if you don’t actually intend on doing so. Everyone has conflicts and schedules and routines to work around, but if you don’t actually want to catch up with someone, why bother saying you do?
ACCEPT THAT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT
I might go to bed at four in the morning once in awhile. You might find china patterns totally exciting. Doesn’t mean we can’t be friends anymore. You can help me be more prepared for when it’s my turn to think more about matching dishes and I can make you laugh regaling you with a story of a hot bartender.
A friend and I once had a knock down drag out argument about something that didn’t seem worthy of such vitriol until she finally admitted to me, “I’m mad at you because I want to tell you things but I’m afraid you won’t understand them. So then I resent you in my head.” I was flabbergasted. As a friend I think we all always want to understand even if it’s difficult to relate. But if we stop giving our friends the opportunity to be there for us, we’re then committing to creating a distance between us.
I’ve been guilty of assuming a married friend wouldn’t want to come to a party or be part of group trip somewhere and I know I’ve been left off invite lists for couples-only events. Sometimes it’s appropriate and sometimes it’s hurtful. I once discovered I was the only one out of a group not invited to the 1st birthday party of a friend’s son. She became uncomfortable the next time I saw her and claimed that it seemed like I was always working so she didn’t want to inconvenience me. It wasn’t even the lack of invite that hurt me. It was the thought process behind it. Why can’t I have the opportunity to decide what’s an inconvenience? Most times we should still extend the invite to our friends to give them the option to share in our lives. After all we can only know for sure what goes on in our minds, not anyone else’s.
In the end, I know friends don’t take any til death do us part vows, but if we have been friends through our most embarrassing moments, times when we can’t get out of bed after a breakup, losing a loved one, we don’t have to automatically lose that foundation as our lives change. Not if we don’t want it to. If someone feels that they can only focus on the new experiences in their lives by shedding everything and everyone they knew prior to, that’s their decision and probably not a relationship worth salvaging. But for most of us? We’re busy! And tired. And working. Some of us are moms. Some of us are single. Some of us are single moms! Our lives don’t match up as easily as they might have when all we worried about was passing final exams and finding a good house party on a Saturday night. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s these changes that show us which friends are the lifelong ones. It’s also important to remember that to have a good friend, we need to also BE a good friend. We can choose to make the time to understand each other no matter where our lives might take us.
I will admit that the next time I have some amazing news to share I will probably first swing by my unmarried friend’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen to grab celebratory drinks and sprawl on her bed to talk.
But I’m also going to call my friend, the married mommy, who lives with her husband in a house behind the picket fence in New Jersey. She might be busy putting her kid to bed and that’s OK. I believe she’ll make the time to call me back. Our friendship dynamic may have changed, but that doesn’t mean we love each other any less.