Friday, February 3, 2012

Married with Friends?

When I think of how being coupled affects outside friendships, I think of one particular scene in How I Met Your Mother. Ted and Robin, who have been on the verge of dating for several episodes, finally decide to make it official. A friend walks in on them lazily sitting on the couch watching a movie and instantly knows that they are dating. The gist of it is, people in relationships are more boring than single people.

When Owen and I hit a point in our relationship when we spent more time with each other than anyone else, everyone noticed, and few liked it. We stopped being fun. When we would attempt to hang out with our friends, inevitably someone would complain about our boring-couple habits. We avoided people to avoid the criticism. By taking the avoidance route, we could have ended up with no friends. Thankfully, our friendships have proved more resilient than that.

A few years ago, I read an article about love and change. I can't remember the title or the author, and I cannot find it, so I'll have to paraphrase. The author pointed out that we all change as we progress through life. Our personalities change as much as our situations. So, the person that you fall in love with will likely  change quite a bit over the course of ten years. Given this, how can love last? The author suggested that couples have to change together.

I don't remember if the author explained what "change together" actually means in any realistic sense, but I will an invent an example. In the beginning of a relationship, both partners are conservative Christians. During the course of a year, one partner becomes more involved in the church, and the other takes a secularized philosophy class. One becomes more conservative and the other becomes more liberal in theological thinking. Their relationship falls apart because they no longer share the same values. Had the couple engaged in constant conversation about their evolving values and taken time to engage in the other's activities as well, they may have changed together. I think that we can apply this point to friendships as much as to romantic love.

Owen's closest high school friend gave us a wedding card that said something like this, "at first, I wasn't so sure about Owen getting married because I was afraid that I would lose a friend, but now I realize that I'm actually gaining a friend." This note so clearly exemplifies the power of flexibility in relationships. Because this friend changed with Owen by accepting me into their relationship, their friendship remained stronger than our friendships with those who resisted the change.

So how do you get married and keep your friends? Well, first of all, don't try to continue your friendships as if nothing has changed because that will lead to strange loyalty battles between your spouse and friends. Everyone involved has to embrace the change and accept that relationships all around are going to take different shapes. For love to last, including friend-love, we have to change together.

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