A bunch of my friends just got engaged, and now they're all planning weddings. As a happily un-partnered woman, of course I'm excited for them, but I can't help but feel a little sad. The majority of my closest group of friends are now focused on wedding planning, and I can't help but think that once the weddings happen, I'll never see them again. I want to be supportive, but I can't help it: I feel left behind. -Ashley

Maid of honor and dessert chefOh, transitions. They're bumpy and messy, like riding in the back of a car and dumping your burrito on your lap. I know that for me, there was a time in my life when the people who I was closest to were people who all did the SAME STUFF. First it was college friends and the pack of roommates who lived in our shared house called The Muthaship. Then it was my crew of raver friends, who all met for pre-funks at midnight before going out. Then it was coworkers at various media jobs, meeting for happy hour. We were all in it together, in relatively similar stages of our lives, doing relatively similar things. But then something strange happened: people's lives diversified. Some of us got married, some of us didn't. Some of us traveled, some of us had kids. Some of us started our own businesses, and some of us went back to school. Gone were the days when we all met at 11:30 pm to go out.

Does this mean we all went our separate ways? Some folks, yeah. I think there will always be a collection of people in your life who are there because they're doing the same stuff as you. But I also think it's imperitive to make the effort to bridge the gaps with the folks who are on a different path, but to whom you're devoted. This is something Offbeat Mamas talk a lot about — how everyone (parents, childfree, and kids!) benefit from maintaining relationships. To be sure, the transition to parenthood can definitely be brutal on relationships.

The same is absolutely true of weddings and marriage. There are some couples who decide that as “married people” (whatever that means) they should now do “married things” (again: wtf? this is your life — anything you want to do when you're married can be a “married thing,” including nonmonogamy). For everyone's sake, I wish people wouldn't divide their lives like that. When you stop hanging out with people in different relationship modalities than yours, you're essentially saying that the only thing you had in common was your interaction with others. That all you had in common was a status box on a census form. I think we can all aspire to have friends and loved ones who are more than a checkbox.

Getting married is just the first of MANY differences that are going to emerge between you and your favorite people. Friendships are worth bridging the gaps and making the effort to maintain — and that goes both ways. Unpartnered friends, be patient with your engaged and married friends when they whine about their relationship challenges. If you're hoping to be married yourself someday, learn from their triumphs and stumblings. If you never want to be married, view it as an opportunity to gain insight into a land you won't be traveling to. It's anthropology.

Are your married friends going to change? Yes, and so are you.

Are your married friends going to change? Yes, and so are you. Call me a West Coast woo-woo, but I think we should all be in the process of change and growth and development throughout our lives. Everyone's always changing, and marriage is just one way that people shift. School, jobs, moves, children, health, hobbies, marriages, divorces, spirituality… there are so many influences to how people change, and married folks aren't the only ones to experience a big transition.

And engaged and married friends, for fucksake don't stop calling your single friends once you get married. If you have an active social life, don't kill it just because going out “isn't what married people do.” (That implies that the only reason anyone leaves the house after dark is to get laid. I really hope that isn't true.) Invite your single friends to your potlucks and happy hours. Have them over for movie night and platonic snuggles on the couch.

We are all so much more than our relationships to romantic partners. We have so much more in common, and so many things to talk about.

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Comments on I feel left behind by my engaged friends

  1. Here here!

    I am the last of my friends to get married and was single for a long time. It didn’t keep me from being friends with the same people or still enjoying the things we mutually enjoy. I see less of my friends at the moment, but it isn’t because I’m engaged. Rather, it is because my life is crazy busy. An upcoming wedding actually usually brought my friends and I together because it meant there were things we could do together, things I could help my friends with. Now that the tables are turned, my friends are feeling the same way, wanting to help me out.

    Make a point to keep in touch with them. Offer to help with their weddings, but also make time for “girl time.” They are still your friends. My friends and I actually just planned an evening to get together for supper.

    • I had the opposite happen. I’m getting married and 3 of my single friends stopped inviting me to some gatherings, particularly the small “coffee time” ones. I was crushed. I still wanted to spend coffee time with them, married or not, and was worried that I was talking too much about wedding stuff and had offended them somehow.

      I asked one friend what was going on and she cleared it right up. The three of them made a pact to encourage each other to start dating, and coffee dates turned into “dating encouragement club”. They didn’t invite me since I didn’t need the encouragement. They’re all pretty shy girls (so was I) so I was happy they were taking action and didn’t feel bad about being left out. We still have “regular coffee time” now that the “secret” is out.

      (I should add that I don’t believe that everyone needs to be married; bachelor/ette-hood has its perks too.)

  2. Thanks for this :3

    One of my friends got married in October, and she finally texted me yesterday to see if we could hang out. Any attempts I made were always followed with “I’m busy moving and stuff.” -_-; She just finished moving, so her excuses might be legit, but I’ve noticed that our few “girl time” days have always been when her husband is gone or busy.

    The rest of my friends are pairing off in the same way. I have to hang with the pair or there’s no deal. It’d be no big deal if I had my own snuggle buddy, but my fiance is in the military and they all know that. =/

    I just don’t know how to hang on to people who are getting along fine without me.

  3. I have to respond to Ashley’s original query, and to Leslie’s –

    Ariel, I heartily agree with your advice to Ashley – at 25, I’m frequently saddened by how the trajectory of my life has taken me away from those I want to be closest too. Making new friends as an adult is HARD, because you do get away from grouping with people based on shared interests or musical tastes. Planning a wedding is an exhausting endeavor – but your gfs still need you Ashley! And they’ll need you even more after they’re married. Because after the honeymoon fog lifts, they’ll find themsleves in need of some serious lady time.

    Which brings me to my next point – Leslie, cohabitating with someone is…a commitment in more ways than one – you feel responsible for the day to day happiness of two people – and that requires a lot of maintenance. (And really – nobody wants gfs who only reach out when they’re having problems with their man – annoying). If you want 1 on 1 lady time with your friends, say so. They’ll probably happily oblige. When they bring the hubs or bf along, it’s probably a. they don’t want them sitting alone at home, being sad bastards and b. they want their significant others to like you as much as they do.

    This is a terribly long-winded response, but I hope it was helpful! 🙂

    • I never thought to ask my friends for alone time; I always assumed they’d get offended that I didn’t want their attachments along! And my married friend never brings her husband along, though I wouldn’t mind it because he’s a cool guy. I should try asking 😛

      My unmarried friends have different personalities depending on whether or not they’re with their significant other, which is part of my problem =/ But I’m 21 and these specific friends are 18 and 19, so it might have something to do with maturity level. They also still live with their parents, so it’s not an issue of them leaving their significant other behind.

      I feel like I answered my own issue with this xD Ah, maturity level.

    • Yes, DEFINITELY ask for girl time! Believe me, married women need it too. We’re fairly far from many of our friends, and if one of my girls is going to be in the area, my husband usually feels like he should hang out with us as well, be a good host and spend time with the people I love. But it’s never a problem if I say “X is coming down this weekend- we need girl time!” He understands I don’t get much of that due to the distance, and is more than happy to sit at home playing video games. 🙂

      Also, Leslie, re: your friend who recently moved- we bought a house last year, and between getting married less than a year before that, the stress of buying a house, the stress of actually moving, etc., there were some days I really just needed “me” time, to veg with a book and wear sweats. About a month ago one of my good friends was in the nearest big city to visit another friend on the ONE Saturday I actually had free, and while I would have loved nothing more than to see her for coffee or something, I was just not up for going out in the city. Did I specifically tell her all that? No, I wasn’t sure how she, a single lady who still lived with her parents, would take that. Although she’s a good friend, not having been through the same experiences I have, I really wasn’t sure if she’d be offended and think that I didn’t want to make the effort….when really I just plain didn’t have the energy. So I think both sides suffer form some miscommunication sometimes!

  4. “And engaged and married friends, for fucksake don’t stop calling your single friends once you get married.”

    To add to that, single girls, don’t stop calling your engaged and married friends just because they’re in a relationship! I’m not married yet but am in a very long term relationship, and I’ve been dealing with the issue that my friends have stopped calling me because they assume I don’t want to hang out. My boyfriend and I are NOT attached at the hip, and I still love going out with the girls!

  5. I am seriously crying at my computer desk because I went through the same thing recently as the writer. Of my three tight female friends, one is married, one is engaged, and the last one is getting engaged soon… and then there’s me. And while I’m so excited for all of them and their big life changes, I can’t help but feel a sense of mourning that our days together being single and all on the same plane are now over. So it’s refreshing to not only hear that I’m not alone, but also read Ariel’s sage advice. It puts a lot in perspective.

  6. You know, though, I find that major life events tend to lend themselves to the coming and going of friendships. That’s just how it is. When people get married, there’s often a mental switch that flips, telling them that they’re now grown-ass adults with responsibilities and junk. It just happens for a lot of people.
    But think about your own life. Nothing REALLY changed for you when you graduated high school or left that one summer job, but you’re probably not still BFFSFOREVAH with the people you were friends with then. As Likewise, in ten years, some of the people you now consider besties will no longer be in your life for one reason or another.
    As major life events happen, we’re sort of faced with an unconscious due date for identity change. Even when logic tells us that nothing should really change, we still have in the back of our minds a certain way that our lives will look after the event has gone down. For some people, married life looks just like single life, but with a new blender. For some people, married life looks like a 180. And the friendship they envision with you might not fit in the new mental picture of married life. Or, worse, they might imagine that YOU think you won’t fit in that new picture.
    This is not to say that your fears are well-founded or right on the money. This is to say that as with every relationship in your life, communication is key. Talk with your friends about their new life changes. Tell them that you’d love to schedule dinner with them at least once a month, that you’re still available for Movie Mondays, that you’d totally love to help you friend paint the apartment.
    And don’t just throw your hands up when plans fall through over and over again for the first few months. Couples often do fall into these lovey-dovey nesting patterns where they feel the need to be with eachother 24/7 and snuggle and cuddle and bleck. It’s just that for most couples, this is not a permanent (or even necessarily long-lasting) phase. Heads will come out of asses at some point. Most of my married friends have had a sudden “Oh crap, my friends, I kinda forgot about them” moment.

  7. Thank you so much for this article. From the engaged woman’s perspective, I am trying to be very sensitive to my single bridesmaids. I love them dearly, but I have noticed changes in their behavior towards me. This article is exactly what we are experiencing: a major transitional period. It’s been tough, but now tthat we know we are all making a great effort to continue meaningful relationships with eachother.

  8. I think it’s hard for anyone to feel like the odd man out, regardless of the reason (from “I’m engaged and all my single friends are doing things without me!” to “I’m single and all my engaged friends are talking about wedding planning… why don’t we talk about motocross anymore?!”).

    Asking for more or increased communication or affection from my buddies is always a hard thing to do, because it can both make me feel demanding and self-centered, and it can make me nervous that secretly they don’t want to spend time with me anymore!

    The results of going out on that limb, however, have always been good–stronger relationships, more consideration on both sides of what the other person’s going through, and lots of appreciation that someone was willing to bring the hard topic to light.

    To keep strong relationships strong, everyone has to be flexible.

  9. The weird experience I have had as now a newlywed and an engaged gal living with my guy for two years is that the closer we both got to one another- the more our single friends pulled away. We would each bait our own sides with food, booze, promises of grandeur all with the same responses from both men & women: have to work, promised my dead aunt sally, i’m tired, blah blah. It got to the point where we just made new friends that so happened to be a married couple. She was the only girl who I could call up for girl time or going out that didn’t pout around about really needing to see some flavor of the week guy or tell me shes saving her money for her leechy boyfriend’s birthday gift. Her husband was the same way with my husband (although his other friend’s excuses were actually worse than mine- we didn’t think you’d be down to pick up chicks and your new found sensitive side hurts our vibe.) So we hung out a lot in the past year. At our wedding festivities there was definitely a judgmental air put on by our “vintage” friends. They kept making remarks about how they’d been replaced by “the married couple”. DOH! Why is it that everyone just points fingers?? I would love to hang out with my single gals one on one anytime- if they’d have me…the settled calm one?

  10. I had a bit of a case of facebook jealousy before I got engaged. My high school friends were all dropping like flies. It seemed like one a month and I felt pangs of jealousy every time I would see “the captain of your color guard is enganged to link to person” or whatever. But I had the fall back of knowing my turn would come soon enough and sure as the sun rises in the east, my turn did come. Now I feel bad for the friends it hasn’t happened to and try to keep the “zomg I’m doing this with my wedding” posts to a minimum and veil the references when I do cause I know other girls could feel how I felt.

    On the other hand, I have a bunch of other friends in their late 20’s who are older than me and are party mavens who have either failed engagements or divorces already under their belts and they’re always up for drinks but come with words of caution and like to remind me of the pre-FH times of wild nights filled with crazy booze and coke and noon breakfasts the day after. Follow that by lamenting our domesticity (we’re all now in lo9ng terms.) and wondering what happened to us.

  11. I would think becoming a mother would be a greater separator from single friends than marriage. I can testify that it is possible to bridge the gap though – my best friend, who hasn’t lived in the same state as me for twenty years, has had a baby (not me), gotten married (not me), and gotten divorced and remarried. We still remain close and talk often.

  12. I think its good to set some vague kind of time to hang out. If nothing else life just passes you by and before you know it its 6 months since you last hung out. Doesn’t even have to be anyones fault, thats just life. I see my oldest four girl friends maybe twice, three times a year when we spend the weekend together. Sometimes with SO’s sometimes its just us girls. In a few weeks we’re going canoeing and camping for the weekend, sans fellas 🙂
    The guys are probably happy when they don’t get invited as we all turn back into giggly 16 year olds when we’re all back together, but I like him to come, those people mean alot to me so I want them to get to know my boy too.

    I find i’ve drifted away from friends for many different reasons, geography, babies, marriage but I still see most of them even if it is only twice a year.

  13. This really hits home with me. It seems like after my Fiance and I announced our engagement, it set off a chain reaction of engagements in my social circle. Literally a few days apart! It has made me wonder how some of my single friends or non-engaged friends feel about this odd phenomena. This article is a good insight to that.

  14. My single friends have stopped hanging out with me now that I am planning my wedding. I can tell that they have a hard time being happy for me because they haven’t had much luck with guys lately. On the rare occasion that we do hang out, I try to keep the wedding talk to a minimal (they are in the wedding party so I have to discuss certain things) but whenever I ask them about their own lives they have nothing to say. So, from the other end of the spectrum being engaged and having mostly single friends, be there for your friend like you would during any other event in her life. Currently, I find myself holding back my happiness because it makes them uncomfortable. Just know that you are doing things at your own pace and everything will fall into place when the time is right.

  15. LOVED the article. My husband died 14 years ago and, after 25 years of marriage, I wrote off all of my married friends. Big mistake! Get past that uncomfortable feeling and talk to the husbands/boyfriends as well. Now I’m finally realizing that married people are normal, too, and are not judging me.

  16. Now that I am engaged, I feel left behind by my single friends. They come over to my place when I invite them, but they have stopped inviting me to go out with them.
    My sister got married a few years ago and reminded me to make sure to be attentive to my unmarried friends and not disappear into being Mrs. Married (like she did, apparently, and now wishes she had some girlfriends to hang out with), so I knew things would not be the same, but I didn’t know THEY were going to forget about ME!

  17. I love this post (and the way you write), Ariel! Every idea is so well expressed. I’m a young, married woman who loves her single friends just as much as I love my married ones. I was flabbergasted last week at church when I was looked down on by a single girl (in regards to joining a small group/being friends with me)!

    I love your points about everyone growing and changing due to life’s circumstances and not doing things just because they aren’t “what married people do.” Bravo to this post!

  18. I’ve been single my whole life and am 36 and I’m not choosing to be single. Most my friends are married and its hard, very hard actually . I feel so left out and very much inferior

  19. I would add this to it: if you’re part of a couple, please don’t bring your boyfriend / husband to ladies only night. Or bring your wife / girlfriend to guys only night. That is one reason some single people drop particular married and engaged friends.

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