My brain is out of shape. So is my body, for that matter, but my body isn’t what writes this blog, so that’s not an immediate issue.
And yet, here we are. The show must go one, and what better topic to cover right when my husband returns from deployment than the importance of girl time?
I’ve talked about ways to reach your squad goals, and pledged my allegiance to the Girls Girl Club. Despite having mentioned it a few times here and there, though, I’ve never written an entire post dedicated to the importance of investing in friendships no matter how content you are with only hanging out with your significant other.
Growing up, friends are the primary focus of our social lives. Play dates, sleepovers, classmates, carpool kids, neighborhood games of Man Hunt. We learned how to develop relationships at the friendship level long before developing relationships on a romantic level. Even if you were one of those slutty (I’m kidding) kids who had a boyfriend when you were 6, it’s not like you spent quality time with him. Play dates were reserved for your friends. Kissing behind the portable for .25 seconds before running away was reserved for your boyfriend.
Even in college, much of the social world revolves around friendships. Sororities and roommates and club sports– they all encourage lots of friendships. Of course, the relationship thing seeps in a little bit more in college years, but it’s not the #1 focus of most people.
Then you graduate. Maybe you focus on friends for a year or two, pretending you’re still in college while you make a dismal salary and occasionally get bottle service at da club. You’re not necessarily looking for a relationship, but the dating dynamic has definitely shifted a bit. One or two of your friends got married right after graduation. A guy might ask you to dinner instead of saying, “Hope to see you around campus!” And there’s a solid chance you’ve downloaded Tinder and/or Bumble.
By the time your mid-twenties roll around, most women seem to show signs of general panic about their dating lives. Panic usually doesn’t reach its peak until 27 (because if you haven’t met your husband by then, it means you might not get married until your 30s– God forbid!), but there’s definitely a heightened level of romantic awareness. It could be as subtle as starting to wonder if you even want to get married. Then, if you realize you do want that, it’s a matter of meeting that person. From there, your mind shifts to What if I never meet that person? Next thing you know, half of your friends are married and you’ve begun researching which cat breeds have the least dander.
This trajectory of escalation is not uncommon.
The shift from the importance of friendships in our lives to the importance of a significant other in our lives is pretty jarring. It changes what we do with our time, our priorities, and even where we choose to live. Especially once you’ve gone from wanting to find a husband to having a husband, your friend world starts to look very different.
You’re not going out with your girls on Friday nights anymore– or at least not very often– because you’d rather grab a bottle of wine and cuddle with your husband on the couch. (Plus “going out” isn’t as exciting once you’re no longer wondering if you’ll stumble upon the love of your life.) You don’t schedule as many happy hours with friends, because you already have something to do that night: Watch Netflix at home with your beau. You don’t call your friends to vent as much, because your spouse has two perfectly good ears.
Here’s the deal though: Your friends never become less important to keep in your life. So, WHY OH WHY do so many people disappear once they’re in a relationship?
Once a week, I have a girls night with three other married women. We could all happily just hang out with our husbands every night, but we take the time to have some good old fashion girl talk as we watch female-driven television (i.e. The Bachelor). On top of that girls night, I communicate with most of my good friends on a weekly basis, even if it’s just via text. I do my best to keep them in the loop and vice versa, despite busy schedules or very different stages of life.
Now, I’m not perfect. I definitely know I’m less communicative when my husband is home from deployment, but my weekly girls nights remain, plus I always pick up the phone when a girlfriend calls. He can attest to this. Even when we were on our little getaway at a Bed & Breakfast a few days before he left in August, my best friend called with a mini-crisis, and I sat on a little bench in Williamsburg to talk to her for 30 minutes. Or when my other friend and I were texting about a dating situation gone awry, I picked up the phone to talk to her in the car when my husband was driving. We may spend most of our time together, but I never throw my friendships to the wind.
Why? Well, because I’m selfish. That’s why. (Plus I genuinely love and adore them.)
God forbid something terrible happen to Aaron, I’ll need my girlfriends. When my mom died, I experienced first hand the necessity of friends. My friends cleaned out my childhood bedroom at my mom’s house so that I didn’t take on such emotional experiences alone. My friends visited me in New York and let me cry into their arms. My friends took me to lunch. My friends checked in on me every single day. My friends poked their heads into the room to make sure I was okay as I wrote the eulogy. It was a friend who took me to her graveside the one and only time I’ve visited since her funeral. My friends got me through it, and I know that if something every happens to Aaron, they’ll get me through it again. So why, then, would I let them go? On a totally selfish level, I can’t let them fade away, because what if I need them?
I need them even with Aaron here. I need them when he’s deployed. I need them when he’s home and I’m experiencing something that is totally foreign to men. I need them to make me laugh and tell me Aaron’s not lying when he says I’m pretty and to walk me through what to do when I’m mad at him. Aaron and I wouldn’t be nearly as functional and happy if it weren’t for our friends, I’ll tell you that much.
And what about the non-selfish stuff? Keeping your friendships strong throughout life is just FUN. I love chatting about nothing or comparing girl stories or consulting about life. Spouses are great and all, but friendships can bring just as much joy into your life as a significant other. More, at times. If your spouse is all you’ve got, you’ll start losing sight of your independent interests or personality, easily becoming completely unsatisfied in your marriage. No one can be your everything. That’s just a recipe for disappointment.
I mentioned this on the episode of my podcast dedicated to relationships, but I want to repeat it here: My best friend is my best friend, not my husband. My husband is my husband. I explain what I mean a little more extensively in the podcast, but basically, we can’t ask our spouses to be able to “get us” on the same level that our best friends get us. I’m certainly just as close to my husband as I am to my best friend, but it’s a different kind of bond. I can tell either of them anything. I am entirely comfortable with both of them. I trust both of them to love me unconditionally. But the role Tess plays in my life is different than the role Aaron plays in my life. And both roles are entirely equal in their importance.
The title of “husband” implies that he’s on the “best friend” level. No need for me to call him both. Thus, he’ll always be my husband, and my best friend will always be my best friend.
Besides being fun, and besides meeting your needs, staying close with your friends provides ample opportunity to flex your Good Person skills. You’ll learn to see the world through different lenses. You’ll learn to listen and how to comfort. You’ll pick up on things you admire and ways to improve. You’ll be told when you’re being an idiot or being a jerk, because good friends won’t let you get away with that. You’ll feel joy for other people’s successes, and develop families that extend beyond your bloodline. Loving other people brings more fulfillment and growth into your life than you could ever achieve alone or with only your significant other.
So, ladies (and maybe a few gents if you’re out there), cherish your friendships. Actively give them your time and energy, no matter what stage of life you may be in. You need them and they need you. Whatever you do, don’t let romantic love outweigh platonic love, because the most consistent of the two is the latter. This is coming from someone who is madly in love with her husband. While he may be my #1, he is not my everything. My everything includes my friends (and family, and future puppy). And if anyone would get the title of Everything in and of himself, that would be God, and God alone.
Basically, friends are great. Make them and keep them.