Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride?

For most girls growing up there is a belief that the natural order of things is one day we will meet someone special and marry them. In the meantime, we spend vast amounts of time with our girlfriends. These are the trusted confidantes we feel blessed to have. We’ll have laughed and cried together, shared family secrets, ghastly boyfriend stories, and when the world is a less than joyous place, a phone call, or meet up with a friend is all we need to feel soothed or chided back to equilibrium.

When Your Friend Meets the ‘One’

In an ideal world, we’d meet our special someone around the same time, and lives would continue to interweave between happy coupledom and life as it once was. When a friend meets the one she wants to share the rest of her life with, we’re there with her to celebrate, ooohing and aahhing over the ring, discussing wedding plans, honeymoon, and in-laws. Conversations still include dating horror stories alongside new tales about dress fittings, weight gain or loss, wedding cake disasters, and over-interfering relatives. We grin at one another when our friend slips into coupledom language with ‘we’ substituted for ‘I’ and ‘us’ used rather than ‘me.’ However, while the first time round it’s new and fun, if friends are beating a path up the alter with not a sign of similar happening for you, as you smile and say ‘Congratulations’ to yet one more friend you’re probably thinking ‘well there goes another friendship!

On your own

Becoming the ‘single friend’ does take a bit of getting used to. For one, the social network you once relied on is gone. Spontaneous girls nights out become a distant memory along with nightly phone calls chatting about nada. Weekends hanging out on the sofa watching soap catch-ups are no longer feasible either when friends already have built-in companions. Oh, and girly holidays…forget it! When it comes to organising nights out with married friends be prepared too for scheduling nightmares because they’ll have to check with partners before confirming because it’s not all about them anymore! You’d better be ready too for the last minute cancellations, ‘Dave forgot to tell me his mother is coming over tonight!’ For the singleton, whose social life is collapsing around her it’s a tough adjustment period often accompanied by a sense of loss for how it once was. So around this time about the worse thing a married friend can say is, ‘You’re so lucky, you can spend all day on your own doing nothing.‘ Right.

The Inevitable Shift

For those married friends who try to maintain friendships with singletons we love and celebrate them. ‘Things won’t change, I won’t change,’ they’ll promise, but they do. Nights out to the cinema are with loved ones, weekends are spent faffing around in IKEA, and holidays are couple heaven. Inevitably, new friendships will blossom with other couples going through similar stuff in life to them. By comparison, we’ll struggle with friends who simply drop us as happened with one of my closest friends who slipped off the radar after getting married. Okay, she moved to the next county with her new husband but it wasn’t Timbuktu as she still lived less than an hour away. After numerous last minute cancellations and oddly defensive excuses, I eventually had to give up on attempts to stay connected.

Time to Move On

So, if you’re feeling like the last (wo)man standing, waving farewell to friends whose lives are moving on while yours isn’t, you might feel like having a good old cry. And go right ahead and do it, but when you’re finished, shake it off, pat yourself down and take stock because your life is moving on too… if you’re ready to take the challenge and go for it.

Embracing Change

Apparently, there are several developmental stages in a lifetime and accepting change is part of the process of moving through each one. For those avoiding change, life can become stagnant even stuck in the past. As an example, groups are a lot like families in that they have a dynamic all of their own with everyone involved a given role (whether you chose it or not). In a group of friends there’s usually the ‘glamorous one,’ the ‘ambitious one,’ and of course the ‘funny one.’ Those labels stick for as long as you’re in that group and only when you venture outside that dynamic will you get a chance to leave behind old labels (that you probably never liked anyway) and create new ones. For years, I’d wanted to do some real travelling but could never persuade a friend to go along. By the time we reached our early thirties and friends one by one were settling down I knew I’d have to forget my plan or re-think it. So I negotiated some unpaid leave and for four months (admittedly not the twelve I’d originally dreamed of), I travelled around Oz on my own…staying in hostels, jumping out of planes, and taking off in balloon rides. It was one of the best decisions ever made for I learned it was very possible to do things without the safety net of friends around while still enjoy life to the fullest.

Rediscovering Old Friendships

Finally, while married friends may drift off for a while, even sometimes years, they often return. And in my experience, been reacquainted again with friends from the past and rehashing old times is terrific fun, but even better is sharing our new stories.

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