Making Friends When You're Married (Or In An Equivalent Long-Term Relationship)
It hardly happens to everyone who's partnered up, but some people who are married feel their social lives have gotten into a rut and that they have a harder time making new friends. Sometimes just one member of the couple feels a bit lonely, while at other times both partners wonder why they can't seem to get a social life going.
Reasons it can be so tricky to make friends after you're married and settled
There are a lot of factors that can come together to make this happen, and lend support to the idea that it really is harder to make friends after your 20's. This article will cover them, then make some suggestions.
Lack of time
- Your partner takes up time that you could have spent with friends or meeting new people. That's totally normal and happens to every couple to one degree or another.
- On the whole, people who are married are busier. They're usually at a place in their lives where they have more obligations and responsibilities. They have full-time careers, and may have to work extra hours. If they have kids, that's incredibly time consuming. They may have a house which requires a fair amount of upkeep. They still have to make space to spend quality time with each other. All in all they don't have tons of spare hours to put themselves out there to try and find some new buddies.
Growing apart from friends who have different lifestyles
- Married and single friends sometimes fall out of touch. It goes both ways. Married people will complain that their single friends don't invite them out anymore, that it's like everyone's decided that now that they're hitched they must have instantly turned into stodgy homebodies.
- On the other hand, single friends will speak of how once a friend got married it became way harder to get together with them. They may have started only hanging out with other couples. Married people may feel their priorities have changed, and they can't relate to the partying-centric lifestyle of their single friends.
- All this can go double once kids enter the equation. Parents and childless friends may mutually feel they don't have as much in common anymore. Naturally parents are way harder to make plans with as well.
- Sometimes a person's spouse may not click with their friends, and those buddies get pushed out of the picture. It may not be that one partner expressly forbids their spouse from seeing their friends either. Instead it could be that, say, the husband notices his wife doesn't click with one of his mates, and so unconsciously prioritizes spending time with the ones she does get along with. He may still want to see his other buddy, but just not have the time leftover to do so.
Someone's partner provides enough socializing for them
- Some people don't have a naturally high need to socialize, and all the time they spend with their spouse, perhaps combined with the interactions they have at work, meets most of their social needs. Their partner may not 100% fulfill their requirements, but enough that even if they feel bored and want some new friends on one level, they aren't socially "hungry" enough to really go after it.
- Related to the above, there are people in serious relationships who never became fully comfortable with socializing or making friends. When they met their partner they found they could spend most of their time with them, get most of their interpersonal needs met, and they put the idea of working on their social difficulties on the back burner. Years later they may decide they do want to form other relationships, but realize they aren't really sure how.
One partner doesn't feel the need to be as social as the other
- This ties into the previous section. If both people in a couple aren't particularly social that's a good match. They can happily hang out together and not involve anyone else very often. Where a problem can arise is when one member of the couple wants to be with people a lot, but the other one doesn't. The less social partner may not have many friends of their own and be fine with that. They may not want to attend big get togethers, or only want to pop in for two hours max. The more social spouse can often do their own thing and hang out with their friends by themselves. However, while they may love their partner for who they are overall, they may also feel held back in a way, because a bunch of their social options and avenues for making friends are cut off.
Being in a new city
- Couples sometimes move to a new city, maybe because one of them got offered a job or was accepted to grad school there. Especially when they're occupied with their kids, it can be really tough to form a new social circle from scratch in this situation.
- A milder version of this issue can occur even if the couple moves to the distant suburbs of their home city. Suddenly it gets that much harder to visit with everyone.
The difficulty of making friends as a couple
- Couples often want to make friends with other couples, so they can do couple things together. This isn't always easy though since not everyone may get along. Two guys may hit it off, but their wives may have little to say to each other. Or the two pairs may get along well hanging out one-on-one, but as a foursome the dynamic may not work well (e.g., three of the people may want to drink and party together, while the fourth is more reserved and low key).
- The two members of the couple may have totally different tastes in friends and the type of people they attract, and so the chances of meeting another similar pair are unlikely.
- One member of the couple may not have very mainstream interests, and so odds are they won't click with the husband/wife of their spouse's friend. A common example is a guy who isn't into typical male stuff like sports. He can't bring up the local team to easily connect with his wife's friend's husband, the way some other guy may be able to.
- If one person in the couple is friends with someone, their significant other may not enjoy feeling like they're being pushed to hang out that friend's partner, all in the hope that they'll hit it off and then everyone will be able to go on double dates all the time and stuff. Some guys joke that it feels like they're being set up on an adult play date ("I'm going over to Lisa's house. You should come and help Dominic put his new shed together!")
- If one member of the couple isn't as social as the other, they may have little desire to make couple friends to hang out with, even if their partner would like that.
- Once again, with kids involved it can be even trickier. Even if every adult in two couples gets along, their kids may be mismatched ages, or not really like each other. If you're getting a babysitter and going out to dinner that's one thing, but if you want to go on vacation together it may not work if your kids are going to fight or complain the whole time.
Having mentioned all this, it can really make you envious of those people who made a bunch of friends in high school, all stayed in the same area and kept hanging out, and then all got married and started having kids at around the same time.
Advice on finding friends when you're married
Here are my thoughts on making friends when you're married, or in a relationship that's essentially the same as being hitched. Before I get into some more specific stuff, the concepts from my more general articles on making friends are background reading. You've likely seen them already, but if not here are the main ones:
Accept that it may be harder to form friendships, and that that's okay
Everything I suggest below is with the full understanding that it often is harder to make friends when you're at the stage in your life where you've gotten married. Having a career, a live-in spouse, and possibly kids makes it all more challenging, compared to what a typical college student has to deal with. I realize some of the points below have that wonderful 'easy for you to say' quality to them.
However, I think it's totally fine if someone's social life hits a quiet patch for a while. If you've just moved to a new area, or are starting a career, or have two toddlers at home, it may just not be the most social phase of your life. Everyone has ebbs and flows in the number of friends they have, or in how often they go out. If you're patient and don't take it all as a sign that you're unlikable and never meant to have friends again you'll pull through.
Also, it's okay if you're comfortable with this happening. You're reading this article, so you likely want to make friends, but I'll mention this anyway. I think sometimes people are perfectly happy to de-prioritize their social life at times, but feel guilty, like they 'should' want to meet people or go out more. If you're busy and content with spending most of your time with your spouse and preschoolers, and only seeing an old friend or two every three weeks, that's okay.
Make trying to meet people a priority
When you don't have a ton of free time, when you're fried and want to veg during the spare moments you do have, when you know you can always fall back on hanging out with your partner, it's easy to fall into a homebody routine where you don't go out and actively try and make friends very often. If meeting new people is important to you, you may have to force yourself out there a bit, and push against that natural, comfortable inertia of wanting relax and stay in.
You have to consciously make socializing a priority. If you're tired on a Thursday evening, catch a second wind somehow and make yourself volunteer at that film festival anyways. Go out with your spouse to that event where you may meet other couples, even if it's tempting to tell yourself you'd rather not inconvenience your mom by asking her to watch the kids. Do what you can to free up time for yourself in other parts of your life.
As well as going out, do your best to try to make yourself available to invitations from people who are interested in hanging out with you. If you're busy it can be easy to unintentionally give the impression that you're not keen on spending time with someone, by always having to turn down their invitations and then not making an effort to follow up and suggest an alternative plan. Many potential friends will try to arrange something with you a few times then conclude you seem like you've got too much going on and give it up.
Don't limit yourself too much by only wanting to be friends with certain types of people
Not everyone does this, but some folks approach the situation only wanting to make friends with other couples, or people who are also married, or who have kids themselves. They may seek out couples because they feel their social life should revolve around doing things with their partner. They may believe they'd relate better to someone who understands what it's like to have children (childless friends are sometimes notorious for glazing over whenever the kid anecdotes come out).
I don't think there's anything wrong with having an idea of what type of friends you want to make, but it may cause you to overlook some awesome people. That fun girl at your job may not be attached herself, dashing your dreams of going on double dates with her and her partner, but she may be really interesting to hang out with one-on-one, or with her friends. Those childless newlyweds you and your spouse met the other week may not perk up with glee at the idea of hearing about temper tantrums and cute new vocabulary developments, but that doesn't mean you can't all go bowling or to the theater together, or have some drinks and chat about other stuff.
I don't think there's a magic way to hit it off with other couples
Like I mentioned above, it's harder for a couple to make friends with a second couple compared to one person hitting it off with another. I don't think there's any particular trick to making it easier though. It's like trying to make friends on your own. Some people you'll get along with, some you won't. Sometimes you'll get along with one member of a pair individually, but when your partners are added to the mix, it doesn't work.
Keeping in mind that it mostly just comes down to meeting enough prospects, here are a few things that may make the process slightly easier:
- There are three basic ways to meet couples: 1) You and your partner can go out together, chat up other couples, and invite them to do couple-centric activities with you, 2) You can make friends individually, suggest you do something with your spouses, and see if everyone clicks, and 3) Ask your spouse if his or her existing friends have any significant others who may want to do something as a foursome. I think each option is as likely to work as the other. Though with the first you can at least get a sense of the inter-couple compatibility right away.
- There's often a big difference between four people all hanging out together and four people splitting off into pairs and socializing separately. Everyone may have fun and get along fine when you're in a group, but the dynamic may turn awkward when, say, your husband is now expected to make one-on-one conversation with your friend's partner for three hours, while you and her go to the back porch to talk. The same thing applies to three or more couples hanging out. As a mixed group things may go great, but the example husband may not thrive hanging out with just a bunch of other guys.
- If the first time hanging out with another couple only seems to go okay, see if you can give it another chance. Everyone may need time to get used to each other, or you could try another activity (e.g., a couple that didn't have fun going to a loud party together may enjoy hanging out at home and watching movies).
- If you're all hanging out together, it's not essential that every relationship be equally as strong. That may be expecting too much. For example, the husband from one couple may get along with the wife from the other one, but honestly feel pretty lukewarm towards her. They may never become soul mates, but for the purposes of doing double dates, they click well enough.
- You and your spouse should be aware of your own social skills and how that may impact an interaction with other couples. Think of yourself like a combined social unit, and a weakness from one of you may sour the impression you create. Like one of you may be a bit too prone to arguing your opinion, or over eager to share tasteless jokes. Or the problem may be in the interactions between you, like if you're always bickering in front of people when you're out together.
If your spouse isn't that social and you are, they may be able to compromise a little, but overall you may need to accept them for how they are
I discuss this issue in more depth in this article. Basically if you and your spouse differ in how naturally social you are, each preference isn't really better or worse than the other, and one partner can't justify trying to force the other over to their side. I think what works best is a mix of compromising and accepting your differences. You may be able to reach an agreement where your less social spouse agrees to go out with you at least occasionally, because they realize it's important to you (and you in return give them time where they can have the space they need). However, on the whole you might need to accept that they have their own style, and that they may never be a route to creating the kind of social life you imagine for yourself. You may need to learn to make friends on your own, or come to peace with the fact that you'll often be hanging out with people without them.
If your social life has been in a rut for quite a while then you may need to work on more of your social skills then just the friend-searching part
Some people realize their social life isn't what it used to be within months of getting married or having kids. For others the situation has been stagnant for years and years, and they may just be addressing the problem now. If that's the case it's likely there will be more you need to work on then just learning the principles of finding friends and putting yourself out there. Other aspects of your people skills may have atrophied during the time you were in a rut. You may have developed some negative or limiting attitudes during that time. You may have never had the chance to fully hone some interpersonal skills, because once you got married and could spend time with your spouse, you stopped working on them. If that's the case you need to be patient with yourself and set aside time to work on those issues.