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

Growing apart from friends who have different lifestyles

Growing apart from friends who can't hang out with both members of the couple

Someone's partner provides enough socializing for them

One partner doesn't feel the need to be as social as the other

Being in a new city

The difficulty of making friends as a couple

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.

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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 general articles on making friends are background reading. You've likely seen them already, but if not here are the main ones:

How To Make Friends And Get A Social Life
Places To Meet People
Making Plans With People

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 actually comfortable with your social life falling to the wayside. You're reading this article, so you likely want to make friends, but I'll mention this anyway. I think sometimes couples 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 to 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 anyway. 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. 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 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 only want 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 woman 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 click 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:

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 who 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 so, you need to be patient with yourself and set aside time to work on those issues.