The Importance of Friendships

I was talking to my pal, Jillian, a few days ago, and she brought up an interesting point. The strongest structure is a triangle; with three legs, for example, a stool won’t wobble as it would with four, and it won’t fall over completely as it would with two. Similarly, the most fulfilling situations are ones that include more than just two people.

It’s not surprising, then, that, when couples couple up and lose contact with their friends and family, they become less happy than they were when they were single. According to the Huffington Post‘s summary of a recent study on married, cohabiting, and single people:

In some ways, the single people did better, and in other ways, the people who got coupled did better. The advantages of the single people were lasting. The benefits of those who got coupled were fleeting — by the end of the study, none of the initial advantages posted by the couples had endured.

All participants were asked at the beginning of the study, and again six years later, about the extent to which they maintained contact with their parents, and the amount of time they spent with friends. The idea that authors Kelly Musick and Larry Bumpass were testing was that getting partnered increases your social support. Theoretically, coupled people “connect their partners to larger networks of friends, kin, and community that can be drawn upon in times of need.” That is not what they found.

Instead, those who entered into a cohabiting relationship or who got married had less contact with their parents and spent less time with their friends than those who stayed single. What’s more, the couples did not become any less couple-y over time. In the first three years of the study, those who got coupled were less connected to others than were the people who stayed single, and in the last three years, they remained less connected.

Personally, I’m not all that surprised to find this out. This is the first rule of the dating book, isn’t it? Once a girl gives up or blows off her girlfriends for a guy she’s dating, trouble is sure to follow. I’ve seen many of my friends do this, and they usually come running back once they realize they were miserable without their friends.

But when we get married, we seem to forget this cardinal rule. Somehow, we think, this time is different. After all, when we say “I do,” we’re saying it forever, so when we opt for hanging out with the hubby over having cosmos with our girlfriends, that’s different from making that choice with a less serious boyfriend, right?

Wrong.

Our husbands provide us with love and support, of course, but our girlfriends provide us with a different kind of love and support. I can’t tell you how important it was for me to have a few good girlfriends to turn to when things got rough with Tim and me when we first moved in together. When they told me similar stories about themselves, I felt so much better. I knew I wasn’t a failure but, rather, I was just adjusting to a completely new and different living situation for me, and that my reactions to that change were completely normal. Without my friends during that time, I would have felt completely isolated. I’m sure there will be more times when I will need the always sage advice of my buddies over my husband, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not leaving him or hiding anything from him. He just can’t give me the kind of friendship my girlfriends can. He can, however, give me the experiences that come with marriage and long-term committment, and that is unique to my relationship with him.

Bottom line: it’s important to have more than one person in your life. If you don’t, you’ll just be that two-legged chair that keeps falling over.

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