“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
There have been few studies on the value of friendships. Most of the studies show what activates in the brain when we are with a friend as opposed to a stranger. This is true even if the stranger is similar to us.
“In all experiments, closeness but not similarity appeared to drive responses in medial prefrontal regions and associated regions throughout the brain,” Krienen said. “The results suggest social closeness is more important than shared beliefs when evaluating others.
Read Montague, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine, an expert on decision-making and computational neuroscience, said, “The authors address an important component of social cognition — the relevance of people close to us,” Montague said.
Why do some of us have few friends after marriage?
So while the science is in that there is relevance of people close to us, why do some of us have few friends? I am of course speaking about the face-to-face friends rather than the 500 friends you have on Facebook or the 1000 followers on Twitter.
What I see in my practice is the slow demise of friendships after marriage. Studies show that women maintain and keep friends longer than men.
But how important do we see friendship I wonder this because while working with couples, I am often surprised at a partner’s expectations of each other. What I mean is, “if you love me, you will take care of all my needs and be my everything.” Now I have never heard those exact words, but I have definitely heard the sentiment.
A marriage or partnership is one of the most intimate relationships a person can have, but it is not the only relationship a person can have.
Every friend is unique
When looking at our own friendships, we can see all the different facets our friends have. Each friend serves us differently. One friend is good to ask fashion or design questions, while another friend is the one to go to museums with.
Another friend might be great in emergencies, while another one needs scheduled notice. Each friend ignites something inside us. Something that might not have shown up until that friend arrived. Kind of like the quote at the beginning of this piece.
Why do we expect our partner/spouse to be our everything?
I have witnessed partners aghast at the idea that their partner does not want to share in everything. Is this an American ideal that once we are partnered are needs are covered, or all problems can be worked out? Sometimes working things out means agreeing to disagree.
Sometimes you just have to go to that concert with a friend rather than a partner because your partner doesn’t want to go. What about when you get sick? Many hands may be needed to tend to you, not just one. It is too heavy a burden to be the one and only. Yes, your partner is your main friend, but not your only.
Keep your marriage/partnership for deep friendship as well as romantic love. Re-kindle your friendships to open up new worlds and ignite your brain. These friendships can only serve to enhance your partnered life as well.
Having friends after marriage might seem tedious or a secondary concern, but it can be the foundation for reliable support in your life.
With trustworthy friends around you, you can process things better and they can let you know if your behavior is harmful towards your relationship or your personal well-being.