Since I graduated from college three years ago, I’ve been a bridesmaid four times, kept two wedding guest books, and read Scripture in seven different ceremonies, and that’s just the list of weddings I’ve participated in. (Many people get me confused with Katherine Heigl from the movie 27 Dresses. I am single, and have a lot of married friends—but, if you’re curious, my closet is way more organized.)
At first, my wedding-attending marathon was one fun party after another—my friends were happy because they had found one another and I was happy because I got free cake and tiny hor d’oeuvres wrapped in bacon. Now, however, several years into RSVPs and receiving lines, I find myself attending these celebrations with a little less excitement. As I sit in the pew with vows echoing through the sanctuary, a mental list of my friends comes to mind. But I draw a line through the names of the two at the altar in front of me, as a symbol of our soon-to-be altered friendship.
This probably isn’t every single or married person’s experience, but marriage has changed many significant friendships in my life over the last several years and has played a large part in my journey with God. However, I refuse to believe that marriage is a friendship killer. Instead, I believe God wants to use the joys and hardships of singleness and marriage to deepen our relationships with one another. Many of us just need to grow in reaching out to friends who are in a different life stage than us.
Here’s where we can start:
1. Don’t assume.
Assumptions are one of the quickest and most destructive ways to alter our relationships with one another. As a single person, I often assume my married friends are too busy with their family to spend time with me. And couples often assume that their single friends don’t want to be a third wheel or spend time with their kids. Both assumptions are false.
The truth is that assumptions can rob us of joy and deep relationships if we let them. Don’t give them that power.
2. Ask questions.
Most, if not all, of our false assumptions exist because we don’t ask each other enough questions. Or we’re not asking the right ones.
Rarely have I asked my married friends what’s hard about being married, and I certainly haven’t asked what’s good about it, because I assume I already know. Similarly, rarely have my married friends asked what’s hard or good about being single. Good questions, however, give rise to empathy, and can connect us in new and deeper ways.
Simply put, we don’t know because we don’t ask. Let’s ask questions that extend love and grace to one another and facilitate honest conversation.
3. Create quality time.
If we are to maintain good relationships with one another, we need to be intentional about reserving time to be together and extending invitations.
One of my single friends goes to her married friend’s house every Tuesday night to be with their family, and once the kids are in bed, they stay up late talking. Their intentionality in protecting that regular time has grown their relationship immensely.
Maybe a weekly commitment is too much for you, but how about once a month? If you’re single, think through some of your married friends who you could extend an invitation to. If you’re married, who are the single people in your life you need to invite over? Plan quality time with one another; otherwise you’ll be spending all of your time with people just like you. And there’s so much to learn from others who aren’t like us. Don’t miss out.
None of these tips are groundbreaking. But they can help you deepen your relationships with single and married friends, and experience true joy in your friendships.
I’m slowly starting to erase the lines through the names on my mental “altered friendship” list. The process has been slow and painful at times, but my life is full and rich with relationships that are being restored by the Restorer himself. God desires deep community and lasting friendships for us. May he give you the courage to pursue relationships—and remind you of his love and grace along the way.
Brittany Small is an InterVarsity Campus Staff Member at her alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she graduated with a journalism and communications degree. She blogs on ministry at missbrizz88.wordpress.com.
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