Friday, 19 November 2010

The Importance of Being Friends

Now this is a hard post to write because when I married I left most of my friends behind me in Canada and the USA. And this is the traditional lot of the married. To get married is usually to leave behind the freedoms of celibacy and settle down. You begin to orbit around home, spouse, children (if they arrive) and job (if you have one). If you have moved away, you get bulletins on what you are missing: at So-and-So's PhD ceremony, she was told five minutes before that she had won the Governor's Medal. (And it kills me that I was not there to see her face.)

Another thing about moving away is that it becomes harder to make friends. At home, you are the gracious, welcoming one. You know the ropes, the local customs, the best cheap restaurants. In your new town, you greatly depend on the kindness of strangers. And for some reason, I keep thinking of a dear friend who went to Cairo and initially went to cafes to meet and chat with musicians and other artists; she quickly discovered that these friendly types assumed all women who did that were prostitutes. In educated circles in Toronto, making friends with men (and other married women) is no big deal; elsewhere it is a torturous business, rife with misunderstanding.

But this is not a blog for married women like me, but for Catholic Singles and other Singles of good will. I don't have the answer to how to make friends when you are married. But I would like to encourage my Single readers to make as many friends and acquaintances as you can while you can. There is no point sitting alone at home thinking that only marriage will cure your loneliness. It will not. Without friends, you will be lonely even when/if you are married.

I often get emails from Single women detailing their disappointment with social events, how they haven't yet been approached for a date. My advice is to stop thinking of social events as husband-hunting expeditions but as opportunities to make friends. There are few comforts in life as important as a good woman friend and men friends can be quite fun, too. I wouldn't class them as emotionally necessary as women friends, but they are handy for walking you up dark streets at night or removing the mouse-infested rice bag for your cupboard. (Caveat: British men, American friends and I have found, are much less chivalrous than Canadian and American men.) They also provide handy guys-eye-views.

The one thing I warn against is making a man your 'bestest buddy', or allowing yourself to become a man's 'bestest buddy.' Becoming so emotionally dependent on a man who is not sexually attracted to you is very bad for a woman's morale. It puts you in the ridiculous social position of seeming like a man's girlfriend (which tends to dissuade other men from approaching you) when nothing is further from his mind.

Meanwhile, don't try overly hard to make men your friends. Some men simply cannot get over Woman-as-Other and take any overture of friendship from a woman as sexual suggestion or (worse) aggression. This is sad, but many men are like that. In such cases, give up. You can't force friendship any more than you can force love.


Steve Finnell said...

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Anonymous said...

Also: be careful that you are not indulging your need for male admiration at a male friend's expense, even if you have made it perfectly clear to him that you are not sexually interested in him. And be honest with yourself about this. That kind of behaviour leads to anger and broken friendships.


Sheila said...

If you ever find out how married women are supposed to make friends, do let me know! I have quite a shortage, especially being 24 and surrounded by single, childless people who think of me as "not their sort" because I have a husband and kid.

Seraphic Spouse said...

I will, Sheila, and I'm sorry. My mother was your age when she went through the same thing.

Ann said...

Shelia, I'm in the exact opposite position, I'm 32 and all the ladies around my age here are married with children... and the single ladies are very young and seem to be not very interested in one that's over 30! Auntie, any advice in this area?

Alisha said...

"I wouldn't class them as emotionally necessary as women friends, but they are handy for walking you up dark streets at night or removing the mouse-infested rice bag for your cupboard."

While I completely understand your reasons for cautioning women against making men their bestest buddies, it seems rather unfair to reduce male friends to their usefulness. :( I mean, we were just writing about what young men have to offer..! Isn't true friendship based on what we have in common - Christ? Is a man who can't protect me physically or do "man things" less worthy of my friendship? In fact, I think that my difficulty in seeing that men have as much of a capacity to be hurt as I do, (i.e. simply as an entertaining or useful presence) has possibly caused me to be rather insensitive or behave carelessly...

Catherine said...

I agree with Alisha. One of my closest friends is a NCB. I have never wanted anything more than a platonic relationship with him, and I am completely positive that he feels the same way about me. We're emotionally invested in each other, yes, but that's because we're friends. We care about each other, are interested in each other's lives, and give each other advice and someone to talk to about Spiritual Matters that we can't really talk to anyone else about. We've helped each other through some really difficult situations, and he knows more about me, I think, than anyone besides Jesus and my spiritual director. He's been in a few relationships, and I've never felt or acted bitter or jealous. I've never been in a (romantic) relationship, but I know his role in my life wouldn't stop me from being in one.

This might sound terrible, but when I talk to my female friends -- no matter how close we are, no matter what NCGs they are -- I know they will gossip about me. But with this male friend, I have never had reason not to trust him completely. He also offers a more objective, rational perspective on things than any of my female friends do. I go to my female friends when I want to gush and analyze -- I go to this male friend when I want honest, objective, clear-headed advice.

Everyone is different, sure, and I understand the cautions in the original post. But I'm grateful to have this male friend in my life.

And for the record, I'm certainly no rabid neo-feminist, but if I had a mouse in my cupboard, I would be happy to remove it myself. :)

Seraphic said...

Oh dear. Maybe I should have made it clear that this advice was for girls who want to get married one day. If you have no interest in marriage ever--and Alisha does not, and makes sure nobody gets any hopeful ideas that she may budge on this--then it doesn't strike me to be as much of a risk to make a guy your best buddy. A call to the Single Life does have its privileges!

But then the biggest problem is that wives do not really like it when their husbands stay "best buddies" with their female friends. I've noticed that many Single women have a bit of a shock when they realize that they can't be friends with their now-Marrried male friends in the exact same way they were before.