Marriage marks a whole new chapter in your life—and apart from welcoming a child into the world, it’s likely your biggest transitional period. A lot of things change when you get married, like perhaps your last name, your commitment to each other, your priorities, how you handle finances and perhaps even your residence. Most of us are prepared for some of these changes, but one area of change that few of us are ready for—or even aware of—is friendships changing after marriage.
Of course, friends don’t become less important after we say “I do,” but how often we see them and talk to them naturally wanes once we’re married, according to experts. And this is a healthy thing! “As we develop, our priorities shift, our friendships tend to accommodate our new selves, over time, and we also start searching for friendships that will meet out changing needs,” explains Ili Rivera Walter, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, and professor of marriage and family therapy. “Long-time friendships have likely developed resilience in order to stand the tests of time and change—and marriage is no exception.”
Whether you’re thinking about marriage for the future or are a couple months or years into yours, here are some ways to anticipate that your friendships change after marriage.
They will require more effort.
To keep friendships alive in this stage of your life, you’re going to need to put more effort into them. “If you were used to being able to balance time with your significant other and your friends, after marriage, your spouse by default may ‘take up’ more time, so it becomes necessary to put more attention and effort into seeing your friends,” says Amanda Ruiz, licensed professional counselor and founder of The Counseling Collective. “You might need to plan a recurring monthly time together, or look a few weeks out in order to set something up.”
They will either strengthen or weaken.
Everyone reacts to change in different ways. While some of your friendships might get stronger after you get married, others may dissipate. “Some friends may not acclimate to the married you, and may choose to create distance, which is usually a sign that they are not ready, willing, or able to adjust to your new needs or expectations,” explains Walter. “If you notice signs that a friend is avoiding you, honesty is the best policy.” She recommends talking to your friend about their feelings so you can come to a better understanding of what’s going on.
They will require more attention and intention.
When you’re single, you tend to see your friends out of sheer convenience—maybe you live together or you go to the same workout classes. Once you’re married, you’re spending almost every waking (and non-working) second with your spouse. “Because partners are typically now the main priority, maintaining friendships requires intention,” says Walter. “This means scheduling time together in advance, communicating your commitment as well as your time limitations to important friends, as well as discussing with your partner, your intended strategies for maintaining significant friendships.”
They will become more exciting.
While before marriage, you might have spent time with some people you didn’t totally click with, the lack of time to actually socialize sans partner will force you to choose how you spend it wisely. As a result, the right friendships may bring times that are exciting and fulfilling in ways that differ from when you were single, such as the possibility of couple friendships, Walter explains. “Shared vacations, dinner dates or special events can create a bond with another couple that lasts for life.”
The conversations may be more through text than in person.
Even if you have limited time to see your friend, or perhaps no time at all, there’s no reason to give up the friendship entirely. You may just have to communicate through text. This is especially true if kids are in the picture. “You may need a babysitter to go out and have to align your mutual schedules, so often friends turn to texting and phone more instead of regular in person dates,” says Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., a NY-based psychologist and author of Dating from the Inside Out “It is important to find a babysitter you trust so you don’t lose this important part of your life.”
All and all, it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal for friendships to change after marriage. It’s just part of life and how relationships grow and evolve—or don’t. At the end of the day, all you can do is whatever you feel is right for you and your partner.