Most of us have come across people who are with the same set of friends throughout life and some others who have different friends at each stage of their life. When it came to our parents or grandparents, most of them lost touch with their friends after one of the key chapters in their lives — marriage. Does it hold true for today’s urban millennials as well, despite living in a highly connected world? Does a change in marital status affect their relationship with their dear friends — ‘chaddi’ buddies, school friends, college besties or their childhood playmates — who have been with them through thick and thin and have seen the best and worst versions of them?
Marking Friendship Day on August 4 this year, indianexpress.com speaks to some urban millennials to find out if their relationship status with their friends was affected after a change in their marital status.
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“It was my friend’s birthday, but since my in-laws had a flight to the US the same day and my husband and I had to drop them off at the airport, I couldn’t meet her. I felt really bad about it,” 25-year-old Divya Anand who got married eight months ago, tells indianexpress.com.
Similarly, when Delhi-based 27-year-old Garima Arora missed her dear friend’s birthday that clashed with her father-in-law’s retirement party, she “shut her social media apps”. “All my close friends attended the party, which was booked at a farmhouse in Chattarpur. That night, I shut my Instagram and Snapchat and made sure none of those party updates reached me,” shares Arora.
Does it mean marriage has affected her relationship with her friends? “No, not at all. All my friends are very much the same. It’s just that there’s a lot of catching up to do, given that all of them are unmarried, and meet nearly every week. I, on the other hand, manage to meet them twice or thrice a month,” says Arora, who got married in January 2019.
Call it additional responsibilities, changed priorities or a tweaked to-do list, balancing married life and friends perhaps comes at a cost, and becomes difficult for many.
From heartwarming to unsettling, marriage brings plenty of changes to relationship equations with friends, feels 31-year-old Vignesh Raghupathy, a human resource professional from Chennai. Married for nearly three years, Raghupathy says that his “small gang of like-minded friends who knew everything about each other and were his stress-busters, have taken a backseat”. “Earlier, it was about first meeting up and then planning, and now it’s all about planning first and meeting later. Before my wedding, a weekend was all about myself and my friends (with no major commitments) as I was living away from family, and now it’s all about my spouse,” he rues.
Drawing a quick and interesting analogy, he mentions, “Self-Family-Friends changes to Family-Spouse-Self-Friends”. “Daily calls and weekly meet-ups change quickly to weekly or monthly calls and monthly and yearly meets. Hours and hours of chats and talks just changes to seconds of talking that too only on your birthday (provided Facebook reminds them),” Raghupathy tells indianexpress.com.
Despite a June 2019 global survey pointing out that Indians love to make friends and have at least six friends on an average, why does friendship seem to take a backseat after marriage? One of the reasons lies in the hierarchy of relationships where friendships are usually at the bottom for most people, says celebrity life coach Nidhika Bahl.
“Spouse, parents, children — all come first. And that’s probably because unlike marriages and romantic relationships, friendships lack a formal structure. While we won’t go months without speaking to or seeing our significant other, we could go that long without contacting or seeing a friend. As people get busy with their personal and professional lives, they tend to have more demands on their time, many of them more pressing than friendship. After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s Sports Day or an important business trip,” she opines.
The June 2019 global survey, of 10,000 people across India, Australia, France, Germany, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US by multimedia messaging app Snapchat, also indicated that “whether in person or online, interactions with friends leave Indians with overwhelmingly positive emotions”.
Interestingly, according to the survey, not only do people in India have more friends overall, they also want more, with 45 per cent of respondents indicating they would like to expand their social circle.
Anand seems to concur, and says, “Yes, now I have started going out with my husband’s friends as well. Soon, I am going on a trip where I am the only girl as most of his friends are unmarried.”
Fortunately, for some like 30-year-old Nitin Sharma, best-friend, wife and “partner in crime” all come rolled into one. “My wife is my best-friend and I have found stability since I met her. I love to spend my free time with her, hanging out, cooking, painting or watching movies. It is complete fun,” says Sharma, who married five months ago. Similar is the case with 31-year-old Bhawna Kapoor Bajpai, who got married six years ago to her boss who eventually became her friend and confidante. “For any situation, I go straight to him. Be it discussions related to the home, shopping, salon services to movie dates or family functions, and obviously the office. He is there everywhere,” she gushes.
While Sharma and Bajpai don’t have to often choose, for Anand, friendships and marital life balance is all about “giving each other space”.
“My husband and I make sure that we spend good amount of time with our friends. Sometimes, we give space to each other when it comes to enjoying with our ‘OWN’ friends and sometimes, we all hang out together and have fun!” she says.
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While missing out on birthday parties, celebrations and special occasions are common owing to responsibilities that come with taking the vows, it doesn’t mean one can’t maintain friendships after saying ‘I do’, Bahl tells indianexpress.com.
“We can be great friends to each other, despite the distance, if we choose to make the effort. We can easily have meaningful, emotionally-fulfilling conversations that make us feel heard, understood, appreciated, and supported. Of course, it can never replace the time spent in person with a good friend. After all, there’s something special about shared one-on-one experiences that create memories for a lifetime. But, staying connected online and over the phone can definitely take away the loneliness that comes with busy urban lives,” she says.
William Shakespeare had aptly remarked, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
Finding solace in these lines, Arora has the last word, “Marriage may create some distance, but it definitely can’t be a reason for changed friendships”.
“I guess, true friendship always remains the same, no matter how far you are, how many months you spend without a single text, or how much you are bound by family responsibility after marriage. A true friend would understand if you can’t make it to a trip which was planned months ago, or why you can’t make it to every get together of the group,” she remarks.