At the end of the movie “Bridesmaids,” there’s a scene where best friends Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig have to say good-bye to each other as Rudolph heads to her honeymoon with her new husband. They give each other a quick look and hug, and it’s clear that they know things are about to change; that after this, their friendship won’t really be the same.
I’ll tell you that both times I saw the movie in the theaters, I bawled during scene, because it captured something that probably a lot of us have felt – when a good friend gets married, the person that we once relied on for everything – from comparing notes about bad dates to being our emergency medical contact – is moving on, and making somebody else their first priority. And with that, our relationship as we’ve known it for years, maybe even decades, comes to an end.
It’s sad, and it’s scary, and it’s particularly hard because it’s not really something that often gets talked about. We are legitimately happy for our friend and don’t want to rain on her parade, but not only that, everyone knows that if you make someone else’s nuptials about you, you wind up being the crazy friend locked in the bathroom crying at the bridal shower.
Complicating this already murky issue is the fact weddings shine a bright (and often unwelcome) spotlight on our own relationship status. When I’ve thought that being single is the bee’s knees, for instance, it’s at times been hard not to wonder why a friend would choose to settle into the snoozefest that I once imagined married life to be. Alternately, when I’ve been single and looking for someone to put a ring on it, watching a friend get hitched has called forth emotions I can’t say I’m particularly proud of.
Meanwhile, to hear my married friends tell it, the first year of marriage calls for the near-Herculean feat of rearranging all of your life’s priorities and grappling with the realization that you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life with just one person, and sometimes he watches NASCAR.
In short, marriage changes things. It changes things for the people getting married and it also changes things for the people who know the people getting married.
So is it possible to stay friends? Or is it time to quietly drift apart, recognizing that your married friend will now live a soul-crushing existence of polite dinner conversation, or that your single ladies will continue to make stupid, reckless dating decisions to which you simply can no longer relate?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest: both.
I believe that there’s a way to accept that things will be different – after all, ladies, life is about change – and by doing so, to build on the relationship that already exists while forging ahead into new friendship territory. What it requires, I think, is respect, curiosity, and honesty.
Let me use this as an example. When a very good friend of mine got pregnant, I was worried that I would lose her as a confidant, because obviously, her child’s needs would be more important than mine (I think it speaks to my maturity that I recognized that and accepted it). But she was a person I could always count on to discuss how weird everything in life is, a tradition that originated in middle school and lasted straight through her wedding.
I didn’t want to suggest that she wasn’t moving into motherhood with grace and dignity, but I did want to know if this wasn’t perhaps the weirdest thing that had ever happened to either of us. After all, let’s just put it out there: she was growing another human inside her body.
Anyway, after she had the baby, I decided to come right out and ask.
“Isn’t it fucking weird?” I said.
“Dude,” she said. “Yes. I’m somebody’s MOTHER.”
Of course, that story is about motherhood and not marriage, but my point is this: there’s a lot of pressure for women to slip effortlessly into our roles, to be happy and content, and to never question our choices after they’ve been made. If we’re single, we’re supposed to be single and loving it. And if we’re married, we’re supposed to have stress-free, perfect homes.
But our friends have always been there – at least, our very good friends – to talk about what’s really going on. It can be harder to accomplish this when we’re not going through the same thing at the same time – after all, it’s easier to open up about the problems in your marriage to someone who understands from experience what the commitment you’ve made really feels like. And alternately, it’s much more comfortable to whip out your phone and show your friend a creepy text from a guy you slept with last month if you suspect that she might have something similar to show you.
And yet, we have to try. We have to go through that period of looking into each other’s eyes after the wedding and knowing that things will be different, and then we have to call each other, ask each other questions, be curious, and take some risks. Because at the end of the day, nobody wants to lose the Maya Rudolph to our Kristen Wiig.