There’s deep value in treating the first months of your marriage as sacred, a cocoon to forge and strengthen your relationship as you take on a new life and mission as one. Consciously setting boundaries around your newlywed days bears such fruit in both romance and mutual respect. Whether you’re in the cocoon or out of it, though, where does your new marriage leave your longtime relationships with girlfriends?
Depending on your age, where you live, and simply on the Father’s particular call for your vocations, most of your close female friends might be seriously dating or a few years married at the time of your own wedding, or many might still be single. As a new bride, you might be joining the ranks of women in your life who’ve already entered into living with a boy, making their spouses their top priority, and consulting with their husbands before making major decisions with spending, travel, and social obligations. Alternatively, you might be one of the first to chart these waters among your group of friends.
The newness of respecting your marriage, while still not removing yourself entirely from the lives of women who were there before your wedding and who remain there after, is a balancing act and natural transition of married life that depends, in some ways, on your friends’ own life situations. Here, three ways to prioritize your husband and your marriage while maintaining close female friendships:
Actively seek ways to talk and spend quality time that don’t focus solely on your identity as a newlywed.
Becoming a wife is a sacramental reality; a real change in who you are and the most defining identity you’ll ever take on. The complementarity of man and woman in marriage is irreplaceable, yet the bonds of femininity you share with your girlfriends is just as unique. In the aftermath of the wedding whirlwind, it can be easy for both you and your friends to turn to your wedding day and marriage as an immediate topic of conversation, which can be healthy and good. But remember that while your own life has undergone a major transition, those of your friends might be back to status quo. It sounds obvious, but is worth remembering: go outside of yourself; make efforts not only to talk about your friends’ own lives, but to just talk about non-marriage-related matters.
Two possibilities offer frequent opportunities for conversations like these. First, an article club is like a book club, but with a far lower level of commitment. Among you and your friends, choose several articles to read beforehand on a chosen topic; you’ll likely find that the content of the pieces themselves doesn’t become the main topic at hand, but the underlying ideas they spark are sure to inspire deep discussion and reflection. To springboard your conversations, we love the thoughtful content from Blessed Is She, The Cor Project, the Theology of the Body Institute, The Young Catholic Woman, and Integrity.
Second, formally joining your friends in prayer, whether by a weekly email thread or by meeting half an hour early for Mass, is a powerful way to remain close in the Lord and to stay current on the goings-on in each others’ lives. Choose a time to periodically intercede for each others’ intentions, and entrust your friendships to Christ, his mother, and the saints.
Host your friends.
Benedictine orders view hospitality as a charism. Consider, with your husband, whether it might be a gift the two of you are called to in the form of hosting your friends. Often, after marriage, close friends tend to keep a wider berth around newlyweds out of respect for their relationship, which is both courteous and well-intended. But sometimes you just miss each other.
Opening your home to your friends extends them an invitation into your new, shared life. Having one friend and, if she has one, her significant other, over to dinner gives you a chance to share who your husband is and deepen his friendships with your friends, or hosting a larger social event echoes Pope Francis’ reminder that “married couple[s] are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the Cross,” and what took place after: let your love be a life-giving witness to the joy of knowing the Father’s love and mercy.
Avoid the small things when it comes to gossip.
Complaining to a friend is often an instant source of bonding, yet it’s a superficial one. Reject the temptation to gossip about your husband or share details of particular struggles in your relationship; by refraining, you keep your problems simpler by keeping them between the two of you, and you avoid any misunderstanding on the part of a friend that could damage your husband’s reputation or paint a false picture of him. While most among us know gossip, on a large scale, is wrong and fairly easily avoidable, striving for prudence even in joking about certain small bad habits or weaknesses of your husband’s conveys deep respect.
Of course, even with a cocoon period, matters like holidays, business travel, or weddings might mean spending more time away from your new home or time apart than you’d like. Overall, taking time to identify ways of staying close to the women in your life is its own reward, in the form of clear expectations between you and your spouse about what the first months of your marriage will be like, and in the form of habitually making concrete, rather than “sometime” plans with female friends that still prioritize your home life and marriage emotionally and geographically.
Don’t pressure yourself to strike the perfect balance of marriage and friends right away. Pray to make your relationship an invitation and witness to others, and in time God, in his faithfulness, will delight in revealing to you exactly how your unique relationship can do just that.