Friday, February 21, 2014

When Your Friends Are Dating/Married: Do You Feel Like You’re Dating All Together?

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I have a group of friends from high school who I see kind of regularly. There is an organized meeting usually once a month where we hang out at several locations in one day, spend a couple of hours and talk our butts off. But the friends from Friends TV show, we ain’t.

We kind of used to be like Friends, to be honest. In the beginning. We were 7 people (that’s almost 6, give me a break!), and we even had a brother-sister and a couple in our group for crying out loud!

We hung out a lot in the town (it’s actually a neighborhood bigger than the town I stayed in when I lived in Norway- which I totally adored, but that’s another post) where we went to high school, frequented several bars and coffee shops, and had a blast. We talked about anything and everything. We were there for each other, and we knew what was going on in each other’s lives without having to check Facebook. Heck, there were even regular phone calls and house parties.

Then we grew up a little, and dynamics changed severely.

The couple of in the group had a more tumultuous relationship than Ross and Rachel, but they did manage to tie to knot.

One guy dated some girls that didn’t quite suit the group (or suit him, for that matter), but then found the love of his love – and the two serious couples couples started spending more time together than ever, especially after they also got married.

Another guy also managed to hook up with a girl who for some reason didn’t like the group all that much. They moved in together, and we started to see less of him. Or let’s say I saw less of him. We used to be a lot closer.

This is not to say our group got smaller. It kind of doubled in numbers in the most cliché fashion, you decide: another high school friend started hanging out with us more, bringing along two more high school friends who were tighter with some of the people in our group. Then this guy started dating the sister of the girl in group number 2 (separating groups is not to be excluding, but to make sure you don’t get confused) and the group merged into one. Confused yet? I’d totally draw a chart or comic strip if I could draw anything.

The other guy in that second group was also seeing a girl who we got to meet and like, and (I’m guessing she liked us too) so she occasionally tagged along, which is cool.

But the brother in the original group went to study abroad, the sister started taking (and than giving) intense dance lessons (hence missing a lot of gatherings) and well, I didn’t feel like I belonged to the chatter of marriage and in-laws and serious relationships.

Oh, the marriage of our Chandler and Monica unfortunately ended up in divorce, so there is this subtle awkwardness in our meetings now.

The guy dating the sister in the other group married the sister, by the way, and they seem happy. Fingers crossed for their relationship.

I was at the birthday dinner of the second married couple, and the attendance of the original 7 Friends was initially 2, then came up to 4. Surprise, surprise, we weren’t all together.

Nowadays our headcount reaches twenty or so, many of them being siblings/friends/dates/spouses of the parties we know.  Many of them are nice, so it is not a problem.

In theory, we are meeting new and nice people and which is great. But when you take a closer look, you’ll see that I know a lot less about my friends’ lives now.
I know the official stories - who they are with, where they are working and their general happiness level. But that’s about it. They know about the same about me. Any other extra info, we get from social media. Oh, the joy...

A couple of months ago, in a form of sweet rebellion, I organized a girls-only night – and invited all the girls in my currently huge group. Only the original sister (refer to the first “Friends” mentioned) couldn’t make it. Well working/dancing and dating far away from everyone else does take its toll.

When you looked at it, I only knew one of the girls from the original group from way, way back. But it was a lot of fun, and we got to talk. I plan to organize more.

The point is, when most of your friends get engaged or married, they tend to hang with other couples and/or people in large numbers. I suppose it’s a time-saving tactic. With all the work, responsibilities of a marriage (such as in-law visits) and managing your own household, they can’t afford too many small groups. And they do want to talk about couples’ stuff, and couples relate better (to have a laugh, try Friends season 8, episode 4 – where Monica and Chandler piss Phoebe and Joey off with their obsession to make friends with a couple). And Joey hilariously comments, pointing to him and Phoebe: “You mean one, two people? A couple?”

I’m not on a best-friend or closer friend status as I used to be for the original group. And I’m more like a close acquaintance to the extended group. And it is fine, because it goes both ways. The problem with it, though, it really makes me question the quality of the time we spend together. How much we know, how close we are.

I guess many (still) consider me the Phoebe of the group. Well, I’m the only freelancer among them. And being more persistently single, confirmity-rejecting and having “quirky” ideas (like not wanting kids, wanting to own a beach house in Malibu and all that), I can see where they come from.

Maybe this is why Friends lasted only 10 years. They didn’t want us to see that they stopped hanging out with each other that regularly, knew less about each other (or just knew what’s on the surface) and well, there were at least ten more people at all their gatherings.

Come of to think of it, it has been 10 (will be 11 in June) years since I graduated from high school. Ouch.

How are your “friends” relationships? How did things change when your friends started dating?

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