I just wrote a blog about my personal experience regarding the death of a longtime friendship. Since I have experienced friendship death, I wanted to expound on what I learned regarding maintaining friendships throughout different seasons of life.
When it comes to specifically women friendships (as a woman I am going to speak on what I know and what I have observed) it can get rocky when one friend is single and childless and the other friend is married and has children. When two people enter into different life spaces, interests and priorities change. A married woman with children will become more interested in family. Her priority is her family. A woman is who is single and childless will become more interested in becoming the best version of herself. Her priority is herself. Different interests and priorities can lead to a disconnect, especially when you factor in the social hierarchy.
Whether we want to admit it or not, married women with children rank higher on the social hierarchy than single, childless women. Moreover, single women perpetuate the hierarchy through their own actions born out of the desire to reach the top of the social totem pole. I’ve observed single women willingly become third wheels to their married friend’s lives and convince themselves that they are okay with that because they didn’t want to be seen as “jealous of their friend”, and/or they believe that “if their friend’s blessing is here then my blessing is around the corner” and they want to make sure they don’t run afoul of any bad karma. In other words-they want to make sure their social/karmic insurance premium is paid in full. Ensuring that the social insurance premium is paid often comes at a cost. Being a third wheel often means that the engagement is about the married friends’ lives and every interaction revolves around them. Single friends often pour out emotional labor without that labor being returned and the social hierarchy makes this acceptable. But as a single woman who has experienced this-IT IS NOT OKAY. Single women must stop tolerating being the third wheel and pretending that supporting their friend in their marriage/motherhood journey without reciprocity is fulfilling. One-sided friendships get old and can lead to resentment.
Here’s what I have learned: in order for a friendship to survive the evolution of each person in the friendship, YOU MUST BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT PROVIDING AN EVEN EXCHANGE REGARDLESS OF WHERE SOMEONE IS IN THEIR LIVES. Your life as a single woman is just as important, and you deserve equal support in your life journey. If your married friend is intentional about making sure she makes room for your life like you make room for her life, then the friendship can go the distance.
Pay attention to the interactions within the friendship. During that interaction, do both parties give genuine interest in each other’s lives? Is there genuine feedback when one party is in a vulnerable space, or does that party respond just to fulfill the obligations that seemingly come with friendship? If you feel like you aren’t getting an even exchange in the friendship, then it is time to have a conversation. Sometimes, evolution means that a friend that once had capacity for you no longer has that capacity. Instead of making excuses-have the courage to stand on what you want. Have the courage to be honest about what you want instead of allowing social programming silence you.
Even exchange/Reciprocity ensures that a friendship lasts.