When All Your Friends Abandon You for Their Husbands: A Contingency Plan

Some people prioritize their romantic partners. I prioritize my friends. My close friends have been with me through the best of times and the worst of times. One of my good friends consoled me in an H&M when I got the text that my grandmother passed away. Three close friends sat with me and comforted me on the cold, hard floor of my dorm room right after the friend breakup that triggered my PTSD three years ago. One friend drove me to see the therapist I had a life-changing relationship with in undergrad when I could not do so myself, and another friend drove with me to secure my first apartment near Washington D.C. earlier this year. With a handful of friends, I have exchanged the rawest emotional intimacies, the loudest of laughs, and hours-long conversations about feminism, relationships, the state of society in Trump’s America, and more. My friends have acted as one of the most major influences in my life, and I would not hesitate at all to dedicate my first book, or any of my accomplishments, to them.

I hope this backstory explains why I feel afraid of losing my friendships. Ever since starting this “adult” stage of my life a few months ago, I have noticed a striking pattern: we encourage women (who comprise most of my friends) to get married, and as they date and get married to men (or women, or whomever), they spend a lot less time with their friends. I see this pattern in the media, with the accurate yet sad trope of the girl who dates a guy and disappears from her friend group. I see this pattern reflected in literature and in science, with books about how men monopolize their girlfriends’ time or how married people spend less time with their friends. I see this pattern play out in my own life, where my few friends who have romantic partners respond less often to texts and spend less time with their friends than their partners. Of course, I feel happy for my friends when they engage in healthy relationships and behaviors that make them happy, even if these relationships and behaviors adhere to amatonormativity. But what happens when all my friends get whisked away into romantic relationships, unwilling to make time for me and my borderline-unhealthy obsession with Ariana Grande and BlackPink our friendship?

amatonormativity definition

A picture of the definition of amatonormativity, because I am too lazy to find another picture and also this is important. Image from https://elizabethbrake.com/amatonormativity/, definition from Elizabeth Brake, Minimizing Marriage (OUP, 2012), Chapter 4.iii.

Ultimately, this concern about my friends leaving me for their future husbands overlies a fear of abandonment and aloneness. I feel little embarrassment sharing this, because this fear of abandonment and aloneness is so often what motivates people to pursue relationships – especially romantic relationships – in the first place. To be kind to myself, I will say that I do well with aloneness, as I have learned how to nourish, cherish, and entertain myself without anyone else. However, this comfort with solitude coexists with my grief about the deep friendships I used to have with certain friends, that they have sacrificed or may sacrifice for their romantic partners.

quote from a little life

A beautiful passage about friendship one of my favorite books.

I want to acknowledge ways to hold myself accountable when it comes to friendship dynamics, too. Perhaps I could communicate these feelings of concern and fear with friends who enter romantic relationships, as long as they feel that they can choose how they want to allocate their energy. At the same time, I do not like the idea of pressuring people into relationships, even on an implicit level, because I feel like that moves into territories of possessiveness or abuse. So I would supplement or replace that first strategy, depending on the friendship, with a heavy dose of one of my favorite things: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance does not mean liking the way things are or letting go of my feelings of grief or hurt or sadness. Rather, radical acceptance entails acknowledging something that has happened and stopping myself from fighting that reality. If I have friends who abandon me or spend less time with me for their husbands, so be it. While honoring my own emotions, I can wish them the absolute best from the deepest depths of my heart, cherishing the time we did spend together and the privilege of having had them in my life, whatever that entailed or may still entail. I refuse to buy into the notion that maybe I should strive harder to find a boyfriend, because that notion contributes to the patriarchal cycle of people prioritizing their romantic partners above all else. While I refuse that path for myself, I can accept that path for my friends, feeling contentment and joy for them while holding my own anger at the patriarchy.

I can also take action to preserve and elevate the meaningful, rich friendships I do have. Writing this post has helped me realize that I do have a small yet sizable number of close friends who I have had conversations about this very topic with, where we have lamented the loss of friends to these friends’ oftentimes male partners. While I cannot control anyone else, I can control myself, and I can choose to spend time with my close friends and ensure that they know I will respond to texts or calls, actively listen to their concerns, help them help themselves with their goals or issues, etc. So far, my friends have played such an instrumental role in my life, from laughing with me in our weirdest moments to providing me a safe space for vulnerability and self-growth. I intend to return the favor, by being the best friend possible, to myself and to them.

me bri and sora 2017 lol yay

A picture of me and two of my closest friends in my new apartment (feat. red hair)! Yay.

How do you feel about friendship and romance? Have you seen this pattern play out in your friendships, or no (maybe I just have a limited sample size)? What strategies do you have for maintaining friendships? I know if I ever date a man lol if there ever is a man who is both emotionally available and into social justice, I will preemptively have conversations with my friends about issues relating to time spent with them and things like that. Curious to hear your thoughts and hope you are all well!


Filed under Personal, Society

11 responses to “When All Your Friends Abandon You for Their Husbands: A Contingency Plan

  1. Thomas, thank you for this important message. Though I’ve just started my university career, I frankly spend a lot of time wondering why I haven’t had a boyfriend yet, given all the romantic relationships my friends have been or are involved in. I am totally a romantic at heart, and I don’t think that will change. However, an event this year involving an almost-relationship (or at least, a mutual feeling between me and an other which did not work out) really made me realize the nurturing support that friends provide in all stages of our lives. Your statement, “I intend to return the favor, by being the best friend possible, to myself and to them,” resonates with me deeply; a romantic relationship, though it should also be a friendship, cannot completely replace the joys and discoveries shared between the friendships we forge with a diverse set of people, and ourselves. I hope you are having a wonderful start to 2018!

    • Aw thank you for this wonderful comment Grace! I hope you are feeling okay about that almost-relationship and giving space for yourself to process and reflect on it. I agree that friends can be forever if we put effort into them. Thinking of you!

  2. You just wait until they start having kids. That’s been the real one for me. Yes, when we were younger we lost each other to romantic relationships (I really do not tend to do this, although when I had a LDR within the UK it was harder as I was off at weekends on the coach over to Wales). But when people have kids, it comes out that of course they can’t get out with or without the kids that easily, and if you go over a lot and even if you love the kids and help out with them loads, the reproducing friend assumes you will resent and be bored by that, ask you over less, etc. My main best friendship survived that and the time of child rearing when she worried about leaving them, and now we alternate days out in our respective cities, which is brilliant, so it can be done.

    I have fortunately picked non-possessive men to be partnered with (or had an international LDR which left me a lot of time for friends). I have a great friendship group now locally with someone always available for whoever else needs them. For example, Thursday after Christmas was my Grandma’s funeral, which I didn’t attend. Husband went to see Star Wars with his (only local) friend, and that was fine as he’d checked I’d be occupied and OK. The running ladies basically then agreed they would go for a run (that didn’t happen as it was icy, so I went to the gym on my own) and then a coffee with me to keep me OK and busy while it was happening. Three of the girls came for a big coffee and cake sesh, one dropped in on us on the way to a family meal. It was so lovely. We all do this for each other.

    Not sure what this says except there is a way, esp if you’re mindful. And people come back to you once the first flush is over. And get some nappy practice and push your friends who spawn to accept you are happy spending time with them and offspring because they will NOT believe you the first million times.

    • Thank you so much for providing your experiences with friendship, Liz! Yes, I love and agree with the overall point that there is a way to maintain and create meaningful friendships if we put the work into them. I am glad to hear that you’ve had what sounds like successful experiences with friendships and crafting your life to accommodate those friends. Hope you area doing well and thanks again for the thoughtful comment!

  3. x.w

    Hi Thomas, I love this piece so much because I have experienced the same realities. Also I am grateful for the friends who still often make plans and spend time with me no matter they are paired up or not.
    And recently i have found that there are something more about it: a great friendship, a close friend exists in a way we sometimes do not feel so much but the person is still there for you. I didn’t realized this until now. My cousin and I were very close growing up. And in the college years we could talk so long on the phone that his girlfriend would get annoyed. He is one of my best friends. When he got married in his mid-twienties and has since become so busy with his work and life I felt I had lost him as a friend a long time ago. I also felt that we had different values and we were just so far away from each other. During my five years living and studying in the U.S., we didn’t contact often either. However, since last year, when I moved back to China, I found we don’t contact or meet that often but he is still a great friend to me. I’m starting a project that most of my families are not supportive. Besides my best girlfriends, my cousin is the only one in family being encouraging and helping me. I think what touches me most is that he always think I am “too independent”, but he could see me when I am in need of help the most. I really appreciate him being sensitive and caring, not just as family but more as my friend.
    I’m feeling hopeful so I am sharing this with you. I think in the long run, we be there for our great friends and true friendship will stay, though many times friendship exists and maintains differently 🙂

    • Wow, thank you for sharing this bittersweet yet hopeful story, it is definitely emotional content! I am sorry for that period when you were not in touch with your cousin for awhile but am glad to hear he is supporting you with your project now and that the trajectory overall sounds like a good thing. I really appreciate your vulnerability in putting this out there especially given the idea that I may find it relatable, which I definitely do. Your message that friendships exist and are maintained differently is a fabulous one and I will keep that in mind. Hope you are well.

  4. Thomas, your posts just *get* me. I have been struggling with precisely this same issue: that we encourage women to prioritize their romantic relationships over friendships, particularly as they get older and step out of the college “bubble.” I go to a women’s college, as you know, and senior year has been navigating spending *so* much time with my friends between Sunday night and Friday morning and then having them disappear for the entire weekend, either because they’re actively going on 2-3 dates per weekend or because they’re spending time with their S.O. And I won’t lie, I definitely felt pressure to do the same–to go out and be meeting 2-3 guys a weekend from Bumble or Tinder and it’s really hard to distinguish what you actually want from what society is telling you that you should want.

    Like you, I have some friends for whom this isn’t too much of an issue, and I will say that some of my friends have a pretty decent balance between friendship and romance but the weekends have been quite lonely. And I guess from my perspective I want to soak up the last few months I have on this campus instead of heading out into the city every night on a bus only to meet someone who I probably don’t really have a lot in common with anyway. Oh well, it’s the struggle of the 20s that no one talks about! I’m glad I’m not alone in this but also sad that so many amazing adults in their 20s experience this. :/

    I hope things are good for you, otherwise! As always, I love your posts. 🙂

    • Ugh this is such a relatable comment Keertana! Yeah, I definitely hear you about how some friends – if not the majority of people overall – spend the weekends with their “significant other” or on dates to find their “significant other”, yet very few people question this style of living or this distribution of time. At least for me that blind prioritization of romance can be really disheartening and saddening even if you can attribute its causes to the patriarchal notion that we all must have a romantic partner to feel complete. Similarly to you, luckily I feel that I have a few close friends who do prioritize their friends to the same, if not higher extent than romantic partners, but even then it can be hard to discern what you want vs. what society tells you to want, and how those two things overlap and intersect.

      I’m thinking of you a lot and hope you’re well, so glad we were able to e-meet and hope we can do it sometime IRL!

  5. Eric

    Hey Thomas,

    I wish I could leave a comment on all your previous posts so I could gradually tell you how happy I am to have found your blog, but one will have to do. I stumbled upon you on Goodreads when I was looking up the books I had to read for a Hemingway class and I was relieved to find someone else who disliked his content for more or less the same reasons! Then I clicked through your reviews, then your profile, then your blog, and I’m so glad I did. I just love every single thing you post, I can’t believe we’re around the same age, you seem like you’re light years ahead. You’re so insightful and intelligent, and once I started reading your posts I couldn’t stop. I went back, way back, and, just, at every turn was another delightful thing!

    Not to be dramatic, but your blog really helped me out. Going into the last semesters of undergrad, I’m actually terrified of what comes after because I really, really love school and learning, but I always thought post-grad was something out of my reach. There’s something incredibly inspiring about the way you share your life on here that really resonated with me enough that I feel, mostly, ready to tackle on the life ahead me and try my hand at continuing my studies. So thank you so much for sharing that, and I wish I had the words to thank you and to tell you just how hooked I am on your content. It’s really informative, I’ve learned a lot, and it makes me want to learn so much more. I think the first thing I’ll tackle is emotional labor since I’ve never really understood it, but I want to be well-rounded and content with myself. And your reviews on Goodreads, too, I started following them and looking through your books and now my to-read list is growing rapidly. Just, ugh, Thomas, you’re wonderful. Also, very happy you have impeccable taste in music – Ariana Grande and Blackpink are really god-tier.

    I got off track, but, just know I’m grateful for your existence, and I really wanted to let you know. I say this as I order some books by bell hooks and Caroline Knapp. I feel like I’m playing catch up, but in the best way possible. I think the only thing that I don’t lag behind in is Sarah Dessen. Glad you love her books as much as I do, makes me feel kind of cool. (*:

    Anyway, about this post in particular, because I won’t comment on all your other ones (though I want to), I actually find that my married friends are the most willing to hang out and have a good platonic time as a group, but it’s always hit or miss. I have a few friends who fall off the face of the earth once they start dating, and I miss them from time to time. But I’ve lost friends to other things, too, so the dating thing might just be a coincidence. Some of my closest friends, though, really value platonic friendship over romance, and I’m starting to feel really comfortable with that mindset. I feel like relationships can coexist and it’s a really exciting thing!

    Thanks for this post, thanks for this insight, and I hope everything goes smoothly as you try to balance that. It really helps to hear that you can be comfortable with yourself alone, and that a relationship with yourself is healthy and possible. I think I might try doing that sometimes. Radical acceptance is going to be my vocab word for the week, glad you link these things. Again, thank you for posting, and I keep saying that, but, really. You’re really fucking inspiring. I think I’m going to follow you on everything I can, I like hearing your insight on things. Anyway, keep up the good work, Thomas! Hope I can buy you coffee some day and hear you ramble about anything, you have such interesting thoughts, and you seem like a lovely, lovely person. I’m so happy (and relieved) that people like you exist. Can’t wait for your next post on either here, Goodreads, even Twitter. Keep being awesome. ❤


    • I know I’ve replied to this comment and to you separately but wanted to say again how grateful I am for such an eloquent, compassionate, meaningful message. You’re the best, this reminds me why I write, and thank you so much Eric.

  6. Jaya

    Hi hanya,been there. actually the strangest thing that happened was I chanced upon your article a moment after putting the phone down after wishing my best friend of 50 years ,on her birthday. I feel betrayed just as you did. But have you given this a thought : these women know that they have to expend a lot more energy to keep their husbands than to keep a friendship , not that they valued the latter less. Later in life they d realize they’d have been better off balancing both because these two relationships have different values in our lives. Even men need their boys time

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