Category Archives: BFFs and Marriage

Friend By Day, Wife By Night

I’m leading a double life.

There’s friend-making Rachel and married Rachel. Two separate but equally important people.

When I first started this search I consciously chose to do it on my own. The quest was—and is—about being a woman in a new city and how hard and hilariously awkward it can be to try and make new friends. I happened to be married at the time, but it was something I’d been thinking about since I moved here three and a half years ago.

So while Matt and I already had a few couple friends, and I figured more might emerge, he wasn’t included in the friending process. The ladies who passed muster would meet him eventually.

But now a lot of women have not only passed the sniff test but have become actual friends. And they still haven’t met him. They haven’t even seen him. I’m pretty sure they think I made him up.

Last weekend Matt was out of town for a work conference. One of my new friends had a birthday party and another of our friends brought her husband. It would have been the perfect debut, but alas, lawyering called. When I hosted these same girls for my getting-to-know-you pizza party months ago, he escaped to watch basketball elsewhere. People in my LEADS group seem genuinely surprised that I am doing it without my husband, and they always invite him (via me) to go to the bar with us afterwards. But it’s on weeknights and Matt gets up early for work, so partying at a bar doesn’t exactly fit in with his schedule.

Last week, after the birthday party, I was carving pumpkins with the same two girls and we were talking about the elusive Matthew. “He’s like Snuffleupagus,” one friend said.

When Matt got back from his trip I told him about the exchange.

“What does she mean, Snuffleupagus?” he asked.

“He was Big Bird’s imaginary friend at the beginning. Whenever the adults tried to meet him he disappeared.”

“This changes everything I ever thought about Sesame Street,” was all he could say.

I purposely kept these two aspects of my life separate at first. But I never really thought about how hard it might be to balance friends and marriage. When I spend too much time with friends, I miss QT with my husband. When I spend non-stop time with Matthew, I start craving girl talk. Other than a few double dates with other married friends, I haven’t yet figured out how to blend the two.

Have you ever struggled with the friendship-marriage balance? I can’t even imagine what happens when you have kids…

As for the Snuffleupagus thing… At least he’s not compared to Oscar.

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The Male Perspective

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Below, my terribly witty husband reflects on how The Quest has affected our marriage so far.

So my wife writes this blog.  Or so I hear.  We don’t really see each other all that much in this, our first year of marriage. I guess it makes sense then that our relationship couldn’t be better, which might be surprising considering that she decided to embark on a BFF-quest all of four months after our nuptials. Um, chello?? BFF-quest? Hi wife, this is your husband. I was hoping we could maybe be BFFs for a little while. Or, like, eternity.

I joke. From Day One I’ve been hugely supportive of The Quest. I chuckle when people tell Rachel that I should be her BFF and that her search is only a sign that we have a doomed marriage. Rachel and I were BFFs for two years before we officially started dating. (Obvi we were “friends,” slightly more than pals, for most of those two years—but our relationship for sure began via friendship.) She’s no longer my BFF. She’s my partner. My wife. The female version of me. Someone who knows me better than I know myself. She’s my most comfortable place. But she ain’t my BFF.

Female BFFs talk about hair, menstruation, wedding showers, Tyler Lautner [Editor’s note: That he calls him “Tyler” says it all], and other barely legal teenage boy wonders. They talk about innately female BS (OMG! I’m so insensitive) that the male simply cannot relate to. And this is what Rachel was lacking when we moved to Chicago together from the East Coast after doing the fun long-distance thing for three years. It was different for me. (A) I had two of my BFFs (woah, that is not a manly way to describe a best friend) here in Chicago from our college days. (B) I don’t have that mysterious female need to gab about god-knows-what for hours on end.

Thus The Quest ensued. And six months in, Rachel is a noticeably happier person. She’s always been a happy person, honestly. But you can tell she’s even more satisfied (wow, this has been an emasculating post), more complete, now that she has more female friends in her life that live in her city. So Rachel’s happier, which means I’m happier, which means our relationship is happier (albeit we’ve had a pretty good thing going for quite some time). Do you have a husband, boyfriend, or some other similarly insignificant male presence in your life? Show him this post. It might benefit you both more than you’d think. And, on a separate but related note, how awesome is my wife?

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“Buy Her a Beer, That’s the Reason You’re Here…”

Maybe some of you remember this Coors Light commercial from some years back (click through to watch the video if you’re in a feed). The brief-but-brilliant ditty immortalized the mighty wingman, who is defined by the very official Wikipedia as “a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners.” My personal favorite of all wingmen is Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother fame, though the critical role was perhaps first embraced by pop culture after Swingers, the original wingman flick.

It’s true that a wingman is usually around to help a guy get lucky. But if you’re serious about picking up friends, a wingman—or wingwoman—is an indispensable accessory.

When Matt and I got married, I expected he would be my most intimate companion, my biggest supporter, the someday father of my kids. I didn’t anticipate he’d double as an amazing go-to wingman of the friend-search variety.

What do the responsibilities of a seeking-BFF wingman include? In Matt’s case, the job entails scoping out potential friends in restaurants and departments stores, agreeing to go on unlimited couple-dates (even when the game is on and  the male half of the couple isn’t his type), and encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and ask a potential BFF for her number no matter how crazy she might take me to be.

Out-of-town guests also make for great wingpeople. (That sounds like some sort of villainous species from Wizard of Oz. Wingpeople. Huh.) Being with an old pal when you’re trying to pick up new friends is helpful for multiple reasons; mostly, the BFF target will see that you’re out with someone (meaning, you do have some friends) which seems to warm people to friendship advances. You’re not a creepy lurker preying on friendly bartenders/boutique owners/yoga instructors to find someone to chop into pieces. Instead you’re a nice, bold woman who’s always looking to add to her circle of friends. Old pals will also give you that extra nudge when you’re teetering on the edge of talking to the girl with the great purse. And if you’re too shy, the tried-and-true just-in-town-for-the-weekend friend might approach the potential BFF for you: “Have you met Rachel?” The old friend has nothing to lose.  Even if she makes a fool of herself, she’s got the next flight out of O’Hare.

This weekend I found myself in the ideal wingpeople situation. One of my closest friends from college was in town—one who’s super interested in my search and eager to help me find someone to add to her ranks. And of course Matt was around ‘cause, well, he’s my husband. We live together. So when Matt and I went to dinner with Jenny and her boyfriend, and I mentioned that our waitress seemed cool (“definite BFF material”) they may or may not have convinced me to leave her a note. With my digits. On our receipt. Not something I would’ve ever been bold enough to try had I been eating alone.

If any of you out there are on your own BFF search, I encourage you to employ a wingman. (And if you do or have, please—pretty please!—let me know how it goes.) It could be a friend or husband or sister or just about anyone who has your best interests at heart and isn’t too shy to take the plunge every now and then by, say, writing your note to the waitress because your handwriting is totally illegible. For example.

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What a Boy Wants

My husband’s oldest and best friend was in town this weekend. He came not only to visit Matt but because another of their childhood friends was in town for a bachelor party. That friend, a Marine, is deploying in a few days, so the weekend became a farewell extravaganza of sorts.

I’ve almost never seen Matt as happy as when he’s with his BFFs (though he would never call them that). I’d love to say it’s similar to the sheer bliss in his eyes every time he gazes my way, but come on. He loves me lots, but there are different types of joy. The look in his eyes when he’s with these guys—friends he’s known and trusted and laughed with all his life—is the same mix of comfort and wonderment and affection that stares out at me from photographs taken on the little league field at 7 or on their way to prom at 17.

There’s no question that male friendships are different. Men would rather engage in side-to-side activities—watching a football game, playing a round of golf—than have face-to-face talks. And when it comes to serious emotional discussions, research shows both genders turn to women first. But just as I yearn for girl-time so I’ll have someone to talk and talk and analyze and then talk some more with, Matt devours the time he gets with those he doesn’t have to talk, talk, analyze, and talk with. Women want friends who’ll help confront problems, men want friends who’ll help escape them.

Watching Matt this weekend, it was a necessary reminder that I’m not the only one in this marriage who needs friend time. My husband may not be on a best friend search, but that doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t vital for him (he has great local friends, but if I find a new friend with a husband that would be perfect for him, I’m sure he’d be open to that). Men and women, we both lust for friendship, if for different reasons. And I must say, there’s something magical about how unspoken great male friendships really are. That Matt and his best friends know they’ll have each other’s backs, always, without so much as one word to say as much? Well sure, I’m a little jealous.

Do you believe men long for friendship as much as women do? Is the difference merely what that friendship entails? Have you ever witnessed male friendship in action and felt just the teensiest bit of envy? And, to all the (perhaps few) men in the audience, would you say you look to women for support and men for escape? Or are escape and support one and the same?

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Is Two Better Than One?

Since Matt and I moved to Chicago, we’ve made four sets of good couple-friends. When we arrived, the majority of the people we knew were paired off, so we often found ourselves in environments—dinner parties, weddings—that encouraged couple flirting.

Though I adore the duos—and I do!—at first I felt like couple-friending was an annoying side effect of moving in with a boy. I wanted a BFF just for me! Suddenly all my new friends had to come with a side of man for Matt?

The desire for couple-friends makes sense, of course. These days we’re all so busy, double dating is like killing two birds with one stone: you get to see friends and you get a date night. A twofer! Also, studies show that couples who have couple-friends have happier and longer relationships with each other.

As a pair, Matt and I have always had a relatively easy time befriending new twosomes. I want to say it’s because our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. We’re just such a dazzling duo. (You’re gagging. I know.) But as I write this in the same space I usually use to discuss the awkward hilarity of trying to date potential friends, it’s not lost on me that perhaps the key factor in our couple flirting is simply Matt. Maybe I’m just the silly sidekick, like Cockroach. Or Kimmy Gibbler.

Nope. I’m going with the dazzling duo theory.

Regardless, today I heard from two people who complained about the difficulties of making couple-friends. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it stands to reason it’d be harder to find a couple-BFF than just a single one. After all, to become BFFs two people have to hit it off. To become couple-friends, you need four people on board.  As psychologist Judith Sills told Ladies Home Journal: “Good friendships are a rare phenomena in any case. Good couple friendships are a rare phenomena squared.”

In meeting new women during my solo BFF quest, I’ve certainly toyed with the “but will Matt like her guy?” question. My usual conclusion is, doesn’t really matter. I’m in this to find my BFF. But still, it’d be stellar if the friendship and the marriage could intermingle.

I’ve only given this a whirl once thus far. A potential friend and I hit it off so we decided to have dinner again and this time we’d drag the boys along. Matt was a great sport about it, though I’m sure a part of him would’ve been thrilled to never get pulled into this project. Luckily, the evening was a hit. All was well.

Matt and I made two of our best couple-friends at a wedding of a couple we all had in common. (Side note: You may be asking why the female halves of these couples aren’t my BFFs. The truth is, in some of the cases I feel like we work best in the context of our foursome.) In case you aren’t on the wedding circuit but are looking for couple friends, there are—surprise!—websites for couple dating. For real. Couplets.com, Couplesworldwide.com and Kupple.com all serve to set up couples with common interests for friendships. Those looking to drop keys in punch bowls need not apply.

So here’s what I’m wondering. If you’re single, is it totally annoying when all your friends pair off and do the couple-friend thing? If you’re in a couple, do you think it’s easier to make one-on-one friends or couple friends? Do you think couple-friending is vital to the health of your own relationship? And any ideas for how to best meet couple friends? Would you use the Interweb? And, please, is there a better word I can use next time than couple-friend?

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Husbands vs. BFFs

I recently wrote an article about this search, first posted on Oprah.com and then on CNN.com, in which I argue that a husband cannot fulfill the role of a BFF.  He just can’t. As I explain in the essay, my husband Matt is wonderful, but he doesn’t want to talk with me for hours about the smallest details of my day. He’s not anxious to analyze my problems, small or large, and then do it again two hours later when a new thought occurs and needs to be factored into the equation. He wants to listen, offer support or advice, and move on. He’s a guy.

To say I was shocked when I first read the comments in response to my essay on CNN.com would be an understatement.  According to these cyber-dwellers, my marriage was going to devolve momentarily, which might be for the best because clearly Matt was cheating on me anyway.  It was my inaugural lesson in how the anonymity of the Internet gives people free reign to behave in ways they never would in person. But once the sting of the nasty notes turned into a detached amusement, I registered some surprise at how defensive people were of marriage. I’m not saying couples shouldn’t be close, or that Matt isn’t the most important person in my entire world. I’m saying that BFFs serve a different and equally necessary purpose. I stand by that.

So you can imagine my sense of I-told-you-so when, while reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project,  I came across these bits of research: “Both men and women find relationships with women to be more intimate and enjoyable than those with men. … In fact, for both men and women…the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.” So, if we believe the studies, friendships are more necessary in order for me to stave off loneliness than is spending time with Matt. I think a nice balance of the two sounds ideal.

The angry mob (ok, there were like 15 of them), said my marriage was failing, but the opposite is true. In the two months since writing the essay, I’ve made a concerted effort to go on friend dates, which come with substantial doses of quality girl talk. Which means I don’t need to force long repetitive discussions on Matt. So we both get what we want: me, lengthy heart-to-hearts; matt, less lengthy heart-to-hearts. Everybody wins.

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Filed under BFFs and Marriage, Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Hard Facts