Several months before my marriage ended, I had a conversation with a friend who I will call SA (no names will be used to protect identities). I had introduced her to her husband and she was in full couples swing while my marriage was suffering. She was concerned about the amount of single friends that I hung out with.
According to her, these single friends were killing my marriage. She said that if I wanted to stay married, I needed to hang around the right people, namely, "married and coupled people." She elaborated: "If you want to be single, keep hanging out with your single friends and you will be."
I was shocked by her audacity. I had a combination of both married and single friends throughout the course of my marriage, and I loved them all. But as my marriage ended, I have to wonder, was she right? Was I dooming my marriage by surrounding myself with the wrong people?
Originally I didn't think so, but I was curious and starting exploring the issue. Since I was with my ex from a young age, it would make sense that most of my friends were still single. Married people I met tended to be less social; they also seemed uptight. I didn't want to be that way so I never behaved like a typical married person.
Sometimes my ex would come out with me and sometimes he wouldn't. While he preferred to stay at home and watch TV by himself, I loved going out with my girlfriends, attending classes and interacting with people. I felt that in order to have a complete life, I needed to be my own person both inside and outside of my marriage.
I was truly unconventional in many of my friendships, particularly with my male friends. I was especially close to two of them; the first was my friend JB, who I knew since college. When my ex worked on Saturdays, he and I would spend the day together -- eating lunch, going shopping, having coffee and talking for hours. My ex was on his own so much that towards the end of my marriage, I ended up going out more with JB than with my own husband.
Then there was AD, with whom I once took a cross-country road trip (while I was still married, but that's another story.) Whereas my ex was difficult to communicate with, AD was engaging and easy to talk to. While my ex didn't support my work, AD was very encouraging of my pursuing my passions; he was always good for advice and support when I needed it. After a while, I realized both AD and JB were better "husbands" to me than the man I married.
While many of these friendships became particularly important after my divorce, I still mulled what my friend had told me before about hanging out with single friends. Was my marriage doomed?
After the divorce, I created a "partner requirement list" with my friend ER, who was now on her second marriage. The goal was to come up with the personality traits that I wanted in a future partner before getting into a relationship again.
When I starting thinking about family and friends, I originally said that I wanted a partner to understand that sometimes my friends and family would have to come first. She stopped me right there.
"Amira, your husband should always be your number one priority," she said to me. "That should be your main relationship. Even when there are children, you need to nurture the base relationship. He should do the same for you, too. Sure, there are family and friend crises that you may have to deal with, but your focus should always be on your marriage. Always."
She made me realize that even though my ex caused many problems in our marriage, I failed by never making it my number one priority. The problem wasn't that I was spending too much time with my single friends, it's that my friends meant more to me than my husband.
What led to that sentiment doesn't matter -- whether it was my lack of respect for him, a means of escape from abuse or the ease of having a relationship at arms length. That's how I felt, and we ended up divorcing because of it. What matters now is the lesson I am taking with me as I move forward. We all make mistakes, but we can learn and grow from them. I certainly don't want to give up any of my friends, because I love them dearly. But I should love the person I'm married to more.
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