I’m doing a great job keeping up with her, I patted myself on the back as I drove home from school one day.
Balancing life as a wife, a new mom, and a graduate student was challenging, yet I still managed to squeeze in a lunch date with one of my closest friends, who at the time, was a few years away from a family of her own.
With my sense of good friendship maintenance, imagine my shock to find a note expressing her disappointment when I checked my email that evening.
I thought I was doing great. She was feeling a void.
“I don’t feel like I know you anymore,” she shared in her letter.
Her comment was a reality check. Our friendship was suffering from the wedding band divide.
I had been on the opposite side of this many times before, watching a beaming friend nearly float down the aisle to her sea of wedded bliss, knowing it might be a year before she came up for air.
Her email indicated the first time I had encountered it from this side of the altar.
Becoming one-flesh is no small deal. Husband and wife fully remain two whole people, yet the mystery of matrimony can bring on both expected and unexpected changes into lives of each spouse. As two wedded lovers cleave to one another, all other relationships surrender to a certain amount of reformatting in order for the marriage to thrive.
Then add kids!
My own life had changed dramatically in a few short years, with a marriage that moved me to Israel, and a surprise baby soon after with one year left of graduate school to go. After a short maternity leave, we had returned to the States to complete my masters degree. While re-entering into my former life with the adjustments of a new family, some days I didn’t even know if I knew me anymore.
Upon initially receiving her email, in my flesh I wanted to defend myself. If you only knew how much I’m giving, you’d be thankful!
However, the Holy Spirit blessedly overruled. It was brave of her to speak up. I wanted to honor her honesty, and grow through her concern.
As we talked about our present situation, I learned that she had been interpreting the smaller amounts of time that we were spending together as a change in how I valued her. From my perspective, that wasn’t true. Someone I would consider a lifelong friend, my sense of care for her never wavered; but as a wife, mother, and graduate student, my availability certainly did. My schedule was different than when we had been in school together — pre-marriage/pre-baby — and my responsibilities had changed.
Family-making is rewarding, joyful, and a true blessing, but it is also demanding. Even with only one child at that time, this introvert crashed at the end of each day. The added bonus of fighting constant mom-guilt for not being as available to my son as I had been before returning to classes and homework made for an extremely emotional season!
The distance in our friendship was not for lack of desire, but really, lack of energy. I would have loved to see her more regularly, but I was being stretched thin.
As I took the issue before the Lord, a greater sense of conviction settled in. He revealed that I had been isolating myself within my routine. In Israel, I had primarily focused on growing friendships with other moms. They fit into my life easily, as we shared a common schedule and needs base; however, the Lord has called us to be one body with many parts. We work and serve together for His glory, and I was not being intentional about engaging with women outside of my demographic.
She was right, she didn’t know me like she used to, and that was my fault.
When we were together, I was not necessarily opening up to her about my life. I was still sorting out how to appropriately to share about married life and honestly, I didn’t think she would care that I was wrestling over how to best help my son sleep at night, or feeling stressed out by his picky eating habits. I thought she would find these concerns and my fluctuating momfidence, to be boring. Maybe I was even embarrassed to discuss my fears and insecurities, so most often, I simply kept them to myself.
When I finally did share the issues plaguing my weary soul, she met me with compassion.
“Wow. I didn’t realize you were going through so much.”
Her kindness brought about a revelation that the ability to empathize transcends current life experience.
On one occasion after returning to Israel, I shared my heart with another not-yet-married friend about the still pending struggles of the last year. It was a vulnerable conversation that might not have happened without that email a few months prior.
In tenderness, she suggested, “Maybe the Lord called you into this season because He knew he could trust your heart. He knew your heart was to be home with your son, so you would prioritize well.”
Remembering the healing release of mom-guilt that came with her encouraging words still brings tears to my eyes. She was speaking to me, not out of the lived experience of raising children, but rather the lived experience of knowing our Father’s heart. And that brought us into unity.
My single friends often speak such deep truths into my life, perhaps even unknowingly.
Conversations with an older single woman, for example, remind me of my charisma — my gifts in the Lord. Her tales of caring for orphans in Sudan as a long-term missionary evoke a need to live for an eternal purpose in the midst of the everyday. I have needed that reminder on the days when my dreams and goals are buried beneath a pile of dirty diapers.
Since our common ground is not found in having children the same age, we share a like-mindedness when it comes to other personal interests.
Maybe we share a love of writing, or we have a history of slaving away for design school pin-ups. Maybe its a shared vision for seeing the message of His word to the ends of the earth. The single ladies in my life help me remember that the Lord created me to be a whole person; one who loves serving my husband and children, one who loves making art, spaces, and buildings for His glory, with a passionate desire to see His Kingdom come. This reminder strengthens me as I care for my home, and fans into flame the passions that I bring to my family.
It is the issues of the here/now that create the distance in my friendships across marriage-status demographics. The currents of life-place can cause these relationships to appear to be headed in different directions; yet, for two friends who know the Lord, in light of eternity, we have the same destination.
Even so, today’s responsibilities are very real and it takes some effort to spend time together.
With the courage to be honest and a little bit of grace — because our conversations might be full of interruptions, and coffee dates might best happen while folding laundry — we can overcome the marriage band divide.
And really… we should.
(originally published in 2015)
Photography: JenniMarie Photography