Friends Beyond Marriage, Part 1

Making the transition when one of you gets married can be tricky, but it's totally worth it.

On the day I got married there was a bittersweet reality. The beautiful woman that stood beside me, the one who had faithfully prayed for me during the past five years, the one who had taken my engagement pictures and labored with me late into the night to make centerpieces — my best friend — was still single.

During my unmarried 20s, I had formed a deep bond with all of the amazing single women I knew. We took walks together, went to movies together, cried together, prayed together and stayed up late eating ice cream together when necessary. The sisterhood of singleness is a powerful thing, and it was a godsend to me.

I met Melissa at church. We discovered we had many things in common including creative jobs, similar views on relationships, passion for hurting people, love for grilled cheese sandwiches and an overall zest for life. We became fast friends. Soon after, we began meeting on a regular basis to talk and pray together for our future husbands.

Last winter, when I met my now-husband Kevin, Melissa and I began to see God answering our prayers — but only for one of us. Though the events unfolding were what we'd been hoping and praying for, each of us had to make adjustments as our friendship absorbed a significant life change. We were determined to continue the kinship God had established, but we had to figure out how.

In this article, I have invited Melissa to join me to discuss how single women should react when a friend gets married and conversely how a woman getting married can preserve the relationships she has established with single women. This is our story.

* * *

Melissa: When Suzanne first started telling me about Kevin, I had mixed feelings. I had just broken up with a guy who I — and everyone else — thought I would marry. The relationship had started out promising, but six months in, it had become clear that our personalities, lifestyles and hopes for the future were just not compatible. A week after my relationship ended — as I was looking for solace over a dashed dream — Suzanne came to me on cloud nine. She was in love. And it made me cringe.

In my mind, I was extremely excited for her. This was what we had been praying for. But, unfortunately, my heart was not on the same page. Maybe I wanted to find comfort in our shared singleness. Perhaps I was jealous that she was so excited about Kevin, which was so unlike my broken relationship. Or maybe I held too tightly to the hope that we often verbalized — to find the right guys at the same time. Neither of us wanted to leave the other in singleness.

One thing I know for sure, I was afraid that now — when I needed her the most — my best friend was consumed in a fun, promising romantic relationship. And I worried that I would be left by the wayside without the person who could most empathize with me. I wasn't ready for her to get married. We were both praying for husbands, so it seemed ironic that my likely marriage failed while her out-of-the-blue boyfriend seemed perfect.

Suzanne: Melissa is right. I was consumed by my new relationship. I had never wanted to be the girl who abandoned her friends when she began dating someone, but I struggled to balance my friendships with my newly blossoming relationship. I was in such a state of joy, I don't think I even realized what Melissa was feeling — until she told me.

Melissa: We had talked about how a friend starts dating and suddenly it seems she doesn't have time for you. I didn't believe this would be the case with Suzanne, but then it started. Our prayer times, dinners and walks became less frequent. And it was even difficult speaking to her at church; her eye was always out for Kevin.

My heart began to feel heavy, but I wondered if I was being selfish. I knew things would change, but I wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly. One day Suzanne made a comment that she was only available on a certain night because Kevin was out of town. That stung.

Suzanne: Meanwhile, I was struggling to keep up with everything I was doing: a busy job, a new small group Bible study, several trips, and, of course, my relationship with Kevin. I knew I wasn't being a perfect friend to Melissa, but I couldn't seem to figure out how to balance my responsibilities and my relationship.

Melissa: I decided the best thing to do would be to talk about it. So we got together one night and I told Suzanne how I was feeling. The truth was, I wanted to know who Kevin was. I wanted to be included so I could help Suzanne watch out for potential problems and celebrate what God was doing in her life. But I also just missed my friend, and I wanted our friendship to continue into the next phase.

That night I told Suzanne that I felt like we hardly saw each other, that I was concerned that she and Kevin were moving so fast toward marriage when I didn't even know this guy, and that I had been feeling neglected and ignored. I also made sure to affirm her relationship with Kevin by telling her how excited I was for her, and that it was great to see her so happy in a dating relationship.

Suzanne: This was the first major transition in our friendship. I'm glad Melissa was willing to talk to me about how she was feeling and even confront me on some areas where I was failing to be a good friend. At the same time, I felt like she was truly happy for me and understood that I was a little less available during this particular season.

I appreciated that instead of resenting my new relationship, Melissa began looking for ways to include Kevin. She showed a genuine desire to get to know him, which communicated to me that she was invested in our relationship.

Melissa: After our talk, Suzanne and I were able to connect more often. And I spent some time with her and Kevin. As I interacted with both of them, I realized that Kevin was the man we had been praying for. He was sweet, mature and hardworking. And he would take excellent care of Suzanne. His adoration was evident, and he couldn't wait to marry her.

Suzanne had to wait longer than she desired for marriage, but I could see why. God had been preparing Kevin and bringing him to the right place at the right time — to be the right man for Suzanne. It was awesome to see God's hand at work. I finally felt like I was on board with Suzanne and Kevin's relationship.

Suzanne: I think the way in which God answered our prayers through Kevin was faith-building for both of us. Although, we would have loved to meet our husbands at exactly the same time, seeing the specific ways and timing in which God brought Kevin into my life showed us that He had heard our prayers and gave us faith that He could do the same thing for Melissa. Up until this point, both of us had experienced relationships that just weren't a fit. And I think we weren't sure what was possible.

Melissa: It was definitely encouraging to see God answer our prayers in such a powerful and unexpected way. Seeing a prayer come to life in God's timing gave me renewed hope in my own prayers. Kevin pursued Suzanne, stated his intentions and they just clicked. Their relationship reminded me that stories like that can and do happen.

I was visiting a friend in Texas the day Suzanne got engaged. When she called me, I was so excited I couldn't contain myself. A few days later, she asked me to be her Maid of Honor. I was thrilled to say yes!

Suzanne: Melissa had faithfully been praying with me for a husband for five years. She was my accountability partner, my confidant and my advice giver. I couldn't imagine anyone else who more deserved to stand beside me on that day.

Not only was Melissa my Maid of Honor, she was a one-woman, wedding-planning machine! I was overwhelmed by the details of planning a wedding, so Melissa took over. She visited potential wedding sites with me, took our engagement photos, called caterers, designed our invitations and programs, helped me pick music, made centerpieces and baked 300 brownies for the reception ... plus, a lot more.

Melissa: I wanted Suzanne to have an amazing wedding that reflected who she and Kevin are. And I wanted to bless her and Kevin with creative talents I had to offer. For the most part, it was fun — though I did suffer blisters from cutting 300 brownies! An outside observer joked, "This isn't even your wedding. You're doing all of this work and you aren't even getting a husband out of the deal!"

I could have been disheartened by the thought that this wasn't my wedding and there would be no groom waiting for me at the end of my hard work, but it wasn't about me. It was about celebrating the blessing that God brought to my dear friend. It was about rejoicing with her. It was about using my gifts to bless my friend.

* * *

As Melissa stood beside me on Sept. 12, 2009, we knew our friendship was entering new territory. But we were committed to allow God to continue the good work He had begun in our relationship. Having Melissa be part of the entire process had turned out to be an amazing blessing to me.

In the next part of the this article, we will discuss how we have navigated the change in our friendship, talk about why we feel strongly that single and married women should be friends and discuss what can be done to cultivate and strengthen these vital relationships.

Part 2: Friends Beyond Marriage »

Copyright 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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