One of the criticisms that haunted my wife and I was that we weren’t very affectionate in public. This criticism would especially rear its head during “marriage and the family” month at an old church we used to attend. By some folks judgment, we didn’t sit close enough together, didn’t hold hands often enough, didn’t act like much of a couple, much less a married couple.

[Of course this criticism came from the “family is everything” crowd in the church, the one that has put “family” on an altar and believes the mission of the church is solely to strengthen and encourage families. The same crowd that reduces singles to second class citizens within the church (there are three levels to full citizenship: Level one: you get married. Level two: you have kids. Level three: you homeschool. I’m just saying). But I digress.]

We didn’t take it as a sense of busy-bodyness that our married friends intruded, assuming that our marriage is in trouble because we never acted “couplely”. We always appreciated their concern, because that’s the whole point of being in a community of friends: we look out for one another. However, we pointed out that they forgot that we ministered mostly to singles … who don’t want to see people drooling all over each other.

Sometimes relationships have to walk a fine line of being a couple among your single friends and not retreating from your single friends. In the spirit of lazy blogging, how about a mediated discussion between the moderators of my message board (read: blogging catfight … get your popcorn):

You guys can’t tell me that you’ve never had a set of friends fall off the face of the earth because they started dating. I know you have. Either that or I’m the only one with these kinds of people for friends. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy asks girl out, boy and girl all but disappear. You guys can’t get mad at me for assuming this. You’ve had it happen to you. Maybe you’ve even done it in the past. And I’ve done the whole swearing up and down that I’ll never do it and make my friends promise not to let me. I’ve also had friends who asked me to do the same for them and then when they start dating, what do they do? “I’m not spending all my time with him/her.” “I don’t get to see him/her very much.” “I still see you.” “I know I said that but things are different now.”

This is the age old story. It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg situation: who pulls away first, the couple of the single friends? Does one precipitate the other? Does it matter and there is simply an inevitable pulling away?

i seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from many of my single friends from different circles. basically, my stance is that just because i’m in a relationship, doesn’t mean that i’m on house arrest. i’m not becoming a nun, i just now have a partner to help me fight my battles and win my triumphs. i’ve found that many of my single friends avoid me like the plague when i’m in a relationship. i try to call and if they answer, they make the conversation short. or if i invite them to do something, even just me and them, they’re suddenly busy. or when i finally do see them, and go to give them hugs and kisses, i get a butterfly pat as a sorry excuse for a hug. then these same people turn around and complain that i’ve changed!! i don’t get it. is there some unwritten rule that as long as friends are single, they can stay friends, but if they get involved, then they have to quit being friends until either they break up or the other singles get involved, too?

This was the situation my wife and I faced. Our single friends pulled away from us, though we fought and scraped to assure them that just because we were married didn’t mean that we were going to fall off the face of the earth (by our reasoning, it made it more convenient since it meant one party household instead of having to drive back and forth between us – like one stop shopping for friends). Yet it still seemed like we were plagued with relational cooties. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, some of your single friends may simply retreat:

It’s been a natural ebb and flow with my friends. One minute we all find ourselves single and throwing popcorn at the stupid chick flick we decided to torture ourselves with. The next everyone is acting all mushy and flirty and talking about some guy like he’s the best thing since sliced bread … I’m happy for my friends. Most of them are dating (or have not-boyfriends or un-boyfriends or fiances) men who seem to be wonderful guys. And I hope that they spoil you all rotten and talk as much mush as you want and treat you like the queens that you are.

Just please wait until I leave the room.

Couples need time alone to figure themselves out, what “we” are. Accommodating a new person into your life can be quite the adjustment, especially if you aren’t used to carving out that space. You need time to focus on each other, learn about each other, before introducing them to the rest of your life.

Just as long as they are brought into the rest of your life.

When relationships become islands, it should throw up a red flag. Not that there’s something inherently wrong with cocooning (though I’d be on the lookout for controlling behavior), but relationships can become … claustrophobic when it is reduced to “all each other all the time.” When your significant other is brought into the rest of your life, one still needs to be mindful of their single friends. It’s easy to give them the sense of you rubbing their nose in your coupledom. On the flip side, singles need to allow their coupled friends room to be themselves also.

The bottom line is that relationships, of any stripe, aren’t static. Take a look at your current circle of friends. There’s a good chance that a year from now, maybe two, the complexion of your circle of friends will be different. People whom you shared intimate secrets with one day drift (or storm) out of your life. People move, switch social circles, life, circumstances, what have you – you wake up one day and realize that some folks aren’t as close to you or aren’t as much a part of your world as they used to be. There is a natural ebb and flow to relationships.

One of the reasons me and my wife still hang out with singles is to let them see the (realistic) joy of marriage. If I’m drooling over my wife, I’m probably in a deep sleep.

Frankly, I’m still stunned that she puts up me.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.