Love me, love my friends?

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Posted: 2010-04-02T23:45:17Z
It's the curious case of pati,patni aur woh with a different twist.The 'woh' is usually your spouse's friend,who you didn't choose and usually can't stand ...

You can choose many things in life - where you live, where you work, and who you marry. But there's one thing you have very little control over. You cannot choose your spouse's friends. Because husbands and wives never come alone, they come with their own histories and families and, of course, friends (including, inevitably, that one weirdo woman, or the 'bad influence' drinking buddy).It's a package deal. Spouses come with internal demons - and then some external ones.

So, can friends come in the way of a marriage? And, does a marriage come in the way of old friendships? Can friends really make that much difference or cause rifts if a couple is secure within the relationship? We got a range of opinions from married men and women, counsellors and the friends who are sometimes caught in the middle.

Best-selling author Chetan Bhagat says that choice of friends is definitely an issue that confronts all married people at some point. "Unfortunately,once you are married, your friends have to pass the couple-to-couple compatibility test, which can be a very complex thing. So, what happens after marriage is a complete readjustment of friendships. Sadly, it hovers more around the children. You tend to hang out with your children's friends' parents, so it's more a friendship of convenience than true friendship."

Bhagat thinks that after a person gets hitched, his or her single friends fritter away any way because they find married people boring. "In fact, one of the biggest reasons to get married is to keep up with your peer group, otherwise you lose all your friends!"

A lot depends on the spouse and his or her compliance levels.If he or she is not a prickly person, there needn't be a problem. "No,it's not really an issue," says Amita Chauhan, a communications consultant in Mumbai."I think that within a year or two of getting married,you figure out who are 'our' friends,and then you see 'mine' and 'yours' on your own time.Also,I find that the woman drives the social plans for the most part,so it's easy for her to steer things in the direction she prefers."

Inspired by the high-heeled hotties on Sex and the City, women now find it easier than ever to have girls' nights out and spa days, but are men, who are expected to change diapers and shop for groceries, getting enough 'buddy time' ? Perhaps that's why so many of them head off to the gym, for a game of tennis or a round of golf. In fact, many have resorted to long distance running!

Anita Kamat, a married businesswoman, who lost - and then gradually regained - a series of girlfriends because of spouse compatibility issues, says that she now meets her old friends during the day. "It's harder for husbands to connect with their friends because they don't do girlie lunches, they prefer to hang out after work, over a drink, but then that can become an issue with the wives." As for dealing with her husband's undesirable friends? She befriends them on Facebook and then attempts to spy on them, so see if any plans are being conspired behind her back.

Why do so many people have such a hard time keeping up with old friendships after they get married? Is it because priorities change? Or, do insecurities increase? "I have heard of many who put the blame on a friend - for poisoning his or her spouse's mind. Just as parents attribute their child's mistake to 'bad company', some find it convenient to blame their spouse's friend as the cause for the tension in their marriage," says Parthip Thyagarajan, co-founder of a wedding planning ezine.

Agrees Rohini Sharma Killough, a Delhi-based single mother, "It's only when a couple knows there's a problem between themselves that a third person becomes an issue. When a couple love each other well, nothing and nobody can enter the inner sanctum of their relationship. We all know that when we are in love the world stops existing. George Clooney could be lying naked in bed begging to make love to me and I would turn my back on him and grab a book. It's really as simple as that."

But it's not really that simple. Evidence abounds to show that independent friends crop up in all forms and spaces - whether virtually or in the workspace, where they can potentially intrude on the sanctity of a marriage. Dr Shaifali Sandhya,a clinical psychologist and professor, says that since men and women are getting married later and leading increasingly mobile lives aided by technology, they will also be exposed to different kinds of friendships and social networks. "Coupling is in trouble today as couples are unable to prioritise a sanctuary, behaviours,and actions that are exclusive to marriage," says Sandhya, who wrote Love Will Follow: Why the Indian Marriage is Burning.

And is there a particular kind of friend that is always the problem? Bhagat feels that when it comes to single friends of the same sex, there is some scope for your spouse to like them, "but it is very rare for a spouse to like a friend from the opposite sex," he says, with a shrug. That may just have something to do with Harry meeting Sally.
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