Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dating for families

Don't get me wrong – I rather enjoyed the dating scene. There was something fun about seeing that name on your caller ID, remembering the just-right thing he said, and not actually paying for any of the fun stuff you wanted to do. Not making any real emotional investment in the boys I dated made me immune to most of the heartbreak drama. But part of me was excited to leave the awkward dating stuff behind – outings where the conversation fell completely flat, and negotiating the territory when there's compatibility but life gets in the way.

Little did I know that when I got married, I wasn't actually losing the awkwardness. I was just relegating it to my friendships.

Before marriage, friendships were simple. You meet someone, you hit it off, you hang out. Done. After marriage, I felt like I was dating as a couple. Sometimes I'd meet someone at enrichment, but when we got together with our spouses, suddenly I was reliving those awful dates where there was nothing to say and you had to gauge how soon you could leave without hurting anyone's feelings. Admittedly, the more frequent case was Rob would say, “hey, I met this great guy shoveling snow and I think we should have them over,” and it turns out I'd already met his wife and had been thinking the same thing, but this didn't always happen.

Parenthood has added a whole different dimension to this. Now my kids' baggage gets included. Emily is a rather shy child. She's tentative about new experiences and large groups, and can be downright clingy. While she loves it when one or two kids come to play, going to a group barbecue with friends is miserable. Rob and I both spend the whole thing with kids in our arms, and in Emily's case, a kid that wants you to sit with them by the toy that is furthest away from any other lifeform (animals included). I'm not sure we could be BFF with a family that has 6 kids. Emily would be hysterical. I even know of people that had to get babysitters if they wanted to hang out with a certain friend because their kids would spend the whole time screaming and roughing each other up. Friendship is a little more complicated than it used to be.

Have you found family dynamics influence your friendships?