If you are seeking a serious long-term relationship, specifically, a relationship that would eventually lead to marriage, you will have to eventually make a choice one-day between your spouse and your friends.
At some point, you will be faced with a situation where your obligations to your friends and your obligations to your spouse will be in conflict. It is at that point, if you have not already made your parameters clear, you will be forced to do so.
For that reason, when I work with coaching clients who are single and looking for a life partner, I encourage them to start thinking about what those boundaries would be, and to start defining them now, while single, so that when they do enter into a serious relationship, they are ready to manage their new spouse and their existing friendships.
Not everyone has this dilemma. Some people are already well aware of their personal priorities and know exactly where they personally will draw the line. While others, may have never contemplated that there would ever be a conflict between the two sides. Yet there are a few others who simply do not want to even discuss potential conflict resolutions for a variety of reasons.
So here is an example:
You and your spouse have been working very hard on saving up for a down payment on a house. You both work long hours and have sacrificed much to get to the point where you have that 20% down payment ready in order to qualify for a mortgage. Next week, you will seek out a real estate agent and start house hunting. Then you get a call from one of your friends. Your friend is in trouble. It is something serious, and your friend has no one else to turn too. Your friend needs a large sum of money. Let’s assume that without that money, your friend is going to go through immanent hardship. You could be in a position to lend your friend your share of the money you have saved up for the house down payment. You talk to your spouse and your spouse refuses.
Do you choose your friend (who has helped you out more than anyone can know), or your spouse who you want to build a future life with that might leave you if you side with your friend?
I have left elements of the story very vague for the reader to fill in. Questions such as, is it a life and death situation? Are children with the spouse already involved in this decision? Are there no other options for the couple to get a mortgage at a cheaper down payment or other sources for the friend to reach out to for this money? Looking at this question as well as the value systems of each individual is part of the pre-marriage coaching program I take new couples through, to prepare them for the eventual choice they will have to make between their spouse and their friends.
Now, what if the situation wasn’t so serious or so dire? What if the issue is simply a matter of your spouse and friends not getting along? What if the issue might be that your friend never fully accepted your spouse into your life and takes passive aggressive measures to influence a rift between you both as a couple? What if your spouse is simply suspicious of your friend, even though your friend has not overtly done anything inappropriate to your knowledge? What if it is simply a matter that your spouse and your friend are not willing to tolerate each other? Where would you draw the line then?
What comes up in a pre-marriage coaching session often surprises the individuals of the couple as they express to each other their thoughts, feelings, and expectations on this subject.
What I will say to conclude this article is that if and when you choose someone to commit to as a spouse, that commitment comes with certain obligations and expectations. Be clear as to what you are expecting, and communicate that with your partner, as well as, make sure your partner communicates the same with you.
If you plan to dedicate your life and everything you own and every resource you will ever earn to another human being, it is important to know what conditions come along with that commitment, what strings attached may be in place (if any) and where each of you draws the lines between your obligations to your friends and your obligations to your spouse.
I promise you, that if you do not talk about it before you get committed, you will surely talk about it, after you commit and a situation forces the conversation. The choice is going to be calling on you to make it. Do what you can now to be ready.
A broken engagement is far better than a happy divorce.