Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Friends-in-Law

Last week we had a mini-reunion of few college friends (When does “hanging out” get transformed into “reunions” I wonder?). One of my friends had come down from Australia so we had an impromptu girl’s-meeting (the blokes were invited as well, but didn’t turn up because a) we have tragically lost two of them to marriage b) one of them is in UK and c) one is a @#*&@#@&# ditcher.)

I suspect it wasn’t quite a girl’s night out the way all of us would have liked – the Australian friend was accompanied by her husband (G) and S had her husband (D) and Junior S.

It was probably the first time we went out for a dinner with 2 out of the 4 spouses along (The fifth friend N is not hitched) and thus, the meeting had its share of slightly surreal moments.

Surreal because suddenly people you know and are used to viewing in a particular way get transposed into an unknown context or role. A person behaves in a certain way as a friend and might be a completely different personality as a spouse. In a dinner such as this, you have two roles warring and visible at the same time which is rather disconcerting for the viewer-recipient – in this case the friend (and the spouse perhaps?). (Just to cite a weird example of which I am not very proud – when I met S for the very first time after the baby, I found myself having difficultly even looking at her directly – the whole context was so utterly alien that I had trouble adjusting. She told me later that her parents had also demonstrated a similar disoriented reaction – which made me feel slightly better!)

Also, all said and done, the presence of a spouse disrupts the whole existing equilibrium which has been built up over a period of time. This has got nothing to do with the individual in question (Both G and D are fantastic guys). The analogy that comes to mind is of cooking – it’s like adding a new ingredient (however relevant and tasty) to an existing recipe – it might make the resultant mix significantly better – but it cannot hope to be the earlier dish.

I also wonder whether it’s really possible to be actually as emotionally close to a friend’s spouse as it is to a friend. The natural progression one would say as one grows older and transitions lifestages- from two singles spending time together to a single spending time with a couple to two couples hanging out together to eventually becoming that old overused term of “family friends”.

I like my friend’s spouses very much – but I suspect they will always remain that – friends spouses. If I had met them as individuals perhaps they would have become friends in their own right. But the minute one is introduced to them as a friend’s significant other – there is so much pressure (on both sides) to, well, LIKE them that the relationship becomes unnatural. And it is burdened with the baggage of expectations – not in the conventional sense perhaps, but expectations nonetheless (e.g. if a friend is getting married to someone, isn’t there always a) sense that the spouse needs to behave in a particular ‘right’ manner to a friend? But if you actually think about it, what right does one have to expect that from any person? b) Also a sense of altered /diminishing importance –leading to a tug-of-war in some form or the other ( internal-external), which one needs to get used to)

In other words an entire “full-grown” (for lack of a better word) relationship (of friends-in-law) comes into being – without it having gone through the normal growing pains and hiccups. The same problem faced in a possibly more aggravated avatar by the family-in-laws.
Perhaps it is easier if the friendship comes into existence AFTER the commitment – because then the spouse is an integral part of the person life anyways.

The only time I think that friends-in-law can be genuine friends in their own right is when the relationship has been built in a situation not constrained by an intermediary individual – viz. if three friends spend time together and two of them get into a relationship. In which case the third person has individual relationships with both parties. But in a situation where there is a bridge person there will always remain conflicting loyalties.

It’s an interesting corollary that the conflict seems to be higher and more difficult to surmount when the friend is of a different gender and the friend-in-law of the same gender. (Maybe the similar problem faced by Ma-in-law/daughter-in-law and Pa-in-law/son-in-law?)

If you take the natural progression I was speaking about the two singles becoming two couples - that might be easier than the threesome set-up ( because there will be two people in dichotomous roles as opposed to only one) but will still be a lopsided for a while. I have always wondered about these so called “couples-friendship” – but that is a subject for another post.

And just to clarify – when I am talking about friendship in this post, I mean friendship in the sense of emotional-dependency – not the more casual, lets-go-for-a-dinner variety.

Ah well.

18 comments:

popsie said...

Great post, I can so relate to it and can't agree more with all that you had to say.

Trauma Queen said...

ah i totally agree
i hate frends-in-laws. these meting where spouses/gf/s/b/s are dragged are so annoying - really - everyone feels weird n no one is 100% natural

there should be a law for in-laws.....

Mo said...

Agreed about the awkwardness. As I told you, it's on a case by case basis. In some cases, I enjoy a better friendship with the spouse of the guy-friend who I only met recently. And in certain cases, the BFF-type girl friends have been domesticated, done and dusted after marrying their boyfriends of 400 years.

1. It entirely depends on how the intermediary individuals, in this case our friends, handle their relationship with their spouses. There are things about our friends' pasts that we are aware of, that their spouses are not, and maybe they are putting a more mature personas in front of their spouses and children. Maybe they *are* more mature than they were in school. Something that may appear awkward to us. So its not a question of loyalties, it may simply be a question of knowing two different people.

2. Nostalgia is a burden at such moments. The awkwardness exists because when two people talking about their school days can go on forever, but how does one include the spouse in such conversation, and since our friend dragged them along, you are reduced to discussing about Credit Crisis and Cars.

Couple of beers, and everyone is fine...

manuscrypts said...

ah finally, the post free from the constraints of 140 characters :D
it reminds me a bit of venn diagrams.. these relationships :)

Anonymous said...

things are okay now.

Ram said...

Eh! See you must try and keep things simple. The moment a friend gets married you simply delete her/his number, mail id etc. They become boring. So no point staying in touch.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Ya! I agree. Also, there are some changes that you make to your lifestyle or they make to theirs to suit each other.

I find thta single friends do not understand/sympathize :P and married friends do not realize they've also made those changes.

In my case, changes are :P started eating mushrooms for instance. A will order them, and I eat them now. My friends stare at me, coz we share the mushroom hatred, you know?


And i will post something soon. no inspiration, man!

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Arunima said...

yet to experience this.

AmitL said...

Arghh!!Cyn,I came here today in particular,to grin a bit,and,whew!!U made me wrack my brains with this post on emotional bonding.:)Just kidding!!I found my 'moments of fun' as always..let's see now-on the serious side,well,I've observed that,more than anything else,it is a person's nature- extrovert/introvert/friendly/...,that makes friends remain thusly,before/after marriage.Then,whether they were friends before one of them got married,or became friendly afterwards,is immaterial...the bonds remain..but then,it's just what I've observed.
----
Now,the ROFLlers:
-Analogy of cooking-adding a new ingredient(read-'friend')...LOL.
- Friends-in-law..*guffaws*
- Analogy to Ma-in-law/daughter-in-law.
- Friendship of the 'let's-go-for-a-dinner' variety'-may I add' of the A La Karate(a la carte) kind'.
------
Curious thoughts-why don't we call them 'spouses and spices'?
- Why does spouse sound so similar to the Marathi word'paaus'(Rain)?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Popsie - Im glad to know im not the only one.

Trauma queen - yus, and specially if the spouse/bf/gf is the attention seeking variety isnt it?

mo - no i am not sure i entirely agree with that. most of the folks i know are not domesticated in the sense ( those who were, have drifted apart) and their spouses are good fun. i dont see a problem with the way the friends handle it either. its just that the tenor of the bond changes somehow.

manu - but dont all relationships fall into some venn diagram or the other?

anon - good

Aquarius said...

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TC

Cynic in Wonderland said...

ram - hypothetical question if u get married to a boring person then what to do?

nandini yes. sometimes its easier to just change and adjust then to fight. easy way out i guess.

hey aquarius - thank you so very much. really, really appreciate it. had done this post sometime back http://solitarycynic.blogspot.com/2008/09/limerick-dementia.html. take a look!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

arunima - that is good no?

amit - is it? i reckon im an introvert and i dont think anything has changed much. in fact lot of people tell me ( very disapprovingly i should add) that i am just the same.

Akshaya Kamalnath said...

hey i couldnt have put it better.
But my experience is more with friends and their boyfriends/girlfriends.

AmitL said...

Hi,Cyn-as I said,it's just my observation..results may vary!:)And,let me add- I wouldn't have known u're introverted,had you not said it..your posts display a friendly extrovert...but then,I find most of my blogger friends to be thusly...with a few moodswings now and then,of course.:)

roop said...

i just love love love love love love reading u. always come to ur blog with a warm cuppa cocoa and take it in for a good hour or so. ::)) thanks for writing.

roop said...

also i love it when u call me rimzie!
gets me all warm and fuzzy inside hehehe.