Here’s Why I Think We Sometimes Lose Friends When We’re Happy
Since we’ve been married (just about four months now!), both Jonathon and I have watched in surprise as certain friendships have fallen from our lives.
I’m a bit more of an all-over-the-place-social-butterfly than he is, so I had a big circle of close friends, then acquaintances, then just-more-than-Facebook-friends, then Facebook friends. He mostly had his pretty good friends and then his slightly-more-distant friends.
Either way, since we’ve been together, and especially since our wedding, we both realized our friends were dropping away from our lives faster than we could count. And it wasn’t just our far-away-type friends: For me, it felt like I was losing friends in all of my circles, even my close friend circle which I never would have imagined.
It bothered us both, at first, a lot. And we talked about it a lot shortly after we got married, too. He reasoned that some of my friends were just keeping their distance to give our marriage room to grow – which I can appreciate as a noble act, but I didn’t really buy it, save for one or two good ones. I even ended up reaching out to people asking if that’s what they were doing and telling them that while I appreciated it, I didn’t need it, because I could make my own decisions about how much time my new marriage needed and that I still wanted to maintain close friendships with them.
It didn’t seem to matter a ton.
I also had a few friends (the close ones that stayed close — more on them later) tell me that they suspected that what was happening was that people just weren’t used to my marriage yet. Most people, they told me, go through a long period of dating and then a long engagement and then marriage, so their friends and family have time to adjust to the relationship. Since Jonathon and I went from first date to married in eight weeks (and since I was pretty anti-relationship before), they said, people didn’t get the time to fully adjust to my new partnership, and that’s why not only were they keeping their distance, they were also having a hard time understanding how to treat Jonathon (as in, not treat him shittily – and yes, this happened, people made the worst comments to him or just generally treated him like kind of a disease in my life).
One day I told my mom all of this while she was taking me to run an errand, wanting to hear her thoughts on it.
“Bullshit,” she said.
“Well, I mean I can understand…” I started.
“No,” she said firmly. “One day you weren’t married, and then you were. So what? Good friends don’t need time to ‘adjust’, good friends understand who you are and how quickly you make decisions and accept your new husband with love, too.”
You know, she had a point.
To be fair, I know I hopped off social media recently for a while, as well, so that makes a difference these days on how easy it is to connect to others. That said, I hopped off social media like just under three months into my marriage, after I had realized a lot of these friendships were already falling apart.
I know what you’re thinking: It’s me. I’m the one that fucks up and my friendships fall apart. Well, while I admit that I’ve been happily ensconced in a marriage bubble for a while, I got into that deep marriage bubble because so many people were dissolving from my life in really shitty ways, not the other way around.
And this wasn’t the first time — I also lost friends when I went through my last big change of quitting my job to travel full-time. And that had nothing to do with being in a relationship.
And don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about the friendships that just naturally drift away in the progression of life. I get that some people are in our lives just for a season and it makes sense to even grow apart.
I’m talking more about the people that abruptly vanish when something good happens.
So, the big question is: Why does this happen? Why do we sometimes lose our food friends when we’re at our happiest?
I’ve got some thoughts.
1. They’re not used to the new happiness.
The simplest (and least bitchy) explanation is that they’re just not used to the new happiness — whatever it is. Whether it’s travel or a new relationship or a new, successful job, sometimes people don’t know how to deal just because they aren’t used to it.
The thing is, people will (theoretically) get used to it. So if you, like me, have lost some friends in a new realm of happiness, the answer might be to just give it some time and continue to remind people that you love and value them and then let them bounce back into your lives as they will.
This worked for me for a few friends — when I realized they really were just trying to give my new marriage room or that they just didn’t really know how to act with “Married Anjali.” It didn’t, though, work for everyone.
2. They’re not used to your focus switching from them.
A more insidious reason (and a far more bitchy one than up top) that we lose friends when we’re happy is because people don’t like not being the focus of our attention.
When we first got together, Jonathon was surprised at how much I was on my phone all the time. But it wasn’t because I was mindlessly scrolling Facebook or Insta, it’s because I was responding to texts and calls from people about various things in their lives. I liked to — and like to — connect to people that way.
That said, when I got married, I realized a bunch of these people fell away because I just didn’t have the time or the energy to solely focus on their shit anymore. That sounds awful, but I only mean it so angrily because it seemed like the same people who wanted me to respond to their every text or every call or every email about the problems in their lives couldn’t even be bothered to send me a “Hey, how are you?” text when they didn’t need something.
If your friend-loss situation is like this one, I say, good fucking riddance.
3. They’re jealous.
Unfortunately, the age-old reason for losing friendships is still something we have to talk about here: jealousy.
It’s not fun to think about it, but if you’ve lost friends when experiencing some new happiness or a new, healthy transition in your life, it may just be because they’re jealous.
And to be honest, there’s not much you can do in this situation. If you love them and care about them, you can go out of your way to remind them that you do love them and care about them. That said, you can’t work through their jealousy for them and it’s not your responsibility to do so.
I might have a shittier view on it than other people, but that’s because I think jealousy is bullshit. My view on nonmonogamy informs my view on jealousy in friendships, too: No matter where the jealousy is from, it’s bullshit.
We should be able to be happy for our fellow humans. And if you’re friends with people that can’t be happy for you…well, then, be really real about it and just go, “Bai…..”
4. You’ve actually neglected the friendship in your happiness.
Sometimes, it is actually your fault if you lose friendships when you’re happy. Sometimes, in our happiness, we really start to neglect people and we turn into shitty friends.
If this is you, the key thing is to recognize it and then acknowledge it. You can’t recognize it and then just be nice to people and assume they are going to know it’s because you have been MIA. You have to actually talk to people about the fact that you get that you’ve been sort of absent for a minute, and you realize that, but that you plan to be back to your normal, present self.
Then it’s up to them whether they want to deal with you or not. If they don’t, well, that sucks but it’ll leave room for you to grow and learn to be better in the future. It’ll also open up space for new friends.
5. Misery loves company.
This one doesn’t apply to me, thank god, because I’ve always made a concerted effort to be happy, but I think it could easily apply to other people.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are unhappy, they follow paths already written for them, and they don’t stop to figure out why they are unhappy or how to make it better.
If you have been miserable with your job or your life situation or with your partner or without a partner, changing one of these things to where you are suddenly happy can throw off the people who were miserable with you.
And if this is the case, there’s also nothing you can do but be glad that a miserable person who only knows how to be miserable is gone from your life.
*6. People get invested in you living your life one way, and then freak out when you grow or change.
[Writer’s note: This point was added after a friend told me that I might be reading things in a skewed way and not allowing for anything outside my own brain.]
And sometimes, I guess, you lose friends because you have a blog and write about certain things, and then you start writing about other things and people aren’t sure how to keep up.
Yes, I was never a fan of commitment before. Yes, I wanted to travel no-strings-attached before. And yes, the idea of another marriage freaked me out.
But I grew. I changed. Like we all should. If we kept our exact same views and stayed static over time, we’d all be boring AF.
I understand that people like to read about how I’m screwing all the men and how I love traveling solo and how I think commitment is stupid. And I did like to have all the sex with all the mens and I still love traveling solo and I still really often think commitment is stupid.
That said, I also met this person that I fell in love with that I wanted to give it a try with. I don’t have all the answers for everyone – I don’t even have all the answers for me. I’m just figuring it out one day at a time and growing and learning as much as possible.
So if my views happen to change on anything overnight, it’s because it was the right step for me. Unfortunately, it has seemed like that’s meant losing friends in the process, as well.
I get that because of this blog people think I’m a character that they can follow – like on a TV show. The thing is, I don’t actually follow a script, I just live my life however I want in that moment (LITMO, remember?). So my development won’t follow the natural, clean arc of character development in a TV show.
One year, I’ll have met 40 people that I would never, ever consider being in a relationship with. The next, I’m married, because I met one that was different. It’s not a show, it’s my life.
After getting ridiculously salty over people being assholes for a few months, I realized that this was an opportunity instead of a tragedy. Instead of looking at it like, “I lost these friends when I got married,” I started looking at it like, “Getting married allowed me to see who my true friends are.”
Because the reality is, for all the friends that didn’t stick around, there are several that DID and are happy for me and are around and checking in and being awesome people. These are the friends that understand that a newlywed couple – well, hell, a newly COUPLED couple – will inevitably exist in their own bubble for a while but then will find their way back to their normal outgoingness.
So, maybe sometimes we lose friendships when we get happy in a new way. But that’s life and it gives us a chance to truly value that peope that do stick around.