Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

What Are Friends For? Views from Single and Married Life

Friendship in the context of life

In a just-published article, Eli Finkel and his co-authors described a wide-ranging and intriguing model of the “suffocation of marriage.” The model deserves a lot of attention and I’ll probably write about it again. For now, I just want to point out one particular sentence that I really did not like.

Part I:  Critique this Quote

The authors are discussing the ways in which contemporary married couples expect each other to fulfill a great deal of their higher-order needs (in Maslow’s sense of needs). They think that can be taxing and they suggest a series of ways in which married couples can “recalibrate the balance between what they are asking from their marriage and what they are investing in it” (p. 27). Here’s one of their suggestions:

If a man notices that his wife becomes overwhelmed when he comes to her to deal with feelings of sadness or vulnerability, he may choose to revive his relationship with his old college roommate, who was always an excellent shoulder to cry on, and call him up when needing comfort” (p. 30).

I was invited to write one of the commentaries on the article, and I called it “A singles studies perspective on mount marriage.” Think about the quote I highlighted above, and if you want to, see if you can generate a critique of it.

At the end of this post (Part III), I’ll share that part of my article, where I offer my brief critique. In between, I’m including links to some of my previous writings about friendship, because of their relevance to the broader topic of friendship, and also to put some space between the quote you may want to critique and my own critique of it. (In other words, no peeking!)

I will soon add this new collection of links (about friendship) to the other collections at my personal blog. (Here it is.)

Part II: Some Previous Writings on Friendship

Importance of friendship

Why friendship is the key relationship of the 21st century

The new science of friendship

5 ways friends make us better and stronger

Success depends more on friendship skills than romantic ones

What friends know that others don't

Step away from that spouse! Another take on the value of friends

Your significant other can no longer be boxed in

What matters is whether you matter to others

The meaning of ‘relationship’: Notes from a party

Do single people get ditched when their friends marry?

Do married people neglect their friends because they are so busy with their kids?

Slighting friends and family: Do couples become less couple-y over time

Gain a romantic partner, lose 2 friends?

Singles or couples: Who has more confidants? More diverse confidants?

Is it OK to have a couples-only club?

Dating, moving in, and losing contact with friends?

Making friends

How do you make friends when you are single?

Magical friendship-making moments

Finding a friend: The social psychological detective leads the way

Friendship doctor shares top tips for making friends

Can you make friends online?

Can you ride-share your way to friendship?

Now we know whether Facebook is making us lonely

Are the early years of single life the hardest? Approaching age 30

Breaking up with friends

Breaking up with friends: Can you empathize?

Was your break-up treated dismissively?

How friendship is erased and distorted

Deleting a friend to spotlight a spouse

Sex and the City: The magic show

Did you recognize your friendship in ‘This Emotional Life’?

What's not to like about a rave review? Missing the point of friendship and single life

The real mystery: Why don’t friendships get what they deserve?

Other friendship themes

Do you have a council of friends?

In Japan, can marriage be a hobby and friendship for real?

Reunited love—and I don’t mean the romantic kind!

Falling in and out of friendship

Friends and lovers: Is there a "knew it all along" effect?

First friends

Men and women as friends—when one is gay or lesbian

Extraversion and the single person

“Friendship in the time of love”

Part III: My Critique of that Quote (from p. 66)

What Are Friends For?

A Singles Studies perspective would bring to the field of interpersonal relationships a bigger, broader view of the people and relationships important to us in our lives. No longer would conjugal couples stand at the center of our relationship universes, with other adult relationship partners acting as the bit players orbiting around them. Friends, for example, would be valued in and of themselves.

In contrast, here is an example of the role of friends in the “Suffocation of Marriage” model: “If a man notices that his wife becomes overwhelmed when he comes to her to deal with feelings of sadness or vulnerability, he may choose to revive his relationship with his old college roommate, who was always an excellent shoulder to cry on, and call him up when needing comfort.” In this marriage-centered view of the world, friends are people you use to give your spouse a break, and who presumably can go back to being ignored once your marriage is back on track.

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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