relationship capacity: friends, family, and the transition as we couple off

last week ross and i had a really interesting conversation about relationships that are important in our lives.

ross puts a really high priority on spending time with his family. i won’t go into the details because that’s their business, but he spends a lot of time with them. from my perspective, he spends time with them individually and collectively, pretty much every week. it helps that they live nearby.

i, on the other hand, i spend a similar amount of energy into my friends, especially my inner friend circle. depending on our schedules, i have 3-5 friends who i try to spend a significant chunk of time with (60-90 minutes at least) every other week. those relationships are really important to me for many reasons, but that’s not what this post is about. my family also lives over 1,400 miles away.

the conversation ross and i had was that, like in many other ways, we’re opposites. the time and energy he spends with his family i spend with my close friends. maybe it’s a capacity thing: we both have a maximum amount of relational capacity and we just utilize it in different relationship spheres.

the plot thickened when i had a conversation with my friend miriam about her perception of relationships as people age. basically, her point was that intimate friendships become increasingly important as more and more friends couple off and settle down.

that’s when i thought that maybe the coupling off stage is when people transition from friends taking up their primary relationship capacity to family taking it up. in ross’ words “when you ask a friend to get drinks, ‘sure’ turns into ‘lemme ask the boss [spouse].’”

in some ways, this isn’t new or surprising. it’s definitely not bad (necessarily). i guess i’m curious about if the transition is inevitable… and what does it mean for those folks (of whom there are more and more of these days) who want to stay single for a long time? are they destined to have fewer close friends over time?