Tell Me About It: my married female friends have become irritating
Kate Holmquist answers your relationship problems
Q I’m in my late 20s and part of a large group of girls, but some of my friends are at a completely different phase of their lives from me. I enjoy going out, socialising and the like. They are married with kids. I am getting irritated with their constant baby talk and speculation of who will be married or pregnant next. I find I have nothing in common with them any more.
Things that I love to do, like travel, camping etc, are things that they despise. I find they’re very unwilling to try anything new, and also that they see being married as something to aspire to.
I have been with my boyfriend for five years; we rent a lovely little apartment and both like going out and having fun. They own their houses, one has left work, and they have pretty much fulfilled their life ambitions. I just can’t seem to find common ground with them any more and wonder: if I wasn’t part of the group at large, would we still be friends?
A “You’ll be next!” your friends must be urging every time there’s a wedding or a positive pregnancy test. You want to strangle them.
The short answer would be: connect with new, more interesting friends whose choices and pastimes are more in tune with yours. But that’s not really good enough, because you value your friends, otherwise you wouldn’t have written this letter. And they care about you, though you resent the way they show it.
Friendship – female friendship in particular – has many benefits. When women bond, they release oxytocin, a soothing hormone that eases stress. How do they bond? By gathering and nesting (or shopping, wedding planning or home decorating). Unfortunately for you, their efforts at bonding are having the opposite effect: stressing you out.
Like misery, happiness loves company, but your friends’ invitation to join the bliss may be raising awkward questions for you. Have you and your boyfriend discussed your individual expectations of the relationship? Are you both on the same page?
In Ireland, half of 20- to 34-year-olds living with someone say they will definitely get married, which leaves the other half in the realm of probably or maybe not. So you’re not unusual in waiting. But your friends are also typical in their preoccupations: 70 per cent of Irish people say that there’s a lot more pressure on women to get married than on men, and 80 per cent think women worry more about finding someone to marry.
Knowing this, older women tend to look on younger ones with the world at their feet and think: life is so difficult and complicated, and combining child-rearing with career is a nightmare, so why not just get married, have babies and be happy? “I’m all for feminism, but bag the husband, get the house, have the baby – done,” a mentor of mine used to say.
Your friends are young to be so settled, and if they think their lives’ ambitions can be achieved by marriage, they’re naive. The average age of Irish brides is 32, and the average age for married women having babies is 33.6, but the risk of this strategy is that fertility declines in your 30s.
Margaret Fine-Davis, who researched the statistics I quoted earlier, found that women’s expectations of getting married and having children plummet after the age of 34, even when they’re living with someone.
Over a lifetime, friendships ebb and flow. One circle of friends isn’t enough. Your old ones will always be there for you, and if you eventually get married and have babies, you’ll have a ready-made group of advisers on hand. So be happy for them, smile mysteriously when they ask if you have any news, and take advantage of that oxytocin. When they’re cleaning up baby sick, you’ll be shopping for shoes.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Kate on Twitter, @kateholmquist. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into