September 2, 2009

A Ph.D in Marriage Analysis

I should find a university that will let me develop my own special doctorate program. When I finish the work, I'll have a Ph.D in “Marriage Analysis.” I'd be an expert in watching my married and dating friends and learning about how different couples interact with each other, other couples and single people. What will make this program unique is that all of the doctoral candidates will be single. Singles watching couples. Bye-golly it's brilliant!

One of the largest parts of my study would focus on friendships. I'd study how couples make new friends and how they interact with old friends. My fear, though, is that the conclusions to this study would make a lot of couples angry or offended.

I read an article on the other day about singles and the Christian community. The bottom line is that single people (meaning not married or dating anyone) are often left out of the loop of friendship with couples or families. I don't mean being acquainted with each other and you all exchange “How are you?” or chit chat about the weather. I mean true and lasting friendship. The kind where hearts are laid on the line, advice is exchanged, and struggles are shouldered together.

The common behavior/reaction is that as soon as people pair off, they suddenly feel the need to only spend time with other couples. I can understand this to a certain extent―another couple gives each half someone to talk to. The man has someone to talk to, the woman has someone to talk to. The result is that the wife only hangs out with her female friends when her husband is having a guy's night. Rarely do the three of them hang out together.

This is not always the case, of course, but the rare exception is usually with someone who was friends with one or both halves of the pair before the coupling. So the girl's childhood best friend makes the cut. The guy's college roommate is okay to hang out with. But the new neighbor who is single will never become more than a casual acquaintance. Or if they do become a good friend, it will only be with half the couple, not both people.

I'm not saying a man should become best friends with the girl next door while his wife goes to make friends at the local truck stop. The bottom line is that single people benefit from spending time with couples or families and couples benefit from single people. The most obvious benefit is that it creates diversity. Diversity of experience, viewpoints, opinions and so on. Single people can learn a great deal about personal sacrifice from a married person, while a married person can learn a great deal about the importance of not relying on a person (like a spouse) to completely define who you are. (In other words―don't close yourself off from the world so that your spouse is your only friend.)

The bottom line is that I believe my study would conclude that the segregation between couples and single people is unhealthy for both sides. And yet it is more common than not for couples to disappear from the lives of their single friends. The fault lies with both parties, but that doesn't matter right now. What matters is that if we are to be people of depth, that depth should be carved from the experiences of many people, and not just those who are like us or who are in the same stage of life as us.

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