August 15, 2011

Marry your friends from adolescence when you grow up?

Adults chastise adolescents for being too focused on the short term when playing the dating and mating game, but I wonder whether we're really so neglectful of cultivating longer-term prospects for marriage. Perhaps that's what mixed-sex friendships are when you're young -- an investment that only pays off later in life, when you're looking for stability and a soulmate.

Now, it is true that when you look back on all the girlfriends, flings, and crushes you've ever had, the grown-ups were right: they were mostly based on fleeting excitement. Even so-called committed relationships don't last a lifetime, or even close. Here again it's exceptional if they last beyond the endorphin rush of the honeymoon phase. Just as we wouldn't call someone monogamous who was married to one woman at a time but went through 5 wives, a kid who graduates college with 5 "serious" relationships since puberty has not been truly committed.

Kept going by the thrill of novelty rather than cemented by an emotional bond, these relationships are unlikely to leave either person reflecting years later that "that was the one that got away." Instead, you either feel lukewarm or ask yourself "What was I thinking?" That is, unless you already started out as friends before moving up to boyfriend and girlfriend.

I can think of only three girls who I would marry for sure (and a few other maybes), and they were all friends at various points throughout adolescence -- my first good chick friend in fifth grade, my close friend from eighth through twelfth grade, and a floormate from my freshman dorm at college, our first year of living away from our parents.

What they share with each other, and what distinguishes them from other girls then or since, is that we socially transformed close to each other, helping the other through it. That creates a bond of trust and fellow-feeling that does not arise when people get to know each other in more mundane circumstances. I haven't seen or spoken to them for 8, 11, and 19 years, but it's still there.

I'll elaborate on that theory sometime later, and show some vignettes of those three friendships that will hopefully make it clear why they're so different.

To end on for now, I know you don't have to feel this emotionally bound to each other for a marriage to work out. You can always remind yourself consciously that breaking it up would violate this or that norm, would have this or that bad effect on the children, or what have you. Still, relying on conscious reflection upon abstract rules is asking too much of most people. It's just not how our mind works in general. It would be better if we felt so attached that the temptation to cheat, leave, etc., didn't tug at us very hard in the first place.


  1. Having game will get you short term relationships focused on sex. Mutual friendship based on shared experiences gets you long term commitment. That rings true for me.

    That's why I'm telling my sons that once you leave college (or college aged) its much harder to find a potential marriage partner. You've gone through most of the major growing up experiences and its much harder to form that deep friendship bond.

  2. Especially experiences that are like rites of passage, where you feel yourself transforming.

    After the move away from parents during freshman year of college, there's not much left.

    Even the first job, first apartment, etc., are not such identity-altering experiences -- more so these days when the parents are still supporting their kids a lot during the long transition from college to independence.

  3. No images burn into the mind more strongly than the coming-of-age events of childhood and adolescence, but the first year in the real world is definitely an interesting one. Depending on each person's background and job (including grad school, maybe), they experience varying degrees of homesickness, budget issues, work dissatisfaction, and cynicism. For me, the latter two were the most apparent.

    However, I don't see too many relationships after college beginning as friendships, even in the first year least not intense friendships. In my opinion you see more casual group friendships, or outright dating. I don't know if this is explained by competition from gay BFFs or women being more business like, choosing to spend one-on-one time only with future long term partners, or what.

    That's just my experience though.

  4. It's harder to form longer lasting relationships because women today are sluttier and are unable to pair-bond with any one man. (You like to pretend your statistics are meaningful, but again - women lie.)

    It has nothing to do with "growing up" together, most married couples from the 1800's did not grow up together. They married each other as virgins and their bond stayed strong.

    I am willing to bet both of my testicles than you could meet any of your childhood lady-friends today and have zero connection with them, who have been violated by dozens of different cocks since you've last seen them.

    This is why the average age of marriage is moving up, up, and away; you have young couples who marry as virgins (who make fewer and fewer of new marriages today) and everyone else who sluts it up, marrying once their sexual market value is about to expire. The average then falls along the 20's somewhere, and today it's higher than ever.

    - Samseau

  5. I'm really late in adding this but I'd rank senior year in college/first year in the real world as just as significant as the first year in college at least for some people.

    College can have more freedom but if you live in a dorm, are serious about your grades/classes, and aren't the type to get into a party atmosphere its not that different. Especially if they don't have significant money issues (due to parents or scholarships) these students don't hit the big transition until they get into the real world.


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