Friendship after Marriage
October 21, 2009 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I keep noting a familiar pattern among my friends who "settle down" - either in marriage or a long-term relationship. They inevitably seem to cut themselves off from their friends and refuse to leave the house, even on weekends. Job situations remain a stable variable from their earlier, more social lives - the only thing that changes is the seriousness of the relationship. Kids being a time commitment (and source of exhaustion) I understand - but many if not most of the couples I'm describing do not have children. Is this "normal"? Or is it dysfunctional? What causes it, do you think?
posted by macross city flaneur to Human Relations (82 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of people go out a lot because they are consciously or subconsciously looking for a mate. When they find out, they don't feel the same pressing need to go out so much.
posted by pinky at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2009 [22 favorites]

I meant find ONE not find OUT. Sheesh.
posted by pinky at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2009

*is extremely guilty of this*

I didn't think it was normal until I started doing it, too. I definitely don't refuse to leave the house, and still do things with friends/family without my SO, but it's much, much less often. I'm not sure what the cause is, other than just being comfortable staying home with your SO and playing house. I like it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2009

Very normal. I've heard it called "cocooning".
posted by Joe Beese at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's "normal". Even though I'm not married, I'm in a LTR. None of my close friends have kids yet. Once work is done for the day, I just want to go home, relax and spend time with my GF. Among my friends who are married, there are varying degrees of "dropping out" of friendships and the like, which seems mostly to vary based on how far away they live in my city and what kind of relationship the other couple might have with me and my girlfriend. We see some people several times a month, other people not for months at a time. I think it just shakes out as you "settle down" that you don't have as much time to spend with people who aren't that close to you, so you spend better quality time with people you think matter.
posted by Phoenix42 at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every friend I had paired up. Every last one of them dropped off the face of the earth. If I ever ask them, they pretend that of course they want to go out and keep in touch, but they just can't at that time. Or the next, or the one after, or any time at all really.

I've accepted it and I'm trying to move on. It doesn't matter if they have children or not, once they have a girlfriend, apparently their old friends aren't worth much anymore. Especially if those friends are single. Just no way to get back in touch, really. Sad but it is what it is.
posted by splice at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2009

We do this. We try not to, we try to go out and hang out with our friends, but we definitely spend less time "out and about" than we used to.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:35 AM on October 21, 2009

It is a bit of confirmation bias too. I know quite a few non-marrried people that also do not go out and prefer to spend their evenings with online friends but they do not have a wide social circle IRL.

Because of where I live, cocooning is popular for three seasons and then everyone and then everyone emerges for three months in the summer and fits in a lot of socialising until the next summer. Maybe you are seeing a bit of that now too?

Also, if you have a SO you simply have less free time - commitments on your time are doubled, for instance you have twice as many work or family functions to go to.
posted by saucysault at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think as folks grow older the importance of "going out" simply diminishes as they find new ways to enjoy their downtime.
posted by Atreides at 10:38 AM on October 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Nth to most of the above. My wife and I can comfortably spend an evening at either end of the couch, reading. We talk about getting out more often, because we feel vaguely guilty that we still don't do the Thursday Through Saturday Night Bar Crawl we used to do, but on the whole we enjoy the reading more.
posted by Pragmatica at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think it's pretty common/normal. I definitely didn't do much crashing on the sofa on a saturday night when I was single, but it's different when you have someone to do that with you. We also spend time planning and scheming as a couple - whether it be planning the garden or our finances or the next trip to see parents abroad or whatever, and the time for all those bits and pieces adds up, especially as very little of it happens during the workweek.

Some of it might be financial too - forgoing social life expenditure in favour of life insurance and "settling down" costs like better furniture or pets or a mortgage etc.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:40 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't go out because I feel fairly content at home with my husband, so I'm not out looking for excitement or companionship. It feels very relaxing, whereas with going out you have to make all these plans and you don't even know if you're going to have a fun time.
posted by anniecat at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2009

I feel it's normal (but then again, I'm one of the withdrawn, married folks). I was pretty low on the need-for-socialization scale prior to gettin' hitched and rarely spent much time outside a network of ~1-3 good friends.

My wife is my best friend/partner/partner-in-crime/deepest love/counter/complement -- I enjoy being around her more than anyone else. It's simply that -- I already live with the person I most like to spend time with. We go out into the world, but not to spend time with other people as much as we used to.
posted by wrok at 10:44 AM on October 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

We do this and did it even before we had a sprout. I think it's a combination of enjoying one-on-one time together and maybe also aging. Now that I'm turning the corner of 30, going out for a night on the town just isn't that appealing anymore. It might be square but I'd rather just stay home with the family and cook dinner and watch a movie or something.

If it's any consolation, once we got married (and most especially after we had a child), pretty much all of our single friends dropped us. I guess hanging out with a couple can be a drag if you're not attached. And it's hard to make childless people understand why you can't just find a sitter on a Tuesday night and go bar-hopping until 4am.
posted by balls at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2009

If you are talking about people in their twenties, the first couple of years of working you can kind of coast, but then responsibilities increase and jobs become more demanding and at the end of the day you've had enough face time with other people and just want some peace and quiet at home with the high heels off.
posted by saucysault at 10:46 AM on October 21, 2009 [8 favorites]

There is also the confound of aging. I went out a lot less when I was single and 27 than when I was single and 21.

And, to be the contrarian, I am married, with a small child, and my husband and I manage to make it out definitely once a week either together or separately (with other friends). It's tiring though. Especially when you have kids, you have to prioritize things like SLEEP over going out, and then when you do have time, often "date nights" come first because you have to maintain your own relationship too. Sucks for other people, but it's the way it is.
posted by gaspode at 10:50 AM on October 21, 2009

Confirming some of what was said above:

1. I went out more often when I was single because I lived alone and wanted to find folks to socialize with, including possibly a mate.
2. In general, I've always been a bit more of a cocooner than a social butterfly, but #1 still happened because of the reasons mentioned in #1.
3. From all that going out and participating in Internet communities, I had a set of "social friends" that I saw a lot but was still not as emotionally intimate with as I am with my "close friends".
4. After having met someone, when we got more serious and moved in together, we spend more time alone together than going out socializing because we are both kind of cocoony in general.
5. We still see our friends pretty often (both single and couples), but it is much more compelling to hang out with my "close friends" than my "social friends", just because there's only so much emotional energy to go around, and most of it is taken up by my partner.
6. FWIW, we were both over 40 when we met.
posted by matildaben at 10:50 AM on October 21, 2009

I have an interesting perspective on this, I think. I was in a LTR with someone for 5 years. I never understood this "cocooning" concept. I still loved going out all the time and hanging out with friends. However, I realized how unhappy I was in that relationship and ended it. Now, I've met someone that makes me unbelievably happy, and I'm definitely becoming one of those people! I used to be Ms. Social Butterfly, but now I just want to go home and relax with him. I don't think it is dysfunctional. I think I've found someone I am happy doing everything (and nothing!) with, and that's pretty awesome. Although, I make an effort to go out when someone has a party, and to have dinner with my BF. I still love my friends.
posted by Lizsterr at 10:51 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I guess the hardest thing to understand for me has been that even after the couples' specific needs are addressed, the will to leave the house still isn't very strong. For example, invites to have a game or movie night (inexpensive, wraps up early), or brunch on a Sunday morning seem just as likely to get a "no" (or a last minute flake out) as invites for drinks at a bar.

I understand enjoying time with your favorite person in the world and not needing to search for a mate anymore - but I sometimes wonder if it's more than that - almost as if there are "shadow children". In other words, even couples without children are somehow instinctively acting as if they have them, because they're somehow biologically hardwired to do so.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:51 AM on October 21, 2009

I'm in a LTR, and I do this. To be honest I was worried it was abnormal, but I'm glad to see that it isn't. For me, it is basically a, "Which relationship do I want to develop?" I know spending time with SO is incredibly important, so when I don't have much free time I tend to devote the time I do have to SO.
posted by biochemist at 10:53 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

For example, invites to have a game or movie night (inexpensive, wraps up early), or brunch on a Sunday morning seem just as likely to get a "no" (or a last minute flake out) as invites for drinks at a bar.

I often forget (due to my contentment) how nice it is to socialize. I forget and lump all people in with everybody I know, which includes people who are annoying and boring to be around. I forget how fun it is to hang out with friends.
posted by anniecat at 10:55 AM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

For example, invites to have a game or movie night (inexpensive, wraps up early), or brunch on a Sunday morning seem just as likely to get a "no" (or a last minute flake out) as invites for drinks at a bar.

Game or movie night requires as much, if not more energy than drinks at a bar. If I'm having people over for game night, it means the house has to be cleaner than it would be if it were just SO and I, and we'd both be dressed in something other than sweatpants and t-shirts.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:56 AM on October 21, 2009

Depends on who you were and why you went out before settling down. As mentioned upthread, lots of folks go out primarily to hook up, so once they've hooked, they're not so interested.

We go out at least once a week: either a party night with the laydeez for me, boys' night for Mr. Go Banana, a night at a friend's and sleepy time off in a convenient corner for Go Banana Jr., or babysitting and a night out together, usually with friends. We sometimes even make it out two nights in a row. But then, we've always been party people who are more interested in the vibe and the company than the picking up.

So to answer your question--no, not dysfunctional, just reverting to type. Also cocooning. If you still want to see them, invite them over for dinner or something similarly low key.
posted by Go Banana at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Happened to me, too. I was always a homebody but there's been a definite shift over the last year or so to make me even more of one.

Part of it is just growing up--I have more responsibilities at work, which means I work longer hours and am more tired when I get home, so I'm not interested in going out or being up late, even on the weekend. I have more responsibilities at home, too, in that I feel like I have someone to take care of or pay attention to, instead of some random roommate. I also have a home now that is more than just a place to crash to me, so I like spending time in it, fixing it up or enjoying the time and energy I've put into it.

Mostly though, it's my boyfriend. He's just really my very favorite person to spend time with, and I like spending time with him--some of what we like to do requires privacy (ahem) and some of what we like to do we just like to do at home (cooking, eating, playing video games) instead of out with bigger groups of people. We do go out (we're in a biweekly book club, and I'm in other book clubs) but not as often and not to the same types of places we did when we were single. We do go to game nights when we're invited, however; where do you live? :)

I have heard this called "nesting" rather than "cocooning".
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2009

When I was single I had friends who did this and man did it piss me off. I mean, why would you drop your friends for your girl?

But then I got in a relationship and my time to go out with friends diminished. Less time for online games, etc. But I still made it a big point to hang out with friends, just not as much.

But as happens, those single friends found other friends who could hang out more, or did more time intensive activities (like World of Warcraft) in which I could not take part as I didn't have the time to devote, and so our interests grew apart.

Now I don't hang out any more with any of my pre-marriage friends. We just went in totally different directions.

Now I don't feel I've ever been cocooned, just that I'm doing different things with different people
posted by arniec at 11:00 AM on October 21, 2009

Nah, I don't know about the "shadow children" thing. We definitely didn't act like we had children before we actually had one. We were still big partiers and went to bars and stayed out all night and hung out with friends--it's just that most of our friends were also couples, and we went out less often.

When your best friend in the entire world is also your roommate and the person you're fucking, it's a pretty sweet deal. Leaving the intimacy of two to go hang out somewhere else can be fun once in awhile, but it's not as appealing as staying home together. At least, that's how it is for us.
posted by balls at 11:01 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Not only is it normal, but I highly advise that this issue is discussed before one gets married because it can be a source of marital strife.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:02 AM on October 21, 2009

I personally have a theory that this is somewhat generational.

My grandparents are two of the most social people I know. Part of it boils down to the fact that retirement gives them more time. But there's this picture of about 20 of their closest friends from fifty years ago, and they've kept in touch all that time.

Marriage was more economic then. You were expected to stick together for the kids and internalize disagreement. Your partner wasn't expected to be your entire social circle. I'm trying to find the author, but I remember reading that divorce is so much more prevalent because we expect marriage to primarily bring us happiness. That wasn't the main concern before.

I personally hope that friendship will have something of a revival. It seems very weird to me that my parents have virtually no friends. And I'd certainly like to think that the friendships I'm making now aren't just time-killers until I partner up.
posted by politikitty at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2009 [20 favorites]

"Is this "normal"? Or is it dysfunctional?"

That's two separate questions, not one.

There are only so many hours in a week, so if a person has a spouse to spend those hours on, the math means less time for outside friends.

Completely dropping all contact with old friends seems extreme to me, although I would only consider it "dysfunctional" if it makes the individuals involved unhappy.

One thing to consider might be what sort of activities are involved in "going out" with friends. If the old social crowd spends their time going out drinking and partying, that might not fit the new lifestyle.

Personally, my wife and I tend to be happiest when we have the opportunity to get out and be social with other people on at least a weekly basis. However, I think that totally varies with the individual couple.
posted by tdismukes at 11:07 AM on October 21, 2009

My relationship with my first husband ended up being a "never go out thing" within the first year, and because we were perpetually broke. With my current relationship, again, there was broke-ness early on that kept us in all the time, and there was also the "not mate hunting" anymore thing. Now, as our relationship is on very solid ground, both of us are once again starting to open up to social relationships, having beer with friends, etc.
posted by medea42 at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2009

It actually cuts a bit both ways. When I was single and living in an apartment, my friends were thrilled to come visit, hang out, etc. My apartment served often as the pre-out gathering place and/or the post-out gathering place, and I frequently had people crashing overnight. No big deal, right?

Then I bought a house. And even though my relationship status was the same, the simple fact that it was MY house and not a rental changed everything. Friends never just stopped by anymore, and they rarely crashed or socialized there. I made years of effort to try and establish that everyone was just as welcome there, and that I wasn't going to freak out messes in the house and such, but it never helped -- owning a house equaled settled, just as surely as if I'd gotten married, and everyone began treating me as such.

So yeah, couples prefer the company of other couples... but singles prefer the company of other singles as well.
posted by Pufferish at 11:09 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

nthing "normal", and adding "shitty". people do totally drop out of their own lives once they couple-up and it's pretty darn lame. some of these couples may end up in splitsville once they come to resent one another for not giving them a well-rounded experience of life from their tiny semi-detatched. it seems like a recipe for disaster or dullness. besides, if your friends turn out to have no greater ambition in life than to watch tv with their SO and breed than do you really want to hang out with them anyway?
posted by tamarack at 11:11 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

(sorry, should've added that "assumed to not be interested in going out" was a big part of the "settled" treatment, kinda important to the topic of the original Q)
posted by Pufferish at 11:11 AM on October 21, 2009

We like each other more than we like anyone else. That's why we paired off. Sorry.
posted by Perplexity at 11:12 AM on October 21, 2009 [59 favorites]

This happens to me every time I get in a LTR, and it's definitely feels dysfunctional. It's one of the main reasons I have no desire to get into another one, because it's part of a cycle: meet someone, think they're awesome, spend x months together at the exclusion of almost everyone, see each other's flaws in fine detail, get sick of each other, break up. Wash rinse repeat, perhaps throwing in a few cycles of make up, realize why it didn't work, break up again. Adding children just gets you stuck in the process and drags it out ('for the children') until finally it's actually better for the kids if you split. YMMV of course.
posted by mullingitover at 11:16 AM on October 21, 2009

So yeah, couples prefer the company of other couples... but singles prefer the company of other singles as well.

Not so. I prefer the company of my friends, regardless of their status. What Phoenix said above about wanting to spend time with the people you think matter applies -- and my friends are the people I want to spend time with.

I've been in and out of relationships over the past 20 years, and am more often single than not. My friends who couple up tend to...drop out of sight. So I end up not going out much, because I don't have any one to do anything with, just because I'm single.

So I can affirm that this does happen, and it seems to be the norm rather than a dysfunction. But -- I'd also like to add that, if you're the odd singleton out amongst a bunch of coupled-up friends, it sucks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

One thing to consider is that it's a lot more difficult to get two people to commit to a plan and follow through to completion than it is to get one person to do so. It's like the Law of Conservation of Momentum: the total momentum of any group of objects remains the same unless outside forces act on the objects.

While you might be able to get one person enthused about a night out, the second may not feel like hitting the town. If both agree that a night out sounds fun, they both have to get ready, which may be an ordeal in and of itself. Then they have to leave the home and arrive at the preselected location at the preselected time, which can add to the difficulty and the stress, which, in turn, can make a fun night out less fun than it could otherwise be. Some couples look at the proposition, do the math, and conclude that staying at home is a lot easier and more conducive to household harmony that going through all that work.

This isn't an antisocial instinct though. I know a number of couples (and single people for that matter) who are loathe to meet up outside their home who would be completely delighted to have visitors over for a night of drinking, or games, or movies, or what-have-you. They're perfectly willing to be social so long as they don't have to do the work.
posted by lekvar at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2009 [9 favorites]

It's normal in the sense that it's common, but no, ditching all your friends for just one person and refusing to leave the house because you have everything in your one true love is not optimal behavior.

It also gives me the creeps.
posted by lemuria at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

Friendships change as people pass through different stages in their life. Once you're with someone on a "permanent" basis, there's less of drive to seek out others company or do things with others. It's not that they feel any different about your friendship, only that their focus changes. This is normal and natural.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:19 AM on October 21, 2009

I think lekvar has a point. Also, if two people are tired and hesitant to go out, there's a mutual reinforcement.
posted by Mngo at 11:22 AM on October 21, 2009

I guess the hardest thing to understand for me has been that even after the couples' specific needs are addressed, the will to leave the house still isn't very strong. For example, invites to have a game or movie night (inexpensive, wraps up early), or brunch on a Sunday morning seem just as likely to get a "no" (or a last minute flake out) as invites for drinks at a bar.

Hmm. I was coming in here to make all the same points above about how it's easy to stay at home when you really like the person you're coming home to (so the path of least resistance if you want a nice night tilts towards staying in), but this gives me a bit of pause.

One thing it might be is that the partners or spouses don't like a member of the group that is getting together, or are just sort of meh on the dynamics of the group in general. When that happens the likelihood that you get a bunch of "no thanks" for invitations goes up, a lot. It's not necessarily the spouse saying "you can't see those friends," it's more a matter of the spouse declining to go and the friend deciding that it feels weird to go alone, and/or that they don't have the energy to schlep across town alone when they could just stay home and hang out with spouse or with a group of friends that both people like. (This is how you get couple friends: it's the people you hang out with that maybe aren't *exactly* your cup of tea or first choice for BFF, but that both you and your partner like well enough to end up hanging around with a fair amount.)

Are you always aiming the invite at the couple? I wonder if you might have more success inviting just the original friend for a guy's night out [or girl's night out or college buddy night out or whatever your original connection is]. When you're inviting a couple, you're in a situation where either person can kind of veto the night out, which makes it much more likely that both won't show up--I think invites to a couple are often decided on as a couple, whereas invites to the friend directly are going to be decided differently.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:23 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Before the young child, my husband and I would still get out and see friends. But there would be problems over when we could do it and the fact that our friends live way the heck over on the other side of the city. It's a HUUUGE time commitment for us to get over there --- we're talking an hour or more by public transportation, so if we didn't have enough notice, we wouldn't go. Or we'd make an effort as in we'd plan on going, but when it came down to it, much as we would like to spend the hour to get there to see our friends, we wouldn't want to spend the hour to get back.

And since in our particular case, just about ALL of our local friends were on the other side of the city, there wasn't much going on our side of the city. And since my husband only had one day off a week, that compounded things even further. But we still would see friends a few times a month.

Then we had the kiddo, and that just compounds that hour of traveling even more because if the kiddo is not having a good day, then no one is having a good day and it's just easier to deal with the fussiness at home. And now we have to time things so if we're out during nap times there is an opportunity for the kid to actually get a nap and what not. But we still see friends and get out with the babe, just a little less than before.
posted by zizzle at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2009

Going out solo: $100
Going out as a couple: $250

...why not $200? Apps and dessert. And maybe ice cream on the way home. And we need to drop that thing off at the post office on the way. And while we're out we should drop by and see so-and-so, she called the other day. And fill the car with gas. Do we need reservations? I don't want to sit at the bar. Don't wear those shoes, you look like you've been out mud-stomping.

Fuck it, let's stay home and watch The Daily Show.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:25 AM on October 21, 2009 [12 favorites]

I often forget (due to my contentment) how nice it is to socialize. I forget and lump all people in with everybody I know, which includes people who are annoying and boring to be around. I forget how fun it is to hang out with friends.

Strongly seconding this. I always have a lot of fun once I'm out, but it's so easy to forget that when I've had a long day and I'm already at home and cozily ensconced on the couch at home with my books, blankets, and fuzzy pets.

Also, my tolerance for large group activities gets lower every year. I'm not sure this has much to do with partnering up, it's likely more just a consequence of aging. When I was younger, I was very open to outings or parties that involved meeting lots of different people, now I find them loud and grating and not all that much fun. Quieter one-on-one gatherings or very small groups are so much more enjoyable. If you invite me to a big-ass game night with more than a handful of people, I'm going to do the last-minute flake-out. Sorry. I don't really like that I do it either.
posted by anderjen at 11:29 AM on October 21, 2009

It's also a function of age. Around the time most people have 'paired up' they have a lot more demands on their time and energy than they did when they were most likely still single and exploring what they want out of life. Once they get set in their ways, it makes it that much harder to break the pattern and go out - excursions become exercises in herding cats that most folks would rather avoid.

Plus there's, you know, the sex.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:31 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of the reasons above make a lot of sense. Thanks for asking this question, this is really interesting.

Part of it, I think, is that the options have changed. Single, you can do (1) out with friends or (2) home by yourself. Partnered, you can do (1) out with friends or (2) home with your partner. Now, home with my boyfriend is a lot more appealing to me than home by myself.
posted by teragram at 11:32 AM on October 21, 2009

Are you always aiming the invite at the couple? I wonder if you might have more success inviting just the original friend for a guy's night out [or girl's night out or college buddy night out or whatever your original connection is]. When you're inviting a couple, you're in a situation where either person can kind of veto the night out, which makes it much more likely that both won't show up--I think invites to a couple are often decided on as a couple, whereas invites to the friend directly are going to be decided differently.

Well, it's not always the same couple - and to be fair, my observations about "most" couples hit home to me because of the three or four sets of married friends I have that do regularly seem to make time to be social. Really I'm very lucky - because I have a number of good friends in couples I get to see quite regularly.

But it's interesting - because the other friends of these (social) couples will marvel to me that they seem to always have time to hang out with me and my friends. Often, I have found, this is a product of the fact that I am good at catering to couples. The friends who complain overlook many of the things that everyone has mentioned. For instance, they keep inviting the couple out for a drunken debauch or pricey dinners, while I would do a game night or a TV night (and provide the snacks and Netflix myself). Or (and this is the biggest culprit of all), those other friends invite the couple to a social situation in which there was even a hair's breadth of a chance that one or the other of them would run into an ex, or a girl who is known for being particularly flirtatious, etc. Couple radar goes up quickly in these situations, I find - they just want to avoid a fight.

However, even with all my skill at making a safe place for couples to hang, I nonetheless notice that it is still a small fraction of my (numerous) couple friends who manage to make the effort. That's what prompted my question. Because I think I'm really pretty understanding of couples (moreso than most), and I try hard to make it work for them.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2009

I try to keep up with all my friends who live in the same city/area, but it's really hard to plan things when everyone has such different schedules (deadlines, working late, classes, hobbies, etc.). I have standing "dates" with my best friends for regularly occurring shows, events, etc., and try to arrange "general dates" with others ("Let's all be at xxx bar at xx time on Saturday") and keep those fairly loose. I have two friends with whom I have to book our time together four weeks in advance! Luckily they're like me, and know that's the best way to guarantee we'll see each other.

A lot of it is financial, too. Me and Him Indoors are pretty broke at the moment, and even burritos and beers would be a dent in the weekly budget. So we've been inviting small groups of friends over to hang out. We make a big pasta toss and salad, they bring beer/wine, and we sit around and stuff our faces and catch up with each other. And then it's someone else's turn next, so we turn up at their house with a six-pack and eat what they've cooked and hang out there.

But yes, sometimes it's a lot easier to kick off your shoes after a long day at the office/coalface and watch the Daily Show with your beloved. I wouldn't blame anyone for doing that (and am totally guilty of doing it too) -- but I'd be annoyed if I got canceled on at the last minute for the couple to have a "couch date," which might be what you're talking about.
posted by vickyverky at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2009

I'd add that as my wife and I are getting to the "empty nest" stage, we're seriously engaged with friends and social activities. First of all, we've been together long enough that we aren't joined at the hip. We both can make autonomous social choices. Second, our closest friends were either made when we were already a couple or they are shared friendships from college.
The common ground of friendship is way more ephemeral and transitory than we'd like to think, but when you have one that sticks with you through all the transitions, treasure them.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2009

Another thing I think I'm decent at is being friends with both people in the relationship, even if I didn't know the SO to start out with. It's key, I've found, that the couple feel like I am their friend and not his friend (or, heaven forbid her friend).

Still and all, for most couples, it's just not enough.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:50 AM on October 21, 2009

Yeah, I think it's normal, if a bit unfortunate. I have a lot of good friendships. They are very important to me, and I nurture them even while in a relationship. Some of these people are married, or coupled, and they manage to find time for me, still. (Dang, now that I think about it, I suppose the majority of my friends are in couples.) On the other hand, I have had some friendships sort-of disappear, because they found a mate, and no longer wanted to spend time with their friends. This "well, _____ is my favorite person and you're not" stuff. Then, when the relationships ended, or their spouse went away for a week, or they had to bring a non-mate to an event for whatever reason, they just wanted to pick up the relationship where we had left off. Which is pretty gross, really. It also makes me sad because I had assumed that after they distanced themselves from me, they made other great new friends. (I mean, really? We haven't seen each other in six months, and I am the first person you call when you need a night out with the girls? weeeeird.)

Anyway, my opinion (as an extrovert) is that this is kind of dysfunctional. I think that good relationships make your world bigger, and bad ones make it smaller.
posted by cannibalrobot at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there may also be another consideration that has to do with the larger life cycles we go through.

As a general rule, being young is about seeking out more and more stimulation. Boredom is the enemy and life feels like a big empty container we need to fill up, so we go to the loudest concerts we can find, dance until 5 in the morning, hit 3 parties in one night, or just generally try to complicate our lives in interesting ways.

As the 20s and 30s arrive, things change -- the incessant demands of work / grad school / children / being a citizen in a challenging time swirl around us all day long. Now there's too much stimulation, the senses are frayed, the world is too much with us. Words like peace, retreat, simplicity have much more meaning.

Of course, there's also the fact that as friends settle down, social activities tend to be more couples-based ... which is somehow less satisfying, isn't it? It just doesn't have the intimacy, grit, and candor of one-on-one friendship. Which, of course, reinforces the stay-at-home tendency.
posted by dacoit at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

DH and I are terribly guilty of being "One of those..." couples. Here's the deal with us:

1) Both of us are naturally introverted. So while we socialized our fair share before getting together, we weren't known to be at every party.

2) I did all my partying in high school and my early twenties. By the time I got to mid-twenties, I was burnt out and found it more tiring than it was worth.

3) We're kinda skint at the moment and trying to buy a place. All activities, no matter how low key, involve money being spent somehow. As BitterOldPunk pointed out, this can double when there's two along.

4) We just like spending time with each other. Something wrong with that? When you've got work, a business to run, 3 dogs, and an infirm mother to worry about, going out for drinks and whatever is the last thing on my mind. With DH, there is no pressure to be anything but a miserable and tired old codger, if that's what I want to be.

I still keep in regular touch with my friends (as does he) and manage to drag my carcass out for a night out now and again. But these days, I'd much rather stay in with a good book or movie.
posted by arishaun at 11:57 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

They did an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" about this. The "Single Stamina" one, I believe.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:04 PM on October 21, 2009

Some other elements that weigh in on the "stay at home" side of the equation perhaps:
1. You live in a more warm, spacious and comfortable home than you used to. It has more facilities for entertainment too. There is less of a motivation to go and escape it.
2. But to get all that comfort and space you had to find somewhere further out from the city centre where all your friends used to live (and so did your friends you are now in LTRs). So it takes longer and it costs more money to go and visit.
3. You have to meet and deal with so many people at work (and "work" can follow you everywhere you take a Blackberry of course) that some time to enjoy your own company can seem like a good idea.
4. The mortgage you took out to pay for your comfortable home does not leave a ton of extra money left to go.
5. When you are single there is only one person to consider when deciding whether you want to meet up with a friend: you. In a couple you have to consider whether both of you like the friend - as well as this friend's partner/family.

It's all a bit crappy really. However I remember reading that the number of close friends that people have reaches a maximum in the late teens and drops off in middle age before picking up again (somewhat) after retirement. See this book extract for example.
posted by rongorongo at 12:13 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

rongorongo, I find your urban center/urban periphery angle really interesting. I wonder how much of this has to do with the organization of American cities and if maybe the pattern differs in countries where living patterns are not the same. Has the abandonment of the city center (for better schools, lower crime, less smog, etc) led us to be more anti-social as we age? Is this a hidden cost of the generally abysmal state of urban planning in America?
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:16 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Part of it is "couple time" versus "friend time". If we go out on a Friday or Saturday night, we expect to go as a couple. I make time to meet my friends for lunch, a morning run or for an afternoon thing, but I'd probably opt out of a girls on Saturday night unless we both had something to do. Some of the things my single friends enjoy on a Saturday night aren't things we'd enjoy a couple. I decline those invites and try to find another time to get together.

The other thing is coupledom is exponentially more complex than singledom. There are now two calendars, two sets of job stresses, two extended families, two sets of friends to squeeze into the mix. Have you ever heard a couple try to decide where to spend the holidays - his family or hers? Well, if you're not careful ever Saturday can be that way - which friends, which party, etc. Sometimes the simplest and most satisfying thing is to hang out with your partner.

That said, I love it when my single friends stop by, even if it's unexpected and just for a few minutes. It's something they used to do all the time, but stopped when we got together. What's up with that?
posted by 26.2 at 12:32 PM on October 21, 2009

To be honest, I socialize MORE when I'm part of a couple (but only when I'm co-habitating with my SO) because when I'm single or not living with someone, I have to do all of the following, alone:

1. Maintain/clean my house, yard, car (this eats up time and money)
2. Wash dishes/do laundry/cook/shopping (timesuck, finances)
3. Work late at least 2x per week, somehow, infernally, ALWAYS on the days when I've made plans (that must be then canceled)
4. Drive everywhere I go, which is not always amenable to things like happy hours, drinks with friends or bad-weather outings

I also like to work out 4-6x per week. When I am part of a couple, I am far more likely to have others over, entertain, plan girls' nights, go out dancing or meeting up for drinks (as I have a 50/50 chance of driving instead of ALWAYS driving or paying for a cab by myself) or get my SO to "hang out" at events described in #3 above until I can arrive, guaranteeing the chance to see people even if I'm going to be late. I get to share chores, money and driving duties with another person, which makes me twice as likely to go out and gives me a wider range of entertainment/socializing options and frees up a considerable amount of time, assuming my SO isn't a lazy jerk and doesn't travel frequently for work.

So I'd actually disagree with this premise, but I may be the only one since I'm also almost 40 and don't have kids.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:34 PM on October 21, 2009

When I was single, I was terribly distressed to see this behavior in my coupled-off friends. Now that I'm in a relationship, I find myself doing the same reclusive things that used to bug me. I agree with a lot of what's been said above to explain the behavior, but here are a few things I haven't seen mentioned yet:

- Mixed-gender relationships are more awkward now. My SO and I trust each other and aren't the jealous types, and each of us has lots of opposite-sex friendships before we met. Before we were dating, neither of us would have thought twice about going out one-on-one for strictly platonic coffee/beer/whatever with those people, but now it can feel kind of awkward even though there's nothing untoward going on. I hate this, but it's there.

- When I was single, I did a TON more spontaneous activities. Bored on a Friday? I'd call a bunch of friends to hang out. Nowdays I rarely see my friends unless we planned something in advance, because the person I like best is already in the same house with me, ready and willing to hang out and have fun. Trying to call my 20 closest friends to go to a movie (because anyone who doesn't get called will feel left out) feels like too much work. (That said, I think the commitments that come with age have also helped kill of this spontaneity. Even my single friends are often so booked-up that we have to plan a movie night a month in advance.)

- This last one is the biggest one, and the tone of your question makes me wonder if it might not be part of what you're experiencing. The more my single friends complain about us together-types never going out, the more I feel like our simple presence as a couple is offensive to them. Like, just by being there we are rubbing our single friends' noses in the fact that they're single. There are friends I'd love to invite out, but I know they will make noises about being the "third wheel" and it just feels easier to skip inviting them because they wouldn't seem to enjoy hanging out anyway. There are single people who will bombard us with "Where have you been for the past 2 months!" jokes if we go to something they organized, and it just gets old. I've spent a lot of time trying to be inclusive of my single friends and to hang out when they plan things, because I remember so well what it was like to be single and feel like the couples were dropping off the face of the earth, but the ones who insist on commenting all the time about how different things are now tend to get left off the invite list.
posted by vytae at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I tend to be a pretty project-oriented person, and when I'm in a long term relationship a lot of the projects that I work on tend to be things that my SO also enjoys doing. So, a lot of the time that would normally be free to spend time / do things with others isn't because I've chosen to do things that the other person in the relationship enjoys doing as well.

Also, living in proximity to another person ups my need for alone time. I actually end up choosing to spend more time alone rather than calling up friends when i'm in a rel to maintain my mental freshness.

These two things together (the first of which is mentioned a bunch, the second of which isn't) combine to make me less available to people outside of the relationship for socializing. I try to reserve a night a week for seeing friends, though.

(I have ADD and tend to track my time pretty closely so this is fairly accurate at the 'day' level. For what it's worth, I'm not married, and I still socialize with my married friends.)
posted by corprew at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2009

There's a social stigma to being home alone on Friday night. Being at home w/ partner? No stigma.

Single person - 1 call: yeah, I'd love to go to the movies. See you at 7.
Couple - ?? calls: Movies? What movie? What theater? What time? I have to check w/ sweetie. 2. He doesn't want to see that movie. Can we choose a different one? 3. Can we go Thursday instead? Sweetie has to work late tonight. 4. etc.
posted by theora55 at 1:10 PM on October 21, 2009

I think a lot of this comes down to couples who, once coupled, virtually never do anything solo. I've had relationships like that and used to think it was normal and healthy, but I've since realized that expecting one person to fulfill almost all of my social needs and be cooperative in fulfilling the rest is neither realistic nor healthy.

I'm in a couple now and my sweetie and I both make it a point to go out and socialize independently, or even go out of town to visit friends or family solo on occasion. My out of town friends don't see me as much as they used to, but my local friends do. Granted, we're not going out 2-3 times a week because we are doing some cocooning and making love like crazed wombats, but we are still getting out. If my sweetie doesn't like hanging out with one of my friends, that's fine, and she doesn't have to, but I still can and will (as long as they're not giving me reason not to). It seems a lot healthier not to be joined at the hip, even if we do love our little cocoon.
posted by notashroom at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2009

I socialize MORE when I'm part of a couple (but only when I'm co-habitating with my SO) because when I'm single or not living with someone, I have to do all of the following, alone...

That's true for me, too. I'm 41 and single, with no kids. When I was coupled, there were two of us available to handle breadwinning, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, housecleaning, home repairs, errands, laundry, financial planning, etc. Now I handle all of this myself, while still trying to make sure I have enough time left over to work on my various creative projects (which are very important to me). And since I don't drive, I spend a lot of my free time doing things like hauling groceries in a wheeled cart and figuring out public transit routes/schedules.

Sharing maintenance duties with someone else freed up a lot of time, much of which was happily spent socializing. I'd love to socialize more, and I do get out as often as I can these days, but a lot of the time I'm just too worn out. I regularly invite my friends to come visit me in my home - coupled friends as well as single ones - but it doesn't happen as often as I'd like, mostly due to schedule conflicts.
posted by velvet winter at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2009

Keep in mind that in the last x number of years the economy has gotten worse--my partner and I used to go out with friends all the time but for the last year or so we've been hunkering down and not going out as much as we used to.

It's all relative, we still go out, but we used to go out 6 nights a week now we're down to 2 because we have to be cagey with out money.

Also keep in mind that it can be a huge pain in the ass to get 2 people to agree on something, both be in the mood whatever. Couples who are willing to split up are much easier to hang out with then couples where they BOTH need to be in the mood to go to a campy movie at 8pm on a Wednesday.
posted by kathrineg at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2009

I have a need for a certain amount of social contact, or I get grumpy and miserable. When I'm single, after spending a couple of evenings on my own I'm itching to be sociable. When I'm living with a partner, I get much more human contact around the house, so I rarely get to the point where I really need to go out. And I'm lazy, so if I don't NEED to go out I often won't bother.
posted by emilyw at 2:55 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

If my wife and I didn't split up to do stuff we would go out 1/3 as often as we do now. It can be quite hard to motivate yourself to hang out with people you don't really care about or do something that doesn't interest you in your free time. If she's going shopping then at best I'll meet up for food/coffee later on, and if there's a game night happening then she'll either be at home or meeting with a friend of her own. A lot of people don't like to split up and so they only end up doing the stuff that both of them want to do (which results in them staying at home).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2009

This question seems to assume that the coupled-up people start to shut down their social lives. And there is a fair case of that going on.

But I've experienced the opposite, where when people get coupled up, some people in the social circle sneeringly say "oh well he/she has a partner, we'll never see them again!" and then stop inviting them along to things. When the coupled up people are there, its lots of questions and passive aggressive "oh so you love staying in on Saturday nights now?" and "don't ask him how much he can drink, he hasn't touched a beer since he got a girlfriend" etc etc.

All I'm sayin is, it can be a two way street.
posted by Admira at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't know if this has been said yet, but I think that a lot of 'going out' activities (like bars, nightclubs & parties) are actually really fucking horrible & dismal ways of spending time when viewed with even the tiniest bit of objectivity.

They're so crowded & noisy you can barely hold a conversation even if you wanted to, which you generally wouldn't anyway, because everybody is usually trashed. Add to that the hassle of getting there & back, the expense of entry, drinks etc & taxis, the worst toilets known to mankind, bouncers & doorbitches giving you grief, the not insignificant risk of random alcohol-fuelled violence, and a thousand other annoyances, and it's almost always better relaxing at home with a good bottle of wine & your own choice of music than venturing out into that cesspool.

Except, of course, if you have a conscious or unconscious imperative to hook up with somebody, as pinky said in the very first comment. That's about the only reason those kinds of scenes can remain at all viable, other than some peoples' hedonistic streak.

So, part of the answer to your question is another question: are those the kinds of going out activities you are thinking of? Or do you mean something more civilised and potentially enjoyable?

note: i've probably spent as many or more nights in such places as most people, and yeah, it was heaps of fun at the time, but i guess you get over it...
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:47 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

My wife and I spend a lot of time socializing, but we don't do it too far from home. Fortunately, we have quite a lot of friends who live in our general area (within a 15 minute walk). Often we'll do this together, but sometimes separately.

I think the close proximity to friends helps a lot. Oh, that and we're involved in a particularly fun-friendly extended-friends-group who really encourage each other to socialize and enjoy life.

I suspect we probably go out (either out to dinner, bar or club or visit another friend's house) 1-3 times a week, but after reading the answers to this question we appear to be ridiculous outliers. I really value my friendships, and would be pretty sad to see many of them drift away just because they paired off...

We're in our early 30s, and have been together for over 10 years. We are in an open relationship, for what it's worth. ;)
posted by darkshade at 6:11 PM on October 21, 2009

Go out where?

For most of my adult life before I was married, I was in college. In college, hang-out spots were close to institutionalized. First, I lived in dorms, where there was "the lounge." Then I lived off campus and frequented the bars and coffee houses everyone went to. Back then, I often went out just to escape the ratty places where I lived (whereas now I have a nice place).

Now, if I want to "hang out," where am I supposed to go? To a bar? Ugh. I know plenty of older people like bars, but I don't, and I'm not alone in that. To me, bars are 20-something places. The inexpensive ones blast music; the quiet ones sell drinks for $19.

The things I like to do are quiet: read, watch movies, surf the web, talk, etc. If I "hang out," I want it to be in a comfy home where I don't have to be bothered by a bunch of strangers and a dirty bathroom. So I'll hang out with you if you invite me to your dinner party; but I won't hang out with you if want to meet at a club.

I do go to dinner parties, but it's not like people have them every day. You have to clean your place and cook and so on.

Meanwhile, my wife and I have built a nice cave for ourselves. We basically have everything we want at arm's length. I LOVE movies, but I hate going to the theatre (gum on the seat, people talking during the movie, etc). I'm looking forward to buying a big-ass TV so I can get the big-screen experience at home.

I do miss chatting with friends sometimes, but it's chatting online is becoming more and more easy and feature-rich (IM, Skype, Wave, Facebook...), so I feel pretty connected to people. I know that it's not the same as in-person, but after a LONG day at work, when I'm faced with a choice between going back out and staying home with my wife, the latter is usually much more appealing.

Also, even though we're together every night, I feel like I don't have enough time with my wife during the week. We're apart all day at our separate jobs. By the time we get home, there's time for dinner, a TV-show and then bed. We're both exhausted from work, and I don't feel like we connect all that much. So weekends are pretty important togetherness times for us.
posted by grumblebee at 6:23 PM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

To me, bars are 20-something places. The inexpensive ones blast music; the quiet ones sell drinks for $19.

Exactly. And there's an entire economic rationale behind this: inexpensive bars are cheap becuase of high turnover & low overheads. So for a start, they won't be particularly comfortable or well-decorated, because that costs money.

Comfortable furniture also takes up space, meaning fewer punters. So, the cheaper the bar, the more likely you are to have uncomfortable stools instead of, say, nice lounge chairs. But even stools take up space & cost money, so typically you end up with around 80% of patrons standing on a busy night.

When these places get busy, they get hella noisy too. So the solution is to pump up the music to drown out the din. But this has a more important purpose: it makes it impossible to conduct group conversations, and difficult even to talk one-on-one.

The result? Yep, less talking, faster drinking. I bet there's an almost linear correlation between music volume & alcohol sales, and it's not because loud music equals a good time.

Now, this might seem like a happening party place if you're single, because there are so many people about & some of them will inevitably be appealing and tipsy at the very least. But if you're not in the market, then they're nothing but a steaming pile of totally forgettable slurring, shouted 'conversations'. And an immense fucking headache.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 PM on October 21, 2009

My husband and I are like this. Here are our reasons, most of which have already popped up in the thread:

- We like spending time with each other so there's less of a need to spend time with other people. For example, when you are not in a relationship and you feel a need for companionship, you go out with friends. But when you're in a relationship -- at least a good one -- you don't feel a need for companionship hardly at all because you already have companionship. It takes me two to three months for me to think that I want to hang out with someone who isn't my husband. I'm introverted so I'm more likely to want alone time because of the constant companionship than I am to want to spend time with more people.

- There's less crap to deal with when you hang out with your SO. You're comfortable with each other and know what you like and don't like and it's easy to plan something. You also don't have to get all dressed up and go out and try to be punctual for anyone. It's not that I don't like going to the movies with my friends, for example, but it's a lot less of a production to just cuddle up next to my husband in my underwear at home. And if one of us falls asleep it's no big deal, we're not being rude to anyone. We don't have to worry that we're offending anyone if we don't like the movie we watch, or the food we eat, or stuff like that. (Although I tend not to remain friends with people who'd be offended by those things anyway.)

- Planning stuff with other people is a pain in the ass, at least compared to planning something with your SO. When I try to plan stuff with other people they flake out on me, or we have to go back and forth on the scheduling, and it's just exhausting. For whatever reason, I don't have the kinds of friends where I can just say, "Hey, let's go do this right now," out of the blue. This is partly my fault since all my friends are either unemployed bohemian types who can't commit to anything, or people with careers that are too busy. I adore all of them but they don't make it easy to see them.

- And to be honest, I'm not the kind of person who would just go do stuff out of the blue if someone else asked me, anyway. Why? Because my husband and I usually have some tentative plan for the evening, even if it's just to do errands or watch a movie. So that's another reason someone might decline an invitation.

- As we get older (we're both only 25 now) there's fewer things ~out there in the world~ we want to do for entertainment. Movie tickets are $15 each where I live, so we'd rather watch stuff at home. We invite people over because we have a REALLY nice HD projector, but again, people are flaky or busy. Neither of us drink and we've never been the clubbing type. Up until now, our social gatherings have revolved around video games. For whatever reason, our drive to play video games suddenly dropped to nothing around six months ago. And we tried really hard to play them like we used to, but the interest just isn't there anymore. I think we both had this realization that there are more productive ways for us to have fun [NOT VIDEO GAME-IST], which for me is reading and writing and for him is programming. Those are both solitary types of things. I think if I had been the clubbing/drinking type I probably would have grown tired of that around now, instead. I guess this is what people mean by "settling down." It used to always sound dreary to me, but it's really nice in practice. You just find you don't want to do frivolous stuff as much. I think if I were still single I would probably keep on doing those things for companionship, though.

So we don't know what we're supposed to do with our friends anymore. Sometimes your interests grow apart. We try to plan stuff like going to karaoke or the beach, but again, those are too much of a scheduled thing or time commitment for people so we barely make an effort anymore.

- As soon as my husband and I started going out seven years ago, I noticed that people didn't invite us to hang out as much and started turning down our invitations to things. This puzzled me because everyone was fine inviting us to stuff when we were only friends, and we didn't hang all over each other or even act couple-y when we would hang out afterward. Our personalities didn't change either. One of my friends told me they just felt awkward being a third wheel even though we didn't think of him that way at all. So we simply weren't invited to anything unless there were more than a few other people there. I was mildly annoyed by this but I could see why someone might feel awkward.

I've also had my friends (i.e. not people my husband knows too well) feel weird inviting me to hang out without inviting my husband, which is absurd because when I get invitations to hang out and he doesn't, he doesn't care. But people barely ever do it.

We've mostly been stuck hanging out with other couples, the few friends that know better than to feel weird hanging out with us, and then I hang out with the few friends that don't feel weird inviting me to things without my husband. But once you account for people's schedules, and whether they're a couple and prone to the same staying-in that you are, and then whether people are in town in not -- after high school and college, practically everyone we know dispersed across the U.S. -- then I go out with friends maybe once every couple months, at most.

And we don't even have kids or work that comes home with us. If we did, man, I can't even imagine that we'd see anyone.
posted by Nattie at 10:39 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, even though we're together every night, I feel like I don't have enough time with my wife during the week. We're apart all day at our separate jobs. By the time we get home, there's time for dinner, a TV-show and then bed. We're both exhausted from work, and I don't feel like we connect all that much. So weekends are pretty important togetherness times for us.

Ah, yeah, that's another big one. Depending on the week my husband might have to work a little later, and it feels like dinner-and-then-bed and that's it. By the time the week ends we both just want to spend time with each other. Last week we'd actually planned a movie night with another couple who had something important come up, and we were sort of relieved because it meant we could just spend Saturday together. We like them and want to see them, but at the same time we didn't know the week was going to go that way when we planned the night.
posted by Nattie at 10:43 PM on October 21, 2009

Weekends are pretty much the only time my husband and I have enough time and relaxation to have sex, so we try to stay home and do it 3-4 times/day to make up for the rest of the week.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:51 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Once you get hugged up, your motivations and opportunity costs completely change. If you think about it, a lot of the things we do socially are tied to finding a mate. Even if that activity is bowling or going to see a movie. Part of the fun / utility of doing these activities is the potential to meet a cutie in the lane next to you. If you don't go out, you may miss out on that chance encounter with your soul mate. Once you have a mate, that potential is removed from the activity, and it is logistically and financially less burdensome to rent a dvd or play Wii bowling.

I still enjoy going out now that I am married, but doing it frequently is not just a good use of my limited time. Time becomes more valuable as you get older and / or have a significant other.

I think the answer to your questions has a lot to do with economics and opportunities costs.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:29 AM on October 22, 2009

"shadow children"

I don't know how representative I am, but I've been married for 13 years (with no kids or plans to have them), and I don't feel any more like I have children than I did when I was single. I don't have any more desire to have kids than I did when I was single. I also don't feel more connected to friends with children than I did when I was single.
posted by grumblebee at 9:30 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

And to bring money back into it (because I'm a materialist like that) weddings can be incredibly expensive. The thousands of dollars of debt really cramp some people's style.
posted by kathrineg at 10:29 AM on October 22, 2009

Just to chime in -- it's easier to hang out with people when you live with them, regardless of whether you're partnered up. Part of why people wind up being more social when they're younger is that they tend to live communally -- in dorms or coops or with with roommates -- because it's cheaper and easier to make friends. As previous people have pointed out, cohabitating means built in spaces to hang out, which makes socializing that much more convenient.

I love living with my partner but the isolation bit of it drives me crazy. We've compromised by deciding that we'll live together, but only if we're living with other people (currently with two good friends who are also a couple). There are certain friends I don't see as much -- but on the flipside, there are parties pretty frequently (four groups of friends!), there's always someone to have dinner with, and we still get to stay in and watch Buffy whenever we want.
posted by puckish at 8:22 PM on October 22, 2009

I work and my wife stays home; we have four kids. Besides all the nightly stuff that a household requires (laundry every blessed night, sweeping, preparing meals ahead, errands, etc., etc.), we would like to find some time for the person we love. So, you know, even if I didn't need to find a baby-sitter who'd agree to take on our Fantastic Four for less than $50/hour, all week I barely see my sweetheart!

I miss her and I want to be around her...but we're both pretty beat, so we usually do something quiet. Last week she got a DVD from the library: we watched it over two nights since we both needed to sleep. :7) She watched another one last Saturday night that didn't interest me, but I sat next to her and read a book meanwhile.

Our friends with families understand. For example, another family gets together with us some Sundays morning after church, and sometimes we do dinner at each other's house. A couple without kids or a single person might be welcome, but you all seem to be in bed Sunday at 9:30 AM. :7)

Also, my hobbies have changed: I like to geocache (with or without the kids), but that's a daytime thing. Or I take part in my kids' lives, most of which are lived before 8:00 PM. Sorry, singleton, but my life's heading on to the next stage. I have a house to fix up, kids to raise, and if I do go out of an evening I want stimulating talk or a movie, not dollar draft beers.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:14 AM on October 23, 2009

Sorry, singleton, but my life's heading on to the next stage. I have a house to fix up, kids to raise, and if I do go out of an evening I want stimulating talk or a movie, not dollar draft beers.

Okay, I've kind of been holding my tongue lest I derail, but this is kind of the final straw: no one ever said that "spending time with your single friends" ONLY entailed "dollar draft beers."

Those of you who say you have comfortable homes you don't want to leave, or who say that you would rather not go out to a bar -- what's wrong with inviting some of your single friends TO those nice comfortable homes once in a while? I don't even LIKE beer, so that's not what I, as a singleton, want to be doing either. I just miss my friends. I'll do whatever the hell they want to do, I just want to spend time with them because they are my friends. Seriously. My married and coupled friends could even ask me to come over and help them freakin' fold laundry and I'd be estatic -- because I'm seeing people I have missed.

You want to see a movie? Invite some of your single friends along too. I'd LOVE to see a movie with my friends! Married OR single!

You want to stay in and watch a movie? Hey, why not invite so-and-so over to watch it WITh you once in a while?

Now, I'm not saying all the damn time, but...surely there is SOME middle ground between "rowdy parties all the time" and "never talking," isn't there?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sorry, singleton, but my life's heading on to the next stage. I have a house to fix up, kids to raise, and if I do go out of an evening I want stimulating talk or a movie, not dollar draft beers.

Okay, I've kind of been holding my tongue lest I derail, but this is kind of the final straw: no one ever said that "spending time with your single friends" ONLY entailed "dollar draft beers."

The use of the phrase "next stage" was unfortunate, because it implies that the coupled are somehow ahead of the singles. That's bull.

EmpressCallipygos, I have to say that my single friends definitely changed in how they interact with me. The friends who used to call me to meet for a coffee or a pedicure just don't do that any more. As I mentioned up thread, they don't stop by my house casually. I miss that, but I also understand that their lives moved on without me. Now they go for coffee and pedis with their new friend from their soccer team or someone else they met.

When we invite single or coupled friends over for dinner or a barbecue, it's somewhat likely that they already have plans. When I was part of the singles group of friends, we had something of a shared calendar - taking trips together, going to movies, etc. I was likely to be free to host a party when they were free to attend it. Now I'm out of the loop, so it's sort of hit or miss if they'll be free at the same time I am. Once people have kids, it gets even worse. They had better make friends with parents at the kids school, because there's no getting around all the nights that are taken by little league, PTA, scouts, and whatever else kids do.

I still love and cherish my single friends, but we've lost something that we used to have in common - our single status.
posted by 26.2 at 11:14 PM on October 23, 2009

I have to say that my single friends definitely changed in how they interact with me. The friends who used to call me to meet for a coffee or a pedicure just don't do that any more. As I mentioned up thread, they don't stop by my house casually. I miss that, but I also understand that their lives moved on without me. Now they go for coffee and pedis with their new friend from their soccer team or someone else they met.

I guess I'm an anomaly then, because I never stopped trying to ask people out to do things, and never stopped accepting invitations. I just started getting a lot less responses.

Feh. I didn't mean for this to turn into a whole "single-vs.-couples" thing, and I'm sure we could all find good examples for both sides of the argument. Maybe the thing to take away from all of this is:

* If you are a couple and you miss your single friends, call them up and ask them to do something, rather than assuming they're out at the bar, and rather than assuming that going to a bar is all they'd want to do.

* And if you are single and miss your coupled friends, call them up and ask them to do something, rather than assuming that they just want to hole up or that they have to do everything as a unit; and rather than assuming that they only care about homes and mortgages and whatever else.

Nobody will automatically respond to every invitation, of course, but there's no reason to stop those invitations from coming, just because some of you are single and some of you aren't. Sometimes different circumstances isn't what changes a friendship -- sometime it's neglect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:57 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

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