Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman’s life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we’re considering the role of friendship in the lives of single and married women. Read Elizabeth’s essay about friendship in her life as a single woman here and Lucy’s about friendship in her life as a married mother here. Today, they respond to each other’s experiences.

Elizabeth (single) to Lucy (married)

I was struck by your experience of feeling out of place among your single friends. I wonder if my friends who were the first to get married felt similarly. It seems universal that as women we look at each other and compare our situations to each other’s. I wonder if our tendency to compare ourselves to our friends’ situations comes from a better place than we give ourselves credit for. We’re friends with people because we admire them on some level. What if our tendency to compare ourselves is actually rooted in admiration? Imagine if, instead of looking at our friends’ lives and thinking “I can’t do that or don’t get to do that,” we look and think, “Is there some way I can develop the character trait I’m observing in their life right now?” It’s something I want to try in my own life.

I was also touched by how much your friends are part of your ordinary life in marriage through weekly dinners, helping with moving, and babysitting your kids. I can see how it feels like you’re taking more than giving, but I’d say at least in my life, time in a friend’s family home is giving me something. It’s a chance to experience the life I’m hoping to one day live. But even more than that, it’s a break from the social scene which can feel transient, even superficial sometimes, and certainly exhausting. In my friends’ family homes, I often feel I can breathe a sigh of relief—I feel I don’t have to seek to impress in the same ways the dating and social scenes require. The presence of kids certainly helps that, but even the acceptance of my friends and their husbands gives me that relief, too. In that way, you’re giving to your single friends, too, I think. So keep inviting them into your home when you can!

Lucy (married) to Elizabeth (single)

I’m glad you brought up life’s administrative tasks as one of the ways it’s difficult to be single—because even as I admired my single friends’ independence and courage, I don’t think I was giving them enough credit for handling those sorts of things on their own (especially since it’s coming to light just how much they contribute to burnout). My husband and I struggle to keep up with all of that ourselves, even though it certainly is easier for sharing the load.

It also struck me when you wrote that you and your single friends are navigating uncharted territory. I’ve always been grateful that I met Sam so young, but it never occurred to me how my parents—who also married young—may or may not have been able to be a solid support if I’d been single and navigating the (often technology-driven) dating scene longer.

Finally, as you described the changes that have occurred in your friendships as your friends get married, I realized that even as a married woman, this will likely be the case for me with my two closest friends, too. At the same time that I’m excited for my friend Claire to meet someone and get married, for example, I realized I’m also grateful for her sheer availability right now (which she so willingly spends on me and my family!). And on that note—it was nice to read that you appreciate spending time with your friends’ families. It is so encouraging to know that it’s truly mutually enriching!