All Of A Sudden, All My Friends Are Getting Engaged And Having Babies

Do you feel like the pandemic has amplified all those around you moving on?

Although it’s inevitable that all your friends will get married and have babies at different times, Denise Curtin looks at ways to cope when you suddenly feel like you’re the one falling behind.¬†

I think there comes a point in everyone’s life when they get hit by that sudden realisation that all their friends are growing up. It could be the first baby, another wedding invite or a conversation surrounding an air fryer, but when it happens, oh boy, does it hit.

I always think of that scene in Bridesmaids when Lillian (Maya Rudolph) tells her best friend Annie (Kirsten Wiig) that she’s getting married. Thrilled to be finally sharing her happy news, Lillian rings her fianc√© to inform him that Annie is “so happy” for them – to which Annie blurts through gritted teeth “no, I’m not!” Seven years ago that scene flew over my head without a second thought, but oh, how it later aged like a fine wine. The older I got, the more relatable it became to my life and the more common I realised the scenario was.

Watching friends get married and have babies can feel like a cocktail of overwhelming happiness mixed with a dash of worry, a pinch of sadness and a shot of stress. Yet it’s rarely talked about because it often comes hand-in-hand with guilt. Guilt for feeling anything other than joy during a pretty incredible moment in someone else’s life. If this sounds familiar then it’s important to know a few things. Firstly, that you’re not alone. Secondly, that’s it’s normal to feel a whole wreath of emotion when your friends move on. As women we tend to shape our identities off our friends and so, when we see them moving on without us, it’s natural to feel a little off-kilter. And lastly, knowing that there are ways to celebrate other’s major life milestones without feeling like you’re “falling behind”.

Now, contrary to the movies this time, coping with these feelings doesn’t actually involve you shouting “I object” at your best friend’s wedding, or frantically trying to find someone to date. It’s about understanding that life is not a race and it’s certainly not linear. When you’re younger, there’s definitely a sense of comfort in looking at your life and it appearing similar to your friends. From going to the same school to the same college, sitting the same exams, to dating at the same rate, you feel assured that you’re doing the right thing because others are at your pace. But as you get older, it’s natural for paths to begin diverging. When my friends started announcing their engagements it definitely gave me a moment of panic thinking “oh my god, we’re at ‘that age'”, a moment that could have easily sent my down a spiral thinking about how long it’ll be before I get engaged if I didn’t remind myself that that’s not where my life is at right now. And realistically, it’s not where I want it either.

“Anytime you compare yourself to other people, the only result is misery,” explains¬†psychotherapist Trish Murphy. “When you compare yourself to other people, you’re mostly comparing yourself to the people closest to you. And occasionally you’ll feel great because you’re doing better then them – like in work, but often, you’ll compare yourself on what they have that you don’t and you’ll feel lesser as a result.” Explaining that comparison can not only lead to feelings of sadness and anger, but Trish adds that when you build resentment towards your friends and what they have that you now deem “important” for your life too, you only end up hurting yourself.

At this moment in time, when life kind of feels like it’s on standby, and everyone is undoubtedly at their most vulnerable, it’s never been easier to look at those getting engaged and married on social media and worry about where you are in tandem. With less to do and everyone’s screen time higher than ever before, it’s important that you’re away of how it could be affecting you now more so than ever. “If you find yourself in a place where you feel like you’re falling behind, you should limit your social media. So it would be a really good idea to limit it to twice a day for no more than 20 minutes,” explains Trish. Continuing, she adds that by setting a time on your social media intake, you’re keeping “in control” of how much you consume and then you can spend the rest of your day “focusing on the things you can do for yourself.”

Now we all know that it’s easier said than done, but hours spent doomscrolling is only holding you hostage in a negative headspace. And let’s be honest, can you remember the last time you felt happiness from scrolling through what others were doing online? Like, of course we want a good creep though the pics of Sinead’s new car and Deirdre’s engagement ring, I mean it’s nice to have an ol’ gawk every now and again, but if you close the app feeling lesser about yourself, then it’s time to reevaluate its use.

“Self-compassion is absolutely necessary, not just for when you start to compare yourself to others, but in general, when dealing with this whole pandemic, we all need to be kinder to ourselves” says Trish. Explaining the importance of understanding that your allowed to feel every emotion under the sun, she adds that you should try to see your feelings for what they are and then let them go. “Know that your thoughts are not you, if you break your finger, you don’t think you’re broken, but if you have a bad thought you think ‘oh my god, I’m losing it,’ so it’s about realising that your thoughts are going to do these things and make you feel certain ways, particularly if you’re on your own and if you’re feeling lonely.” But what’s important to remember is that you’re not defined by these thoughts, you’re not a bad person because you feel a little bit sad by someone else’s good news and you certainly shouldn’t feel the need to judge yourself based off fleeting thoughts.

And really, the moral of the story is that fixating on what others have won’t make you feel any better. Of course, it’s petrifying to watch those you love move on, trust me, I’ve been there and I’m still there. But letting yourself believe that you’re falling behind can in fact, hold you back from cultivating your own future. It’s so easy to deep dive into the lists of things that seem to make other people happy, but it’s when you stop and think about what’s meaningful to you, in your life right now, that you start to realise you’re right on track.