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Dr. Irene S. Levine

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Change of Plans? My BFF Fell in Love With My Roommate

Posted: 10/14/10 09:07 AM ET

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm 22, and my best friend Allie and I have been friends for 11 years. We went to middle and high school together, and stayed incredibly close despite four years at different colleges in different cities, and a year in different countries. We have traveled many times together, and decided last year that in October 2010 (post-college graduation), we would go on a year-long trip together, working on different farms throughout the United States. I thought our friendship was incredibly resilient, but now I'm not so sure.

In January, my roommate Paul (who's a good friend of mine) came to visit me while I was in our hometown and met Allie. They hit it off and started dating, and have been doing the long distance thing since February. It's going really well -- they are in love, and they make time to see each other and make it work. They are currently on the East Coast, so Allie can meet Paul's family. This is Allie's first relationship, first time being in love, and it's really important to her. As might be expected in this situation, I feel like I've been shafted.

I felt like I put in lots of effort to see her, and she put in very little effort to see me. She has never been good at balancing things, and now with a boyfriend and best friends in two different cities (me and a friend from college), she's predictably having trouble balancing. I've talked to her multiple times about how I am feeling, but she hasn't really been putting effort into our relationship. Basically, I'm not as important in her life any more, which is just something I have to deal with. She isn't really doing anything wrong, but the way things are working out is still hurting me.

To some extent, however, we've worked through this. What is still an issue, however, is that we are leaving for our year-long trip in a month. The status of her and Paul is somewhat up in the air and undecided, and I'm terrified her heart won't be in this trip that we've been planning for 14 months now. She says she's on board and as excited as I am, but I know leaving Paul is a loss for her. I have a very uncomfortable tangle of emotions related to her, her relationship, and this trip. I've been distancing myself somewhat subconsciously so as to try not to be hurt. I don't know if she hasn't noticed or doesn't care, but our relationship is clearly not what it was. We used to text little minutia to each other, jokes and the things that make a friendship, but I don't even like doing that any more because it hurts me when she doesn't respond.

I don't like admitting it, but I think there is some jealousy involved -- jealousy at the place Paul has taken in her life that used to be mine, jealousy of the relationship that she has that I don't. This makes me feel horrible -- I don't want to be anything but supportive of this thing that is making her so happy. But there is something unsaid between us, and it's wearing on me. It hurts me to think that all this negative mental energy is a result of jealousy -- why can't I just be happy for my friend and her happiness?

How can I restore our friendship, or at least stop feeling so bad when I think about her or speak to her? I just want this trip to be as fulfilling and incredible as we've always imagined it to be. Is that even possible? Am I being overly sensitive or does she hold some responsibility as well? Please help me gain some perspective.

Signed,
Christie


ANSWER

Dear Christie,

Obviously, this friendship has been important over the years to both you and Allie. It's normal to feel a sense of loss (and some jealousy) when your best friend falls in love with your roommate. Now your two friends have a different kind of bond with each other that makes you feel like the odd woman out.

As you've said, it's natural that Allie would want to spend more time with Paul than with you. But having insight doesn't make it hurt less. You need time to adjust to the change. You also need to reallocate your time and spend more of it with other girlfriends.

But I think it is the upcoming trip that has you rattled and I understand your anxiety. It sounds as if Allie made this travel commitment to you before she met Paul. Understandably, she may have misgivings now about being away for a year. I think you have to talk to her about the upcoming trip to make sure she's still on board. If she isn't, you need to give her an escape clause. Otherwise, the trip won't be fun for either of you and may damage your friendship.

You need to give Allie time and space to work out her relationship with her boyfriend vis-à-vis the rest of her life. A first love can be totally consuming but it doesn't lessen your shared history or her fondness for you. Whether or not Allie and Paul remain a couple, she will have more time for friendships (and hopefully recognize their importance) in the future.

Unfortunately, as you suggest, this turns out to be more of a problem for you than it does for her. I think you can have a heart-to-heart with Allie to explain that you feel a sense of loss although you are happy for her. You might also see if you can figure out some way to get together regularly so you can stay connected.

Again, I think the critical issue is clarifying whether or not the trip is something that feels right for both of you at this time. That has to be making you edgy.

Hope this is helpful.

Best,
Irene


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Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her recent book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.

 
 
 

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