Over the course of my life I've had two or three best friends, relationships that ended for one reason or another. Although I have a good marriage with a wonderful man, I've always felt incomplete without a best friend. Four years ago I bonded with someone who had been an acquaintance for years, and we are BFFs today (we are both 60). We spend every Monday together, from noon till 3AM or later, and share so much. It's like being roommates for that one day, and she has my full attention.
Two years into our BFF-hood, my friend showed rapidly worsening symptoms that turned out to be non-remitting (progressive) multiple sclerosis. We have coped with that together and still do so every week. My dilemma is this. Years ago my husband and I used to travel around in an RV and loved it. In a couple of years he will be in a position to take larger chunks of time off again and we want to buy another motor home and travel. Even though this isn't going to happen immediately, I already feel guilt about leaving my BFF for long periods. She has come to depend on me for so many things, not just physical but emotional. I really worry that she will spiral downward when the time comes for me to spend 100% of my time with my husband.
BFF has acquaintances but no other close friends. Her family is far-flung and not close, and her MS has caused most people to cultivate an arms-length relationship with her. I don't think this is a common situation but if you have any insights or advice I would be receptive to hearing them. How can I prepare myself and BFF for the changes that are to come? I can't stand the thought of losing another best friend.
You are anticipating the loss of---or, at minimum, major changes in a very special friendship. Your anxiety is understandable because whatever the circumstances, it's always hard to move on and leave close friends behind. You're also beginning a new phase of your life, one outside of your own comfort zone, which is somewhat akin emotionally to an adolescent leaving the nest.
Perhaps, you and your BFF will no longer be Monday "roommates" but there is no reason why you can't still remain friends. You can stay connected through emails and phone calls, and you can schedule face-time together when you come home between your periods of travel. You can even send your BFF picture postcards (remember them?) so she can experience your travels vicariously.
Have you already spoken to your BFF about your impending travels? If you haven't, you should openly share your concerns and anxieties with her. I'm sure that she will understand that there are many twists and turns in relationships as our lives change, and you'll both feel better after having the talk.
While your BFF won't be able to depend on you in the same way, let her know that you'll be there for her. Perhaps you can also help her line up supports (either in-person or virtual ones) through a local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or other community organizations. You're right: Having a chronic illness or disability is challenging and making friends under those circumstances can be difficult. But I suspect others will see the same person whose strengths you have grown to admire.
At the same time, begin to think about the adventures you'll have on your trips and all the new friends you'll meet on the road.
Hope these thoughts are helpful.
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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 new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.
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