Hi Dr. Levine,
I have a friend who was my closest friend for about seven years. Recently, my husband and I moved to town to be closer to her and her family, along with some of my family, too. At first, everything was perfect; we spent nearly every day with each other, had dinners together, went shopping together, and became closer than ever. A few months after the move, things became complicated.
For the past seven years, she and I were basically one another's only friends; we didn't really spend time with any one else. I met another girl my age and really hit it off with her. When this new friend decided to move closer to us, my husband and I began to help her and her husband pack up their house and move. During this time, we all became sick with the same sinus infection. Since my friend was pregnant and I was sick, I let her know I was sick and didn't want to share my illness with her, but I also continued spending time with my new friend, since we both already had the same cold.
As time passed, I started to see that my old friend wasn't calling as often, that she was avoiding my calls, and that we weren't invited over anymore. I called twice a week for several weeks to let her know I missed her and wanted to see her again, but received no response. Then, the day before moving day for my new friend and her family, I received an email message. The message informed me of how neglectful I had become and that she expected to never see me again once the other friend moved to town.
She basically pinned large amounts of blame on me. Instantly, I contacted her and left a message, which she responded to by calling me back. We talked and I thought everything had been worked out. I still call her several times a week to try and make plans, but I keep getting responses about how her life is so busy and her husband has to work late, so we can't get together. I've even gone so far as to try and plan things weeks or months out into the future and even then I get the response, "We don't have anything planned, but something might come up." I feel like I'm being pushed away and I don't understand why. What am I doing wrong?
Living on Rocky Road
Dear Living on Rocky Road,
A seven-year friendship has to hold many memories so I can understand how painful and tense this situation must be for you both. It sounds like your friend had gotten used to being your one-and-only and is having a hard time sharing you with another friend. You've tried to be sensitive to her feelings and have made several efforts to open the lines of communication between you but she hasn't been able to get over feeling "jilted." You aren't doing anything wrong, in particular, but your friend is feeling very hurt.
It sounds like you care about her and value the relationship. So approach her directly and ask he if she is backing away from you. Tell her you have no intention of replacing her; she is still very special to you. Offer to spend time together as a twosome or as a threesome with your new friend, whichever she would prefer. Ask her if she is fatigued or concerned about her pregnancy. If she doesn't respond, you may need to step back and give her time to work her problem through on her own.
You may want to read another recent post on the blog: Does a 'best friendship' need to be monogamous? It points out the different ways women think about fidelity in their friendships with other women.
Hope this is 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 and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-up With Your Best Friend, that will be published by Overlook Press in September, 2009. She recently co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008). She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.