We’ve all had that friend. You know the one: the moment he or she gets in a romantic relationship, everyone else in their life might as well cease to exist. They forget about previously made plans they had, weekly rituals you shared, or seem incapable of returning a single phone call. It’s annoying at best, incredibly hurtful at worst. Most people acknowledge we’ve experienced that feeling of being left behind by a friend who suddenly found “something better.” But what’s harder for us to admit is that, at one time or another, many of us have been that friend.
I know I have.
Years ago, I started dating the guy of my dreams. He was seriously great, and after a series of pretty terrible relationships I couldn’t believe that I was getting the fairy tale I’d always wanted. In fact, so many of my past romances had been so dysfunctional that I had intentionally spent a few years not dating at all. In that time I had the tremendous benefit of forging deep and meaningful friendships with my girl friends. Those years had been wonderful, and my girls and I had been there for each other through thick and thin. I loved them so much. But when Eric and I began dating, I was so excited that I began treating my friends as second-best.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never rude or mean. It was much more subtle than that. It was never having time to sit and listen to them spill their guts. It was looking at my phone every 30 seconds when I was with them because I was waiting for him to call. It was being reluctant to spend much time with them at all, because it took away from time spent with him. And then the kicker.
The night Eric surprised me by proposing, I couldn’t wait to tell my roommate. I practically burst into her room shouting, “we’re engaged!”, expecting her to share completely in my delight. The reality was not exactly what I had expected.
She was shocked, utterly and completely shocked. (We had only been dating a few months, after all.) When she regained her composure, she did her best to express enthusiasm; she said all the right things, asked to see the ring, drummed up every ounce of spirit she could muster. When I mentioned we’d be getting married in the next few months, I could tell that my words were a punch in the gut.
“So,” she began warily, “so what about our plans to move to Kansas City and live together in August?”
I shifted uncomfortably. “Well yeah, I guess I can’t do that.”
She recovered well enough to move on, but was visibly disappointed for weeks before sitting me down to talk it over. When that happened, I did my best to listen understandingly, but inside I was secretly thinking she was being pretty selfish. Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t until a year or two later that I realized I was the selfish one. I had delivered this news, news that drastically affected her life too, and expected her to have the same reaction I had even though she was only losing from it.
Sure, no one can be expected to revolve serious relationship plans completely around their other friendships. But I could have delivered the news more delicately. I could have let it be a conversation rather than a monologue. I could have been more intentional about sympathizing with the fact that my happiness put her in an unexpected bind. I could have at least asked her how she felt, or acknowledged that it was hard for her. There are so many things that a better friend would have done in that situation, but I was so blinded by love and my own selfishness that it didn’t occur to me to look at it from my best friend’s point of view.
She and I managed to remain friends despite that rough patch, and are still good friends today. We can look back and laugh about our own huffiness during that time and I’m certainly grateful for a relationship that can move on and not take itself too seriously. But at the same time, I do have regrets about the kind of friend I was. But the good news is that I’m learning from my mistakes and vowing to do better from here on out.