Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’ve been friends for years with “Jessi.” I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of friends; instead, I have a small circle of people I really trust, and Jessi has always been in that circle, since high school. Neither of us were very popular back then, and we always had things in common — we both always struggled with weight issues, loved to read, grew up in single-parent households, etc. Our friendship was always very easy because we just have always understood each other really well.
In the past year, Jessi joined a gym and lost a ton of weight, and entered into what’s really her first major, serious relationship. And our friendship changed. Some of it was small stuff — like, we used to go out to dinner together at least a couple times a week, and now that she’s really changed how she eats, she’s let me know she doesn’t want to do that any more. We adjusted — more coffee meet-ups, the movies. But as she got more serious about her boyfriend, she has had less time for me. Even that, I could probably deal with. The problem, though, is she will make plans and then bail at the last minute. And I do mean last minute — twice this past month she canceled when I was already at the destination where we were going to meet.
I’m so angry about it now that I’ve stopped saying yes to any invitation from her. So far, she hasn’t seemed to notice I’m doing that. I don’t know if I should just get over it already and deal with the fact that the “new Jessi” is going to be a flake, or if I confront her with the fact that I feel like she is putting her boyfriend above me and our friendship and her cancellations are disrespectful. Thoughts?
I hate to break it down like this, but Jessi is most definitely putting her relationship above your friendship — and that’s perfectly OK, depending on how she goes about it (spoiler: she’s doing it wrong).
Part of making a relationship succeed is making it a priority. This may mean we generally have less time to spend with friends. It may mean our significant other gets first crack at playing wingman for weekends away, holidays, and road trips — events where, in the past, as a single gal, your pal might have invited you to tag along instead. But prioritizing a partner does not mean one should treat her friends like runners-up or back-up options, which is what Jessi appears to be doing with you.
Just rejecting all invites from here on out doesn’t solve the problem, and it could cost you what sounds to be the most meaningful friendship in your life for some time now. Try this instead: next time Jessi suggests a meet-up, politely accept, but also ask her to doubly confirm this time will work out for her, as you’ve lately noticed a trend of late cancellations; and while you understand sometimes things will come up, your goal is to make plans with her that can generally be kept.
This is a less-direct and kinder way of pointing out your disappointment and the behavior pattern, and in a gentle way, puts Jessi on notice that, yes, you’ve noticed what she’s doing here, and you aren’t down with being treated that way.
Someone has to be the adult here, and it’s not going to be your punch-drunk-in-love friend anytime soon. She can’t even see clearly right now, much less think straight or conceive of any plan that pulls her out of the OMG orbit of her magnetic mister. So, I guess you have to be the big kid — unless you prefer not being in your friend’s life anymore.
Saying no to her invites isn’t going to get you back together again. And neither is telling her how annoyed you are about being put on the back burner to her dreamy boyfriend.
So how about this? Accept this as the new normal. I know — tough pill to swallow, especially when your friend isn’t helping the transition by being extra-flaky. But this is what happens in adult friendships. They evolve, they even fall apart. Friends move, fall in love, get important jobs, adopt dogs and have kids and at some point, your priority level will shift or drop.
The key is finding that sweet spot where you can maintain a super-solid friendship and communication with the select amount of time and energy that life allows you two to have together while also appreciating that things will never be the same again. This doesn’t mean you won’t be her tightest girlfriend, partner in crime or confidant anymore. It just means it will probably feel that way and you definitely won’t talk and hang out as much anymore.