Advice

My BFF got a new friend group during COVID and sometimes prioritizes them and brushes me off. What should I do?

Frustrated girl feel stressed with cellphone problems

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

“Penny” is my closest friend. Before the pandemic, we did everything together. During COVID, I have definitely been more cautious, but Penny never really stopped socializing, dating, or hanging out with people, so while I was hunkered down, she made new friends.

Now our friendship seems to be as strong as ever in that we still are able to talk about personal, hard stuff and confide in each other and have a great time when we hang out. The problem is pinning Penny down.

It’s like now that she has more friends, she doesn’t want to make plans or commit in case something better comes up. Several times she has canceled plans and I’ve found out she was actually out doing something else instead — like a better offer came up so she bailed on me. Recently, for example, she canceled dinner plans, and I saw her in photos on Instagram at a bar with other friends of hers.

Obviously this hurts my feelings and I also think it’s just disrespectful. I want Penny to understand how this is effecting me and I also want her to start prioritizing our friendship again and making and sticking to more plans with me. Do you have advice about how I should approach this?

Wanda says:

I can understand why Penny’s behavior is upsetting, and why you’d feel like confronting her. But I don’t think it will really change things. You know what did change things? COVID. It changed people’s habits, patterns, priorities, perspectives, and our personal lives, too. It sounds like Penny had a very different pandemic experience than you. Now that we’ve come this far, rather than go back to how things were, she’s trying to balance the old with the new, even if she isn’t going about it the right way.

As you describe your friendship pre-March 2020, you and Penny were total BFFs, with little competing interests for either of your affections or time. That’s changed. Penny has a new crew, and while she seems to still want to make space for you, those people she weathered the pandemic with, made memories with, and forged connections with aren’t going away any time soon.

Is it rude that she’s making and canceling plans or leaving you on the hook while she awaits other offers? Sure. It’s also unrealistic to expect Penny will stack her social calendar with commitments to you when she needs breathing room to give her other friendships some air. I would suggest you backpedal on your own expectations and instead of focusing on trying to go back to exactly how things were, find a tempo with Penny that feels realistic given today’s circumstances.

Wayne says:

I think you’re both being selfish and silly, while losing sight of this relationship’s big picture. Penny should not flake on you — that’s totally uncool behavior in any friendship or relationship, much less giving your bestie that treatment. Meanwhile you should dial back all of those hurt feelings and appreciate that this friendship has evolved over a number of unusual years, not overnight, and that Penny’s time and friend energy don’t exclusively revolve around you anymore.

When COVID hit, you built a bubble and she floated out into the world. You both did what you needed to do to get through it. It’s not fair for you to burst out of that bubble upset at her because she made new friends and things aren’t like they were before, because that’s life — crazy stuff happens, change is a constant.

The important thing is that you two remain super-tight, despite the changes, her occasional ghosting, and your occasional meltdowns. Remember, nurture and defend that: you two are too close and have survived too much to let this relationship dissolve or even go off the rails. So tell the person you can tell anything that you love her, you’re grateful for her friendship, and that you’re glad that she’s found even more happiness in her life. And while you understand that she doesn’t have the same amount of time for you that she used to, it is disappointing when she flakes on you. Share that she can be honest with you if she doesn’t have energy, interest or availability to lock in plans. And let her know that you’ll always be there for her, just like you know she’ll be there for you when you need her most. That will not magically transport you back to those pre-COVID days of regular friend fun, but it hopefully reminds you both of the importance and intimacy of this friendship.

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@alaskadispatch.com.

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