By Esther Mann, LCSW
My friend Sandy and I have been the best of friends since grade school. We’ve always had a lot in common. To begin with, we were both from divorced homes. We understood one another as few others could. But that was only a small part of it. We both have similar senses of humor. We enjoy singing and dancing, participated in school productions together, and in general always had a special connection.
We both had some other friends, but the two of us were “besties.” We went to the same schools, the same camps, and the same yeshiva in Israel.
When we got back from Israel, friends naturally started getting engaged. At first the weddings were so exciting for us. We couldn’t wait to show up, dance, and be happy for our friends getting married. As time passed and we got older and went to more weddings, it stopped being quite as exciting. Honestly, at one point, we started dreading always being the guest and never the bride.
Eventually, there were very few of us single women left besides Sandy and me. We both turned 30 this past year and started talking about the possibility of maybe never marrying. We discussed things we would do together if that came to be. Travel the world together, maybe buy a great house together on a beachfront property. We fantasized a lot.
But on a more grounded note, our lives were very connected. Sunday mornings we had a ritual of meeting for breakfast and afterwards either going shopping or catching a movie. We always hung out together on Sundays. Though we both work full-time, we checked in with one another several times a day by phone. If anything great or awful happened, Sandy was the first person I thought to call, and vice versa.
A couple of months ago a miracle happened. I met a wonderful man, Barry. It was such a chance encounter, but the details don’t matter. What does matter is that we really hit it off and we’ve already started talking about getting engaged and, G‑d willing, getting married. Of course, I’m thrilled beyond my wildest dreams. But here’s the problem: Sandy.
Ever since it became clear that Barry and I had a future together, Sandy has been pulling away. She’s acting really weird and uncommunicative. She comes up with excuses for not getting together on Sunday anymore. The truth is that I’m not available every Sunday, and not for the full day, but I’d still love to have breakfast with her whenever I can. She doesn’t answer many of my phone calls, and when I do get through, she ends the conversation very quickly.
I’m not stupid; I realize how hard this all must be for her. I feel awful, though not awful enough to throw away Barry. I still want to be her best friend and stay closely connected to her. I am trying to figure out a way to continue to grow in my relationship with Barry and still have Sandy as my best friend. But she is blocking this. I’ve tried numerous times to get her to sit down with me and talk about how this is affecting her and what I can do to make it easier for her. But she just won’t go there with me.
This is not the Sandy I know and love. I try to put myself in her shoes and wonder how I would react if she met a guy and I was still single. I’m sure it would throw me for a loop, but I believe I would still want her in my life and try my hardest to figure it out. I still want to be best friends. Can’t a married woman and a single woman still be best friends?
I just don’t know what to do at this point. Do you have any suggestions?
First of all, let me wish you and Barry all the best. I hope the two of you always enjoy much happiness together. Meeting Mr. Right is always exciting. Meeting Mr. Right after you’ve sort of resigned yourself to it never happening is that much more thrilling. It’s magical!
Now for the Sandy discussion. It’s abundantly clear that Sandy is handling this situation very poorly. And the reasons are understandable. Though I have no doubt that she still loves you and wants the best for you, it must feel to her as though her life is unraveling at the core. Life as she knows it has turned upside-down for Sandy.
Though you have been able to transition much of your attention to a new player—Barry—she is left with a distinct void and no one to fill the newly created hole where you used to reside. It’s a lot to manage gracefully. She must be feeling sad, lonely, frightened, and even a bit disoriented.
Right now, Sandy needs time to digest and regroup. I suggest that you continue to keep in touch, leave messages if she doesn’t answer the phone, and find ways to let her know you still are thinking about her and care about her, but give her space to figure things out. Since the arrival of Barry must have felt like a bomb went off, she needs time to lick her wounds and decide what her new life will look like.
At this time, try not to judge her or even to have many expectations from her. Her immediate actions will not necessarily reflect what her behavior will be once the dust settles. Even though her behavior toward you is personal, try not to receive it that way. It’s so much more about her than about you.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve tried talking to Sandy in order to give her a chance to express her pain. Right now, she’s not ready to go there. Hopefully, the day will come when she’ll be able to express to you how it feels to be the last one standing. And when she’s ready to talk about it, I hope that she turns to you as her confidante.
The two of you have such a long and loving history together. I have to believe that with time, you will come together once again as strong friends. Obviously, the friendship will look a little different, but there is no reason why a married woman and a single woman cannot still be best friends. Look around—it exists everywhere.
Meanwhile, try to view this time period as a transitional phase that both you and Sandy must go through. Adjustments have to be made, dreams revamped, and the situation must be honored and accepted for what it is. I believe that Sandy will eventually decide to get with the program. When that happens, I am hopeful that you will welcome her back into your life and your home with open arms, free of any judgment or recrimination.
Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Lawrence. Esther works with individuals and couples. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-314-2295.