My best friend, Maria*, beamed at me over pizza last year. ‘I’m moving in with Mo*!’ she said. I knew I should be jumping up to hug and congratulate her, but I couldn’t. I faked as much excitement as I could. ‘‘Oh my god, amazing!’ I replied. ‘Just six months after meeting him… wow!’
But what I was really thinking was: ‘This is the end of our friendship. I’ve officially lost you.’
Maria and I had been friends for 17 years, since we met at secondary school aged 11. We were always in touch, meeting up at least once a fortnight, and calling each other most days to catch up, rant and laugh about our lives.
When she met her boyfriend Mo last year, I was genuinely thrilled for her. My first impressions of Mo were great. He was kind and it was obvious they were happy together – Maria couldn’t stop smiling whenever she spoke about him. But a few weeks into their relationship, things between Maria and I took take a strange turn.
She became 'too busy' to meet up or talk on the phone. She replaced drinks with me for hanging out with Mo and his friends. And when I did get to see her – about once a month – it was for a ‘girly night in’ where she spent the whole time texting him.
Here’s the thing: Mo was her first serious boyfriend. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend when they met but, even when I was in a long-term relationship, I still saw Maria regularly. I needed our chats and quality time together as well as time with my boyfriend – but Maria didn’t seem to need me at all now that she had Mo.
Despite feeling rejected, I tried to keep our friendship going. Maria and I have been friends for so long that I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life. I called and suggested meeting up and going out, just like before. But she never seemed interested.
She also didn’t seem to really listen when I talked about whatever was going on in my life – whether it was about work or my break-up or the latest drama with my divorced parents. All she seemed to want to talk about was Mo. It hurt. After four months, I started to feel really lonely, at a time when I needed her more than ever.
We’d both previously cringed at girls who dropped their mates when they got a boyfriend. She’d even moaned to me about a colleague doing the same thing to her a year earlier. But Maria couldn’t see that she was becoming exactly like those people we’d always complained about.
I thought about bringing it up with her, but it felt too awkward. I confided in other friends, but they got tired of me complaining. I stopped talking about it, but the feeling didn’t go away – it got worse. Instead of just being upset that Maria didn’t have as much time for me as she used to, I was irritated by everything she did. Once, she cancelled on me when I had a cold because she ‘didn’t want to catch my germs’, and I felt so rejected. She left my birthday party early to go and see Mo – and I was angry for days.
It soon escalated into a deep resentment. I wasn’t jealous that she had a boyfriend – I was jealous of Mo. He was her new best friend.
My jealously showed in ways I’m embarrassed to admit. I made digs, muttering ‘typical’ when she said she couldn’t see me. I knew I was being immature so I’d try to backpedal by turning these awkward moments into jokes, but it didn’t work. The distance between us grew.
By the time she told me she was moving in with Mo, I felt like I didn’t really know her anymore. The same person who had told me commitment made her feel sick six months ago was now talking about living with a boy, and even marrying him one day. I couldn’t wrap my head around the change.
And so the next time we met up - our first night out drinking together in months - everything came bubbling to the surface. ‘I feel like I never see you anymore,’ I yelled at her on the dancefloor. ‘You’ve changed.’ She immediately went on the defensive, telling me I wasn’t making enough effort with her.
It was a complete disaster. After an hour of arguing, I broke down and started crying. Maria stopped yelling. ‘I just really miss you’, I told her. She said it back, and we hugged. We told each other that we’d always be friends, and guys would never get in the way again.
The next morning, I woke up feeling relieved. I thought we’d finally fixed things, and now that she was aware of how I felt, she would make more effort with me.
Mo had become a priority for her in a way that I would never be. I realised that her ‘anti-commitment’ attitude had probably just been a way of hiding her true desire for a serious life partner. She had found that in Mo, and now she didn’t need me in the way she used to.
It’s been a few months since they moved in together now, and things haven’t changed.
But I’ve started to accept it. It’s hard, and I still get annoyed – especially when I think about the fact that they could break up, and how she'll probably expect me to be there for her like in the old days. But I just remind myself that this is what she wants. She is happy.
I’ve made new friends, ones who are in relationships and ones who aren’t, and they all make time for me.
Maria will always be important to me, and our drunken argument that night in the club showed me that she does still care – it’s just different now.
*names have been changed
As told to Radhika Sanghani
This article was originally published on 13 February 2018.