Hi, Carolyn:

Do you think a female-female friendship can threaten the intimacy of a romantic relationship? I'm extremely close with my best friend since childhood. In fact, we're so close that I often think of her as a sibling rather than a friend; she's my most trusted confidante. Whenever something happens in my life, my instinct is to call her and tell her about it, to get her advice, to vent, whatever is needed. But whenever I start dating someone, I either do a bad job of keeping that regular contact with her and she feels neglected, or I don't do a good job of letting my S.O. into my head by sharing those same kinds of details.

She is an amazing friend, but sometimes I worry my dependence on her keeps me from reaching real intimacy with a romantic partner. Do you think the two relationships are mutually exclusive?

An Old Friend

Only if they independently want to exclude each other.

Touchy subject. If friends were ever to unionize, protecting their jobs against romantic competition would be among their top demands -- so by laying even partial blame here on your friend, I'm asking for it.

But if she wants you to find romantic bliss, she needs to share you, graciously -- both early on, as you invest embarrassing quantities of time being twitterpated, and, if the new relationship thrives, over the years, as you appropriately invest more and more of yourself. And she will want you to find romantic bliss, else she's not that great a friend.

The burden's not all on her, obviously. He -- whoever he is -- needs to understand that your great old friend was there first and will remain before him in line for your loyalty unless and until he earns a higher place. And if he can't accept his initial place in line, he doesn't deserve to move up.

And you (finally . . .) need to trust yourself to dole out attention fairly. Far better to stand by your choices, even unpopular ones, than to base all your decisions on preempting complaints of neglect. True intimacy demands integrity.

If one day you find yourself sharing more with a mate than with your friend, don't see it as rejecting her, see it as accepting nature. Nature loves to spend time with its friends -- it's just that afterward, it tends to want to go home.

Hi Carolyn:

One of my friends failed to attend or even acknowledge my graduation this past summer. Now she just gave birth and telephoned me a couple of days ago and mentioned something like that she expects me to go see the baby. How can I go when she hurt me so much?

Two Sides of the Coin

Did you call her this past summer and mention something like that you hoped she'd attend your graduation?

There are two sides to the coin, you're right, but there are also two coins. Just as you'd like her to acknowledge your milestones as you acknowledge hers, you also need to communicate what you want from people, as your friend just did with you.

And if you feel she shouldn't have needed prompting, then the answer is to tell her she hurt your feelings -- not to boycott her baby. One infant here is enough.

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