New boyfriend, now I never see her

It's a common enough dilemma, a long-time single friend gets a boyfriend and suddenly your phone stops ringing. You don't see her for months. Have you been dumped for her fella?

Send your questions to lifeandstyle@stuff.co.nz, and remember to include a nickname if you don't want to be identified.

I feel a bit silly writing to you about this, but I have a problem with my best friend's boyfriend. This seems like a thing that would only bother teenagers but I am in my mid-40s.

My friend and I have known each other for more than 20 years and have seen each other through good times and bad times. We have managed to stay close during different times in our lives, such as when she was overseas for several years, and supported each other through trials and tribulations of life.

My husband and I took her under our wing when her marriage broke up and got her back on her feet again.

She has been single for several years but was in a good place, so we were very happy when she started talking about a guy she had met through her work.

We couldn't wait to meet him; we were so happy that she had found someone who seemed to appreciate her.

He seemed fine when we met him, but he certainly wasn't that keen on hanging out with us.Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting him to become my new best mate, but I thought he could show a bit of interest.

That was about six months ago and I have gone from seeing my friend every week to maybe seeing her three or four times since January. She is happy, I think, which is good, but I miss her. She never brings her boyfriend to see us and always has an excuse for why he is not there. She has completely changed her appearance and her hobbies to suit him and I feel like she almost looks down on us now.

Things have been a bit tough for us this year with health and money issues, but I have always tried to make time for her and do nice things for her like cook her meals etc. I feel a bit used, to be honest. I want her to be happy, I really do, and I know it's not about me, but how can I reconnect with her again?

Am I missing a great big sign that says she doesn't need my friendship any more?

Feeling used and lonely

Dear Used and Lonely
 
It must be very hard for you to make sense of this change in your friendship and you are clearly missing the closeness you once shared.  Hard as it is, I would encourage you to stay connected with your friend. 

There are a couple of possible reasons for the distancing.  The first is that your friend is just so absorbed in her new relationship she doesn't have so much interest or energy to maintain her friendships.  She is caught up in all the new experiences with her man and in forming that relationship she may be making some significant changes to how she wants to live her life.
 
The other possibility is a bit more worrying.  There are men who are so controlling in their relationships that they gradually isolate their partners from friends and existing interests.  In the guise of love and care, they start controlling what their partner wears, how they look, where they go and who they socialise with.  In the early stages this can be experienced as very attentive and exciting to have someone take so much interest and it may take time for the more sinister aspects of this level of control to show. 
 
In either case your friendship is needed and you have a long history of being through tough times. Do you think it would work to book a coffee date and let her know you are missing her? 

You may want to gently check out how important the friendship is to her and to let her know you would like to find a way to retain the friendship.  If it is the first scenario and you are just down the priority list due to her new love interest you may just need to be patient and accept her interests are elsewhere for a while. 

As  hurtful as it may be, some friendships do run a natural course and if she is really happy and safe in her new relationship you may need to consider it will not regain the closeness you had, but it seems a bit early for this conclusion. 

Do be alert to sensing her feeling like she has to involve her new man in everything, or seeking his permission.  Comments like 'but x doesn't like me doing...." are warning bells, and you may need to very gently stay friends and let her know you are concerned there may be some aspects of the new relationship that may not be ok.
 
You could also check out if there are other ways to stay in touch - maybe texting or Facebook could work for you both?
 
It is reasonable to feel sad and miss the lovely friendship you have enjoyed. 

I would encourage you and your husband to broaden your own support network and make sure you do have other friends to enjoy while you try and reconnect with your old friend.

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

Stuff