Friendship Envy…Frenvy?

A coworker asked me last week if my closest friends—the ones in New York, Boston, San Fran and beyond—are upset about my search. Her closest friends all live near each other, mostly in rural Illinois, and she said if she embarked on this quest, they’d get jealous.

My friends are certainly not bothered. Just the opposite, really. They’re thrilled. They’re my best friends—isn’t that what it means to be a BFF? To encourage the other’s passion? To be supportive, not envious, when she takes a big scary leap into the unknown? And to be confident enough in your relationship that you don’t discourage new ones? My closest friends want me to be happy, not lonely, and they’re all perfectly aware that they don’t live in Chicago. Sure, they’d love to be the ones to join me for a bite or drive me to the airport when Matt can’t, but that would entail them moving here, which isn’t exactly in the cards (no matter how hard I try to woo them away from their shoebox Manhattan apartments with Chicago’s space-to-dollar ratio).

When I started this project, Sara and Callie (the lifelong BFFs) sent flowers to my office. The card read: “You are a rock star! We are so proud of you. We’ll always be your oldest and most admiring BFFAEs.” (Best friends forever and ever, that is. It’s fifth grade lingo.) I know. They are some friends. You can see why I’m struggling to find people who compare.

Over the past week I’ve wondered why my coworker’s friends might react badly if she, too, were to start a BFF search. I haven’t asked her about this since that conversation seven days ago, but it seems fairly obvious that if they would be annoyed or jealous, then they must be really nervous about her moving out to the big city and forgetting about them. Maybe they think she’s outgrowing them; maybe they’re scared she might replace, rather than supplement, them.

Jealousy in friendships is a very real thing. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but who are we kidding? My own moments of BFF insecurity are strongest, strangely enough, when I’m actually with said best friends. Out here in Chicago, it’s hard to truly know what I’m missing. But when I go to a high school friend’s wedding and see how close everyone still is and hear them talk about friends of friends—new additions to the group I’ve never even met—I get more than a tinge of envy. I should be a part of this. That new kid should want to know me. And suddenly I’m so busy wishing I was more a part of things that I’ve forgotten to enjoy the time when I’m actually able to be a part of things. I know that old friends grow geographically distant as we grow up. It’s something I have to get used to. But when you’re one of the only people who has left, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out.

My coworker’s friends aren’t crazy at all. I still think that if anyone in that scenario (which I really know nothing about and probably have no business blogging about) should be jealous, it’s my coworker. But I’m sure there’s something very real to the fear that a friend is moving up and moving on. Plus, she’s getting married soon, which seems to spark a whole different set of will-she-love-him-and-forget-about-me fears, to be discussed another day.

Does there come a time when friendship envy (frenvy?!?) ceases to exist? Or is jealousy a universal emotion that we just handle better as we age? Am I a complete lunatic for admitting that there are times I feel left out, as if I was still on the school playground rather than the frontlines of the real world? I’m ok with the admission, because the truth is that my BFFs won’t be surprised to hear it. They know I’m a little bit crazy, and, somehow, they love me anyway.


Filed under The Search

13 responses to “Friendship Envy…Frenvy?

  1. In my experience with my own besties, there have been three phases (so far). The first is when you build that bestie relationship. It’s the everyday experiences with that friend. The daily phone calls. The IMs at work. The weekends spent getting in high gear for a night out and the quiet mornings wearing off the hangovers.

    And then something shifts. Maybe one person moves away. Or gets engaged. Or starts a job that requires more of their time. This time is a test of the friendship. Because, it’s asking both people to adjust. And not everyone ingests change well. It can be smooth. But, my experiences is it’s everything from awkward to downright distant where I question if the friendship will last. I think this is where jealousy often rears its ugly head … because as you’re questioning this friendship, you’re also seeing this person continue with their life, their social life, their happiness … without you.

    The final stage is the aftermath. When you’ve persevered through that transitory period. Where you realize great friendships will conquer all circumstances. Where you learn to play by the new rules. And still love your friend as much as you used to, even though you might not see them as much as before. For me, any dose of jealousy that popped up in the second stage is usually in remission by this point.

    At least that’s my experiences and observations with the best of friends. But, maybe for some, that tinge of jealousy never goes away. I’m sure it’s possible.

  2. Husband

    Just a little bit crazy? Not my lover.

  3. gail

    husband’s reply brought tears to my eyes.

  4. JB

    I just found your blog yesterday and have enjoyed reading it so far! As an almost-30-something who has recently moved out of state, I can relate to so much of what you’re going through. Sadly, I think you’re right–that jealousy creeps its way into the best of relationships at times. I left a very comfortable, carefully cultivated set of friendships to go back to grad school. And I am so happy with the decision. But sometimes when I hear about my friends back home doing the things we used to do together, it makes me sad and a little jealous. I mean, I’m the one that introduced everyone to each other! How can life go on without me??

    But of course, I’m also happy for them that they have such great friends to do fun things with. And I really love them–they are amazingly supportive of me on my new journey. I can’t imagine them being jealous of my new best friendships (if I could find any!) other than wishing they were here with me to join in the fun…

    Maybe real intimacy breeds jealousy–both in romantic relationships and deep friendships.

  5. ann

    Out here in Portland, it’s hard to believe that my best friends in New York (Los Angeles, Minneapolis and St. Louis, too) are off living their lives; making and improving friendships. But when I got to the gym yesterday and saw my new friend Nadine, who got engaged last week, I jumped her with a huge hug. As I walked into the locker room to change my clothes, I thought, “Oh, my new friend Nadine. I’m making progress.”

    Love this, Rach. Miss you – and remember when you were my “new friend Rachel,” more than five years ago. xox

  6. ann

    And on that thought, it’s worth mentioning that friends are just as important as best friends. The people you surround yourself with when you can’t have your lifelong BFFs there. I had dinner with my friends last night. It was delightful, and I can’t wait for my BFFs to meet them.

  7. Julie

    A friend and I were discussing the other day how, much to our chagrin, we spent a good deal of our high school and college years hoping to be the girls our former boyfriends would never get over. We each wanted to be The One Who Got Away, To Be Forever Regretted and Mourned.

    (I know. How mature!)

    Sometimes it’s the same with friendships; it’s hard not to want to be irreplaceable. But as you say, new friends should supplement old ones, not replace them. Even truly fantastic new friends can’t replace the people who have really BEEN there throughout your life, for better or worse, enduring all the questionable wardrobe choices and boy band obsessions.

  8. Rachel, I’m in a very similar boat as you. I graduated college in June and moved with my boyfriend to a different state.
    I recently visited my friends who are still in school, and I was a little jealous of how close they all were, and how easy it was for them to see each other.

  9. Ana

    I am often jealous of my two besties from HS who live in the same city (along with lots of other HS friends) and hang out often. We try to keep in touch over the phone, and plan a get-together once in a while, but its not the same. When we all 3 lived in different cities I obviously did not have that feeling.

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