We’ve all seen it happen: A friend falls in love, gets engaged, and can’t see beyond her spouse-to-be and the wedding they’re planning until long after she’s said “I do.” Losing friends when one gets engaged an all-too-common occurrence, and being the snubbed BFF can hurt. So now that it’s your turn to walk down the aisle, you’re probably ready to do whatever it takes to keep those bonds with your besties strong. And it’s more than just avoiding hurt feelings: Keeping a close relationship with friends outside of your romantic life is a must-have source of support, perspective, and relief, especially when you’ve got a wedding’s-worth of to-dos on your list!
We’ve asked therapists and relationship pros to weigh in on the things you should do to keep from losing friends when you get engaged.
“Our brains are wired - with help from dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin - to fall in love,” says Terry Klee, a couples counselor in New York and Connecticut. “But it can lead to exclusivity which, while symbolic of true love, risks excluding good friends so much that it makes the friendship’s future shaky.” If you feel your upcoming marriage taking over, step back and think about whether or not your friend is into your wedding - and don’t take it personally if he or she isn’t. “Try to be empathetic. Weddings bring up both happy and difficult emotions, and supportive friends may try to hide their more difficult feelings. Keep an eye out for subtle cues that will let you know if the wedding talk is too much,” says Klee. Pay attention to things like quiet withdrawing (i.e. she’s less available or slower to reply to texts), off-handed sarcasm and jokes about the wedding that you don’t think are funny, and quick subject-changes any time your wedding comes up.
Don’t take it personally
Yes, you’ve got a major milestone approaching, but don’t take it personally if your BFF isn’t as excited as you want her to be. “A milestone like a wedding can bring up feelings that are hard to process. Your friend might be unhappy in her relationship, reminded of a bad breakup, or sad that she isn’t getting married herself,” Klee explains. Don’t take it personally, but remember that your happiness in the moment can be a painful contrast to unhappiness she might be feeling. “Use this as an opportunity to simply ask how she is doing, an act that we often forget. Make eye contact, and let her know that she means a lot to you,” Klee concludes. It’s not worth losing friends when you get engaged because they’re not as over-the-top excited as you are.
It might be hard to set aside wedding planning for an entire day or a girls’ weekend, but even just five minutes can make a difference in the strength of your friendship. Suggests Klee, “Set aside a little time to listen to how her day was. If she asks about your wedding, keep your answer short and simple. The focus should be on your friend, so after a quick update on escort cards, try this: ‘Enough about my wedding, I want to hear more about ____,’ filling in the blank with something that would be important to your friend.”
Commit to communication
A quick check-in is a great way to let your friend know she’s on your mind, but make time for a deeper conversation whenever you can - you know, like you used to have before there was a ring on your finger. “Talk about what’s happening at work, world events, news with your family and friends… Anything that will make you feel connected to one another’s lives,” says Staci Lee Schnell, a marriage and family therapist in Florida. “Do your best to avoid wedding talk.” You’ve probably got some things on your own mind, so taking the time to connect with your friend will give you both a chance to work through things and strengthen your bond. If you’re not willing to communicate about things other than your wedding, you’ll risk losing friends when you get engaged.
Find quick ways to be kind
Short on time? You can still find ways to remind your friend that you care about her. “Two options are to either say something nice or do something nice,” says Klee. Try sending a silly Snapchat with an inside joke you share, or shoot your friend a text reminiscing about a fun time you once had. “Make your interactions personal,” Klee continues. “Compliment them on their cute picture on Instagram (don’t just “like” it!), or genuinely thank her for texting you and getting you out of your wedding funk for a few moments.” More the action-oriented type? “If you’re at the coffee shop together, pay for her drink. If you’ve got a little time, invite her over for a glass of wine and a quick chat. And there’s nothing like having someone run an errand for you or show up with a treat from the local bakery,” says Klee. And of course, you can always go old-fashioned and mail her a card! “The point is, your friend wants to feel seen and appreciated, and showing her that you care doesn’t have to be hard.”
Now’s the time to rediscover your common interests. “Focus on those hobbies or interests you share, and actually go do them,” says Schnell. Take a cooking class, sign up for that hot yoga studio you’ve been eyeing, or visit a new exhibit at the local museum. “Make lasting memories together,” Schnell continues. Yes, you can always bring your BFF along to shop for wedding dresses or visit the florist, but make sure some of the time you’re spending with one another is totally wedding-free.