As women, sometimes our friends can be closer to us than our family. Our ties with them are bound by secrets shared over glasses of wine, streams of tears or fits of laughter. Our friends ground us, save us and give us a place to land when everything seems to be ready to free fall from out from under our feet. They are the sisters we get to choose for ourselves. Not to mention that studies have shown that strong female friendships actually reduce anxiety, depression, and are beneficial for our overall health and well-being.

It’s no surprise then that when a man comes along that our friend finds worthy enough to date, we get a little … jealous? It may not be jealousy so much as an aversion to sharing the time that we’re accustomed to spending gabbing or shopping with a new, strange, not entirely welcome male interloper. Suddenly the Saturdays you spent with the girls wandering around the farmer’s market after hot yoga are now empty because one of you is hiking with the new boyfriend or picking out his shower curtain. Her calls become less frequent and your trips to girls’ nights come to a screeching halt.

It’s hard not to feel angry and hurt because what’s going on looks somewhat like abandonment. You can’t call her at 2am anymore because she may be staying at her beau’s house. But the key to surviving her relationship – and your own – is patience, understanding, and empathy. Both from you and for you.

When I first started seeing my boyfriend, my calendar became filled with dinners and nights out dancing and afternoon picnics. I was so busy falling in love that I forgot about the person who had been there the entire time I was searching to find him. It was easier to cancel on my friends because I took for granted the fact that they had been and presumably always would be there for me. After all, we can always go browse the racks at the thrift store next Saturday when Mitch has to work.

The problem here is that there was no transition for us once I started dating someone. Things immediately shifted because of the new boyfriend. So naturally my friends got angry and resentful.

It’s important to realize that as your dating someone new, or as your best friend begins seeing someone from the gym that you take the time to go have a glass of wine together and explain the situation. Women tend to be much quicker at putting friendships on the back burner than our male counterparts because we so deeply value being in a relationship with someone. Women sometimes tend to feel more defined by the state of the their romantic affairs then by the depth of their friendships, and this makes it easy to forget that neglecting our girl friends to go out with our boyfriends can have serious repercussions.

You have to remember that if your romantic relationship ever falls apart, your girlfriends are going to be the ones there with the tissue and the movies and the justification for that fifth tequila sunrise you just drank. If you’ve spent the last eight months blowing off plans and forgetting to return phone calls, they may not feel as good about being there when you need it – especially if you never acknowledged what was going on. And if you find yourself being the friend in the relationship, make time for the important girls in your life – even if it’s simply a phone call while you’re in traffic on your way home from work.

Our girl friends are just as much a part of our roots as our families and boyfriends. They remind us where we’ve been and anchor us to who we are. But sustaining a friendship is hard work. And it’s work worth doing. After all, as Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates … and guys are just people to have fun with.”

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