There’s a secret nobody tells you about getting engaged: you’ll probably lose a friend (or two) before the cake is cut.
Or maybe it’s not a secret at all—romantic comedies almost always feature some sort of contrived, wedding-related conflict: best friends fighting over the same groom, overbearing mothers-in-law convinced no bride is worthy of their son, sisters waging war over floral arrangements or on-site babysitters or god knows what. Perhaps we’ve been so conditioned to accept these tropes—and the happy endings that inevitably follow—that we’ve forgotten how painful it actually is to watch a relationship disintegrate.
I’m not talking about the inevitable petty arguments with your partner over the do-not-play list or your mother’s unyielding insistence that her Bible study be seated together at one table. I’m talking about the excruciating realization that friendships you thought would last forever might, in fact, fall apart quite easily.
Mine ended with a whimper, not a bang (the friendship, not the wedding). It was actually a missed RSVP deadline that dealt the final blow. How’s that for anticlimactic?
We’d been inseparable in college and, while we’d moved to different cities after graduation, I always considered her one of my closest friends. Had I chosen to have a bridal party, I would have asked her to be in it. And when I got engaged, she was one of the few people I wanted to call.
But somewhere along the way, our texts dropped off. Weeks turned into months until one day, all of the RSVP cards had been returned and carefully counted. All of them, that is, except for one rather conspicuous absence.
I gave her some extra time, hoping she might call to dispel the rumors circulating through our friend group, hoping to blame the U.S. Postal Service rather than accept the fact that she’d effectively ghosted our decade-long friendship.
But she never reached out. So I caved and I texted and she apologized. She felt horrible—horrible that she wouldn’t be there, horrible to miss out on what she knew would be a wonderful party. But she couldn’t make it. Something about travel or busyness or PTO.
We exchanged four texts, and that was it—the last time we spoke was a year ago this month, and I’m still not over it.
It sounds insane when I write it down. Petty and impossibly self-absorbed. Is it so hard to imagine a world in which someone might not want to come to my wedding?
But it wasn’t that she didn’t come. I would have understood if she had told me it wasn’t financially feasible for her, or that she had a work conflict, or that she was simply in a weird place and didn’t feel like confronting a group of old friends at a celebration thrown in honor of someone else. I would have been disappointed, but I like to think I would have understood.
It was the radio silence that threw me. I was left to wonder whether she would have ever reached out had I not sent her that text. How long would she have waited? What would she have said?
More than that, it was what her silence represented: the unacknowledged conclusion of our friendship. If an invitation to my wedding wasn’t substantial enough to motivate a visit, or even the return of a pre-stamped envelope, or simply a text, what future occasion would be?
And yet, for all my righteous indignation, I’m guilty of similar—if not even more egregious—behavior. In the months leading up to my wedding, I intentionally let certain friendships cool in an effort to reduce the length of our guest list. I invented obscure policies denying specific friends a plus one and made other friends or family members deliver the message. Rather than simply explain that space was extremely limited, I went silent, froze up, and played dead.
In the same way that photography, paper goods, and tailoring triple in price the moment the word "wedding" is placed in front of them, tensions, anxieties, and insecurities—with our partners, our parents, our best friends, ourselves—have an uncanny way of multiplying for the occasion. The wedding becomes a vehicle onto which we project our resentments, our fear of being left behind, our aversion to change, and worst of all, our inability to constructively articulate any of it. We freak out, we withdraw, we behave badly.
In some cases, like that of the unreturned RSVP, the damage is permanent.
But some people will surprise you. They’ll throw you a bachelorette party when you’re too embarrassed to organize your own and they’ll call just to ask how you’re holding up and they’ll listen patiently as you recount the same trivial grievances again and again on a loop. They won’t disappear. They’ll show up in ways you didn’t expect, and they’ll remind you how to be a better friend.
Originally Appeared on Vogue