n. an inflammation of the relationship-y side of the brain, often causing neglect of one’s friends in favor of one’s relationship

I have this theory. I think the best way to judge a friendship is to wait until your buddy gets involved in a new romance. Too many times, the juggling act between friend and lover becomes too much, and they have to let one relationship slip. Do they disappear into their significant other’s bedroom, never to be seen again? Do they take hours to respond to text messages? Do they bring their S.O. everywhere, forcing you to be the constant third wheel? These are all warning signs that your buddy might have relationship-itis.

I’ve had several friendships threatened by this terrible disease. In one particularly disastrous case, I set up a roommate with a guy I knew. At first, it was exciting—she was looking for someone to hook up with, and he was a great guy. Until one night, we were hanging out the three of us, and I left the room for a few minutes. When I got back, they were gone (supposedly back to his place), and I didn’t see my roommate again for two weeks.

I tried to be understanding. New relationships are fun! And I had certainly done a less-than-perfect job of balancing a boyfriend and friends in the past. But after she started blowing off our plans, forgetting to respond to my texts, and moving her belongings from our place to his, I started to get upset.

I felt dejected. I felt like a fool. It was like she had left me for someone else.

I wish I could say that I learned to cut her some slack and she figured out how to manage her social schedule, but maintaining our friendship became so much work that we both stopped trying. Although we still hang out occasionally, our friendship hasn’t been the same.

I suspect that this isn’t the last time I will have to deal with a chicks vs. dicks situation. As we get older, as we graduate and aren’t constantly surrounded by people our age, ditching friends for significant others will become an even more common problem. Luckily, my sucky experience taught me a couple of things:

1.     Be persistent. If your friend matters to you, it’s worth being the one to reach out and make plans. Double texting isn’t lame when it’s in the name of saving a friendship. Even if your buddy blows you off, don’t stop trying to hang out with them. Cut them some slack. The love juice will wear off, and it will be easier to dive back into your friendship when you know what’s been going in in their life after the start of their relationship.

2.     Befriend the boyfriend (or girlfriend). Third wheeling is better than not seeing your buddy at all. If you’re able to all hang out as a group, your friend will not feel like she/he has to choose between the people she/he cares about. Who knows, maybe you’ll realize why they like their new beau so much.

3.     Confront the problem. Sometimes people get so swept up in their lives that they don’t even realize they’re being assholes. If you feel level headed enough to have a calm, honest conversation about your feelings (I know, ew), it could fix everything. In my case, confrontation didn’t solve the problem, but I’m still glad I did it. It made me feel sure that I had done everything I could have to get my friend back. And when it failed, I realized that maybe she wasn’t worth the effort.

 4.     Don’t be a jerk. Your friend and their significant other break up. Said friend comes crawling back to you in need of some lovin after she/he hasn’t spoken to you for a month. Although you might have told yourself that you weren’t going to be there, breakup time is not the time for revenge. Chances are your buddy feels pretty terrible, so be nice, and be supportive. You can make any final decisions about the state of your friendship later, once everyone feels a little calmer.