'I would not let that happen.' The moment Elizabeth Gilbert knew she was in love with her best friend.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert has described the profoundly moving moment she knew she was in love with her best friend, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday show.

The 49-year-old author of Eat Pray Love sat down with Winfrey to discuss her latest book, City of Girls, which she paused writing in 2016 when her best friend Rayya Elias was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.

Mia Freedman speaks to Elizabeth Gilbert. Post continues after video.

Elias, 55, a hairdresser and author, passed away in January 2018. She and Gilbert had been friends since 2000, when they met in New York; but upon the discovery that Elias was terminally ill in 2016, Gilbert left her nine-year marriage to Jose Nunes, and the women became a couple.

“You describe your love for Rayya as a ‘life-shattering truth’,” Winfrey says to Gilbert in the interview. “Did you surprise yourself when you fell in love with her?”

“No,” Gilbert replies. “And not only that, it didn’t surprise her or anyone who knew us.”

The author explains to Winfrey that their coupling was so natural, and long-time coming, that some of their friends already thought they were together.

“In other news, ice is cold,” Gilbert recalls was the reaction of one friend.

Winfrey reveals that even she had noticed their chemistry before their announcement, because when she saw them, they were constantly holding hands and looking at each other.

“We were so intimate,” Gilbert agrees, adding that at that time, she was unaware of the depth of her feelings.

“I was so determined not to cross that boundary, and it was so important to me to be a faithful and honest wife,” she further explains.

“And I believe I was, because the minute that clarity came to me – and I mean the minute, the next conversation I had was with my husband.


“There was no way I could know this about myself, that I was in love with Rayya, and he couldn’t know that. I felt that would be so unfair.”


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Happy birthday, Rayya. My god, baby, just look at yourself here. It was only two months before your death. Cancer and pain and drugs had taken so much from you already. You knew that you could go at any time…and yet you were still more vivid, more awake, more powerful, more engaged, and more full of life and joy than most people will EVER feel. You always knew how to live, Rayya. You always knew how to find pleasure. We all used to say that nobody could fill a room like you. But the reality is, nobody could fill the world like you. You were (you are) a comet. I loved you, and I will always love you. Thank you for watching over me. Thank you for helping me to grieve you. Thank you for showing me how to live forward in your aftermath. Thank you for sending me constant reassurance that you are with me and that you are GOOD. You got this, I know. You always did. You were always the boss and you’re still the boss. But you are missed, baby. Missed by so many of us. Stay near. We all love you.❤️

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Gilbert then reveals the moment the author knew she was in love with her best friend, and that her marriage needed to be over, was when she discovered Elias was ill.

“The moment that I found out she was dying, I had a vision, and it was the worst thing I have ever seen.

“It was me in a hospital room watching Rayya die, and her leaving this world never having known what she was to my heart.

“And then me going on the rest of my life and no one ever having known.”

“My soul was appalled. I would not let that happen.”

Gilbert tells Winfrey that the feeling was so overwhelming, she felt as though she didn’t have a choice, but was “obeying a mandate.”

“There was something that I had to do; to take care of Rayya. And to take care of her as her partner and her lover.

“And to acknowledge that she was the love of my life.”


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Sweet loves! I have some beautiful news to announce. I will be on Super Soul Sunday this weekend, talking with my REAL president, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Tune in, to hear our conversation about creativity and grief and female sexual desire and, of course, CITY OF GIRLS. You can watch it live on Sunday, June 9, at 11am ET/PT on OWN. The episode will also be streaming live on Oprah’s Facebook page at the same time… AND, on the next day, Monday June 10, it will be available on Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. I also just want to say this: people often ask me what Oprah is like in person. The simplest answer I can give, is that she is the single most impressive and magnificent human being I have ever had the honor to meet. She is a great, great woman. Even more than you might think. And never once have I seen her allow her greatness to interfere with her goodness… Her goodness stands above all else. And that is the most impressive fact of all. Hope you can tune in on Sunday… Lots of love❤️ LG @oprah @supersoul #supersoul #supersoulconversations #cityofgirls #mypresident

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After the decision was made, Gilbert posted on Instagram to give her followers the significant update. With tears in her eyes, Winfrey reads the part of the post which further describes Gilbert’s feelings in her revelatory moment.

“This Spring I received news that would change my life forever. My best friend Rayya was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, a disease for which there is no cure.

“The moment I learned of Rayya’s diagnosis, a trap door opened at the bottom of my heart – a trap door I didn’t even know was there.

“And my entire existence fell straight through that door. In that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: “I do not really love Rayya, I am in love with Rayya’.”

It is clear from the interview that the death of the love of her life has profoundly affected Gilbert.

However, as a woman who has now seen the end of three major relationships (she was formerly married to Michael Cooper from 1994 – 2002), Gilbert is unmistakably resilient.

“I am here for the ride,” she tells Winfrey.

In March this year, Gilbert announced that she is in a relationship with a close friend of Elias’, British-based photographer Simon MacArthur, whom she described on Instagram as “like a brother” to her best friend.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from politics, to parenting. You can follow her on Instagram: @namawinston and Facebook: @NamaWinston.