“My mother fell in love with her best friend, just like Elizabeth Gilbert.”

This week, Elizabeth Gilbert revealed in an emotional Facebook post that she’s fallen in love with her best friend, Rayya Elias.

Gilbert left her longtime husband, Jose Nunes, for Elias earlier this year, after documenting the beginning of their relationship in her bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

For many people, the love story between Nunes and Gilbert was a source of inspiration. Gilbert wrote honestly about her struggles to find “the one”, and then – as if by magic – it happened. The coupling seemed like something out of a fairytale – a perfect love, an aspirational love.

But in the end, the love story between Gilbert and Nunes was thwarted by another love.

A more powerful love. In her announcement, Gilbert describes her discovery that she does not not “merely love” Rayya. Instead, she is “in love” with Rayya.

For many of Gilbert’s fans, the news hit home. It spoke to being true to one’s self and one’s feeling. It epitomised everything Gilbert has come to stand for since the early days of Eat, Pray, Love. 

Advertisement Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya. Image via Facebook.

For me, though, the story has a more personal angle.

My mother also left her "love story" with my father for her female best friend.

As a child, I knew I was lucky with my parents from the first day of kindergarten. I met a fellow new student, who described to me her living situation - weekdays at mum's place, weekends at dad's - with the tired air of a war veteran. I could hardly believe what I was hearing.

"You mean your parents don't live together?" I demanded, with all the tact of a five-year-old.

"They don't love each other any more," she told me matter-of-factly.

I knew with certainty in that moment that I would never be faced with such an awful proposition. My parents loved each other. More than loved each other.

I soon grew to find them embarrassing. I'd roll my eyes when they kissed in the hallway, fake-vomit when they held hands.

That's part of the reason it was such a shock eight years ago, when my mum announced she was leaving my dad for her best friend.

Eight years ago, my mum announced she was leaving my dad for her best friend. Image via iStock.

My mum and Diane* have known each other since they were kids, and she was as much a part of my childhood as my parents. I'd often spend weekends with dad while my mum and Diane went off on adventures. I never minded - when my mum came back from those trips, she was happy and giggly and would dance me around the kitchen singing bad 80's songs.

I knew Diane and mum had a special friendship. I aspired to it. I considered all my new friends in light of Diane - could I imagine us still being friends when we were thirty? Forty? Fifty?

When I was fourteen, my mum sat me down and told me she loved Diane.

With all the tact of a fourteen-year-old, I said, "Of course you do."

"No, honey," she told me sadly. "I'm in love with Diane."

The situation so perfectly mirrors Elizabeth Gilbert's experience that I almost laughed out loud when I read her post.

It seems this is common for older women. This realisation that the person you've really depended on all along is your best friend, not your partner.

Try as I might, I couldn't hold it against her. Once the shock wore off, things realigned in my mind the way it's possible they always should have been: my mum and Diane, madly in love. Looking back, it all made sense.

Of course, I felt for my dad. Ached for him. Our family separated, but even in the sadness, there was a sense of rightness, too. Since my mum left, my dad's found new love - complex love, messy love, but perhaps that's what love is always like.

In fact, I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who said "love is always complicated."

Watch Mia Freedman speaking to Liz Gilbert.

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