All the feels of dating and breaking up with your best friend

So, I pretty much broke the golden rule of having a best friend of the opposite sex; do not, under any circumstances, develop feelings for them and try to start something romantic. Because, as much as I believed we would be different, and that we were supposed to be more than friends…it just wasn’t meant to be. Now, as the dust is settling on what I see now was our inevitable breakup, we are both left reeling over the end of two different relationships — the romantic one and the friendship that used to be so strong.

I first met my best friend last year, when he walked into our Creative Writing class late, wearing a waistcoat and a bowler hat, as though he’d just stepped out of the 1920s. He sat down next to me and smiled like he’d just arrived precisely when he meant to — kinda like Gandalf. Gradually, this mysterious boy who I hadn’t met before (despite my having been at our small university for a year at this point, and despite this boy knowing all of my other classmates) became my best friend.

We bonded over our mutual love of writing, our equally-dark humor, and the way we both had a long list of ex-partners with funny anecdotes. Eventually, after he got me a job at the bar where he worked, we began spending more and more time together. We would go for coffee outside of class and work, we would call each other to talk about our days. We’d even offer each other advice about dating. We both spent about four months rolling our eyes at the other’s romantic decisions, but it was so nice having a close friend of the opposite sex.

There was no pressure with him. I could just call him up to help me with my weekly shop, and he’d walk around pushing the trolley with me. I could try on clothes in front of him and ask what he thought, without feeling even slightly self-conscious. I could complain to him about the current guy I was seeing, and he’d offer me advice, sometimes even telling me what to say to or text him. Eventually, it was as though he was my (to use New Girl terms) “comforter” — he had all the roles of a boyfriend, just without the rewards.

We talked about it a little, both realizing we were spending so much time together, doing all of the things that people in a relationship do…that it was as though we had fallen into coupledom without even realiszing. And, for me at least, it was never a choice. There was never a moment where I had to decide if I wanted to risk our friendship or not, because I already had. And so that was it. We admitted the thing we had been hiding for months now — that we liked each other in a “more than friends” kind of way, and it was becoming more.

At first, we took things really slowly. We didn’t tell any of our friends (well, except our other BEST friends), we uploaded nothing suspicious on social media, and we just enjoyed things as they came. Everything felt very natural; it was never awkward transitioning from friends to being more than friends, and I thought that meant something. But inevitably, we couldn’t keep in our little bubble for much longer, and we eventually made our relationship known. We weren’t so careful about PDA anymore, we started uploading pictures of us together, and we met each other’s oldest friends and families. It became real.

For a few months, we basked in the realness of it all. We had this amazing relationship, the likes of which neither of us had ever had before. I was comfortable, completely myself, and I think I can easily say we were falling in love. But at some point, probably around the time that reality caught up with us, we both started missing our best friends. We would have stupid fights, and we both saw horrible sides of the other that we didn’t know about. We spent less time doing exciting new things and more time staying in and watching Netflix just because that was easier. And along the road, we lost sight of all the things we first liked about each other when we were just friends.

It was really hard. There was a few weeks of back and forth when we would decide it was over just to go back to each other. But eventually we called it, and I think it was for the best. As much as I would have loved us to have been right for each other, we never were. We were trying to be versions of ourselves that the other wanted us to be. We were trying purposefully not to be like the exes from before that we’d heard so much about. As a couple, we weren’t quite right no matter how much we wanted to be.

I have never been good at breakups, and it was even harder when the person I was breaking up with was my closest friend. So, this time I’ve chosen a different coping mechanism for dealing with the end of the relationship: Instead of wallowing and stalking his profile, waiting for a sign that he is moving on just to torture myself further, I started being proactive. I already had a trip to Canada planned to visit my other best friend, Jade, which was something to really look forward to. I immersed myself in my writing. I started taking running seriously again, and both my body and my mind benefitted! And most excitingly, I began planning my summer, and booked flights to Madrid, Spain to become an Au Pair for two months — something completely out of character for me, but super exciting!

I’m not saying that I am trying to be the person I was when we weren’t a couple because I want him back, because I don’t necessarily think I want that. But I am trying to focus my energy on being the independent, adventurous go-getter that first initiated our friendship — the kind of girl who has no qualms about  traveling to Canada all by herself and then booking a flight and taking off to another country for two months after that! Ultimately, if we were friends once, we can hopefully be friends again if we give it enough time and grace. I’m giving myself time to heal and to rediscover who I am on my own, and that’s a great thing.

(Images via here, here, here, and here.)

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