I'm still friends with my ex, and here's why
Once upon a very long time ago, I met a boy on a bus. We were very young and, he later said, he liked me at first sight, but we thought we’d never see each other again. Two years later, our paths crossed at a summer camp, and came together several more times during high school events. While doing a play together, we grew incredibly close, and even started calling each other on the phone every night. I saw it as a friendship, and it wasn’t until later that my family informed me that they noticed he felt something more.
When he finally asked me out, I accepted. But I didn’t accept because I felt the same—I accepted because I didn’t want to disappoint him. Over time, I tried to convince myself that I reciprocated the feelings he had for me, but the truth is that I just didn’t feel the same way. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force myself to be in love.
We’ve all reached a point in a relationship where it just doesn’t work anymore; so rather than perpetuate this unhappy situation, we break up. When I ended this particular relationship, I felt like the most horrible person in the world. I kept telling myself that I had hurt him beyond repair and that it was all my fault, when in reality, I had ended a one-sided romantic relationship. Ending the relationship was a good thing for both of us, but there was one problem: I thought I had completely lost my long-term friendship along with it.
As I tried to maintain my separation from my now-ex-boyfriend, I learned that he was not doing at all well. He wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating, and stopped talking to some of his friends. When I heard this news, I felt too much compassion to hold my silence. That night, against the advice of several articles I read on Google, I called him. We discussed the termination of our relationship and the future of our friendship—a conversation we would continue to have nightly for several weeks. Eventually, we came to terms that we would not use any romantic language when we spoke from then on out. We didn’t see each other regularly, but the awkwardness of the few meetings that happened faded with time. We discussed the terms of what would happen should the other enter a new relationship. We talked about our crushes and got everything out when we felt sentimental.
A few things I learned from my experience, was that it helps to lay the ground rules in advance. You can’t imagine the number of times one or both of us have accidentally slipped an “I love you” or “I can’t stop thinking about when we used to do this” into conversation, and we’ve had to vow to correct each other. We also decided not to see each other alone for the first couple of months—so we wouldn’t automatically go into romance mode together.
These terms really helped us maintain our friendship, though of course, this might not work for everyone. Some fires just burn too brightly, and when they go out, it isn’t the same anymore. There’s a reason that most people aren’t friends with their exes, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t work for some exes.
Although it seems crazy and illogical, I have somehow managed to remain friends with my ex. The night we broke up was over a year ago, and we still call each other every night without even a tinge of romantic talk. I have a best friend who I have been through literally everything with, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Amber Robinson is an endearingly awkward, somewhat musically talented student majoring in elementary special education. A native of the Appalachian region and a firm believer in the healing powers of sweet tea, she never misses an opportunity to cry at a sad movie or sit at her local coffee shop and write for hours on end.