After the relationship ended, I said I didn't want to be friend and it's been difficult. Help me re-frame this to myself.
March 7, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

After the relationship ended, I said I didn't want to be friend and it's been difficult. Help me re-frame this to myself.

I dated a pretty wonderful person for about 3 years. After a year and a half she went abroad for 9 months. Long-distance wasn't fun, but we made it work. On her arrival, she immediately moved into a new place with me. Things went south pretty fast.

About a year ago, we broke up, mutually. I've continued to love her since that time, and I feel that if we had taken it at a bit of a slower pace on her return, we'd have avoided a lot of problems. I was also beginning a brand-new career path and a bit out of sorts; I'm incredibly happy in that respect now.

We've spent some time together, very occasionally, over the past year. Recently, when I asked, she said just wanted to be friends, that she wasn't sure if she was going to stay in our city, and that she wasn't sure what she wanted or if she wanted to be in a relationship. That sucks, but fine, that's her choice. I said I don't want to be friends. It's too difficult for me, and I'd just be waiting for her to change her mind.

The thing is, this not seeing her at all is hard. Very occasionally, I've broken down and written or called her, but I'm doing my best to never do that again.

A part of me feels that I'm doing the right, healthy thing. Another part feels like I should be friends: if it seems unlikely that we'll get back together, it seems less so if we're not spending time together.

I'd appreciate it if someone could share any advice on dealing with this discomfort, or perhaps offer suggestions on re-framing how I'm thinking about this.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What you're doing is good and right and strong. You certainly can be friends again, but not right now. Now is the time you go your separate ways and slowly dissolve "us." If the time comes that you two are able to re-unite without there being strong feelings in the way, a time when you can just chill as friends, it'll be worth not seeing her right now. If that time doesn't comes, well, them's the breaks. We can't hold onto everyone and we shouldn't try to do so to our own emotional detriment.

Be strong, but don't kick yourself if you can't always keep it up.
posted by griphus at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

In my experience, when you truly love someone like that, you can't have them in your life if you want there to be room for someone else to enter it. Meaning, if you aren't looking for a serious relationship, you can still be friends, but once you want to move on, the only way to do so successfully is to make a clean break. That doesn't mean once some significant time passes, you couldn't be friends, but you need a solid block of time with no contact.

All that said, it is hard, it sucks, and I, for one, have not managed to make that break successfully. One thing that makes it easier (or at least gives me the illusion of progress) is removing that person from my twitter feed and my Gmail chat list, but not blocking them completely so they can still see me. It's less tempting to contact them, and yet, it doesn't feel as final or brutal as straight-up blocking or defriending. I also implemented a "rule" in which I don't initiate contact, but I will respond. My person knows that this is the case, and while he does initiate contact, it has given me some space that makes moving on seem possible.

I guess what I'm saying is small, incremental changes in behavior can create some needed distance, which can help you move on, once you decide that's what you want to do. If you falter or make contact, don't beat yourself up over it. It's what you needed in that moment, and the interaction will inform your future choices bringing you closer or moving you further apart from your person. Best of luck.
posted by katemcd at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

My experience with staying friends with someone I was really in love with is that it is an unmitigated, soul-destroying disaster every single time.

I have stayed friends with women I've dated whom I was not really in love with. That often, but not always, works out fine, and the friendship is often better than the relationship that was.

You're doing the right thing. It's so, so hard to live without those happy feelings that come with love. Suggestions for the discomfort - time, and and having other things in your life that make you happy. I don't think you need to reframe anything.
posted by MillMan at 6:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everyone's different. Some people can be friends with exes and some can't.

That's a rather pithy way of answering your question but it's also accurate.
posted by dfriedman at 6:16 PM on March 7, 2010

Although lots of people try, my first thought was, "You can't be friends when you're feeling this conflicted." That's oversimplifying by a lot, but I think you're making the right choice.

The pain will stop, just not today. It's a normal part of the process of letting go of something that you want. Now is probably the time for some great breakup music.
posted by Ys at 6:20 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

From my rather limited experience, "let's be friends" is impossible until you've moved onto a new relationship and you can understand why the last one would never work. The time in between sucks, but you will need it to put some distance between you.
posted by modernserf at 6:41 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with Ys, that the very reason you want to be friends (to hang onto hope that you could get back together) is the reason you shouldn't. You want to slowly let go of that hope, by having other experiences that let you gain some distance on your relationship with her. But even if you aren't gaining distance and letting go, you know that she's not ready to get back together now. I'd leave her alone and check back again later. In the meantime, not being friends will help you avoid awkward situations that could create lasting ill will.
posted by salvia at 6:57 PM on March 7, 2010

All good comments. The hope of having her back keeps the love somewhat alive, which is painful because the relationship is over. Personally, I'd say you need to kill the relationship mentally, kill it, stomp on it, kick it around, and get over it.
You can probably come up with some nice pithy reframings. I think sometimes you need to kick a relationship in the ass so it lets go of your heart. Think of the relationship as a thing in itself. She's gone, it's the relationship that's messing you up. Don't let it.
posted by diode at 9:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do this: move on. Sad, but true.
Watch this: The 500 Days Of Summer.
Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:41 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. Sadly, the discomfort will be around a while, but here's what I've been doing to try to avoid it:

Friends: Spend more time with them, let them know that you're trying to make a break with the ex, and that you might need more hang-out time.

• Along those lines, Facebook: Okay, maybe not for everyone. But whenever I have those pangs of wanting to call/text/e-mail my ex, I click over to Facebook instead, read the feeds, engage with other people... gets my mind off things.

Work/School/Volunteer: Again, you wanna keep yourself busy so you don't think about her.

Exercise: Good for a lot of reasons, a) it'll help you sleep better, instead of staying up, tossing and turning, thinking about how you miss her, what she's doing, god forbid, who she might be with right now... b) again, it'll help keep you busy, and c) it'll help you feel better about your appearance, which will help with the confidence levels when you set out to find someone new.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck!
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 10:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Going through something similar right now. The thing that is helping me go cold turkey is realizing that her "wanting to be friends," is really just a soft way of saying "I don't want to be with you." I recently deleted her name from my phone so that the next time we speak it will be on her initiative. Start some projects, go on a trip, read some books and make some new friends. If there is a chance of you guys getting back together, it's not really going to be you convincing her, and if anything making calls and letting her know you are still pining for her might make the situation worse. If her feelings change, then she will reach out. In the meantime the best thing you can do is to distract yourself until you don't feel it so acutely.
posted by the foreground at 5:18 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been in the friend loop with someone I've been in love with and it was soul destroying, and, as mentioned upthread you don't have the space to let someone new come into your life. That's a major consideration. I have a couple of exes that are good friends and the friendship slowly evolved after a long break (years). In my case, the emotional hangover needed to dissipate so that new friendship feelings could evolve. In these cases I'm glad that there were aspects of our relationship that survived the emotional fallout. I have other exes where if I ever saw them again it would be a day too soon. Those boys were not worth the effort.
posted by poissonrouge at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2010

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