We are never ever getting back together, so now what?
August 5, 2015 3:00 PM   Subscribe

What does or should a years-old, deeply held friendship look like after you date and then break up? What do I need to accept isn't or can't be the way it used to be? Please help me build a better framework for thinking about this and making judgement calls I can trust.

My most recent ex-boyfriend, "Tom", is my absolute best friend and was long before we got together. We dated for three years and broke up about a year ago; no anger, just sadness because we weren't nearly as awesome at being parters as we are at being friends. He moved out promptly, we went clean no-communication for a few months, we both started working earnestly on independent happiness.

Over the last few months we've eased back into each others' lives and now we're back to closer than close, each others' default people for everything—fun times, bad times, emotional support, all of it. It's emphatically NOT expressed physically; we did sleep together (sober) once early in reconnecting and it confirmed for both of us that there's no lingering romantic torch. It was fun (and nice of course to hook up with someone you trust and who already knows all the things) but we agreed that neither of us is suave enough to make it an ongoing thing without it eventual complications.

All this is fine but I'm very aware that we've settled into a weird space in each others' lives. We both have close other friends but there's no one else I'm anywhere near as intimate with and there are many things I'm comfortable sharing with Tom that I wouldn't with anyone else. And there's the everyday life stuff, a companionable psuedo-domesticity when we hang out. Not dates, exactly, but not stuff I do with any other friend, either: Netflix marathons all weekend, handing the phone over to chat if we're together and one of our moms calls, he fixes my car in my (formerly our) backyard while I keep him company and grill dinner, etc. Our post-relationship friendship is basically just like when we were together, minus physical contact.

My questions: 1) Am I right to feel that this is going to be a problem, or maybe already is? It has caused some awkwardness as we start casually seeing new people, because our intertwinedness looks odd at best. Our mutual friends are bemused. And I know that at least for me it's keeping me from getting serious about finding a real relationship, because I have this person who fills so many of the harder-to-fill partner roles so extremely satisfactorily. 2) If it is a problem, is it worth doing something about now or will it work itself out? I'm sure that if/when one of us gets serious about someone, our priorities will naturally shift—given that, is it worth making a fuss now? I know neither of us will be that creepy ex/BFF who can't deal with not being THE CLOSEST ONE, but I also suspect it will kind of hurt to change then; maybe it's better to nip it in the bud? 3) If it is, how do we/I actually DO it? We have such a good time. We know each other so well. We care so much about each other. It is really, really hard to deliberately walk back from that. Like, how do you break up with someone you already broke up with?

*We've agreed that we are never getting back together. While Tom checks like 98% of the things I want in a partner there are a couple dealbreaker-level mismatches in priorities/values that are just intractable and impossible to ignore or work around; he feels the same about me. Hence being much much better as friends than anything more.

Way tl; dr: I think my BFFness with my ex is probably weird and maybe inappropriate but I'm having a really hard time accepting that it might need to change. Please kick me in the pants (gently) and help me do it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, I may be a seriously outdated stick in the mud -- look at my lingo, for heaven's sake -- but I think this would be very, very tough on any romantic partner you have who wants exclusivity, and most do. A true intimate partner is generally going to want to be your BFF. I'm married, and can tell you I married my husband because he makes me tingle and we are each other's BFFs.

So --unless a more open relationship is what you are looking for, I think what might be wisest is that you and Tom move on and find true love and BFFdom with other people, or you may find this relationship is a big, big problem to developing such relationships.

I'll add that I had a couple of serious relationships before I met my husband. I heard from one of them some years ago -- he left a message and I never called him back. I saw another at a reunion. Both times I thought about maintaining contact, but it would be much, much too hard on my husband and it frankly felt too weird to rekindle relationships that were once so close.

And if he really is a good friend, I think he's going to understand why for both of you, really breaking up might be the best thing to do. It never diminishes what you had to move on from a significant relationship and leave it behind.
posted by bearwife at 3:20 PM on August 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


1-2) I have a very reliable heuristic for this one: if you (or Tom) feel that it is a problem, it is a problem. If you do not feel that it is a problem, it is not a problem. If the problem is how your other friends or prospective partners are behaving about your friendship with Tom, that is their problem, not yours or Tom's. However, if at any point either you or Tom would like to scale back your friendship because one of you personally believes that it is inappropriately intimate, then it instantly becomes a 100% valid concern.

Just to be clear here, I'm not saying that any prospective partner is a bad person to be uncomfortable with the closeness of your relationship with Tom. What I'm saying is that any prospective partner needs to share your own comfort level with it in order to be a good partner for you. If you have different comfort levels about this stuff, you're probably a bad match.

3) So, assuming that you are indeed personally uncomfortable based on your own values, and not any imparted or perceived outside values: I think the issue starts with how much time you spend together and if you change how you are allotting your time, a lot of the rest will be solved. Find other people to spend time with and other activities to do that will make you happy. You don't have to walk away from it, you just have to scale back on having all of it all the time.
posted by capricorn at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Most people would be suspicious of this situation in principle, and tell you it IS going to be a problem regardless, in any and all cases, and there are a lot of very good reasons to worry about two exes remaining so intimate and seeing each other so often, far more than would be ordinary for exes simply staying friends but not seeing each other so often. But a lot depends on the people involved.

A couple of very close friends have a very, very similar situation. They have been friends for more than 10 years now, not without major complications at the start (one of the two is/was at the beginning still incredibly jealous and possessive, the other totally opposite type, so really very bad starting premises there). It seems to work for them now, they’ve settled into a familiarity that seems to benefit both.

I hear the very same things you say - there is no romantic spark left, no physical relationship at all, but a lot of intimacy, and familiarity and trust and mutual fun and sharing and help etc. They cannot picture themselves out of each other’s lives for good. Maybe it helps that their relationship was very short lived, and in the end they were probably more friends than romantic partners right from the start. And they have always helped each other out, they’ve been there through tough times for each other.

It started with the worst possible premises but in the end, begrudgingly, I have to admit it does work for them.

If neither of you is the crazy jealous possessive kind, and as long as there are no imbalances in feelings and expectations, I would still be careful, keep an eye out for more warning signals, but still try and see if it does work itself out or if it turns out to be something you should really worry about.

"We have such a good time. We know each other so well. We care so much about each other. "
Call me an idealist, call me naive, but to me that’s a good reason in itself to give it a go, while being careful, but just appreciate it and enjoy it in the meantime. Life is short, that kind of caring is not to be found around every corner.

Cherish this "weird and maybe inappropriate friendship" for what it is and make the best of it for now. (How boring would life be, if we only had "appropriate" friendships anyway?!)

If you have reasons to worry, they will manifest themselves, you will know when it has become an obstacle rather than enrichment in your life. From your question you do sound like the kind of person who is capable of ’checking in’ with herself so I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble drawing a line when you need to draw it. Keep these questions in the back of your mind as you go.

And who knows, maybe it’s not this friendship keeping you from another relationship, maybe it’s the other way round, maybe you don’t want to jump into another relationship right now, don’t have the energy for it, and this friendship is simply helping you along, giving you some comfort, until you feel ready for another relationship. And then, you will still be able to stay friends with your ex here, but it will be more natural to move on.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:39 PM on August 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I went through pretty much this same situation with my best friend, except we never lived together. We tried dating, realized we weren't right romantically, went back to being best friends. Now he is like my brother, and we consider each other family, celebrate holidays together, the whole megillah. I just spent Friday night and Saturday night with him and his wife, who is the best chosen-sister-in-law I could ever have asked for.

I wish I had a clear user manual for you, with step-by-step instructions, on how to get to that place. In general, though, you have to both put in a lot of emotional labor around each other's feelings, do a lot of listening, and do a lot of work on yourselves. Expect the occasional growing pain as you recalibrate your relationship. I was particularly prone to feeling bitter and abandoned, and making snarky remarks to that effect. Good thing he loved me in spite of my snarkiness. It took about… hmm, two years to really adjust.

Probably the thing that helped the most is that we'd had a tradition of having coffee and running errands on Sunday mornings, since before we dated, and we kept that tradition going for years until we moved too far away from each other to make that possible. That helped with feeling reassured that we were still important to each other, but it was platonic, and during the day. That helped his girlfriends feel less like I was a rival for his affection.

Nevertheless, some of his girlfriends mistook emotional and platonic intimacy for romance, and gave him serious grief about it. The one who didn't, and who also has a close platonic male friend, is the one he wound up marrying. Once, at a party, a friend of hers asked how come she didn't have a problem with us being friends. She said, 'Watch this. Hey, you two! Think about having sex with each other!' We both involuntarily flinched and twitched and eww-ed, and did the icky-nar-nar dance that you do when a spider falls on you. She turned to her friend and said, 'That's why.'

Capricorn has it precisely: your friendship is only weird or inappropriate if either of you feel it is. For me, it's an excellent acid test to see if a prospective partner can hang with it, too. If they can't, then they're not likely to be a good long-term match for me. That'd be like asking me to give up my brother, and no way is that happening. Other people don't really get a vote, imho.
posted by culfinglin at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's fine for now, but expect it to taper off whenever one of you finds someone you'd actually like ot date.
posted by amaire at 4:00 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think it is inherently a problem, but it can get complicated. I have a really similar situation. My best friend and I semi-dated/hooked up for a while, and then we decided to go back to best friends without benefits. We spend a ridiculous amount of time together, have a very comfortable pseudo-domesticity, make dinner for each other, move furniture, etc. Lots of people assume we're dating.

I also have a very awesome partner, who I do many of those same things together. He is totally okay with my friendship. If he'd had a problem with my friend early on, it would have felt like a warning sign because friendship is really important to me.

I think it works because none of us are jealous people, I've made it clear that I care about both of them, and I make sure to schedule time with both of them, and don't drop one person for the other if the other comes up with a more interesting event last minute.

For question #2, I would suggest deliberately scheduling things to do without Tom, especially ones where you meet new people. This would separate you a little, without it feeling like rejecting him in favor of a new boyfriend, or hurting a new partner's feeling if there are some days you want to forget plans.When we stopped sleeping together, part of it was because she was the vast majority of my social life and it was starting to feel a little claustrophobic. I started going to some of my hobbies that she wasn't interested in, and it helped separate our lives. And when I met new people without her, I was more outgoing, because I couldn't just fall back on talking to her. That's how I met my current boyfriend.
posted by raeka at 4:02 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just don't like this. I can't really articulate why. But I suspect there's a good chance he's using you and I don't like it. Yeah, maybe "you're using each other so it's okay" but is it really?

Life's too short for bullshit.
posted by quincunx at 4:09 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hear a lot of "we have this non-traditional relationship that seems to kind of work but I believe it shouldn't work based on what I believe about relationships." I think what is happening is that your lived experience is clashing with what our culture tells us about how intimate relationships "should" be conducted. (You can even see that in a few of the responses above, and AskMe is generally more open to these things.)

This is, on the whole, bullshit. You are not obligated to care about what your friends, family, people on the street, or random Internet people think of your personal relationships. The important question is, are you happy with this arrangement? Because it sounds like you are but you are picking up on hints from the people around you that you "shouldn't" be happy because he is your ex and you had sex and sex is a special sacred bond, blah blah blah, or some thinly veiled secular equivalent. As long as you think it's working, I say run with it! And if it stops working, then you stop. Simple as that.

That said, if among your ambivalence there is a true feeling that there is something lacking in the relationship or that you don't trust this man, that's something to work out, and if you can't work it out, then you end the relationship. But that's a good S.O.P. for any relationship, it isn't a special requirement for this type of relationship.

Good luck!
posted by deathpanels at 4:18 PM on August 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


I only had to read this far:

Over the last few months we've eased back into each others' lives and now we're back to closer than close, each others' default people for everything

to immediately think this is going to be a problem for anyone else either of you date. I did finish reading, though... not quite tl;dr. If either of you find yourself interested in someone, but letting your friendship interfere with that possible relationship, it's definitely a sign to back things off.

How? Spend less time together. Like however much you see each other now, half of that for starters, and after a month, half of that again. Hanging out in a bigger group is fine, but one-on-one hangouts needs to definitely decrease down to a much more casual level. Cut out the netflix marathons, get to the point where you meet for coffee or a drink once or twice a week. You get lonely? Hang out with other friends or family, go out on dates with potential mates, or learn to be alone, which is probably the hardest thing to do in this situation.

You need to cultivate a new best friend.
posted by lizbunny at 5:48 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Maybe stop thinking about it so much and just go with the flow. If he gets a girlfriend and you feel weird, then back off and withdraw. If you get a boyfriend and fall in love, then you'll probably back off too.

There shouldn't be much to think about at this point though. You haven't found anybody and he hasn't and it's always nice to have someone to spend time with. You might be overthinking.
posted by discopolo at 6:06 PM on August 5, 2015


As (in a previous life) one half of something similar I say - you need to interject more space in your friendship so that other relationships can grow in that intimate space. It took me a while to realize we weren't both moving on - and why should (whichever one of you finds almost all of their needs fulfilled by the current dynamic)? You're all getting what you want, right? Except when you aren't...
posted by sm1tten at 7:30 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


My BFF/ex and I were like this for a long while even after I moved 1000 miles away. We were very close, very nurturing and we spoke/texted/emailed every day. Then I found the man that I did marry and that's when things got weird. I didn't plan for it to happen, but I started pulling out of the relationship with my BFF/ex. Not in an intentional way, but I started spending more time building my new relationship and that left less time and emotional energy for the BFF/ex. When I say things got weird, I mean my ex showed up at my house (now a few states away) and there was a touch of creepiness. Our friendship never recovered from that.

Here is what I didn't fully comprehend while the BFF/ex relationship unfolded. That a relationship could be simultaneously healthy for me and unhealthy for him. I had a friend to help me transition to a new city where I had no one. He was helping me move forward but our friendship was holding him back. He wasn't finding new friends or girlfriends or flirtations. He was (secretly) thinking he'd eventually follow me West - maybe not romantically, but as inseparable friends.

If you're going to continue this relationship, then make damn sure you are both doing it as equals. Given the chance to do it over again, I would have cut him off for his own good.
posted by 26.2 at 8:05 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The sense I get from your question is that, while you aren't ignorant of the potential risks of having such a close friendship with your ex, you don't have an overwhelming feeling that it's wrong. In your last sentence you say it's "probably" weird and "maybe" inappropriate, and I too picked up those signals may be ones you sense from other people, not so much coming from within.

Count me among those who say that even if it is weird, so what? As long as you two are happy with the relationship you've forged and it works for you, I don't actually see much of a problem. That said, yes, you should both keep in mind that things may change if you meet other romantic interests, but even then one is allowed to have both a lover and a best friend and have them be different people.

For my own part, I married for the first time rather late in life and have a number of close friends who are ex-lovers. My wife is fine with them, although I spend the majority of my time and energy with her. It isn't unusual and wrong to have close, intimate friendships outside one's primary romantic partner, and perhaps if a potential partner has a problem with it, it's a sign that they are the one not right for you.
posted by Gelatin at 4:55 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm biased when it comes to reconnecting with exes, however.. I don't know why most people upthread are suggesting that you only have misgivings about this because of What Other People Think. You state clearly a few times that you have your own uncomfortable feelings with the situation and I think that's what you need to examine.

I know that at least for me it's keeping me from getting serious about finding a real relationship, because I have this person who fills so many of the harder-to-fill partner roles so extremely satisfactorily

I don't think your reconnecting with your ex is keeping you from getting serious about finding a real relationship.. I think you aren't serious about finding a real relationship, period. For whatever reason, you seem to be more interested in Comfortable Fun Times (!) with your ex than you are in moving on and finding your next partner. This is fine - we've probably all been there - but you just have to get clear on your priorities and needs at this time.

I think my BFFness with my ex is probably weird and maybe inappropriate but I'm having a really hard time accepting that it might need to change.

If it needs to change, it will. It seems like you already sense that it needs to, but you're not ready to change it. In this case, probably nothing strangers on the internet tell you will "make" you change.. you will change (or he will change) once you're ready to move on to a different phase in your life and in your friendship.

It's emphatically NOT expressed physically; we did sleep together (sober) once early in reconnecting and it confirmed for both of us that there's no lingering romantic torch.

Well, it was expressed physically, right? Sleeping sober together a few months ago counts. This part stuck out to me as rather strange. My girlfriend has friends who are ex lovers and their friendship does not resemble yours. They did not sleep with each other to "confirm" there was no romantic torch. They were able to reconnect with healthy boundaries because there is no romantic torch. I, personally, would be suspicious of someone who did not trust their own judgment and emotional state enough to know that it was over. Having to sleep with someone to know that you don't want to sleep with them anymore.. it's certainly a thing that I've done before, but I wasn't in a good head space at the time. So, I may be projecting here, but I kind of of feel like your judgment wasn't so clear when you reconnected with Tom and that there's more work you need to do, possibly without being in contact with him, to get to the bottom of why you needed to sleep with him again in the first place if, in fact, it's true that you're never getting back together. (And by the way, I kinda think that's bullshit because for all intents and purposes you are back together.)

It sounds like you no longer need to have sex with Tom, but you are basically still in a romantic relationship with him. You have to ask yourself if you would want to date someone who would want to date you while you're still in a deep emotional entanglement with your ex. You also might ask yourself how you would feel if you fell in love with someone who is as close to their ex as you are with yours. Maybe that would be fine with you, and if so, then you have your answer. If you're looking for an open relationship, or a super open minded hippy type of relationship, then probably nothing needs to change. But if you're looking to have anything resembling a conventional romance in the future, then I think you need to not be BFFs with the ex you just slept with a few months ago.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:43 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh! Me! Me! I went through this with someone!

And I know that at least for me it's keeping me from getting serious about finding a real relationship, because I have this person who fills so many of the harder-to-fill partner roles so extremely satisfactorily.

So, that's a problem. You might not be facing the full consequences of that yet but you will eventually. For me, it took about two years of being sorta kinda seriously involved with other people but not really thinking of them as equivalent to my ex in terms of my priorities. In the end, everybody got hurt.

If it is a problem, is it worth doing something about now or will it work itself out?

Things like this don't just "work themselves out." You're probably going to have to have at least one conversation about boundaries that causes a little bit of sadness or discomfort for both of you. That's totally okay!

I'm sure that if/when one of us gets serious about someone, our priorities will naturally shift—given that, is it worth making a fuss now? I know neither of us will be that creepy ex/BFF who can't deal with not being THE CLOSEST ONE, but I also suspect it will kind of hurt to change then.

That's why you want to have boundaries in place now so that you can get serious about finding a real relationship. I'm not saying you must go find a serious relationship ASAP. But if that is something you want in your life, then you do need to be intentional about carving out space in your life for it to happen organically.

You guys don't sound as intense as me and my wonderful ex (really, he is a wonderful guy and I am so glad he is in the world). We were so dependent on one another that I felt sick with guilt about moving on. I got a copy of Codependent No More, showed him the section on break ups, and then we finally put normal boundaries in place. Did it suck? Kind of, yeah! I do miss being his best friend a lot. But fast forward four years on, and we both have way better, more fulfilling lives now without each other at the center. We are better apart and we needed to make room in our separate lives for new people.

I also have another version of this scenario that involves my fiance. Back before we were dating (before I really knew him at all actually), he had a one-night stand with a co-worker, a woman who was basically his closest friend at work. He said that he instantly regretted it and told her that he didn't want a relationship, but they kept hanging out a lot as friends. That train chugged along for six months until he met me. We fell in love very quickly and started making plans for the future. There was just one problem -- his friend was flipping out. She didn't want to admit she was jealous but she also didn't really know how to re-draw the boundaries of their relationship all by herself. So, she kept asking him to go for walks alone with her, come over to her apartment to watch a movie on her bed, go on a road trip and share a hotel room with her, rest her hand on his hand while we're all sitting at a coffee shop and talking, call him repeatedly in the morning when he doesn't answer because we're bed together, make him romantic mix CDs and bring them to my house, wait for him on my porch to ask him to go on a bike ride just with her, aaaaaaaand so on. It got weird. He is really, really nice person and his strategy was "it will work itself out" at first. But it didn't work itself out and she just got really upset (and frankly I got really uncomfortable!). Finally, he sat her down and explained that he was in a serious relationship now and the boundaries of their friendship had gotten blurry and needed to change.

She isn't a bad person at all, but heartache and jealousy and just plain missing your best friend can do a number on someone. The problem is that they were still basically serving as each other's back up boyfriend and girlfriend (sans hanky panky) and when he got a an actual girlfriend, neither of them knew how to act. When my fiance talks about that time in his life now, he says he wishes he had just established clear boundaries from the start. He says that, looking back, he was obviously trying to avoid hurting her feelings but he wound up hurting them anyway and risking what was most important to him (our relationship). We are so much protective about the sacred landscape of our relationship now -- and it feels so great.

So, my advice is to do the hard work now. Nurture other friendships in your life, meet new people, and create more space in your life for a new relationship. You can still be friends with this ex but you need to recognize that you probably cannot be as close to him as you are now and do all of that.
posted by pinetree at 7:12 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and one other note: the former best co-worker friend found a better job and moved away -- and is now happily engaged, too. If she had kept on focusing all of her energy on a faux relationship with her co-worker (now my fiance), she probably would not have gotten out there and been able to foster a meaningful relationship with the person she is now getting ready to marry! I think it's helpful to think of boundaries as a positive thing instead of a limiting thing. They can really be a way to let more love and people into your life in the end.
posted by pinetree at 7:20 AM on August 6, 2015


A comment from an anonymous member:
This question hits close to home because I’m in the same position, except that I’m the partner of someone who’s in a relationship with their “best friend" who they used to be married to. I agree that if you truly are not looking for a new relationship right now then you can go ahead and have your fun continuing with the status quo of your relationship. And don’t kid yourself, this isn’t a friendship—it’s a relationship, even if there’s no sex. You are primary partners to each other.

I ask you to consider what this does to the possibility of being open to a new partner. You’re not available time- or emotion-wise to others if you’re staying in this relationship. The best thing you can do from my opinion is to discover who you are without this person, be alone, foster a new life, friends, hobbies, and routines without your partner.

From your question: I know that at least for me it's keeping me from getting serious about finding a real relationship, because I have this person who fills so many of the harder-to-fill partner roles so extremely satisfactorily … will it work itself out? … I know neither of us will be that creepy ex/BFF who can't deal with not being THE CLOSEST ONE, but I also suspect it will kind of hurt to change then;

It will work itself out (or more likely come to a head) when one of you finds another partner. They suddenly won’t have as much time for you and one of you will be forced to change. Maybe it happens organically, but it’s hard for someone not to be hurt in this situation, even if it’s completely unintentional.

You may think you know that neither of you are the jealous type or going to be upset not being the other person’s primary partner. Maybe you won’t. As someone who’s gone with this I would say that all three of us are the non-jealous type, very independent and rational. I brought the issue of the ex up at the start of dating and was told emphatically that they don’t want to be together, are not getting back together, and have an agreement. Well, it was okay at first until the ex started passive aggressively “claiming” my partner on social media, among our aquantainces, etc. I don’t think the ex thought they’d feel this way, but once confronted with their former partner finally finding someone to replace them they couldn’t handle it. This case is a bit different in that they were together much longer than you but sometimes we don’t know how we’ll act until we do. We can’t predict our feelings.

As the future partner, the following comment really resonated with me:
I went through pretty much this same situation with my best friend, except we never lived together. We tried dating, realized we weren't right romantically, went back to being best friends. Now he is like my brother, and we consider each other family, celebrate holidays together, the whole megillah. I just spent Friday night and Saturday night with him and his wife, who is the best chosen-sister-in-law I could ever have asked for.
I want to celebrate holidays with you, to be the primary person in your life. In the above instance I think it’s okay, because they have embraced the new partner wholeheartedly. If you’re going to stay best friends then act like a best friend – a best friend should support the other person’s relationships, foster them and do everything to make their friend happy. Because you should want your friend to be in a happy, successful relationship even if it’s not with you. This includes backing off to let that relationship grow.
Nevertheless, some of his girlfriends mistook emotional and platonic intimacy for romance, and gave him serious grief about it. The one who didn't, and who also has a close platonic male friend, is the one he wound up marrying.
I would argue here that as the future partner, it’s not that I think you’re going to sex your ex up. Sex and physical intimacy is only part of a relationship. It’s very threatening and intimidating to compete with someone else for your time and attention who knows you so well. I would argue that your future partner wants to build the closest relationship with you, and when a large part of your emotional needs are being met by someone else it makes it hard to reach the same level of emotional intimacy most people want in an exclusive relationship. My opposite sex best friend has been supportive of me in my relationships, and when they found a partner I backed off and let them become best friends. It really hurt me and I miss them sometimes, but we can’t be as close as we once were and not hurt the new partner’s feelings.

The problem is that they were still basically serving as each other's back up boyfriend and girlfriend (sans hanky panky) and when he got a an actual girlfriend, neither of them knew how to act.
but I think this would be very, very tough on any romantic partner you have who wants exclusivity, and most do. A true intimate partner is generally going to want to be your BFF.
Maybe you’re not ready to call it quits on this relationship, that’s okay. But as your future partner I ask that you start to slowly extricate yourself from this co-dependant relationship to open yourself up to me.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you’re going to stay best friends then act like a best friend – a best friend should support the other person’s relationships, foster them and do everything to make their friend happy. Because you should want your friend to be in a happy, successful relationship even if it’s not with you. This includes backing off to let that relationship grow.


Yes, that is absolutely the attitude I had, which is probably why it worked. I love my best friend and want him to be happy and loved, and want his marriage to be successful. Part of making his marriage successful requires setting boundaries (for everyone!) and then respecting them.

I would argue here that as the future partner, it’s not that I think you’re going to sex your ex up.

While you might not be thinking that, he had girlfriends accusing us of getting it on while we were out running errands. That got a little… tiresome. Guess I should've been clearer about that.
posted by culfinglin at 12:53 PM on August 6, 2015


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