Photograph by Tina Sosna
Hi. I’ve been so lost about this situation for a while. When I was in boarding school, I made friends with a really awesome guy. We were best friends for years before he kissed me. And then, for eighteen glorious months we had an amazing relationship. We were each other’s first serious relationship—we lost our virginities together. It was an incredibly difficult time in my life and I lived with him after eight months as I was no longer able to live with my parents. However, towards the close of our relationship we both recognised that it was becoming unhealthy—I was anxious all the time (I have suffered from anxiety and depression for a long time) and he was withdrawing. So, we decided together to end the relationship and give each other a month to process the situation. After that month, we began speaking again and he revealed to me that he thought he was gay (he has since decided he is bisexual).
We quickly fell back into being best friends—we talk most days about anything and everything. We give each other advice, laugh around together, argue, and support each other through the tough times. I love our friendship, but it’s difficult. I have heard from so many people how bad it is for us to be friends, how I will never properly move on, and how we could never maintain it. I have felt twinges of jealousy when seeing him meeting new people and having new experiences without me. I have struggled to reconcile the feelings I had for him with our situation now.
But I believe it’s worth it. I know I can trust him no matter what and he knows me better than anyone else. I have had crushes but no dates since, as has he. And it’s comfortable. But I want to know if I’m doing the right thing. Will it be okay? Am I setting myself up to be emotionally stunted? Does being friends with him mean I will never properly move on?
Thank you very much for your time and advice.
Hi there! Thanks so much for writing in to our Advice Forum!!
First off, good on you both for being mature enough to end the relationship when you found it wasn’t working or healthy for you both—I imagine that wasn’t easy.
In this situation, I don’t know if there is exactly a “right thing” to do, per se, and there’s really not a “wrong thing” either—ultimately, it’s just whatever feels right to you. I can’t promise you that it will be okay, but I definitely don’t think you’re setting yourself up to be emotionally stunted or that you will never be able to move on. I had a similar situation to this once, and I heard similar comments from my friends all the time about how there was no way the friendship could be healthy, and how it was too complicated because we had a romantic past. It got really annoying and disheartening, but whenever I heard those comments, I just reminded myself that no one understand the situation the way that I did, and since I felt good about it (and he felt good about), that was what really mattered—it was OUR relationship, and no one else’s. At a certain point, it might be helpful to gently tell your friends that while you appreciate their input, those types of comments are becoming hurtful and that you would appreciate if they would trust you to make your own decisions.
When I was in this situation, the hardest thing was always seeing my ex with someone new. When ex-partners move on to a new relationship, it can be painful, and usually the best way we get through it is with distance from our ex, and time. So when you’re trying to still be friends (particularly best friends) and you don’t have that distance, things get tricky. Lines get blurry in regards to relationship roles, and it can be easy and natural to feel jealous, which can lead to poor decisions and cause the relationship to become too difficult and unhealthy. Similarly, if you find someone new before he does, it may cause him to feel jealous, which can be just as hard to deal with.
The most important thing is for you to just check in with yourself, and trust yourself. If it feels good to you right now, and feels worth it like you said, then stick with it, and don’t be dissuaded by the comments of outsiders. But know that that may change—maybe if one of you starts a new romantic relationship, or maybe just due to a change in life circumstances, or to personal development. Consider having a conversation with him where you agree to be open with each other about how you feel and what the relationship means, especially if one of you starts dating someone new. The relationship is yours, and you get to decide what place it has in your life. And know that if there does come a point where things feel to hard and you need to re-evaluate, you can step away from the relationship without it necessarily meaning the end forever. Relationships go through phases and changes, and that’s okay.
Good luck and all the best,