How do I get over my best friend?
Should I pull away to protect myself, bring things up with the potential of losing the friendship or it being something more that I’m not sure I even want, or do nothing and just try to get over it?
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
A BIG SWEETIE:
I have been friends with this guy for about 7+ years. We met in college and have been through a lot of intense ups and downs together. We have had a very inconsistent relationship of being extremely close to the point of codependency to not talking at all during one of the hardest years of my life for no particular reason. While I’ve always been attracted to him, I had never really thought of things further because of how tumultuous and different we were.
After our period of not speaking, I forgave him easily but never fully forgot that it happened. I could not trust him to be in my life consistently anymore. At the time, I did not have the capacity to deal with the situation by truly repairing the toll of not having one of my closest friends during such a hard time. In the two years since our reconnection, we’ve very slowly gotten closer again and in the last 6 months, he’s become a very consistent person in my life with no effort on my part.
On top of this, it has become a sexual tension heavy, touchy-feely relationship that has come very close to crossing the line in past few weeks - which has made the situation confusing and made me think maybe I like him? Do I like him or is it just that we’re both lonely? I was planning on moving to the city he lives in for various reasons, one being him and some other friends are there. Anytime we talk about the move, it’s always with all of the weekly plans we’ll have, things we’ll do all the time, etc. Now it seems like it might be too much and that I shouldn’t make the move since it’s not necessary to do it. It is hard to trust that our friendship would survive if I “make things weird by mentioning it,” and I have no real clue how he feels. However, I can’t continue this way, wondering what’s happening while simultaneously being worried about how long we’ll be close for this time. Should I pull away to protect myself, bring things up with the potential of losing the friendship or it being something more that I’m not sure I even want, or do nothing and just try to get over it/get clarity internally? Is there another option? Please help!
Howdy, howdy, howdy!1 There is, despite what I’m sure it feels like to you, so much good news in your letter. I mean it is just chockablock full of mostly good stuff, the problem is that you aren’t sure what you want and how to communicate some things that need to be communicated.
So let’s start straightening some things out. The biggest thing that sticks out to me is that you have a LOT of pain over your friend being not in your life for a year. (This is not to say that this is unreasonable! Some things, like having a friend not there, are incredibly painful). However, you also say that the absence was for, “for no particular reason.”
So. We gotta address some of that.
You seem to carry a little bit of resentment towards your friend that he was not around. You say you “forgave” him for not being there, but you also say that he wasn’t around for no particular reason. If that’s really the case, then what was there to forgive? And if you have forgiven him wholly, why are you still holding that past behavior against him and your expectations of the future behavior?
My guess is that it’s not because you’re a wildly unfair or unreasonable person—you don’t seem to be at all!— but rather because the two of you haven’t talked about or haven’t finished talking about what that year meant to you and specifically, what his absence during that year felt like.
Let me be very clear: I think it’s incredibly reasonable to have a lot of sadness that your friend wasn’t there for you during an important time. I also think it’s reasonable to wonder or worry if that might happen again should you stay friend with him / become “more than” friends2. I do not, however, think it’s very reasonable or fair to keep holding his behavior against him while presenting as if you’ve moved on, especially if the reason for the break in friendship was simply just life being life and not a falling out or great abandonment or something. People are allowed to not be around the same amount as they were before, life has seasons. That isn’t evil or immoral. It can hurt, to be sure!
I say all this without knowing what that year was really like. I’m going off of a few sentences from you that are fairly vague (totally fine!) so I am merely going to pose some questions and ask that you think about the answers on your own. What did you do during the year to reach out to him? Did he ignore you? Did he know how bad that year was for you and why? How much did he know? What was his year like? Does he feel like you weren’t there for him? Was his year really good and celebratory and that’s hard to deal with in comparison to your year? Was he busy? Were you distant (again, totally fair to be distant during a hard time, just a question to think about)?
I don’t know these answers, and also, of course, what feels true to you probably is at least minorly different than what feels true to him. I cannot recommend enough you doing some work on your own first to think about or write about what hurt about that year and about him not being there. I then recommend bringing some of that to him, NOT— VERY EXPLICITLY NOT— in order to blame him or to lay resentment or bitterness at his feet, but rather to open up and share with a friend, with the goal that he might open up and share with you, too. You both will likely find out a whole hell of a lot about what that year without each other was about, what it felt like for the other person, why it happened the way it did.
And that, I verily believe, is the key to unlocking the rest of this shit with him.
I don’t know what comes next for you two. It seems like you’re both horny little sweeties who want to bone, which is a lovely lovely lovely thing to be. Also, please don’t worry if it comes from a place of loneliness. That’s like wondering if you just want food because you’ve been feeling kind of hungry recently. Try out the relationship if it feels like something that would make you feel good. Don’t if it seems like the talk doesn’t go well. You are going to have to take this all one step at a time no matter what. It’s not like you’re going to move to the same city as him and then BOOM! you two are forcibly married.
The world is hard and bad and lonely and having a good friend is lovely. Having a good friend you might want to bone who might want to bone you back is triple lovely.
Moving to a city where lots of your friends live sounds like a very good and normal choice, with or without him in the equation. I don’t think you should not move to a city that is good for you simply because a few years back one specific friend wasn’t there for you “for no particular reason.”
I don’t think pulling away from a friend protects you from anything. I think the thing you think it protects you from is future pain, but you will feel pain in the future no matter what. You’d feel pain if you stopped being friends with him! You will feel pain in the future and pulling out of relationships that might hurt someday down the road is not the antidote to that. Is your plan for feeling no pain to cut off all friendships and potential love sources just in case a person hurts you?
That all said, it is, of course, reasonable to create boundaries with people. If someone hurts you, you do not need to keep opening yourself up to hurt to prove a point about how loving you are or whatever. I’m not suggesting you accept anything less than good treatment. To me, from what you wrote, it does not sound like he’s a malicious guy. Once you talk to him about that year and what happened and lay out your expectations and boundaries as a friend (or as something more) and see how he responds to that, I think you’ll get a very good idea of whether this is something that might happen again or not.
Please, try to let yourself have some fun and love without waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s very difficult to do, but the truth is: you have no idea what to be scared of. You just don’t. There’s no way for you to predict what is coming down the line that might hurt or harm or unmoor you. You don’t know. (Just look at the pandemic! Most people—not all, but most—were not sitting around thinking: I bet a global pandemic is going to shut everything down for two years). You cannot outthink and outplan hurt.
And you may get hurt again. Actually, you will get hurt again by someone at some point. You may even get unintentionally hurt again by this guy. That doesn’t make you a big dingus who didn’t build enough protective walls. It means you tried and you loved and you showed up. That’s the good shit!!! That’s fabulous! You can’t ask for anything better than that!
So: talk to him about what hurt and why. Listen to him!!! Make sure he listens to you!!! Go from there. Take it one step at a time. Do what feels best, try to be brave enough to risk getting hurt. Maybe a relationship is great between you two, maybe you’re better as friends. Ask for what you need, keep showing up. You’ve got this!!!
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Does anyone know why I am tempted to start all my letters with this like I’m an old-timey General Store owner and you’ve come in to do a barter for your wheat? Help!
There is no such thing as more than friends; friendship is the best thing ever, but you get what I mean.