Writing left handed

The Friends Conundrum

Okay, ready for Part 2? My big, dark secret?

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint. And if you were hoping for reconciliation with TWD or a torrid affair with someone else, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed.

But here’s the thing: I don’t do friends.

By which I mean I don’t do friends with ex-boyfriends.

And not for lack of trying… I’ve tried and failed MISERABLY. The main reason I don’t want to try with TWD is not because I’m afraid of what it would do to me (although this is a valid concern) but because I’m afraid of what it would do to him. I’ve caused a lot of hurt in the past.

I’ve sent letters I never should have sent, rekindled flames I had no business rekindling. To this day, I still feel guilty about my college boyfriend, and this guilt is reignited every time he sends me a friend request (thankfully, I’ve learned that feeling lonely sometimes feel an awful lot “I still love you.” But they’re not the same thing. They just look alike.)

I honestly don’t get how people do it. I am sort-of-friends with my first boyfriend (as in I Facebook stalk him every few years and say things like, “Oh my GOD—your wife had a baby??? Congratulations!”) but that’s the extent of it.

I also tried being friends with my former-flat-cum-boyfriend but he cut me off completely (which, in my humble opinion, was totally unfair. Yes, I ended the relationship, and yes, he was devastated, but we were friends way longer than we were boyfriend and girlfriend… couldn’t we just go back to that?)

I don’t have the best track record. In fact, of the five official ex-boyfriends I have, I’m only “friends” with one (and even then, Facebook stalking to comment on life events is hardly real friendship).

Part of the reason for this is because I’ve always allowed myself to have messy break ups. The “let’s take a break” type of break ups, the “I think I might still love you” type of break ups. And breakups such as these aren’t exactly the best foundations for friendship…

But that’s not the only reason. The truth is I’m just downright terrible at being friends with men. I’ve always preferred male friends, and at certain points in my life, I’ve had more male friends than female friends, but I can never walk the platonic line for long. I always end up developing a crush, and sometimes that crush spills over into “Let’s give this a shot,” and then said shot spills over in “Umm… maybe not” and then things are just awkward. (Or, on the other extreme, I suppress said crush and fixate instead on the small scraps of kindness tossed my way; I could give even the best revisionist historians a run for their money.)

Sometimes I’ve done the opposite: turned a flirtatious relationship into a platonic one, but even then the specter of romantic attraction is never far away.

People do it, though. I know they do. I have friends who do. Real live friends who don’t just remain friends with their exes but who actually discuss music with their exes, give career advice, dance together and even attend each other’s weddings.

This is a foreign concept to me.

But I wonder, maybe six months down the road, if TWD and I could be friends.

I know we couldn’t be friends now. I haven’t been with anyone else yet. I haven’t gone on any dates yet. I haven’t even kissed anyone yet. A man did buy me a drink a few weeks ago but that’s a long story (and he was drunk, and too old for me, so it doesn’t really count), but the point I’m trying to make is that I haven’t exactly wiped the slate clean, so to speak. If I saw TWD now, I would either A) fall into a crumbling, crying mess or B) attempt sleep with him.

(And, let’s face it, I would probably succeed.)

But maybe, eventually, when I reach the point at which options aside from Option A and Option B begin to present themselves, we could be friends.

I mean we did a pretty good job of being a couple, and we’re doing a great job of not being a couple right now (seriously, this is worst break up I’ve ever gone through but it has also been the cleanest and I am very proud of myself). Methinks, therefore, that we could someday do a great job of being friends. After all, I’m not the same girl I was in high school, or college, or grad school. And TWD represented a lot of “firsts” for me.

Maybe he could be a first boyfriend-turned-friend too?

13 Responses to “The Friends Conundrum”

  1. Katie

    1. This makes me think about Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent use of the term “conscious uncoupling.” I loved it and think that all couples who mutually agree to a breakup should try it. (Of course, when it comes to marriage, it’s just a fancy way to avoid the nasty word “divorce,” which implies failure. But whatever. I like that they’re trying to remain amicable.)

    2. Kat, I’m just going to say it: I think it’s time you focus on *actual* friendships. And since you admittedly have a difficult time building real friendships with men, start focusing on building friendships with women. I only say this because I’ve been you, to an extent. There was a phase in late high school/early college where I considered most of my best friends to be male. But looking back now, I realize what I loved about that was the attention — being the only girl in the group, being desired, flirting, etc. It felt great. Huge ego booster.

    But the truth? It’s not healthy. It’s not true friendship. To this day, I’ve kept two very good male friends (with whom I’ve never been romantically connected). But once I focused on bringing more women into my life, my relationships changed. I found myself meeting kindred spirits, so to speak — women who helped and encouraged — who actually understood me. It helped me become less judgmental of other women, and I’ll tell you what — working WITH women instead of seeing them as competition has opened so many new doors for me. INCLUDING meeting my husband.

    So. Sorry for the novel of a comment. But it seems like you’ve come so far over the last few years (because I know everything about you from reading your blog — ha!), I’d hate to see you cycle back into this thought process that you need attention from men to be successful. While you’ve always known yourself as a “guys’ girl,” the truth is that it’s just easier than building true, lasting friendships. And I think once you focus on that, other aspects of your romantic life will start falling into place. (Apparently someone doused my coffee with a splash of know-it-all-edness this morning. Yipes.)

    • Kat Richter

      Haha! No, Katie, you are 100% correct. I realized this about 7 or 8 weeks ago and have been trying to work on being a better friend to my girlfriends. And to cultivate more girl friends in general. I also suspect that some of the issues I had with TWD would have been better, or at least less, if I’d had more real friend at the time.

      It’s tough- I’m not naturally a very social person- but I’m working on it. The other day I spent a whole evening literally scrolling through my phone book calling people and saying, “Look, I know I’m really bad about keeping in touch and I tend to drop my girlfriends when I get a boyfriend and I’m sorry. How ARE you?”

      Sigh… I felt pretty lame but it was better than the alternative.

  2. Zak

    Ever watch the movie “Swingers?” It’s my go-to for advice on breakups. Essentially, the scene you’re at is when Jon Favreau is sitting in his apartment, drapes drawn, no lights on, unshowered for several days. His friend comes over and says “perk up man!,” but Jon says something about “what if?” or “when.” His buddy says: when, if, she finally does come around and want you back, or want to be your friend, or something more than nothing, you won’t even care anymore.

    You won’t. My ex-wife was the most I’ve ever loved someone. I have trouble ever seeing myself give up so completely again – as in, getting so involved that I could be that hurt, again – but I always hoped we’d stay friends for a while. Well, it took years – YEARS!!! – but after five – FIVE!!! – years since the divorce (plus 8-9 added where we “talked” through lawyers), I hardly ever think of her. I wish her well, at best, but I don’t care anymore.

    He was a good person, you’re a good person. But just like good people you’ve known before – friends growing up, high school, college friends, etc – they fall away from you, you from them, you remember but don’t care. They become a lesson, a point in time, not a foundation to build upon. Life-long friends, family, and maybe one day that special someone, are the ones you build foundations on.

    • Kat Richter

      Hmmm… For starters I showered just a few hours ago (okay last night… And right now I am pjs, but still) 😉

      But point taken. Not taken very easily but taken. I guess, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I don’t actually trust people who are still great friends with their ex boy/girlfriends. It just seems so foreign to me, so impossible, and so weird. It drove me CRAZY with TWD. And now that I think about it some more, I’m wondering if wanting to be friends with him is actually just me trying to hold onto him. Like as long as there is still a someday-6-months-or-6-years from now possibility, he’s not actually out of my life.

      This is probably super obvious to everyone else but I’ve been sitting here the past few days thinking, “No, it’s not that. I’m just a nice person. I want tell him about Star Wars shit because he likes Star Wars shit!”

      But now I’m realizing that this probably isn’t the truth. At least not the whole truth.

      • Zak

        Ms. D – remember her? – and I broke up over two years ago. I hung unto that hope as well until recently. Both the way I saw it upset my current girlfriend, someone I intend on marrying in the future, and the fact that just staying friends with Ms. D had many complications beyond C’s feelings… and I have just accepted that I may cross paths, but friendship is now a lost cause.

        Sucks, but it’s the way life is.

        • Kat Richter

          Yeah… I still don’t really want to accept it but it will be for the best I suppose. And yeah, new girlfriend’s feelings definitely trump old girlfriend’s. (And yes, of course I remember Ms. D. Glad you’ve moved on to better things.)

  3. Attention Future Self

    Funny you should mention this as I am definitely case study material for this topic.
    Repeat offender

    The conclusion I have come to is this;

    If you can still be friends, its because despite the break-up – there’s still a spark, and that spark was the foundation of the relationship. You must actively squash the spark, and the only way to do that is by not being friends. The reason I say this is because if you try and nurture the spark, it brings back familiarity for one of you (whether you admit it or not) and next minute someone is either silently beating themselves up over confusing feelings or you both have your pants off.

    That being said, Im only talking about when you REALLY try to be friends (not best friends, just real friends), which is a completely different thing to being amicable.

    • Kat Richter

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure there would still be a spark between us (definitely at this point and quite possibly always). In which case not speaking is still the best thing… as much as that sucks.

  4. casespace

    Maybe it’s because I’ve only had one break up in my lifetime, but I don’t think you need to be friends with him at all. As someone said above, time will bring you to a place where he’ll be an afterthought. I know that sounds rather cold, but the fact is, everyone we were once close to isn’t meant to be a lifelong friend. It’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re cruel; it just means you’re moving on with life. I use to think not communicating at all with my ex was the worse thing I could do, but eventually became the best decision I made. We can be acquaintances from afar (a la Facebook friends, as you so eloquently pointed out; although he doesn’t Facebook much, so nothing to stalk; until he gets married and has a child and then I’m sure he’ll magically reappear with said baby pics).

    • Kat Richter

      Haha! Yeah… it’s definitely for the best. I’ve been thinking it over since posting and I realized that I don’t actually miss or want to be friends with any of my other ex-boyfriends (except for the one that I was friends with to begin with, but that’s what happens when you gamble your friendship on a romantic relationship). Thinking about them doesn’t even hurt anymore, it’s just like, “That was nice, too bad…” and that’s that. I guess probably I’ll reach that point with TWD too, and wanting to be friends with him was just a way of delaying/denying the inevitable, that he is out of my life. Thanks for sharing– I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t BFFs with my ex 🙂


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