Just friends

‘So you’re really going to be just friends?’ my colleague asked, innocently cementing my hatred for an expression we casually use time and time again to talk about the art of going platonic.

If you had the misfortune to read my last post you’ll know I recently extricated myself from a rather confusing romantic encounter. We both accepted the onward trajectory wasn’t going to be relationship-ville. To me, in the past, this has always meant a parting of ways. No sexy time equals no time at all. If we bumped into each other in the street of course we’d stop and chat or at least acknowledge each other’s earthly existence, but the hang-outs, phone calls and texts stopped and there’d definitely be a Facebook break-up.

Except this time my ex-lover really, genuinely wanted to stay mates – and presented such a good case for keeping the friendship afloat I just couldn’t find a reason not to. Meaningful, stimulating conversation? Check. Guaranteed laughter and fun when together? Check. Mutual respect and support for one another? All present and correct. And, if I’m honest, having someone so intent on spending time with me purely driven by the belief I’m a pretty cool lady to be around, just feels nice.

I know what you’re thinking, oh cynical reader. And no, I can assure you I’m now about as attractive to this man as a venerial disease. He’s not still trying to get into my pants – and I’ve genuinely lost interest in going anywhere near his.

We even managed a very sensible dating post-mortem discussion in the pub without anyone getting thrown in the river – immensely impressive considering said pub’s proximity to the Thames. This was adulting at it’s finest. Practically dissolving in a puddle of smugness I relayed my newfound maturity to several of my nearest and dearest who were intrigued, supportive and offered varied insight into the idea of being ‘just friends’ with someone you’ve been romantically involved with. There it was, repeatedly, this expression I’ve come to detest.

‘Just’ friends – a word pairing I abhor because, actually, friendship is important. In fact I think it’s probably more important than romantic relationships – I’d be nowhere without the platonic connections in my life. To date I haven’t ever managed to stay friends with someone I’ve been involved with, but I’ve never actually tried particularly hard. And perhaps I should have.

Whether this time will be any different remains to be seen and I’m still not sure whether the brevity of our flirtation will help or hinder things. Is it easier to make friendship stick when the romantic foundation is weak, or harder because those relationship building blocks we so lack leave us with less to cling onto? Yes it was only a fling so it’s a smaller transition from lovers to buddies, but we really haven’t been in each others lives for very long. This, coupled with a few lingering feelings of confusion and resentment over the way things ended (on my part), might make the passage less than smooth.

However I’m a woman in her 30’s with increasingly fewer opportunities to connect and spend quality time with like-minded people who aren’t swamped with other life commitments and responsibilities. In these days of drifting friendships and spending far too much time in playgrounds with my mates who now have young offspring, I’m determined to at least try to sew the tattered threads of our romantic liaison into something new. Here’s hoping I’m up to the task.

 

When romance goes awry – rewriting the story

Oh amor, amor, amor. The heat, the passion, the adoration and sheer wonder of it all. Except when it’s unreciprocated.

I’ve been dating someone for a little while, someone who initially I wasn’t quite sure about, as well as feeling generally reticent about whether I wanted anything beyond a fling anyway. But we hung out around once a week nonetheless – there were dinners out, drinks thrown back, interesting conversations and romps between the sheets. Then a couple of weeks ago after he cooked me dinner and we spent the night cuddling in front of a film, something terrible happened. I caught feelings. Suddenly this man that I’d felt reasonably blase about, despite really enjoying his company, was all I could think about. I wanted more.

However, it turns out, he doesn’t. The point at which my uncertainty blossomed into a quiet kind of admiration was the juncture at which his initial attraction dwindled, fizzled and died. There’s not enough chemistry here for a relationship, he said. I really enjoy spending time with you, find you fascinating and would love to stay friends, he said.

Ouch.

I’ve come a really, really long way since the dark valleys of depression, but this. This was hard to stomach. Having worked so hard to strip bare the negative thinking my illness hardwired into my brain, it was astonishing how quickly I slipped back into telling myself the same story again – you’re not good enough.

So what does anyone who’s walked the black dog and knows it’s sneaky, nefarious ways do? They re-write the narrative. The tale I’m telling myself isn’t the only version of this romance. There has to be an incredibly delicate conflation of timing, life circumstances, desires and alchemy for a relationship to work and this obviously just wasn’t right. So each time my misfiring neurons try to convince me my failed amor is my fault – that my own inadequacies couldn’t somehow forge the emotional connection we needed – I’ll gently guide them back to a more rational path.

I’m in pain and I feel foolish. But it won’t last forever and I’ll stay open to meeting someone else, make myself vulnerable and risk getting hurt again if I have to. Because I’m human and it’s what we do.