Why is it that our friends are so much more likely to stay in our life than our lovers? We fall in love with people because they are special, because we feel connected to them on a powerful and intimate level. So you would think that, even if a romantic relationship doesn’t work out, these qualities would still make them valuable parts of our lives. But it so rarely seems to work out that way.
Is it just because we tend to expect too much of our lovers, and then are disappointed when they fail to be as perfect as we dreamed they were? Because so much of what we saw in them was given an unreal rosy glow by the hormonal intoxication of falling in love? Because we want to be their “number one” and can’t bear to be displaced from that top spot?
Of course it’s possible to stay friends with ex-lovers, and sometimes the friendship can work better than the original relationship. I’ve never not wanted to be friends with my ex-partners. But my most recent ex’s complete refusal to communicate makes friendship not only impossible but almost certainly undersirable even if he changed his mind: stability and willingness to communicate are some of the main things I look for in a friend!
It’s strange – I remember thinking, at an early stage in my relationship with this ex, that of course there was no way to be sure we would always love each other or be the right partner for each other. But I wasn’t worried because of the strength of our communication made me confident we’d always be able to talk, always be able to be friends, and decide together what was best for us. The fact that I was completely wrong about this is one of the most painful aspects of our break-up.
I don’t really know why he cut off so abruptly. It wasn’t something he’d done in previous relationships, so I suspect it must be the “personal development” course he went on. Indeed the course seems to have led him to cut off from all his old friends, in a way I can’t believe is healthy. Interestingly I was speaking to a friend of mine last night, who described how an old friend of his had gone on a “personal development” course and as a result completely cut herself off from all her friends – for reasons scarily similar to those my ex gave. If these courses were genuinely promoting “personal development” then they should deepen the relationships in your life, rather than ending them. Of course you may be in the wrong relationship and need to move on, but you should be able to do that in an open and mature way if necessary. And it certainly should not lead you to cut off friendships that have sustained you for years.
Anyway, all this does make me realise just how amazingly valuable and precious my friends are. People I’ve known for years now, who’ve seen me grow and change, and have shared their stories with me. People who it makes me smile just to think of. People who don’t put me on a pedestal, or expect too much of me. People – both men and women – who have comforted me when I have wept, without feeling threatened or uncomfortable. People who have told me truths, sometimes painful ones, that I needed to hear, without making me feel bad about myself. People who will almost certainly still be there as lovers come and go.
Of course my lovers have been my friends too, while we’ve been together. But there seems to be something about a romantic relationship which means that the end of the romance damages the friendship, often beyond repair. I think if I could work out more about why, it would be an excellent basis for finding a loving relationship with the lasting stability of a friendship. I think it largely comes down to unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic perceptions of who the other person is – we try to make them fit our dreams, and then are broken-hearted when they don’t match up to the illusion we had.
At the end of the day I don’t need a lover, however much I might want one. But I’d be very lost without my friends….