Sometimes we meet someone and all the fundamental connections are there, but things just don’t pan out romantically. The reasons why you fail as a couple are sometimes as simple as a case of 2 busy people being too busy to fall in love with each other. Sometimes, we’re lucky and our failed pursuit at happily ever after proceeds instead as a relationship in the realm of “just friends.”
But is being “just friends” really a consolation to your failed love affair?
On the one hand, there’s no bigger blow to our ego than meeting someone we have a nice time with only to never hear from again. So, I suppose the answer is yes… unless someone, namely you, makes deadly mistake of falling in love anyway.
And then, being "just friends" just doesn't cut it.
How many wedding announcements or rom-com movies tell the tale of two long-time friends who wake up one morning to the discovery that they're soul mates? More than enough to vouch for your mother's advice to "get to know him first!" and the saying "friends last a lifetime."
Enough to vouch for keeping a gaggle of platonic guy friends that exceeds in count my gaggle of girl friends.
When I was a freshman in college I fell in love with the boy who lived across the hall from my best girl friend. I spent almost every night of our first year in her room, hoping to catch her neighbor's attention. It worked. He hooked up with her. But 10 years later, the boy I had a crush on is my best friend.
In our decade of friendship, have we ever hooked up? Nope.
Have I ever let my heart wander down the path of love again? Surprisingly, no.
There's no doubt my life would feel incomplete without him, but as I got to know him better and the closer we became, the less interested I became in him as a romantic partner.
This is the ideal situation.
And then there's the nightmare version of being "just friends."
That looks more like this:
A few years ago, a friend tried to set me up with a friend of a friend. She'd met him once or twice, but decided we had everything in common -- from a love of food and the arts to an obsession with baseball and antiques -- and therefore, should get married and have babies.
"You both have blue eyes," she said. "Your children will have blue eyes."
This was one of her most reiterated reasons for introducing us via facebook. I'm not sure why either of us let her suck us in (I suppose we both must have been desperate) but we started exchanging long-winded emails that boded well. I confess -- I'd fallen a little bit in love before I'd ever met him.
We met for lunch. We had a lovely time.
And then we fell completely out of touch.
I sat puzzled. What went wrong? I was crushed. A kind of visceral pain shot through me -- wait, this was supposed to work!
So I devised a plan -- I'd suggest we can our match-maker's suggestion that we live happily ever after and instead, proceed as just friends. It was brilliant. I'd take the pressure off us and then, hopefully, if he agreed to hang out platonically, he'd reveal himself to be a total asshole and I'd lose interest.
He said he'd love to get to know me better as a friend, and so we did.
But as we spent more time together, we decided we wanted to spend even more time together. As we spent more time together, I discovered he had dozens of annoying habits... and I found them all endearing.
Instead of deciding he was a total asshole, I became more emotionally invested than I would have become if we had started dating. Years passed, and I realized I had fallen hard. Nobody was going to measure up to him.
There's nothing more heartbreaking that sitting across the table from the person you love, your best friend, listening to him talk about the relationship he wants, knowing it's the relationship you have together, but also knowing that all he wants from you is to be "just friends."
I realized this about 2 years into my friendship with Mr. Set-Up, when he finally revealed he had been seeing someone for nearly 8 months -- I'll never know why he kept this from me, or how he was so successful at doing that. That visceral hurt I felt when we fell out of touch hit me with ten-fold force.
What did I do? I slowly phased him out.
We had traditional outings, but when it came to other activities I started to turn to other partners. I stopped calling him when I needed someone to talk to, and kept it to my girl friends. The transition was subtle, and I blamed it on a new job. It was true that I loved being with him more than anyone else, but frankly, I'd reached the point where being just friends wasn't ever going to be a satisfying relationship for me.
And if I was ever going to find my best friend who would become my life partner, I was going to have to let him go.
Sometimes, you have a lose a friend to take back your love life.