“We [32M] started talking and became friends more than two years ago. She [26F] lives literally on the other side of the planet.
We had a romantic relationship for about a year. It was very intense. Then one day she said that it wasn’t realistic for us to be together. It was hard for me to hear that, but I respect it.
We talk literally every day. She’s a huge part of my life. She’s my best friend. I’m trying really hard to navigate this in a dignified way.
I want to remain friends. In the past, I would just end a friendship because perceived rejections and all of that. I’m trying to grow and I want to get beyond that pain. I want to value friendship properly.
We love each other on a friendship level and I value that highly. It’s something I’ve been missing for a long time. She’s my family.
Sometimes, it’s really hard. I’ll feel everything rushing back and it takes everything to not break down and cry. Most of the time, I just remember how much I love her, want her to be happy, and to thrive.
I am looking for any advice to deal with this. Most people say to go on dates or create distance with her. Honestly, I don’t feel ready for dates. I also don’t want distance.”
Dear Data Will Not Save Us,
For me personally, relationships are about managing and occupying space. It is about the space you create and curate for your partners, friends, and family. What kind of emotional bandwidth and time can you allot for each person in your life? Does that space match their expectation of a space they’d like to occupy in your life? Can they reciprocate and create spaces for you to reside in in their lives? Are you okay only occupying that size of space that they’ve left for you?
These are all really great questions for you to ask as you think about the space and role you expect to take up in your best friend’s life. You say that you two had once been romantically entangled, but since decided to remain as platonic friends instead. Are you mindfully consenting to the space that she has asked you to occupy? Are those being reciprocated in the space you have created for her?
For whatever it is worth, give your pain too some space to breathe. Acknowledge and embrace that you are experiencing one form of heartbreak. One that comes is exacerbated by the massive physical distance between you two. Realistic or not, it ended for the reasons that you both feel are justified. And because it was such an intense relationship, you are left longing in the shrinking container in which you’re asked to occupy. Do you know what happens when you shrink a container with the same amount of air inside? It gets pressured, keen for the thinnest layer to burst through.
So instead of pressuring yourself under this shrinking container, why not just step away for some time, re-evaluate what this means to you, then come back smaller chunks at a time? It doesn’t matter if that means you step away for two days or five months or decades. Whatever time you feel is necessary in which you can feel ready to reinvent with her this new phase of your connection yet.
I am really sorry to hear that she broke your heart. But you don’t have to continue to take part in activities or connections that do not add to your life and passively causes you pain. That’s just self-inflicted emotional harm. So treat yourself better. You deserve some rest that isn’t contingent upon another. If she really is family, she’ll be hurt but she’ll also understand. And if there’s a friendship to be rekindled in the future, today is as good as any day to start your journey to recovery. Once you have recovered, there will be room for friendship somewhere.
I can guarantee you that that new container will be better than this one.
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