From Ex-Partner to Best Friend in Eight Easy Steps
The world is too cruel to cut each other out completely. Sooner or later, you’ll need each other.
Last October, I broke up with my partner of two-and-a-half years. Our relationship had struggled for a long time with the same issues every queer millennial couple faces: co-dependency, non-monogamy, and living in a world where intimacy and care are scarce resources. Although we had fallen apart, we remained entangled in our niche social scene of queer anti-capitalist freaks. We weren’t together but we still had all the same friends, went to the same parties and were both increasingly convinced that it was the End Times and fuck, why did we have to become single now?
Unable and unwilling to simply cut each other out of our lives, I called upon that gay tradition where ex-lovers become best friends. This was harder than I thought. It meant reaching out after cutting off contact, crying countless times, and facing our baggage head on. In the end, it was worth it. My ex is one of the people I trust most in the world, and they show up for me harder than anyone else does. If you find yourself walking the same path, you might find our story helpful. Here are steps we took together to heal:
1. Break up until you realize you can’t be together
I thought it was over, but it wasn’t. Towards the end, my ex and I would stay up all night talking about how our relationship couldn’t work. My fear of intimacy set off their sense of inferiority which made me withdraw, and then we would start the trigger tornado all over again. We loved each other, but all we seemed to do was give each other panic attacks. We both agreed that all we did was hurt each other and that we needed a break… maybe for good.
But all that processing would just remind us of how much we cared for each other. In the course of talking about everything together, we felt comfortable again and started to cuddle. I spent the night at their place, and in the morning neither of us could bring it up.
Sound familiar? We were caught up in a loop; we kept ending things just to start up again.
We broke up in person, after we had sex, before we had sex, in the middle of the woods, and in front of our friends. This pattern of breaking up and getting back together finally ended something like the seventh time we processed: We talked in circles at a friend’s birthday picnic for hours, until the late Bay Area summer gave way faster than anyone expected. The temperature dropped, my teeth started to chatter, and my lips turned blue. We still didn’t have an answer, so we accepted that it was over and walked away. Nearly breaking up so many times was messy and painful, but in hindsight it made sense. Letting go of someone I loved was terrifying, no matter how much we hurt each other.
Part of the process is breaking up as many times as you need to, and that’s okay.