A few months ago, I wrote a blog about whether or not I believed men and women could be friends without sex complicating the relationship; It sprung from the movie When Harry Met Sally, and Billy Crystal's belief that men and women cannot be friends.
At that point, I wasn't sure whether I agreed or disagreed with Billy Crystal. Because at that time, I was falling in love with one of my friends. It was complicated and confusing, and it was also intense and gratifying. I'd never felt love like that. It was the kind of love that makes you realize you never loved anyone you'd previously believed you had. I was lucky in that my friend appeared to be falling in love with me too; I wasn't alone in the feeling that my heart could explode every time I saw him. I was head-over-heels, elated-and-over-the-moon, horny-all-the-time, in L-O-V-E for the first time.
And, of course, our friendship was effectively destroyed.
Not because anything bad happened, and not because there was a fight or a falling out, but just because, once you fall in love with someone, can you really consider them a friend? When they make your heart burst, when they light up every morning, can you really turn that off? No, not so much. So, despite our individual issues with vulnerability, and despite the prior relationship baggage we were both lugging around with us, I found myself in a relationship with my friend. A friend I'd spent the last several months falling in love with while simultaneously attempting to deny it.
As you know, it didn't work out. It doesn't really matter why; he and I know why, and our respective therapists know why. What matters is that, after experiencing my first real love, I then experienced my first real broken heart. And, fuck that. It fucking sucked. For the first time, I knew what it was like to not want to get out bed, to not want to eat, to not want to even turn on the lights, brush my teeth, or wash my hair. All I wanted to do was lay in bed with my cat, sleep all day, and cry until my eyes burned. For the first time, I had pain in my chest that radiated through the rest of my body. I'd never experienced anything like it, and I wouldn't have wished it on anyone else...except, I did hope he was feeling it too, honestly. I hoped I'd been as important to his heart as he'd been to mine, and I knew if I was, he was likely in his own bed with his own cat, not eating or sleeping or showering, or doing anything but existing there.
For the record, as it turned out, he was. Because I was important to his heart, and because breaking up fucking sucks.
After we broke up and a healthy amount of time had passed staying away from each other's Facebook pages and snap chats, one of us struck a casual conversation, and we made a mutual effort to repair the incredible friendship that our romantic relationship had dug a grave for. We decided to try. And honestly, it took a little bit of thought; was it worth the potential awkwardness or any potential hurt later on? We mutually agreed that any other feelings aside, this was a friendship worth salvaging. I missed him; I missed the way he listened intently when I spoke, and the way he was always thinking outside the box. I missed his quirkiness, the way he instilled confidence in me even when his own was lacking, and the way he made all of my bad days, good.
We've been spending a significant amount of time together in the past several weeks, and I am reminded of everything that drew me to him from the day we met. All the reasons I wanted to be friends with him in the first place, the things that truly attracted me to him as a person. It has been refreshing to spend time at his dining room table, drinking wine and having the same real, meaningful conversations we've always had, as if we hadn't skipped a beat. As if the complicated messy parts never got in the way of a genuine connection. I've been happily messaging him throughout our day, talking over beers about work and family and life, in a way that makes me feel like we didn't fuck it all up just a few months ago. It feels like I have one of my best friends back, and how does that not make me think, yes, absolutely, men and women can absolutely be friends?!
Because, jealousy. Because, attraction. Because, tension. Because, wine.
If your friend mentions someone else they're interested in, or someone else they may be dating, and you feel jealousy radiating through you...you're probably not just friends.
If you're physically attracted to your friend, in a way that distracts you, in a way that allows you to pull her closer to you on the couch, or in a way that makes your cheeks warm when he smiles at you...you're not just friends.
If you and your friend have sex, if you kiss goodnight, curl up under the covers together without pants on, stay the night in bed together, and wake up next to each other...you're not just friends.
The wine speaks for itself. Wine is just, wine...
I wrote my original blog six months ago, posing the question, is it possible for men and women to be friends without complicating everything with sexual tension and mutual attraction. And I honestly still don't know. I still wonder if he and I are truly just good friends, with some history of attraction that is stirred up by drinking wine, or if our friendship is an impossibility. Are we fighting an uphill battle in which one (or both) of us will end up hurting all over again, or are we capable of a true friendship that doesn't crush our boundaries? Can you be friends with someone you've shared your whole heart with in the past, or is your friendship from this point forward, somehow tarnished? I really don't know; surely time will tell in this instance. Time has a way of doing that.
And in the mean time, the best thing to do is to continue to enjoy having an incredible friend back in my life, in whatever way that happens for the two of us. Because what I've learned about good friends, is that it doesn't matter how a relationship looks to anyone else; it only matters that your friends fill your heart and you fill theirs. That you're there for each other with love and support, that you're available, reliable. That you bring a sense of calm to their otherwise overwhelming world. That they find the way to make you feel comfortable and safe. It only matters that you're both there, with honesty and communication, for each other. Whether you're best friends, close friends, good friends, great friends, or just friends...it all boils down to, how much does this person matter to your heart?
If you're in each other's hearts, the rest will work itself out.
Because, love. Because, support. Because, encouragement.
Because, you want it to.