Slightly over a month ago, I watched as he walked down the aisle with his bride. 12 years ago, it was me whose hands he held. But when I saw him holding up his bride’s gown train and guiding her up the stage, it was joy I felt and not jealousy. I was, in fact, proud of him for finally moving on to the next stage in life: getting married.
It was a strange feeling, because he was my first love. What makes it even more bizarre is that he had cheated on me twice. Yet, he is now someone I consider a BFF (Best Friend Forever).
“What! Why/How are you still friends with him?”
Is something that I get all the time whenever anyone learns about this unlikely friendship of mine, and understandably so.
Most of us are sceptical of being friends with exes or anyone we had a romantic endeavour with, let alone exes who have done us wrong. And cheating is right up there on the list of wrongs together with murder, for the stab to our heart is like a murder of our soul. I exaggerate, but anyone who has had their heart broken would know that awful feeling too well.
Even if the relationship hadn’t ended on such a bad note, it is hard to go from lovers to friends without the awkwardness of having to deal with the remnants of any unresolved feelings of love (or hate) from either party. Chemistry can be a wonky bitch and the flame could be reignited at any moment. Who’s to say either party wouldn’t fall prey to that?
Afterall, when one has shared such an intimate part of one’s self with someone else, it can be hard to maintain a relationship with that person with no romantic attachments. Any feelings of love, lust, hope, or anticipation would tip the scales of a platonic friendship.
Furthermore, remaining as friends with an ex is only going to make things complicated. Regardless of how mutual a breakup is, there will always be wounds from a failed relationship. Contrarily, it’s easy to use the guise of friendship to mask the hope one has on patching up. Just like how a cut will never heal if one were to keep poking at the wound, remaining in constant contact with someone we’ve fallen out with or even stalking their social media accounts is just going to make it harder to fully move on.
It is the same even with a close friend or family member. At some point, we’ve all had that someone whom we’ve fallen out with, a tie that we’ve lost due to a multitude of reasons and wished things hadn’t panned out so badly. It could have been a silly spat or a major miscommunication, but it’s a common belief that once one has gone down that road, there is no return.
But there is, because I’ve been through it.
The Painful But Worthy Transition From Lovers To Friends
Calling him as an ‘ex’ doesn’t even quite cut it. It is as vague as sketching out the outline to an elaborate painting.
He was the one who taught me the meaning of romance. He wooed the diehard romantic in me. As cliche as it sounds, he was to me what Prince Charming was to Cinderella – someone I had never expected to fall for, but swept me away and gave me the fairytale I always dreamt of as a young and innocent teenage girl.
I knew what it meant to have butterflies in my stomach because of him, to smile like a fool whenever I reread every corny text he sent, to lie to my parents so I can go out on dates, and I was so ready to spend the rest of my life with him – naive, I know. Then again, some say the first love is always the most beautiful, and it was for me.
Yet, he was also the one who taught me the meaning of heartbreak in the worst possible way. When he confessed to kissing another girl a year into our relationship, I was perplexed and hurt, but still too smitten to see the red flags. Then, when I found out that he had been seeing another girl a little later, I was shattered. It was the first time I truly understood what it means to feel like ‘my spirit has left the body’.
I remember having to study for O levels in tears from the regular breakdowns recalling how he couldn’t make the decision between me and the other girl. “I need more time. Wait for me, I’ll settle this. I promise,” he left me hanging with a glimmer of hope as I struggled to stay sane while juggling the stress of such major exam papers.
Eventually, he chose her.
It was hard to come to terms with the end. I knew it was going to hurt, but the other part of heartbreak that no one told me about was the embarrassment that came with having to ‘disappoint’ his brother and cousin, both of whom I had grown close to, and the regret that I will never be able to fulfill that role that they had accorded me for: family.
Breaking up was only the start because ironically, he would go on to seek my help to woo the girl he had broken up with me for. And I did what he asked of me because if I couldn’t make him happy, I hoped that he could at least find happiness with someone else who can.
He would go on to chase that same girl for the next 10 years, only to give up after reaching the limit he had set for himself before settling down with someone else. As much as the guilt he felt for having been a bastard to me, I’ve always felt guilty towards him – that girl never accepted him for she couldn’t get over the fact that she was a third party back then.
Looking back, though I had loved him deeply, I feel like I was the third party instead, that I was that barrier that prevented him from being with his One. I was the one who caused him unrequited love for 10 years. And it pained me whenever I saw him drift in and out of relationships, because we both knew about his love for that one girl.
Through it all, he taught me the meaning of truly loving someone. Granted, it could have stemmed from my romantic love for him back then and it did take a long time before I can say, without a doubt, that ours is a friendship void of any romantic feelings. A year of self-deceit and one last ‘hook up that shouldn’t have happened’ with him which culminated in more than an hour-long cry in a school toilet before I honestly had closure.
People ask me why I bothered to be so noble as to enduring my heartbreak back then and even blaming myself for his unrequited love. I’d say it’s a mix of my stupid innocence and the value I saw in that relationship, even if it was reduced from romantic to platonic.
After having co-owned a part of your life with someone, that person becomes almost like an extension of you. They will always know a part of you that no one else does, just like you know of them. Finding someone else with the same dynamics and whom you know inside out like an ex does is extremely difficult, and almost impossible once work becomes your life.
Of course, that isn’t to say that I am friends with all my exes or that all of my relationships, platonic or romantic, are perfect. There are friends I’ve fought with and exes whom I vowed to never see again for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean that every relationship, especially romantic ones, have to end badly.
It doesn’t matter if the whole world dictates that you cannot be in contact with an ex or an ex-friend because ultimately, you are the one who will face the consequences of your actions.
For me, keeping this particular friendship is only possible because of the mutual understanding between my BFF and me. A big contributor is the respect we we both give our own partners to be completely honest and transparent with our histories, and the acceptance and understanding they give in return.
Having accepted that our romantic chapters are closed, I see this friendship as an invaluable one that I will never be able to find anywhere else. The maturity and openness we have towards each other is one that is only possible because of all the shit that we’ve weathered through as a couple and then as BFFs.
He is the one person whom I would never feel shy or grossed out sharing or hearing explicit details about sexual experiences with and from, and the one person I know I can turn to even if I needed help to cover up a murder (which, I proclaim, is very unlikely to happen).
And if I had to do it all over again, heartbreak and all, I would.
Also read: I Bared It All For You, But It Was Barely Love.
(Header Image Credit: Sarandy Westfall)