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  • tarynnight

Why I ended my friendship with my best ex-boyfriend after 3 years

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Be open to the changing needs of your relationships while honouring what is true for you.



PHOTO CREDIT: Freepik


The thing about life is that unless we are conscious of our thinking, feeling, sensing, and what we accept as true, we WILL play out everything we were consciously or subconsciously taught in our lives.


READ THAT AGAIN!


This runs so deep that sometimes, even the way we question how we've been taught to live is entirely based on HOW we've been taught to think.


Before I run amok with what it is I really want to talk about, I want you to bear this in mind, for now, and always, and because it makes sense regarding what I am talking about in this post - romantic relationships.


Our parents, the media, other authority figures and society provide us with the templates we accept about relationships. For everyone, this is a very unique experience, because the templates, although similar, don't contain the same complexities from individual to individual. It is only in the commitment to your self-discovery that you find your templates and gift yourself the opportunity to change them the way you see fit.

I discovered this after two back-to-back watershed relationships in my life. The first started in 2011 when I was 22. It was a highly emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive, toxic, co-dependent relationship. (Yup, it was all those things.)


The second was the relationship that came nine months after I officially left the first. This one was with "the one" (or at least I thought that at the time).


This is the story of why I left him, chose to be friends and then broke off the friendship after three years.


LOVE AT FIRST


In 2014 I met the man I believed I was going to marry. In my eyes he was perfect: He was financially stable, he was foreign (Swiss), he was a kickboxer, he didn't drink (completely sober) and went to bed early and spent his time hiking on weekends. He never raised his voice and made important decisions based on careful thought, never in the moment. He was stable. My previous boyfriend was chaos.


After three and half years of being stalked, being beaten, restraining orders, sleepless nights, drugs, alcohol-induced sex, and total despair and self-hatred, this Swiss guy was exactly what I needed.





We met in kickboxing class. I asked him out. Within three months we were on holiday in New Zealand and, after eight months, we'd moved in together. We fit. It was the first time in my life that I had actually felt safe. This person was so dependable, he didn't have the rickety sense of self my apartheid-born parents had, the same sense of self I had inherited.

HOLDING ON TO HOPE


A year and a half into our relationship we were on holiday in Cape Town – I had taken him to meet my parents. While at a Mexican restaurant in the city, I, a little tipsy, told him I wanted to get married to him. He froze. Something wasn't right. That day I learned he didn't believe in marriage. He also said that he never wanted kids and then added, "at least for now and the next few years".


I buried the first part of the sentences and focused on the "at least now" bit. And no, I don't regret it. Many would agree that that was the moment I should have left because that was the moment I learned that we wanted very different things in life, and how on earth would we have ever worked? But the next few years needed to happen so that I could discover more of myself.




We stayed together for another two and a half years after this revelation. I'd be lying if I said it hadn't changed our relationship – it became the thorn in our relationship's foot. For the next year, we did a lot of travelling, locally and internationally. I met and formed bonds with his family. They loved me too. We all felt like family. Just not legally.

By the end of 2016 his South African work visa had expired and he decided to go back to Switzerland.

It was at this point that I hoped he was going to propose. But I settled for the argument we'd made for a long-distance relationship: My career was taking off (I'd been made editor of the newspaper I was working at six months prior) and he was about to be offered a global senior management role. We were "career people".


But that wasn't really true for me, so I eventually broke up with him. I didn't want long distance. I wanted close distance and the intimacy I had hoped marriage would bring for us.


BROKEN HEARTS, SHATTERED DREAMS, BUT HOPEFUL


The next six months were terrible. He was so mean to me for breaking up with him. I was heartbroken because he had "abandoned" me in South Africa. Yet we both knew we were incredibly in love with one another. So, I put a plan together and by mid-2017 I had trekked all the way to the alps for love. Jobless, but hopeful.

It didn't work. I didn't get a visa. But I knew it was going to happen. The entire time we'd been in Switzerland, he had been pussy-footing around getting done what needed to get done. I had to rely on him to do the paperwork for the visa because it was all in German, yet he wouldn't listen to me when I told him how the applications for visas needed to be done. As a Swiss man, visa applications weren't an issue for him. But as a woman of colour from South Africa with professional experience with immigration offices, I knew we had to make a case for why the Swiss government should give me a longer-stay visa even though the man I was there for and with didn't want to marry me. Writing this now it seems ridiculous. The thought that pops into my mind is: "why would the swiss government believe I should stay when the man I loved wouldn't make the commitment to me?"


Now, I'm wary of what I just wrote and I want you to be too: Please note, I'm not endorsing the belief that society should place marriage on a pedestal and that people can't be committed to one another without getting hitched.


I'm just saying there's an irony in all of this.


Point is – he didn't listen to me when I told him how the paperwork needed to be done. Point is – we didn't work on my visa like we were partners, like we were a team. Point is – it became very clear that we weren't a team. He was on his trip and I was on mine. He loved me, but he wasn't ready to be my life partner. (And maybe he never wanted to.)






So after we failed with the visa and despite his recommendation to try again while I was back in South Africa, I chose to end the relationship finally.


FINDING FRIENDSHIP


For the first few months, I wanted nothing to do with him, I knew I needed the space to get over him. But we never stopped being in communication though. And for the next three and a half years, we stayed in contact. The frequency of contact was in flux, sometimes we'd not speak for months and then there'd be periods where we'd be in contact every day.


We gave our relationship the title of friends. But it wasn't really, yet we weren't "friends with benefits" either. The boundaries weren't clear and for the first two years of our "friendship", we never kissed or slept together again. The friendship was long distance but we met up in Switzerland, India and South Africa and slept next to one another in the same bed. During those three visits we probably fondled each other, properly, once.


The last year of our friendship is where I would say we were "proper friends". We wouldn't talk often but shared our experiences about life every few weeks. We knew romantically we didn't fit, but still cared for one another.





I'd been doing some intense healing work and had to confront many wounds and demons of the past. He was the person I could talk to about it. He didn't judge me as most others did – just like he hadn't when we first met. I could speak of my darkness and grief without fear of being criticised for it. I could be vulnerable with him. This was why we fell in love in the first place. It was why I continued to love him and it was why we were still friends.


During this time I'd been dating on and off. I'd had a fling here and there. He hadn't been with or seen anyone.


In September 2020, however, that was all about to change.


He had met someone whom he liked – I had been completely single for the last nine months. I was glad he'd met someone, I wanted him to be happy. Yet, although I knew I didn't want to be with him, I was still angry he'd moved on and found someone else. I was being replaced. I'd been the most important woman in his life for the last seven years and now it was changing. We spoke about this candidly. I told him exactly what I am telling you. And it was fine, for about two weeks.


Until every time after I spoke with him, I noticed how sad I was, that I cried about our love story each time. And each time we spoke, he mentioned how special what we had was and that nothing or no one could ever replace it or me.


On one level I believed we were quite mature about our relationship. I knew we were appreciative of what we had between one another. It was special. Now we were friends. Our relationship had changed and we cared for each other and we knew one another so well we could still be there, regardless of the other seeing someone else.


Yet, my feelings told me differently. I was sad every time I spoke with him. When I wasn't around him, I started noticing how I yearned for him. He came up in my meditations. My heart would ache with sorrow whenever I focused on him. After three and a half years of being broken up, I hadn't properly grieved our relationship.


Later, during a plant medicine retreat in the mountains, at my most vulnerable, all I wanted was to call him. I needed him to help me through my darkness. I didn't want to look at it on my own.


In that moment I knew that I was scared to grieve our relationship, not because I was scared to lose him, or our friendship, but because of the wound this pattern between us, this relationship, was covering up.


I started paying more attention to my thoughts and feelings around us. On some level, although I knew I deserved the type of relationship I wanted, I also believed nobody was ever going to love me as he did. I knew this wasn't true.





Or did I?


I realised each time I went back to him, even though as friends, I reaffirmed and confirmed to myself that he "got me". We'd talk, I'd feel better about whatever and then I'd miss him, I'd miss what we had, I'd think about all the good times, even if it was only for a few minutes. So, at the same time, each time I went back to him, I confirmed that I wouldn't be able to get the love I wanted: the person who got me was the same person who left, who was with someone else now.


Because I was playing out this same pattern I was teaching my subconscious and subsequently myself that I couldn't do without this person. That only this person would love me like this. And that there'd never be anyone else. Each time we spoke I made the emotional connection to him again, reaffirming "only he will love me like this", yet reaffirming "there's no one for me" – cause he wasn't in a relationship with me the way I wanted.


As much as I intellectually understood that I could be with someone else and that my ex and I were friends and that things had changed, on an emotional level it wasn't so.


At that point, I saw it clearly, I was teaching myself that I wouldn't find another like him. I was teaching myself that the love I'd wanted was lost, not mine, gone.


And the only way to teach myself something different was to make a different choice.


A few days later I told him I could no longer be his friend, I told him I didn't want him to contact me and that I didn't want to contact him.


I had to teach myself something different, by doing the different thing. I had to teach myself that I could be there for myself emotionally and that there was space for someone else to be emotionally supportive. I had to give myself the gift of what I wanted by letting go of what I had.



AND NOW WE'RE NO LONGER FRIENDS


I don't regret the way the experience unfolded, because it taught me about the many dimensions of relationships. And that these strict boundaries of how relationships should look prevent us from truly exploring what lies beneath. And I don't think it impossible for us to ever be friends again, but not now, for a long time.


I had to honour the truth of my experience as it is now and whether our relationship dynamic was healthy for me now. It wasn't. Not only was I teaching myself that I couldn't and wouldn't get what I wanted from a relationship (except in a relationship that had ended and wasn't what I really wanted), but I was also expending way too much energy trying to logically convince myself that "we were only friends" and I wasn't being emotionally affected by the dynamic between us.


He made sure I knew that he loved me when I broke our friendship off.

He thought I wanted to end it because I didn't believe he cared for me anymore, but it wasn't about him I said. I knew he loved me and still does.


But this was about me.





It was all about how I truly felt about this relationship. It was about what I was emotionally saying to myself through the choices I was making. And what the choices were triggering in me.


Since ending our friendship I feel empowered.


I don't miss him.


I wasn't missing him.


I was missing me.


Yet, I'm grateful for the process because it came from a place of love and truth.


I wouldn't have it any other way.


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