My girlfriend of a year and a half broke up with me. She was my first girlfriend and my first queer relationship. Things have been hard for a while and while I see the ways we’re incompatible, I wanted to keep trying and I never would’ve ended it, even when we maybe should’ve ended it a while ago.
She’s my best friend, and she wants to keep being friends and supporting one another after we take some space to heal. I don’t want to lose her, but the thought of being just friends breaks my heart. And it will break it even more to see her moving on and having a happy life without me, even though I want her to be happy. I never thought I could be friends with an ex, it all seems too scary and jealousy inducing. But I want to try for her. How can we be friends when we’ve been so much more?
I am so sorry about your breakup. I say it all the time, but it’s true: Breakups suck. You probably feel incredibly lonely right now, but I assure you, you’re not alone.
I know it’s probably difficult for you to see this now, but it sounds like the relationship’s end was not only inevitable but also a good thing in the long-run. You say yourself you can see all the ways you were incompatible. You say you would have kept trying even when it “maybe should’ve ended a while ago.” Sometimes, relationships are just not good fits. I think you should listen to your instincts here. If you’re going through the immense pain of a breakup and still able to see the incompatibility, it makes me think we’re not talking about small things here but rather fundamental flaws in the relationship. In my experience, while relationships do take work, that doesn’t mean it should always feel like a struggle. People tend to stay in relationships even when there are major issues, because the pain of a breakup seems somehow worse. But if you had stayed with your girlfriend and these problems indeed turned out to be insurmountable, you would have been delaying the inevitable, and you both likely would have ended up even more hurt in the end.
Just because you’ve broken up does not undo any of the good this relationship provided. Not every relationship is meant to last, and just because it ended doesn’t mean you didn’t learn and grow from it. Breakups don’t mean failures. And breakups don’t erase the relationship. Breakups don’t negate any of the happy memories or the work we do on ourselves in those relationships. She was your first queer relationship, and I think for that reason especially, she’ll always have a special place in your heart. And that’s okay! It’s possible to move on from a relationship but still honor it and carry it with you.
Now, as for the friendship part. If it feels impossible to be friends with your ex right now, it’s probably impossible to be friends with your ex right now. Take the space to heal that she’s offering. She might be ready to pursue friendships quicker than you, but you have to wait until you’re ready — with the understanding you might never be. I do tend to think that so long as a breakup is somewhat amicable (even though you clearly did not want to breakup, it doesn’t sound like there’s any animosity between you and your ex), it’s totally possible to be friends after some time apart. But you also don’t have to put pressure on yourself to make it work right away.
Take the space for real. Do not default to old patterns. That can be hard, especially since you consider her your best friend! If you see a meme that reminds you of her, don’t text her about it. Instead, pivot to journaling or text a different friend. If you take genuine, intentional space from your ex for a period of time and then realize your feelings are starting to shift (you don’t feel jealous; you’re able to think about her outside of the context of the breakup; etc), then you can try to build the friendship.
And I really encourage you to think of it as a building process. The friendship should look and feel different than the relationship. Set clear boundaries and ask about hers. It might not be seamless at first. If you find yourself becoming jealous, pay attention to your feelings and see if you can work through it. Don’t rely on her to do that emotional work with you. Don’t try to process the breakup. To really make the friendship work, you have to move forward together and explore new territory together. It’s possible some of your incompatibilities in a relationship would extend to friendship. Or it’s possible you’re much more compatible as friends! Understand you can change your mind about friendship at any time if it feels too painful. Just as with relationships, there’s room for flaws and conflict in friendships, but they should not feel like they take more from you than they provide.
Shift some of your thinking. Instead of thinking she’s “moving on and having a happy life without me,” tell yourself you’re both taking time to heal and both have the chance to pursue happiness outside of the context of each other. Again, the breakup doesn’t negate the relationship. You will both likely miss each other, and if she starts dating someone new or making new choices in her life, it doesn’t mean you weren’t enough or that you didn’t also make her happy at some point. Focus less on what she’s doing and more on what you’re doing. What have you done to take care of yourself during this painful time? Who can you reach out to support other than her?
The biggest thing for you to focus on right now is just time and space. You won’t know for sure if you really want a friendship with your ex until you reset and focus on yourself. It sounds like this breakup is way too fresh to rush a friendship. Instead, try to find some things that bring you happiness that have nothing to do with your ex. Remind yourself you won’t always feel this way, because I promise you won’t always feel this way. It may be hard to see it until you have more distance, but it does sound like this breakup was the right thing for both of you.
Check out the Autostraddle breakups section if it will help you feel a little less alone <3
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.