We all have them in our lives – people we loved dearly, we laughed with, danced with, cried with, slept in the same bed with, loudly argued with, shared our secrets with, did mundane tasks together and celebrated one another’s lives. But not anymore. You still see them on your news feed, sharing photos of the life they’re living these days with their new baby, but of course they are no longer a part of your life.
I’m not referring to an ex-boyfriend but rather a friend – or should I say ex-friend?
There isn’t really a word for people who you once called your best friend and now you don’t even know their mobile phone number. But they can be just as important, if not more, than an ex-partner.
I always find it strange that the people who, for a period of time, you are more intimate with than anyone else in the world will one day be almost a stranger to you. I know there are exceptions to the rule and I have friends who were once one another’s lovers but have been just mates for longer than they were ever together. I have a pretty good relationship with most of my ex partners, although I haven’t felt the need to pursue a proper friendship with them (beyond the world of social media or mutual friends). With an ex-boyfriend it can hurt when you know too many details about their life these days, sometimes it’s better to feel happy for them from afar but leave them in the past. Which I think makes sense as I’m all about living in the present and appreciating what you’ve got in your life at the moment. Why would I waste time thinking about someone who hurt me deeply when I am being treated like a queen by my current partner in crime? To be honest I don’t feel sad about any of my ex-boyfriends anymore as none of those relationships were supposed to be, they all ended for whatever reason and that was a good thing (this isn’t necessarily how I felt at the time but the cliché of time being the greatest healer is true). It still blows my mind that there was a point in time where I thought no one would ever know me as well as this particular man and now we don’t know each other at all all but I also don’t spend that much time thinking about it.
Your friends will encourage you to ignore an ex and move on with your life. It’s not healthy to spend too much time wallowing over a past relationship. But what about if the relationship were with a friend not a boyfriend?
In 2008 I stood in my friend’s backyard where we were celebrating her 21st birthday and made a speech. I mentioned a scene in a film we had seen where a bride needs help to go to the toilet due to the size of her dress and how when my friend got married I would be the one holding her dress whilst she did a wee. When she got married about 5 years later I wasn’t even at the wedding.
What happened in those 5 years did include an awkward situation where we thought we would be living in London together and it didn’t work out. Leaving rent unpaid, awkward email exchanges and perhaps a knowing that our friendship would never be the same again. There wasn’t one huge fight that signalled the end of our relationship but after the London thing and then living in different countries we more than grew apart. There came a point where when I was asked about her I felt I had to describe her as my ex-best-friend. There was still the same feeling of being hurt by her rejection (she came over here to be my sister and my third housemate but left after only 6 days as she didn’t feel London was right for her) that I might have in a usual break-up. With the beauty of social media I could still see what she was up to back in Perth, spending time with my friends and making new bff’s (I didn’t recognise any of her bridesmaids) so the twinges of jealousy were there as well. At the time I don’t think I did grieve the end of the relationship like I might with a guy – there wasn’t an Adele album, crying and ice-cream – but perhaps I should have.
I honestly don’t miss any ex-boyfriend in a way where I wish they were in my life now but I do feel like friends, like the one I have described above, are different. In some way it’s sadder. In the past year I have learnt a lot about self-care, doing things just for you, in order to keep your mental and emotional health in check. You have to listen to what you need in order to get yourself back into a good head space. This is why I think it is alright to feel a range of emotions – watch sad films, listen to sad music, enjoy sweet treats – whatever is needed for you to handle this thing we call life. Grieving is a process, something that is different for everyone and doesn’t come with a guidebook. To me, grieving honours the time you had with someone and allows you to move on (in whatever capacity is right for you). So I’m now thinking that I should have spent more time, at the time, feeling sad over the end of a friendship so that I don’t just get the twinges when I see them looking happy online.
But then, if I’m honest, I don’t just feel sad, I’m proud of and happy for them too. I might wonder what could have been for our relationship if it still had a present form but that doesn’t take anything away from what we had in the past. As I am about to enter the FOURTH decade of my life I have built up a bit of experience (still definitely on a journey and learning) and have had many different friends over the years. Some friends come in and out of your life and leave a mark on it so that you will remember them forever. Some have been there forever and aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much ocean you have in between you. Some seem to appear in your life at a particular time, just when you need them, but you won’t forever, and that’s OK. There are those friends who enter your life through circumstance – colleagues or housemates – and some move beyond this to be lifelong friends and others are just great for jokes over cups of tea or nights in front of the TV. Sometimes we feel sad when we lose touch with people who we once felt incredibly close to. Other times it just kind of happens, a natural progression that we don’t even really think about until they pop up on our screens or in our heads.
I’ve always tried to not regret any of my relationships as it’s good to try to appreciate what it was at the time and perhaps even learn something from them. To allow time to help heal a broken heart and use a rational head – and the wonder of hindsight – to realise that maybe you actually dodged a bullet. My relationships, with both boyfriends and girlfriends, official relationships and platonic friendships, were important at one point in my life.
I absolutely treasure the memories of spending every weekend at my ex-best-friend’s house back in the years 2006-2009 – the pre-drinks, dancing to drum & bass, cooking meals we invented, watching documentaries, exploring the local area near where she lived in a share-house (the first of my friend’s to move out of the family home). Heading to festivals in Summer, throwing house parties, trips to the beach, the film and music recommendations, the food, clothes and laughs we shared. Things may have changed since those days and I am quite glad I no longer live the life of a 20-year-old but I had an absolute blast at the time!
I feel there are some people in my past who played a part in helping me become who I am now.
And for that I am grateful. The only reason I would ever feel sad, looking back at someone who was once my best, is because of how great they were (and probably still are). So to those people, thank you.
And to all my current friends – near and far – thank you. You know who you are.