It started out as most bad ideas do: too much coke, too much whiskey, too many feelings and too little honesty.
He presented the idea in drunken rhetoric, a simple musing as to whether or not two people who were so close could successfully have a sexual relationship completely separate from a friendship. The idea of a ‘no strings attached’ sexual partnership wasn’t foreign to me by any means, but it wasn’t a concept I’d ever been able to execute well.
In retrospect, the entire situation is deplorable; the very premise is something I find cringe worthy: “I think we should have sex, consistently, but never ever get emotional about it.” In present day, I would never think twice about an offer like that, but maybe that’s because I’ve now learned from experience it is impossible to not get emotional about sex.
Four years ago, however, I didn’t consider the situation objectively. Instead, I made the decision to agree to this heart wrenching arrangement, convinced there was an ulterior motive in the entire ordeal. I actually convinced myself he was hiding some type of romantic feeling.
Who knows? Maybe at one point there had been a mutual interest in having a relationship, but if so, both of us were too proud and embarrassed to admit it. I know there was a genuine respect and admiration for him as a person on my end. Whether these feelings were intensified by the carnality of it all, I can’t be sure, but I do know one thing: having sex with your best friend is a very terrible idea.
Before sex was on the table, he was someone I admired for his honesty and for his ability to love me regardless of whatever I’d managed to get myself into. He had listened to me cry and had offered advice. I admired his tenacity, and his bravery in quitting his “9-5” job to pursue his passion in brewing beer for an up and coming micro brewery. We were two people who had known each other since we were kids, and had grown into two people on two very different paths in life, yet still, our friendship continued to bring us back together.
The thought of falling in love with your best friend is terrifying and exhilarating. In so many ways, you treat a friendship that close as a backup option: “Well, maybe nothing has worked out with anyone else because I’m eventually going to end up with my best friend.” In reality, life isn’t a romantic comedy where anything is that simple or fated; and if I hadn’t found myself romantically involved with my best friend before the sexual relationship began, the reason likely wasn’t because of some serendipitous future encounter; the reason was because there was never a relationship on the horizon.
Instead of accepting this, I actually created the prospect of a relationship in my mind. After the beginnings of our sordid affair, I made excuses for myself to justify continuing to sleep with someone who very clearly wasn’t interested in any type of relationship. As time went on, it became clear our friendship was waning. I’d been blind to the signs: the infrequent texts or calls, the rare catch-ups that were once so common. After we’d both started separate lives in separate cities, four years since the beginning of this touch and go “no strings attached” agreement, I received a text message letting me know HE would be visiting New York.
Ecstatic to see my friend, I responded imploring we make plans to get together. His response? “Is that a good idea?
It just seems like every time we’ve seen each other lately, we wind up hooking up.” Well, yes, it would seem that way, perhaps because it is that way. We didn’t get drunk and hook up one time. We didn’t make a mistake one night and lament about it, vowing to not let this ruin our friendship. We continued to make the same mistake over and over again, and somewhere along the way, one of us broke the cardinal rule and became too emotionally attached. I wasn’t detached and cold when I laid in bed next to him, lightly tracing my fingers along the lines of his tattoos, or when we spent hours laughing and catching up on Thanksgiving, when seeing an old dear friend and getting my mind away from real life was exactly what I needed.
I wasn’t emotionally detached when I called to wish him a happy birthday at midnight, or when I received texts from him telling me how he’d always cared about me and was excited for me to live closer to him. I wasn’t emotionally detached for any of it, and that’s because before there was a sexual relationship, there was a real, close, wonderful friendship both of us were too stupid to consider ruining.
A few days after his visit to New York, he sent me a text apologizing for his behavior. I responded with an, “it’s fine, seriously,” and that was the last time we spoke. To be completely honest, I’m not upset about losing the physical aspect of our relationship, or losing the hope of a prospective romantic endeavor.
I’m destroyed over losing a friend. Intimacy is the best at betrayal. You can have sex with someone without being intimate. Being intimate means staying up late sharing secrets and fears, and having someone to call when you have news to share, good or bad. You don’t feel longing for someone after a breakup; you feel betrayed by the intimacy. When you care for someone in an intimate way, you get to know all of their quirks and idiosyncrasies in such a personal and private way. You learn what no one else gets to know, such as the way someone jerks before falling asleep or how they get a pensive look in their eyes and slightly tilt their head while in consideration.
When a relationship runs its course, you come to accept that at some point, each of you will move on and someone else will fall into your lives, and that’s when you feel the betrayal, knowing someone else will be charmed by their mannerisms, knowing someone new will soon be aware of those unspoken secrets that once felt as if they were only yours to know. It is heartbreaking when someone you shared a relationship of any capacity with leaves your life.
It is even twice as heartbreaking to lose a friend you once shared intimate and meaningful moments with, all because of an impulsive decision.