Breaking Up with My Straight Best Friend

The choice was hard. There is no doubt about it. As a matter of fact,
I tried to do everything I could to take the easy way out. In other
words, to never face the truth and sit quietly in pain for as long as
our friendship took us. That is to say, I was recently faced with the
prospect of telling by best friend that I am in love with him or, to
put it mildly, that I had “feelings for” him. The only problem is, he
is straight.

Now, my friend and I have known each other for close to seven years,
having attended high school together and then proceeding to the same
college. I came out to him the summer before college, feeling like I
was ready to embrace the feelings I had been suppressing for years.
Surprisingly, he took it in stride and didn’t let anything change our
friendship and I was very touched by that. It meant a lot to me.

As freshman year of college approached, I was confident that our
friendship was strong, but for reasons I can’t remember but that most
likely had to do with the depression I went through, we went a couple
of months without talking to one another. The reason for the
depression (I was to discover a year later) was the fact that I hadn’t
come out to my parents yet, and it was eating me up inside. However,
as I spoke to my therapist freshman year, there was another issue that
also turned out to be a factor in my depression: I was falling in love
with my best friend.

I was conflicted back then because I realized, for the first time,
what it felt like to be in love with someone. You forgive every wrong,
every time you’re with them you can’t help but imagine you two
together, you want to spend every living second with them, you’re
willing to give up everything for a chance at their love, and every
time you are mad at each other it feels like a thousand knives are
piercing your heart. You also love everything about them. Their smile,
their scent, their eyes, their voice, and everything they love is
yours to love, as well. The reality was, he would never feel the same
for me. And I realized that. And when I did, I couldn’t handle it.

It pained me every time I hung out with him. How could
something—someone—my heart wanted, be so close, but yet so impossibly
far? I knew that it was impossible. I knew it could never happen.
Ever. I knew that only in the movies do protagonists finally get what
their heart desires: for the object of those desires to love them
back. But even then, we were talking about straight, conventional
romances. Not one involving one gay man and one straight man. Even
though I knew that, I couldn’t stop the feelings. I tried hard. I
really did. I started dating. I tried to refocus my feelings on
someone else. But it was impossible. Summer came, and my friend and I
would have months in between us. I always thought that would help my
feelings go away. But when we got back to school, I realized the
feelings never changed. As a matter of fact, he was away for close to
5 months during college as he went to study abroad. I thought the
distance would help. It didn’t.

What made the experience more painful is that I knew we were still
best friends. That was a role I still needed to fill. So when it came
to him having love interests, it was my job to support him. It was my
job to tag along whenever he invited me so that it wasn’t awkward with
a girl he was interested in. It was my job to offer him advice and
encourage him to pursue his love interests and to follow his heart. It
was my job to pretend to be indifferent whenever he kissed a girl, or
had his arms wrapped around her, looking at her in the eyes, caressing
her thigh. It was my job to pretend my heart wasn’t being staked and
held over a fire to make me suffer. It was my job to suffer quietly
that one time I was with him and a close friend of us, and we asked
each other if we’d ever been in love. “Yes,” I responded, as I looked
him in the eyes.

That pain, when left to accumulate inside your heart, can take its
toll on you. And so a few weeks back, I made the decision to do what
was best for me. It might seem selfish, but in reality I was doing
what was right. In my mind, it hurt so much to be with him that I just
couldn’t stand it anymore. The heart can only take so much. I figured
that I had refrained from telling him because telling him would
involve the risk of losing a friendship, which would also hurt him.
Telling him would also mean that I probably wouldn’t hang out with him
again, and that it would help me get over him. My heart was telling me
to suffer. It was telling me to ride the pain out, because at the very
least I would get to be with him. My mind, however, knew that I had to
make it stop. It wasn’t healthy for me. Yet I knew that if I did what
was best for me, it would probably hurt just as much, if not, worse,
than keeping on being his friend and never telling him. It did and
does.

When I told him, it was through text and close to the end of my junior
year of college. That day, I felt especially determined. I had just
spent most of the day with him and some friends, and my feelings took
hold of me at different instances of the day and, once more, it pained
me greatly. In the text, I told him we couldn’t be friends anymore
because I had feelings for him. I asked him not to reply to the text
because I knew it would only be more painful. Nevertheless, he replied
the next day, saying that him and I would never happen and that he
could forget about what I told him if I could get over my feelings for
him, because I was a “good friend”.

His reply killed me because at that moment, I knew there was no going
back. Things wouldn’t be the same. Of course, he didn’t understand. He
obviously didn’t understand the complexity of my feelings if he
thought I could get over them so easily. It wasn’t his fault, though—I
didn’t explain them and I wasn’t going to, either. So I replied and
asked him to give me time. Only time would tell whether I could get
over my feelings for him. Only time will tell whether I can have my
friend back and love him as just that: a friend. Only time will
determine whether the empty space I now feel in my heart will stay
that way forever. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock

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