Listen, I need to be honest: You’re really great, but I just got out of a pretty intense, long-term best friendship, and I’m not really ready for anything serious right now. Maybe I should’ve said something sooner, but when we met, I didn’t know things were going to move so quickly and I didn’t want to weird you out or be presumptuous, and anyway, I’m saying something now. Because I really do like you. And I respect you. And I want to be fair. You deserve a lot more than I am able to give right now.
My ex-BFF? We were together for 7 years, until a few months ago when things just… ended. I’m still trying to sort out if it was something I did — did I take more than I gave? Am I bad at meeting someone else’s needs? Did I forget to return one too many borrowed outfits? — or if I just hitched my heart to a manic, pill-popping, alcoholic wagon. I don’t know if you’ve ever been hitched to such a wagon, but that shit is bouncy and all over the road and almost always crashes and all hearts being dragged behind it are certain to get broken. Even if I was a great friend, and the latter is true, isn’t that a self-destructive behavior on my part? Allowing myself to be part of someone’s emotional landscape during such dark and dirty times in their life, leaving me permanently connected in their minds to the worst parts of them? Wasn’t it inevitable that baby me would get thrown out with the bathtub gin when they finally decided to get right with themselves? I think these are things I should’ve known. I think I was validating unhealthy behaviors in someone I loved and mistaking it for unconditional love. If that’s true, then there need to be conditions on love. You should never validate the self-loathing tendencies of someone you care about. It’s all fun when you’re 20 and totally getting off on your mutual sexy, chain-smoking, boy-toying, dysfunction, but what happens when years go by and you’re both trying to be healthier, happier people, and despite your years of history, despite your “you jump, I jump” commitment to one another, you find you’re inextricably connected in each other’s minds to the bad shit you’re trying to shake off and leave behind? And suddenly, you’re alone. You’re separate.
See what I’m doing there? Do you see that? I’m still obsessing. I’m still in that part of this thing. I have to move past the hyper-analytical wake of the break-up before I can find the lesson from the hurt, integrate it into my emotional oeuvre, and use it to be a slightly wiser, more well-equipped version of myself for the future. Heartbreak like this, if you let it, can make you better for your next relationship — but only after you stop being messed up about it. I’m still messed up about it. And hey — maybe recognizing that, the fact that I’m still in too many pieces and hurting over the dissolution of my last best friendship to be a good friend to anyone new, maybe that is already me being a better friend. Maybe that’s me already learning from the past. I don’t extend an invitation for you to be a part of this time in my life because when I move past it, I don’t want that to mean moving past you too. It’s like trying to have a real relationship with the guy you cheated on your last boyfriend with; you’ll never trust each other. It will forever feel a little tainted. This can’t be where we start. Don’t be here for this.
When something like that happens, when you spend so many years investing in an accumulation of a shared history… and then they are just gone? You quit making plans. Breaking up with a boyfriend is like demolishing a building; breaking up with your best friend is like a massive earthquake that levels the landscape. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do. It’s hard to imagine trusting someone again. It feels impossible to muster the optimism and enthusiasm and hope necessary to get a best friendship off the ground. I don’t have that yet, and I see that you do. When you text me about getting brunch, I hear the beautiful, hopeful subtext of a thousand possible future brunches, and the thousand intimate, hilarious conversations we will have over 3 bloody marys because fuck it, why not, let’s have 3 today. I do want that! But I need a few rebound friendships with throwaway pals before I get started with us. You’re a good one. I’m saving you.
I hope I get there. I think I will. Because you’re rad as shit, and life is scattered and lonely without a best friend. I don’t think my ability to be a BFF has been irreparably disengaged, but it is badly damaged. If I were to keep going with you right now, and fail to be the generous, present, reciprocal friend that I need to be in order to successfully nurture the kind of relationship I know we both want, it would only serve to harm your ability to trust new, promising people who come into your life. I can’t be responsible for that. It’s tragic and annoying to feel that cynical in the face of fresh offers of buddylove, and I’m not going to inflict that on you. I hope you understand.
In the meantime, sure, I’ll be around. Sometimes. And we can get together. Never consistently enough. I’ll disappear for weeks and then show up with a text about having been “crazy busy” or whatever. I’ll be flaky and noncommittal and, trust me, I’ll feel like shit about it. And when that happens, please remember all of this. I’m working on it. Okay? Thanks for understanding. I’ll call you.