Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Is A Friendship Possible After Dating/living Together For 3 Years

Question:

When I was 35 I met this very mature for his age, hard working and very handsome (to my eyes at least) guy that at the time was only 26 and we fell in love at first sight. I had though some difficulty to accept the fact I had fallen in love with such a young guy, but after a couple of months he had convinced me through his actions that he was more mature than me in some aspects of life. He was more responsible financially than me, he liked going out and doing silly things much less than me, he was very conservative about the way I should dress and a lot of other things that made me feel like the "little girl" when I was with him. A feeling that I enjoyed because I am constantly seeking for a "father" figure in my relationship with men, especially after I lost my dad to cancer 10 years ago.

After 3 years of us living together, doing everything together, being all the time together except for the mornings that we both went to our work, he abruptly ended our relationship after going for a drink with a 47 year old friend of his who at the time had marital problems with his wife. So he returned home that night, a bit drunk for the first time in the 3 years that I was with him, and he announced to me with tears in his eyes that although he loves me more than anyone he is not ready to start a family and get married any time in the near future. He said that he did not feel ready at all and that we should separate because he was feeling responsible for me being now 38 and the possibility if we stayed together and then he would not marry me then I would be left childless and that made him feel very pressured. I told him to go ahead and leave if that was what he wished. I was angry at him at that point and had no desire to convince him that if you really love someone as he was saying he loved me then having a child with this person is a choice one makes easily.

I have been extremely depressed and heart broken for the last 2 months that we have not been together. We had no contact at all, not in person and not by phone, only some messages on our mobile phones and some e-mails. Usually I was the one initiating this contact and he was the one terminating it because he was saying that he was not ready to speak to me or discuss anything.

During these 2 months that we have been apart I hear from friends that he has been going out drinking and partying every night from day 1… He was also associated with two other women but nothing serious or confirmed by him. I have been doing nothing more than going to my work and going back home to cry on my own. I constantly miss him. I still do. I miss now not just the sexual but more his voice, his eyes his hands, his laugh, our discussions, our nights together at home watching dvds, I miss it all. Even his parents that were very nice to me while we were together and after we broke up.

Recently, the last 10 days, I started going out at night also with friends and that of course meant coming face to face with him in clubs or restaurants since we go to the same places and have a lot of mutual friends. It was very difficult speaking casually with him the first time but as the days go by and I see more of him I have a feeling that we could become friends. do you believe this is possible?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
  • ‘Anne’ bases her responses on her personal experiences and not on professional training or study. She does not represent herself to be a psychologist, therapist, counselor or professional helper of any sort. Her responses are offered from the perspective of a friend or mentor only.
  • Anne intends her responses to provide general information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by ‘Anne’ to people submitting questions.
  • ‘Anne’, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. ‘Anne’ and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

I do believe that it is possible for former lovers to become friends, but it is a process that is fraught with peril. Most of the time when a relationship dissolves, there is a leaver and a leavee, and while the leaver may be able to handle a friendship with relative ease, the leavee is in shock, not wanting the relationship to be over, and is not really prepared to be a friend. What happens sometimes is that the leavee agrees to participate in a friendship with the leaver, simply because he or she so wants to be with the leaver. But what the leavee really wants is not to be friends but to be lovers again. This sets the leavee up for a whole lot of pain, because what they will be offered in terms of intimacy from their new "friend" is a fraction of what they want.

You are in a lot of emotional pain right now. You didn’t want this relationship to end and you didn’t see this end coming and thus did not have any time to prepare for its dissolution. It seems quite unlikely that you can successfully be friends with your former boyfriend right now and not get jealous when he dates other women, which it sounds like he is doing or will shortly be doing. True friendship – where you can just be together without needing things from him he isn’t willing to give – may be possible in the future, but I think it will take some time before this is the case. You need a chance to adjust to your new circumstances and reestablish yourself as an independent person. You need to grieve.

Grief is what you’re experiencing right now. I encourage you to read our Grief topic center to learn more about this painful but unavoidable part of life. You’ve beautifully described how you miss the little tender moments that you used to share so much. Personally, having lived through several griefs not unlike what you’re describing now, it is the loss of those tender moments, and not the sex that is the most painful part of the loss. In this life you can have sex with lots of people, but you can only be tender with someone you care about and who you know cares about you. Tenderness is not easily replaceable.

Everyone grieves differently, but there are patterns to grief too. You mentioned being angry at first and then becoming depressed. Normal stuff. You can expect to swing between poles of being upset in some fashion, and then detached from the whole thing for a while. Over time what tends to happen is that you live your life and it becomes normal to not have the relationship around, and new things come along that fill your time and sometimes are just as good or better than what you’ve lost, and ultimately, what you’ve lost becomes a part of the past, and not a part of something recently wounding. And, at that point, grief can be said to be done. So – this is going to hurt for a while, and then ultimately you’ll get over it. You might be bitter or forgiving about these events, it’s hard to say not knowing you or the situation, but you will move on.

That the boy was out partying from day one of leaving you suggests that though you thought of him as a mature man, he really isn’t one. He wasn’t ready to make the same sort of commitment to you that you were ready to make to him, creating a significant incompatibility that was going to bite you at some point in time. It might as well be now.

At the end of the day, you can take different things from your relationships. Just because this relationship ended on a sour note, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tender relationship while it lasted. Your tenderness was very real, in fact, and something that enriched your lives. At some point in time I think it will be possible to look back at the relationship and remember what was good and precious from it without wincing in pain at the same time. It is deeply unfortunate for you that this guy wasn’t able to commit to you, but he wasn’t. The work you need to do right now is to reestablish yourself as an independent woman. You need to do your grief work, and to get on with things, which won’t get better until you are ready to take new chances on new relationships and ways to fill your time. This isn’t the time to be courting a friendship with this guy, I don’t’ think, but in the future when you aren’t hurting so much, it might work out.

More "Ask Anne" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand