It was one of the saddest days of my life and I needed the kind of comfort that came from my go-to person for the past thirty-plus years. I wanted to climb into his lap, feel his arms wrap around me, and bury my nose into his shoulder, getting his shirt all wet with my tears.
Except he was the very person I was crying about.
And he just left the house for good.
We had grown up together. Experienced many of our firsts together. Had a family. Built an empire. We had invested time and energy into what Aristotle labeled a ‘Friendship of the Good,’ one with similar values and goals; mutual respect and admiration; a life built on trust, quality, and depth. But more recently, it had become one-directional where he straight-armed me when it came to physical intimacy, seemingly assigning me to the “Friends Zone.”
When he left, I was grateful that he wanted me to be in his life. I knew that it was a gift after listening to so many divorce stories where couples barely communicated except through nasty texts.
“I love you. You’re important to me,” he said, expecting me to fit in somewhere between a soulmate and an acquaintance. A wide berth, if you’d asked me.
I was way too hurt, disappointed, and angry to consider spending any time with him, let alone acting like nothing had changed except for our living arrangement, and how we greeted each on the cheek rather than on the lips. I could barely look at him while attending our mediation meetings, negotiating our future financial relationship like it all could be parsed down to who gets what.
But I tried.
We spent holidays together with our kids. Those days were difficult. I had to work hard to keep my emotions in check.
“Why torture yourself?” my friends asked.
“It’d be worse being left out,” I answered.
With some time and space apart, I began to heal. I did some mindfulness programs. I went on dates, broke a few hearts. I reconnected with girlfriends and created a new tribe. I recognized parts of myself that had been missing for so long. With therapy, I saw that his and my Friendship of the Good wasn’t so good after all. I had been projecting an illusion of a connection when the reality was we were really Aristotle’s other label, the “Friendship of Utility,” one defined by convenience, only a little more than transactional.
When I took off those rosy colored glasses, it allowed me to see how much happier I was to be liberated, living on my own terms. Now feeling good about myself, I could spend more time with him again. I opened up to the possibility of Aristotle’s third label, “The Friendship of Pleasure,” enjoying his company, even superficially. We even attended some events together. I chose a seat opposite the table from him, secretly pleased by his ‘why are you sitting over there?’ look. At the end of those evenings when he said it was time to go, I felt empowered and guilt-free saying, “I’m not ready to leave yet,” turning away waving while he walked out the door without me.
We’re still navigating this different relationship. It’s strange that we no longer know everything about each other, keeping parts of our lives hidden. Our relationship will continue to evolve and we will likely have a few difficult days ahead of us. It’s okay though, because now I don’t need him for comfort. I have a whole team of wonderful girlfriends who let me use their shoulders, getting their shirts all wet with my tears, if ever I need to.