When Friends-turned-Lovers Break-up, Does Friendship Win or Love Lose?

I read an interesting post on Medium, “Friends Who Become Lovers. Does It Ever Last?” with the subtext “And the challenge of staying friends when it ends.”

Well, I am an Indian also not a millennial, so you can imagine I didn’t have very liberal parents who gave me the license to explore relationships or date openly and see what and who worked for me…friends or non-friends. I was married the traditional Indian arranged marriage way, so I have no personal comment on whether friends-turned-lovers make it last or reach an agreeable lasting outcome.

The author of the Medium post didn’t have a very fruitful result with the friends-become-lovers scenario and so he was rightfully not too optimistic about it. This very fact however, prompted me to write otherwise. I think there can be no better relationship than where friends turn lovers, it’s perfect. Or even when lovers turn friends, still being lovers though. Friendship in a relationship just makes it so much more pleasurable and navigable. As friends you judge less, understand more, own less, trust more, together yes but still are on your own. It’s beautiful. Does it ever last? It does and it can.

Some might argue that shortly after starting a relationship, the same friends begin smothering their equation with typical possessiveness, expectations and insecurity. To which I would say that any relationship whether its genesis is in friendship or otherwise, needs constant effort. It is challenging, it is demanding and calls for immense letting go. But the joy of being with that person is your motivation.

That natural flow of fun, company, laughter, unpretentiousness which comes from a well established friendship, makes the romance simply spectacular. So I don’t see why it wouldn’t last, you would rather want to make it last. Now of course there can be some real reasons for it not to work, like cheating partners, abusive partners or an evident incompatibility. But sadly in these times there are more abstract and self-centred reasons which don’t really hold ground apart from leaving you confused.

The present times see an undeniable commitment issue between people, add to it the search for mythical partners, who fit your bill like factory made goods. It bamboozles me to see such fickle and befuddled minds resting over well toned shoulders, looking for strange perfect scores in a partner with perfect settings. Such things don’t exist.

I have been married for enough years now to share with conviction my personal math for any relationship, if 65 out of 365 days in a year are terrible, the next 100 are tolerable, the other 100 are manageable but the rest are cherishable, you got to stick around and make it last. Life and love don’t get any fairer or easier. And when you strike this equation with someone, you don’t let it pass, and be greedy for more. You wrap them up in your arms and treasure them tenderly.

We live somewhat jaded lives and this has slowly made us wary of giving and receiving emotions. It’s certainly convenient, hassle free but just not satisfying enough. Exactly like you conveniently keep ordering food online and eating out but it never quite comforts or satisfies like the home food. Friendship and love in a relationship are just like that temper of mustard and sprinkle of coriander in food that uplifts it so simply and sensually.

However, the real challenge is indeed staying friends when love ends, and that’s a huge deal. Of course if you have had a bitter, acrid and disagreeable break up, you couldn’t care less to sever all ties with that person. But the quandary is when you have a mutually amicable break-up; it can’t get tougher to remain friends. It needs gargantuan efforts to bear the pain because trying to remain friends entails constant reminders from past that slit your raw heart. As you try to switch back to “Only friends” mode, memories flash, tears roll and your heart constricts. Yet that friendship is so worthy, significant and anchoring that you want to salvage it at any cost despite that it tries your strength at various levels.

A relationship is lived in multiple layers, physical, emotional and mental. When there is a break up, it’s not just an emotional hollowness that besieges you, the loss of physical intimacy is as haunting. The loneliness is all engulfing in those first few days and weeks. So when you move away as lovers but choose to stay friends, it is only for that mental connect and a certain deep bond that you are so keen to hang on to. And there’s absolutely no undermining or disparaging this connect and liking which is resilient and remarkable enough to see you through the challenge. Time, maturity and acknowledging the break up makes it slowly bearable and then easily liveable. You’ll live to see how coolly, objectively, teasingly, unhesitatingly yet longingly you talk about your own bittersweet past while fill each other about your current flings, romances or lover.

Of course not all friends-turned-lovers deserve or should strive to remain friends after the romance has wilted. But when you know that that person holds more meaning, sway and joy in your life even if not as a lover, you got to hold on to him or her tight fisted, despite a bleeding heart, a crumpled self and puffy eyes. Their presence as a friend does so much more to your life than their absence as lovers. Such friends come once in a while or once in a lifetime and when they do, you recognize them and reclaim them against all odds.

There is nothing more appalling, immature and imbecilic than letting a great friendship go “Sati” over the funeral pyre of failed love.

Photo by Marlene Leppänen from Pexels
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