Devil’s Advocate: Just Because I Divorced Him Doesn’t Mean He’s Not My Best Friend

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friend, my AKA ex-husband

On March 31, 2015, the judge’s gravel came down declaring my ex-husband and I officially divorced. The papers would not be signed by the judge until the following day, April 1, something we agreed is hilarious and ironic at the same time. Except it wasn’t a joke.

A few weeks later, I flew out to visit him in his new condo.

But that is now, let start at the beginning.

My ex-husband and I met nearly twenty years ago (the length of time I often choose to ignore. Who wants to be reminded they are getting old?) online in a chat room. When you are very young, you think you know everything about anything. When you are not so young, you know now what you knew then was nothing about everything. Youth looks good only on the young.

That was me: a know-it all who didn’t know a damned thing with a hidden goofy side. Him: younger than me by a few years, who actually did know things, supplemented by a similarly hidden goofy side. We would spend hours upon hours in private messages gossiping about mutual friends on things such as who was doing who in person, who was cheating on who (in person or otherwise), and other topics you would discuss with your best friend. Despite our closeness we decided that friends—and friends only—was what we’d be. (This sounds very rom-com and you know where this is going to lead, so grab your popcorn and get ready for the trial and tribulations of our relationship.)

In the spring of 1998, he flew out to meet a mutual friend of ours who lived in the area, one he had a massive crush on and vice versa. Because of our platonic closeness, it was agreed he would stay with me during his trip. When I went to pick him up at the airport, he was tall, lanky, and had hair down to his ass—literally. He looked like a modern day Jesus, except with an affinity for basketball and dead Russian writers. We were physically meeting for the first time, yet we hugged like we had just seen each other yesterday.

A day or two later, we met up with his crush and her boyfriend (they had an open relationship) and everything about my ex-husband’s body language spoke what I feared would happen: He didn’t care for her as a romantic partner. He thought she was a wet blanket. I can only assume she thought he was too young (she had the penchant for older men) and not terribly interesting. While the get together was fun and entertaining, it was pretty clear both parties were only placating the other. We left the party and headed back to my house.

Our relationship took a romantic turn several days later, after an evening of snuggling on the couch. We began to make out, which lead to a romp in my bedroom, which turned into him delaying his ticket, and finally the joint decision to move in with me immediately. No dating, just straight to living together.

It was the Bay area in the late ’90s. Tech was booming, prices of everything were getting steeper, and anything seemed possible. It did not feel weird or strange to just shack up without the vetting dating gave you. We knew people who had done similar things, meeting and dating online was starting to become normalized and common. Naysayers were becoming less nayers and more sayers.

As time went on, the cracks in our relationship began to show. While we could communicate in a variety of wavelengths neither of us have been able to with others, I felt like I couldn’t talk to him about casual, everyday topics. We had disparate tastes in music, movies, and books. What hadn’t bothered me in the beginning began to bother me now. We should have been learning from each other, but instead I found we were being torn apart by our differences. More so, it was difficult to go out as he was underage and could not go club or bar hopping. Which slowly didn’t matter as he wasn’t interested in the same twenty-something shenanigans as me. I wanted to eat the world while he wanted stability and normalcy.

So, eighteen months later, I left.

Saying goodbye, knowing I was breaking his heart, was much harder than I anticipated. I was leaving, driving solo across the US, for a job in Washington, DC. I was making something of my career and I knew even if I wanted it to, long distance relationships were not going to work with me or with us. I wanted to be free and so I was.

Fast-forward nine years later, 2008, and I receive a message from him via a social network I rarely used anymore. From there went to long email diatribes about each other’s life, and from there went to Gmail chat. He was still living in the Bay Area with a roommate and the roommate’s fiancé. I was living in Michigan, my home state, working on my second Master’s degree and working full time at a local bookstore. Recently out of a bad relationship, the last thing I wanted was to jump into a new one. So we became friends. Again.

For nearly a year we wrote or chatted every day. We formed a book club for the two of us, we talked about future plans and dreams. I helped him search for condos in Chicago. We did everything two friends would do, except we had been in love once before. It was only a matter of time before we met up for a romantic interlude. We were now older, stabilized, normalcy had entered our lives. We could do this with no strings attached. (Ahahahahaha.) That one night began a wild, wonderful trip that lasted almost seven years.

We got married in May 2010. We did everything together and it seemed like we had never been apart. I knew being in love with him in the beginning was a childish infatuation I had used and thrown away. The second time was deeper, with a slower pace. We didn’t have anything to prove to the other; we didn’t have anyone else to take care of but the other. We are both fiercely independent but supportive of the other. He was still my very best friend, except now we were married.

The beginning of our marriage was wonderful, just like the first relationship go round, except we were in our thirties. What used to drive me crazy during our first go-round was no longer the case. We had grown up. We were learning from the other as I once had hoped, our dreams and future were the same paths. It was everything one could have wanted from the love of their life.

The breakdown of our marriage is hard to quantify. What drove us apart the first time around were childish impulsiveness (mine) and his youth. What drove us apart this time were our and our own mental demons and our inability to really communicate, as couples should. When we would fight, the push to make the other understand was fraught with lots of mistakes and misunderstandings. What I loved about us was beginning to make me hate us. He refused to seek couples counseling and I refused to compromise.

It ended on sultry night in August. Now, with our own demons no longer at bay, we were both breaking down. We both sought separate help and spoke several times during our separation about getting back together. But twice burned—automatically shy—I would back out each time. Neither of us contested the divorce, my attorney was upset I did not request a discovery to get some of my ex-husband’s assets. I didn’t want to; I didn’t need to. I came into the relationship with very little and I wanted to leave with very little. I loved him still but with us not working out romantically, I didn’t want to destroy our platonic relationship because of money or material goods. We remained close during our separation, and eventually our divorce. Every month I was flying to spend time with him at his new place. We talk online everyday and still get each other after all of these years.

People think our separation and eventual divorce is weird. A girlfriend described the relationship with her husband as, “He’s my people.” They belong together. My ex-husband is my people. He gets and knows me on levels no one has ever begun to know me. Past the quirks and obvious superficialities, he gets me. He knows how to take care of me when I’m down and how to bring me to heel when I’m being impulsive. I know how to make him laugh and listen to his rumblings about his work.

He is my people.

And when I get married or get into a serious relationship again, along with me comes my ex-husband. No questions asked. He’s part of the deal of dating me. For he’s my very best friend, and I won’t let him go.

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  • TRUE STORY: My ex is my roommate. And one of my ride or die besties. (We weren’t married, but still)

    I love everything about this. Queer relationships and community is smallish & fluid, which means exes are best friends…I think there’s a false dichotomy in deciding that the romantic part is over and the friendship is over. It’s also a nice way to weed out potential new partners who might have *ahem* jealousy issues.

    • lady brett

      true story: when my current relationship was shiny and new, my ex spent the night at my place and we were so thoroughly best friends and not lovers by then that i didn’t even think to clarify to my honey that we were *not* sleeping together. it caused some confusion and sadness – and a long-term story for my honey to make fun of my bad communication skills.

      • OMG that’s amazing and hilarious (in retrospect). Huge bummer at the time, I bet. Because I’ve actually be on your partners end of that and it sucked a lot.

        • lady brett

          yes, that is a very solid description of it.

    • Jen

      I love how you put this. It makes so much sense!

    • eating words

      Yep. My wife and I met through my ex, who was then very vocal about trying to get us to date (we were friends for a while first). And when we got engaged, I’m pretty sure my ex was one of the first friends we told.

    • Apparently were all jelly

      Its also nice to weed out judgemental people who label anyone with a different opinion something negative that may or may not be the case. People who call others jealous because their idea of a relationship is different are being ignorant and judgemental.

  • laddibugg

    I”m all for exes being friends. I’m not for exes being ‘friends’…when one party might have unresolved feelings towards the other. And everything must be out in the open–I just read about a situation on Facebook about a guy who’s friends with his ex, hangs out with her on the regular, but she hasn’t told her current beau.

    • pajamafishadventures

      That’s a very important distinction.

  • scw

    I love this and totally get it. my ex-boyfriend was a groomsman. here he is giving the toast at our wedding. (I don’t really know why I’m sharing the photo other than that, like, what am I going to do with all these wedding photos!?) we weren’t married, and there was definitely some time between breaking up and being able to be friends, but it can totally happen.

  • scw

    I love this and totally get it. my ex-boyfriend was a groomsman. we weren’t married, and there was definitely some time between breaking up and being able to be friends, but it can happen.

    • raccooncity

      I would be interested to see how this story unfolds as time does. I might be reading it wrong but it seems like they broke up in August. I have remained friends with exes (who I dated for years with serious commitment) for even a year or so after, but once I felt very close to a new partner the friendship sort of naturally fizzled out. Not because anyone demanded it, just because it’s sort of a natural thing.

      I remain friends with many exes today but none of them were very serious relationships…mostly on-and-off hookups, or highschool flings, really.

      • scw

        in my case, it was a serious relationship. and he’s definitely one of my best friends, but I wouldn’t go to him before my partner or some of my girlfriends. and, importantly, he’s one of OUR best friends. as in us as a couple. so I agree with you that this might change over time, and with a lot of the commenters above that this could get tricky when it comes to navigate a new relationship.

        • Caitlin

          This seems really awesome! And actually your case includes the guidelines that I generally think of with exes: 1) there was time between the breakup and your friendship (not always necessary, but I know I get really confused if I try to turn off one aspect of a relationship but keep the other at the same time) 2) Your ex isn’t your primary person anymore 3) He’s now friends with both you and your current partner. I’ve always thought of those as things that make it easier to be friends with an ex and it’s cool that to see it matches someone else’s experience.

          • raccooncity

            I’d add 4) honesty with your partner about the nature of your former relationship with the person. I know some of my friends who are still friends with exes or FWBs and they haven’t told their new partner “hey, I used to sleep with this person on the reg, so you aren’t not in on some sort of colossal piece of info that everyone knows but you”

            Obviously people don’t need ALL the details, but it’s weird when you know someone is dating a friend of yours and doesn’t know they slept with everyone else in the room. Or equivalent.

          • laddibugg

            Basically, I just want to know who has seen your d—. LOL.
            My partner is friends with few of his exes, and I’m cool with it as long as the relationship stays appropriate on both ends and I know she’s an ex.

  • Mrrpaderp

    This is so interesting. I would love to hear how this kind of friendship with an ex changes once one person has another serious relationship. There’s a big difference, imo, between a partner not being OK with a friend simply because they’re an ex, versus a partner not being OK with a friend because you turn to the friend, instead of the partner, for the kind of emotional intimacy that many people believe belongs to a romantic relationship.

    My partner is the first person I call when I get fantastic news, or really horribly shitty news, and I want to be that person for him too. I think it would really bother me if someone else occupied that space for him, regardless of whether that person was the gender he’s attracted to. If that person were an ex, I would feel even more excluded; like, why are you even with me if your emotional intimacy needs are already being taken care of?

    • sarahrose

      There is a wonderful, hilarious story I heard on the Moth podcast about a woman who starts dating, and eventually marries, a guy who has shared custody of his dog with an ex…like, the dog goes back and forth every week. It has a lot of these elements.

      Link to the episode if you’re interested:

      • Sarah E

        I’ve met a woman through a networking group who has shared dog custody with her ex like that.

      • Jess

        I really and fully enjoyed that story (regular moth listener here…) and it captured in a lot of ways my general feelings of simultaneous jealous and ambivalence and just… things.

    • anon

      I agree that this has less to do with romantic partnerships, but a primary intimacy. My husband, for instance, is/was? best friends with a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women. They met early in high school and became the kind of best, inseparable friends that youth really breeds. He was the first person she came out to, when he ran away from home for a little while he lived with her and her family…lots of really deep, forever bond kind of things. They were each other’s *person*…until he met me, in college. And she fucking HATED me for it, for years. Her meeting her wife was really the saving grace of their relationship [though it’s still damaged, honestly–she was really over-the-top cruel to me at the beginning]. She always felt like she deserved primary intimacy over me and it wasn’t until she met her life partner that she understood why that couldn’t be.

      Which is not to say that I didn’t respect their bond and deep friendship—I did and I do. She was in our wedding and our future children will call her Auntie. But looking back, I wish we had all had the maturity and foresight to navigate these waters more assuredly. And I imagine that a romantic history can complicate those waters even more than what I dealt with.

      • MTM

        I’m really curious about when this shift is supposed to happen that would make both the bestie and romantic partner okay though. One of my best friends in college started dating his now wife and I was in a long-term, but long-distance relationship, so he and I were really close. But it SUCKED when that shift happened, and I’m sure he felt caught in the middle a lot. I probably thought it was too soon and his now wife thought it wasn’t soon enough.

        • anon

          Well, in my circumstance, which I hope is not universal, at first she didn’t want him to have a girlfriend at all, then she became very angry that we were moving in together. It was a really unhealthy situation, honestly, based on deep insecurity and a certain amount of possessiveness/entitlement on her part. I won’t say I handled it perfectly (lots of crying and definitely no going out of my way to support his friendship with her), but in general I was just trying to have a real relationship with my college boyfriend and she antagonized that desire until she found her own partner and ultimately apologized (in her own way). While we respect each other now, we will never be close or even really like each other and that does affect her relationship with my husband to this day. She is more like an in-law that I begrudgingly respect due to specific ties that bind, as well as hindsight empathetic understanding that her background and family life was very difficult and while my husband became a “tier not a title” person and has lots of cherished friends, she held him up on an unsustainable singular pedestal.

          But for the record, with my best friends and sister, I would say there was never a Moment that things changed. It was more an ongoing process and a natural evolution. I think that’s most common unless one person involved has a completely different view of what the relationships involved should look like. Then I think lots of patience and communication is in order, especially if it’s all about how to make sure everyone feels loved and cherished in a way that honors their specific bond (assuming everyone has generally healthy attitudes about the whole thing, which I think most people do even if they have a few difficult moments, which is just human)

    • chrissyc

      That was my primary thought while reading this post, too. For me, I couldn’t be best friends with somebody other than my spouse, so I’m curious about how other people do it. My husband (thankfully) isn’t my only close relationship, but he is the closest. I could not compartmentalize enough for that not to be the case.

      My now-husband and I were best friends for years before we started dating, but I always knew that once one of us had a romantic partner, our friendship would have to take a backseat–not because of the romantic attraction but because of the emotional intimacy. I had no interest in putting him or his hypothetical wife in a situation where I was his #1, and I wouldn’t want to do that to my hypothetical partner either. It seems so unfair and difficult for everybody involved–the best friends and their romantic partners. I’m sure there are plenty of relationships where it works out, but I knew I just couldn’t do it.

      Luckily for us, my now-husband and I realized that we DO have romantic feelings for each other after all, and the rest is history! But before this realization, there were some bittersweet moments when I thought about how we wouldn’t hang out until the wee hours of the morning every weekend once one of us was in a serious relationship with somebody else.

    • Rose

      I really think it probably has to vary with the relationship? There are some couples who are ok with one or both having as strong of emotional intimacy with someone else. It’s a bit different, but I am, and probably always will be, as likely to tell my sister important things as my wife. My sister’s not more important to me, but she is as important as my wife. I’m sure there are people for whom that would be a big problem in a relationship (and I wouldn’t necessarily blame them, although I probably wouldn’t change for them either), but we’ve talked about it a fair amount, and it really is ok with us. But I don’t really feel that having close emotional intimacy with one person means that you don’t also want/need it with another; it’s not a taking the place of thing, at least not for me. It’d be interesting to hear a poly perspective on it, I think. There are people who are in multiple long term stable romantic relationships, it has to work out for them somehow.

      • chrissyc

        I think you’re on to something mentioning poly relationships. I know poly relationships that work really well, and I can understand it objectively. But it’s also something that doesn’t resonate with me *personal* at all. It’s similar to how I feel about being best friends with an ex–not for me but great if it works for others.

        I also think it’s interesting that you mention your sister, because my siblings and I are still close like we were as kids, but priorities are shifting now that some of us are married. I try to communicate that they are all important to me and always will be–but my baby family of my husband and me, and eventually our kids, will come before them. (This is especially hard on the younger, unmarried siblings, and it seems terrible to say, “You’ll understand when you’re older!”, bleh, but I really do think that’s the truth. So if anybody has any ideas on how to handle that, I’m all ears!)

        Honestly, I think it has a lot to do with boundaries. My family can be so-so about respecting boundaries, so I feel the need to keep people (a little) at arms length. If a time comes when we’re all older, wiser, and better able to respect boundaries, then I could see myself having a relationship with my siblings that’s as close as I have with my husband. Because I think you’re right: it’s not like humans are limited to one close relationship at a time. One good friendship doesn’t need to threaten another good friendship. Maybe the key is just that everybody knows and is respectful of the boundaries–and we’re just not quite there yet with my family.

        • Jen

          I would be careful to tell your younger unmarried siblings that they will “understand when they get older” and that everyone puts their spouse in front of the other folks in their life. As someone who tries to walk a fine balance with respecting my husband but also including my best friend (aka sister) in my life- I would say that not everyone has the same values with how they set up their life. I am not saying you are wrong, but don’t go into it assuming that your siblings will have the same values as you if/when they get married. I do understand, however, setting up boundaries for folks who are not on the same page as you- in whatever capacity.

          • chrissyc

            I think you’re exactly right that “you’ll understand when you’re older” is a terrible thing to say to anybody, so it’s something I keep to myself. I realize that I didn’t make it clear in my post above that it’s something I think, not something I say.

            And what I mean by “understanding when you’re older” isn’t necessarily about this idea of putting your spouse first before everybody else. I understand that may not be the case for them–I mean, that’s the whole point of this article, that it’s entirely possible to have other relationships as close as your relationship with your (future) spouse.

            I mean this idea of “you’ll understand when you’re older” more generally about the balancing act that’s required in adulthood–maybe it’s the result of being the trailblazing older sibling. I’m the only one of my siblings who lives in a different state and who has a full-time job, so there are some times when I just can’t make it home. And now that I’m married, my husband and I have twice as many family functions to attend, and so about half of the time I have to miss a family holiday. My sixteen-year-old sister may feel “abandoned,” but I’m just waiting for a time when she wants to be with her significant other on Christmas, and that might mean not being with our family. Then maybe some of my choices will be better understood. :)

            But I think your caution about not assuming other people’s values is a good one, especially since I have a tendency to be the “lecturey older sister.” It’s good to keep in mind.

          • a single lady

            This. While this is less an issue with my siblings (I’m the oldest and the only unmarried one), I’d be pissed if my best friends (one male, one female), who are married (to opposite gender partners), said something like this to me. I’m single in my mid-30s, and I have no idea if this is a thing I’ll understand when/if I ever get married because I’ve spent a lot of time working on friendships in the absence of a partner. I can’t really imagine them not occupying the same place in my life in the future, at least not because I downgrade friendships that we’ve navigated as they’ve gained partners. So I may not be their primary person, but I know I’m their inner circle, and they are my primary people with whom I share news and get advice, because I don’t have some other person in that role. The larger point is that friendships works differently for different people, and it’s possible to value close friends at a level akin to, albeit different from, a partner.

          • Vanessa

            This. I have had some friends/coworkers say to me “you’ll understand when you’re married” and I immediately go into RAGE BLACKOUT mode. I’ve finally worked up the nerve to tell people how I feel about it when they say stuff like that.

        • Rose

          I don’t have any answers on the sibling thing, really–my sister isn’t younger (we’re twins, which is probably one of the reasons we’re so close), but she’s not married or in a serious relationship. I don’t want to not be as close with her as I have been, so it’s not quite the same thing. It seems to be working for us so far, but I do know that kind of unbalanced feeling, where I have the new baby family forming, and she’s not near that point right now. It’s not easy.

          • chrissyc

            Yes, that’s exactly it–it’s this unbalanced feeling and it’s definitely new territory for us. I’m glad it’s working out for you, and you’re right, it’s not always easy.

    • EF

      my partner *isn’t* the first person i share news and fears and hopes etc with. my best friend is. my best friend is also a man, and attractive, and once upon a time freshman year of college i had a big old crush on him. but instead, we became incredibly close best friends.

      i don’t know that I’d stay friends with my partner if we broke up. It’s unlikely, because I’d probably move back to my home country rather than his. I can imagine being broken in a way where we could just never speak again. But with my BFF? Can’t imagine a world where we aren’t each other’s person, forever.

      For me and my partner this is fine. he knew going into it I came with BFF. But if you’re the type of person to have intensely close friendships, I do think partners need to be aware and supportive of that, from the beginning.

  • Caitlin

    It’s super cool that this works for Lisa and Najva – great devil’s advocate story about people who make it work, despite conventional wisdom. However, I think there is a reason that this is often not the case. I don’t think it’s a false dichotomy in deciding that the romantic part is over and the friendship is over for most people. While I might sometimes describe my fiance as my best friend (he is my people, we get each other better than anyone else), my relationship with him is fundamentally not one of friendship. It’s a romantic partnership and that looks really different from my platonic relationships. It’s not easy to compartmentalize these aspects of a relationship for most people. Not impossible at all, but not common.

    I think there are valid reasons that being best friends with your ex is difficult to the point of not being recommended for most people over the long term, particularly once you start a new romantic partnership. As Mrrpaderp said below, emotional intimacy is usually a pillar of a romantic partnership. It doesn’t have to be exclusive to the romantic relationship, but it often ends up with one person coming first and that person for most people is your romantic partner, not your ex / best friend.

    • Eenie

      I agree. I think a majority of breakups/divorces do not end in a way that would make this type of friendship possible (only speaking from personal experience, and like Najva mentioned it may be more prevalent in the queer community). Then of the small amount that do, everyone (person, ex, new partner) may not feel comfortable maintaining that friendship especially when other romantic partners enter the picture. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong, but I think it’s a very difficult thing to do, and I’m glad it works for the OP.

      • lady brett

        i think the way a relationship ends has a lot to do with what your options are moving forward. there is a huge difference between feeling like your relationship *is broken*, and feeling like *someone broke it* – and the latter is a much larger repair project to keep any part of it alive.

        the differences between friends and lovers is a major part of the reason my ex is one of my best friends – we were pretty awful lovers, but friendship requires different things, and we’re grand at it. and we *are* each other’s people, which is why we gravitated towards each other so strongly…it just took us five years to find a relationship style that worked well. (also, the differences between friend and lover are small for some people and large for others.)

        • Yes! I’m with you.

          When exes “did me wrong” or “they broke it” we no longer speak. Cut & dry & lots of “dodged that bullet” feelings.

          But when they are your person, and you have lots of love towards one another but it just wasn’t… right? Yeah, that’s grounds for bestie-ville, in my book. And I should note, it’s rare. I have lots of close friends who I attempted to date first, but it’s still maybe a few percent of the “people I tried to date” category.

          • emmers

            I haven’t stayed friends with exes, but I can totally see how this is different. I have very different feelings towards my ex who “broke it” and my ex with whom things just weren’t meant to be.

        • Sarah E

          I think your parenthetical is a huge point. There’s a major difference between friend and lover for me, which I can recognize easily (and why I don’t describe my husband as my best friend. . .or even regular friend). But I do see that others, in a myriad of ways, have friendship as a strong part of their partnership, or some variation thereof.

    • emilyg25

      It has also been my experience that the differences that made us romantically incompatible also eventually made us incompatible for close friendship.

    • Meg Keene

      My husband was once my platonic best friend. And now that I’m married to him, he’s not my best friend anymore. I mean, he’s the closest person to me, and we still enjoy each other’s company the same way. But YES what you said. We’re in a romantic partnership now and that comes with different… responsibilities, frankly.

      I hope I never have to find out if we could be friends after we broke up. I think we’d have to be really, because… kids. But could we be BEST friends without stumbling into something more again? I donno!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      You know, I actually find the term “best friend” problematic in this sense (not with your comment, but with the sense that our partners are our best friends.) When I wrote my wedding vows, I actually wrote that we were becoming family, which I think is something different. I wanted to vow something that would last even if we broke up (because…that’s how my twisted brain works. And it’s also how I really feel.) My parents are divorced, but thanks to all the kids they share, they are very much still family, and it’s a thing I’m grateful for. My dad came to thanksgiving for the longest time throughout my childhood, he hangs out with my mom’s brothers. I think that’ll change, yes, if he gets a serious long term girlfriend, but he actually ended a recent serious relationship because his girlfriend was threatened by his friendship with my mom (to the point of trying to stop him from being her friend).

      So while I don’t know what would happen to Michael and I were we to get divorced, I’d like to think he’d still be my family.

      • Meg Keene

        Yes this. All of this. Exactly. David’s my family now, and for better AND for worse, that’s something different. And now-post kids, that’s something that would need to survive a divorce.

        • Alison O

          Curious what you both think about whether siblings can be best friends. Not in my case–my partner is who I would consider my best friend for sure (also… I still think this is mainly a semantic issue and not substantive one from what I can discern)–I’ve just heard a lot of people say that their sib is also their best friend. They’re obviously family, too…but not quite in the same sort of dependent/legal/obligated way as a spouse. So it actually seems like there’s an important distinction between “family” in general and spouses or domestic partners (depending on how serious your jurisdiction’s laws about that) in particular.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I use the term colloquially when I talk about my sister. She’s my best friend because she’s my sister? But I’m also of the Mindy Kaling belief system that best friend is a tier, not a title. :)

          • “best friend is a tier not a title” AMEN YES 100%

        • Teresa

          Yes, I think when you have children, this is extremely important. I saw it with my own parents, post-divorce. More than helpful, I think it was actually confusing to me because they did remain close and 8 year old me could never quite figure out why they weren’t married then (I think sometimes they forgot too…). But, as we got older and when my dad got remarried, the distance increased because there was really no need for co-parenting (not that I would call my dad a true co-parent, but that’s a whole other post…) anymore. My dad still calls my mom to talk when he’s going through a rough time, but I don’t think he tells his wife that he does and I think remarriage or serious partnership is where this situation becomes quite tricky.

      • Caitlin

        Yes, I agree completely! I actually generally don’t like to label my partner as my best friend for the same reasons. To me best friend is a very different role than romantic partner. The roles often are made strong by the same best practices and both are very close and intimate, but one is romantic and the other is platonic. I know not everyone feels this way though, which is why I used the language above. It’s also why I would have trouble being “best friends” with an ex and why I think it’s so rare – it would involve completely changing the way you relate to each other while also maintaining closeness and intimacy. That is a situation fraught with potential hurt feelings. I get what people mean when they choose to label their partner as their best friend, and in some ways it an issue of semantics, but I don’t think it’s a helpful term for how to relate to a romantic partner and it often leads to even worse devastation and confusion if the relationship were to end for whatever reason.

      • My ex did not stay family due to the particular circumstances of our divorce. However, his family stayed my family and that has been an amazing blessing. It’s odd, but they really still feel like my family (even now well over a year and a half post-divorce) and I see them regularly and stay in touch. I’m extremely thankful for how surprising well that part worked out…

    • Caitlin

      Subscribing to the tier of best friends model here (aka not only one). I have my best friend since second grade. And I have my ex, who I was with for 5 years and ended up leaving *for his friend *. You’d think we couldn’t possibly be friends after that. However, it was extremely important to both of us to be friends with the other. One motivation was to not split the fight friend group we all shared. The most important motivation for me was that this person was still so important to me, even though we couldn’t be each other’s everything. It was more important to work through pain to get to a supportive place. Hell, he even rented a room from us, in the spare room of the house he used to share with me.
      He’s also friends with other exes, and I have another one that comes to hang out at my place every couple weeks with his wife.

  • annlynn

    I love how this is re-defining the narrative around divorce.

  • anotheropinion

    to play “devil’s advocate” to this story, I can’t be friends with ex’s. It’s just something that doesn’t work for me. I can’t turn off the part of my brain the slept with them or the part that fought with them. It just doesn’t work for me. Once an ex, always an ex in my world. Cut ties and move on. And, I have given other people this advise, too, when they are contacted by an ex – don’t open that can of worms or try to see what things would’ve been like or what their life is like now. It will lead no where good.

    • pajamafishadventures

      I feel similarly, but I know for me it’s because when I’ve broken up with someone it has always been because the other person has reached the “bitch eating crackers” stage (or they were awful, but more usually the first one). I actually have a lot of admiration for people who are wise enough to end relationships before they reach that stage, or come back from that stage at all

  • Christina

    APW always knows exactly what I need. My husband and I are filing for divorce today. We’ve been together for 5 1/2 years and married for 16 months. Our wedding was actually featured on APW. He is my best friend, but we are not sexually compatible and it’s not fair to him or to me to live the rest of our lives in a relationship with a missing piece. It’s really hard and I hope that we can stay friends after the divorce.

    • I’m sorry you’re going through that, but I’m glad we published what you needed today. Fingers crossed for you!

    • Lawyerette510

      Sending Internet-stranger hugs and support today, but also brava for being brave enough to live your truths.

    • Meg Keene

      Oof. I’m sorry. I mean, it sounds like it’s good thing and the right choice, but it’s still hard and I’m sorry.

    • Lorraine

      I got out of a sexless marriage and got a divorce. He was a chain smoker and smoking can lead to impotence. He couldn’t stop. We were also incompatible. We are still friends and talk once a month.

  • Casey

    Love this post! Although I never married him, my best friend and I had a surprisingly similar story. I remember once telling another friend, “I’m sure he’ll be in a tux at my wedding. The only question is whether he’ll be the groom.” Proud to say that he is a fervent supporter of my fiance (“He gives you what you need to be happy that I couldn’t.”) and will be wearing a tux and standing up for me next year at the wedding!

  • hannahk1012

    This post reminded me a lot of the film Celeste and Jesse forever. Your story really is like a rom com – a bit of a bittersweet one.

  • StevenPortland

    Speaking from experience, I think this isn’t that unusual for gay couples.

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    To me, “best friend” and “romantic partner” are two very different things. I learned that in college, when I tried to date my high school best friend and it just fundamentally didn’t work. I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that thought of him platonically. After we broke up, I often tried to manufacture friendships with non-single guys I crushed on. Spoiler alert: I was never able to overlook my romantic feelings and replace them with platonic ones.

    My fiance and I have a ton in common, and we have fun times together! But if we had never started dating, we definitely wouldn’t be best friends today.

  • Carrie D

    Not to be rude here, but the grammatical mistakes peppered throughout this essay were really distracting. I expect more from the editors!

  • patrissimo

    The fact that you are not in a serious long-term relationship makes the statement about your future actions much less meaningful. It seems more like you are expressing unresolved feelings and lack of closure about the past relationship, which is likely to obstruct your finding a new one. If and when you are engaged again, you may well feel very differently – and your new partner almost certainly will.

    It is common but naive to think that you have infinite love to give and there is room for everyone in your heart. The entire nature of marriage is built around it being a specially exclusive relationship where you and your partner are each other’s priorities. By definition, that limits the degree of intimacy and priority that anyone else can have in your life. There is no such thing as having two “best” friends, and if you choose to hold onto your relationship from the past, that prevents your new partner from being your best friend. Sacrificing closeness for the rest of your life for what was ultimately a failed relationship doesn’t seem like a good decision.

    It’s a natural way to feel after a relationship with someone you have known for 20 years, but I think it’s much more a signpost of how you need to change than a declaration you should work to stick to. The part of you that still loves this guy is of course rejoicing in your declaration – but the rest of you should be worried that you are putting up a huge flashing neon sign that says to all future partners “YOU CANNOT HAVE ALL OF ME. YOU CANNOT BE THE CLOSEST / THE BESTEST / THE MOSTEST. PART OF MY HEART WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER’S.” And the most psychologically healthy, romantic, perceptive partners will all be driven away by it. Because no healthy person wants to get married to someone who won’t let go of their past relationships.

  • Laura

    I love this story make a few changes and it sounds like my story.
    I am currently in a divorce with my husband who is my best friend and the father of my children, we have been married for 16 years the first 7 years of he was an over the road truck driver so we really didn’t get to know each other much ( oh we knew each other for 4 months when we got married) in the 8th year of our marriage he got really sick so he became a stay at home dad and I went out and worked to keep the family going but also in the last past 9 years we got closer and really got to know one another and found out we are just too different to stay together as husband and wife but at the same time we became the best of friends. Wish him the best in finding what he is looking for and he wishes the same for me.
    When people think of divorce they think of all the bad stuff but that is not always the case I wish people would stop judging it as something that you do just because your in a bad or dangerous relationship its not always that way sometimes it happens just because you finally figure out that you are just not compatible that way and why stay together if it is just not working get out while you are still friends and if you have kids together please work together for the sake of the children do not use them against the other parent, just remember you were in Love with that person at one point.

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