Pushing the Relationship Boundaries and Making new ones
Our columnist knows first-hand how hard it is to go from a co-habiting couple to the best of friends
Column by Jo Gregory
It’s been ten months to the day that my husband and I called it quits after almost twelve years together. We’ve been on many adventures and helped each other through the most painful of times. Walking away was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, however, we are not just walking away, we are just changing our relationship, for good, for the better.
We all, with any luck, get the wonderful chance to fall in love at least once in our lives. It’s both a joyous and stomach flipping experience. Pure ecstasy followed closely by crippling angst which is probably why it’s called ‘falling’ in love. We are out of control, we are slaves to the heart. We have to give in and surrender because there’s nothing our conscious minds can do about it.
Some of the people we fall in love with are friends first, colleagues, friends with benefits, Bumble dates. But why can’t we fall out of love and then fall into a friendship? Why is this part of our human connection missed out, not encouraged and rarely talked about?
Our divorce is currently in the hands of the courts and we will both become officially footloose and fancy free come the spring. It’s wonderful timing for what is bound to be a huge turning point in our lives. We’ll toast the occasion over a long lunch washed down with a bottle of wine because we are, still, the best of mates. We go to gigs, we occasionally dine with our respective parents and take long hikes together.
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It is, in itself, an unconventional relationship one which many people can’t wrap their heads around. We’ve managed to make the transition from husband and wife to best friends in little under a year. I will admit, we’ve both had times where we have waivered, wondering if there is still something to be salvaged. It’s easy to get blinded once you’re out of the everyday hum drum of life and all you’re seeing is each other at your best. But the decision to part wasn’t one that was rushed, quite the opposite. It took a long time to realise that our relationship had evolved to something greater.
I am sure when new partners eventually come onto the scene, there will be a period of hiatus but, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, just before Christmas, we made a new vow (a very different one to the one we made on the Isle of Wight nine years previous) to never be with anyone that doesn’t accept this friendship of ours. We are older now and jealousy isn’t something I’ve carried into my late 30’s. If my next partner had an ex(s) he was friends with, I wouldn’t feel threatened by the presence in their lives. An ex plays a huge part of who that person is, you should be thanking them for contributing to the outstanding person that stands before you, not trying to thrust them onto the side lines for fear they will both decide after a trip to the cinema that they do, in fact, want to be together again.
I appreciate that this new-found friendship of ours is a unique one. It’s not for everyone. But no-one cheated, no one betrayed the other and no-one was a total knob. For that, I am very thankful. It should be the norm to respect and honour the person we are detangling from regardless of the situation. We should have as much patience at the end of a relationship than we do at the beginning. You know, when you start out and everyone’s ridiculously polite, you’re all like ‘I don’t mind’, or ‘You choose’ or ‘That’s ok, you have the last beer’. But we generally don’t and that is heart-breaking.
Why are we throwing away perfectly good friendships and connections just because you don’t want to have a roll around under the sheets anymore? Myself and my ex are much better people now we are not together. We are much happier apart, it’s as simple as that. I will admit, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, your ego goes into overdrive, it’s a real punch to the stomach that you were not the one to make that person happy, no matter how hard you tried and vice versa.
However, we are now enriching each other’s lives in other ways, the relationship has moved on. We are finally getting back our independence, something which we all lose in some capacity in a relationship of that tenure. We can now grow as individuals and concentrate on ourselves. However, we still get to dance together at gigs, we still get to help each other over a stream on one of our hikes and best of all, you get to see that person grow into the amazing human you always knew they could be and why on earth would you choose not to witness that?