He had been my best friend. He had been my boyfriend. He had been my ex. Now he’s just somebody that I used to know.
I had to rehabilitate myself after sophomore year of high school when things went south not only with my boyfriend, but our entire group of mutual friends. I had a lot of healing and forgiving to do. And as I did them, my life started to take me down a different path- one that I had never really imagined for myself. People who previously wouldn’t have given me the time of day were suddenly asking me to be their partners for chemistry labs and were being nice to me- genuinely nice! I found myself invited into a nice group of girls who I’d previously known as acquaintances, soon enough being embraced as a full member of their group.
I’d always tried to make friends with girls even though I knew that I got along better with guys. Therefore, it’s not odd that I went away from my old friends to find a group of different girls. What is odd, is that for the rest of high school, I didn’t fill that void that had been left by my ex. And I’m not even talking about dating (although I didn’t do that either). I mean that for the rest of high school, I never found another best guy friend.
Then I went away to college. Away-away. Four hours with no intention of coming home on as many weekends as I could, and I’d more or less cut all ties with high school. I was moving on. And I found myself in a much bigger, much more welcoming ocean of fish, gradually making friends. A “squad” of eight close friends who I thank God for each and every day because I don’t know what my life would be like without them. And guess what? Over half of those friends are guys.
But there’s one guy in particular. He’s probably my best guy friend hands down. We’re what I call “best friends soul mates.” In so many ways, he’s everything I could ever ask for in a guy, but I’d never date him because we just don’t feel that way about each other. We’re best friends, and that’s great. He’s like the “better, never going to date ever” version of my ex.
And that’s the thing. I see similarities between him and my ex, and for once, they don’t frighten me away. Some of the qualities that had attracted me to my ex, made me like him in the first place, I see reflected back at me in my new best guy friend, but the similarities aren’t so overbearing that I only see my ex. They’re different enough that they’re two different people in my mind, even though they do seem to have some points of intersection.
This realization that this friend of mine, who in many ways mirrors my ex, has taken his place has really got me thinking. There are just certain characteristics that we value in other people, that attract us to them, so long as we’re meeting new people and assessing whether or not we want them in our lives and to what extent. Even after things go south with a former friend or lover, some part of you will always look back on the things that you liked about them, and as you invite more people into your heart and your life, you’ll realize that these characteristics that attract people to you will stay relatively stable. And that’s how I ended up with a best friend who sometimes reminds me of my ex.
But the other side of that coin is the fact that with every encounter, every relationship, we learn new things. And these discoveries of our likes and dislikes lead to slight modifications in what attracts us to others, which, along with each person’s unique life story and personality, ensures that we never date- or even encounter- two people who are exact carbon copies of one another. In my case, my ex and my new best friend, however similar in some ways, are vastly different in others. You could say that my best friend picks up the slack that my ex left. A perhaps kinder way to say that would be to say that I learned from what I didn’t like in my ex and found someone who has all of the things I liked about him and positively differs from him in areas that I discovered I did not like about him.
I think this is what we all do when it comes to forging relationships with others. As we get older and figure out who we are, we establish a core set of values whose breadth expands to include what characteristics we seek in companions (romantic and platonic), and we learn to recognize those traits that we like and dislike based off of past relationships, applying that knowledge each time we select potential friends or lovers for the future.
You have to give all of your heartbreaks a bit of a hand; after all, they did help create your happily ever after.