I'm in love with my best friend

We've slept together but now we're not. It's platonic but it's not. He's my lover but he's not. Where are we going?


Cary Tennis
September 30, 2010 5:01AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am in love with my best friend. We have known each other for a few years and almost from the beginning there was a deep connection. We stay over at each other's houses (platonically), tell each other "I love you" after every conversation, and in all truth I don't go more than a day without having some sort of contact with him.

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Things got complicated after about a year and half into the friendship, though, as we started sleeping together. The worst part of it was that we were both in relationships at the time. My relationship fell apart rather quickly after the first time, but he stayed in a relationship for nearly a year. We slept together on and off throughout that entire time.

This caused me a great deal of stress, which added to a period of anxiety and depression I went through around that time, but I couldn't stop. Well, that being said, we had quite a few rough patches but we never gave up on it. We stopped sleeping together earlier this year, I got myself into therapy and have eased the deep anxiety that has plagued me for the last five years or so. I've begun dating other men and my friendship with him has definitely recovered and is better than ever.

There are a couple of things that bother me, though. We have never really talked about that time when we slept together. It's a topic that I have no idea how to approach. Every day the pain and stress I felt from it are fading but I still feel as though I need to say something. Secondly, I have moved on in a sense and after some intense therapy have come to the realization that I want to be in a loving relationship, something that I have fought off for a number of reasons.

I am dating now, but I don't know if I'll ever really be able to let go of the feelings I have for my best friend. That in itself confuses me since it is definitely more than platonic, but not so passionately overwhelming that I can't see past it. It's as though I have a deep feeling in my gut that he is the one I'm supposed to end up with. So all this in between is just time spent growing into the people we're meant to become. He and I have had numerous discussions about this topic and feel similarly about it. It sounds ridiculous and I can't explain this certainty I feel, other than I have felt it before and it's never proved me wrong

I'm not seeking advice, I guess, just insight. So any response would be helpful.

In Love With My Best Friend

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Dear In Love,

It's possible that this friendship is exactly as it should be. It's possible that the you who is speaking, wondering and writing this letter is only one small person in a very large house.

That is, you are being fed and nourished by this friendship. But because of social roles you play and the face you must show to the world, you feel some anxiety about this relationship. So, to put it succinctly, before I go into a more poetic exposition of how I see you, just know that this is something you need, that it is nourishing you and helping you to grow, and trust that as you get what you need from this friendship, it will become easier to integrate it into the rest of your life.

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It takes some trust. It takes trusting that even though you don't consciously know everything that is going on in every cell of your being, what's going on is important to your vitality and happiness.

In a nutshell, I'd say this:

The ego as a unitary concept is too limited. There is no one "I."

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It is more like this:

We are old houses to explore. In a big old house there are rooms that are yet to be furnished to our taste. Some old rooms have dreams of their own. Built at one time for one purpose, their utility is obscure. We wander about the house and sit in rooms and wonder what is the deal.

Some rooms are empty. Other rooms are crowded. There are rooms that others see when they visit, and there are rooms that we only go into when we are in the house alone.

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Everything in the house is connected. But not everything is understood. Not only are some of the rooms mysterious, but behind the walls are wires and framing that we do not see. We do not see where all the wires go. We just see the electrical outlets, the lamp sockets in the ceiling and the switches on the walls. In much the same way, there are things in us that we can see and experience but the connections between them are invisible to us; we do not know which wires are on the same circuit. But we can get some sense of how things are connected by exploring.

That is what I hope you are doing in therapy. You are exploring all the rooms of this house.

Think about friendship and sexual awakening. There might be a room in the house for friendship and a room in the house for sexual awakening. Both might take place in the same room. But they don't have to. There can be separate rooms for separate activities. Friendship may lead to marriage and children. Sex may lead to friendship. Marriage and children may lead to friendship. There are many routes back and forth. There are many rooms where these things can take place. There is the marriage bed. There is the parlor, the kitchen, the friendship room.

Think of the house as a place where a family is growing. In one room a child is growing. In another room a parent is knitting. In another room someone is reading, perhaps a stranger, or someone who has come to stay at the house for a while, a visitor. You do not know who that person is but are curious. You are eager to find out who that person is and where he has been. In another room there is the learning of languages and studying. In another room there is play and laughter. There is a room for performances, a public space where everyone from the town sometimes comes. There is the kitchen where eating is done, and there is the bedroom where lovemaking happens. And then there are secret rooms known only to you where sometimes you go and do things in secret.

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You are so used to being in this house that sometimes you forget which room is which. You forget which room you are in. Or you forget how many rooms you actually have. Everything piles up in the sewing room. Or you start receiving friends, making love and eating all in the bedroom. And it starts to feel crowded in the house and you are not comfortable anywhere. This happens when you are not looking around you and seeing what is actually there, when you are rushing about, thinking about meeting appointments, wanting to make sure everything happens correctly, forgetting that the house has a life of its own that must be attended to. This happens when you act as though you are in charge of the entire house and everyone in it, as though people didn't have lives of their own.

There are plenty of rooms. But some are unused. Maybe certain rooms need to be cleaned out and painted. The room for friendship, for instance, may have been overused, while the room for sex has not been used enough. Fix up these rooms. Make the room for sex be all about sex and the room for friendship be all about friendship.

Give your best friend his own room, a place where you two can go and sit and be safe. And sometimes there may be sex there, or sexual feelings between you. But at least you know what room you're in.

It's not the marriage bed. Not yet, anyway. It's a friendship room. Sex can make friendship more intense but it's still friendship because it's taking place in the friendship room. In the same way, marriage may sometimes be chaste but it's marriage. That's the room it's in.

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Thus life is lived in the house.

In certain rooms at certain times of day the sun lights up your face and you seem to be the ultimate mistress of this house; the house seems to be like a second skin, a creation spun out of your own imagining, like a piece of music you dreamed up. All the house is in harmony at a time like that. But the seasons are in motion, and the house sits on a hill where the weather changes abruptly, and it gets battered and sometimes it seems as if it's going to come apart. Rooms leak, things break, you don't get around to repairing everything. People die in rooms sometimes and are removed, and every time you go in that room afterward it's as though someone died in there, because someone did die in there. You learn to walk about the house with reverence for what it is, but also with mastery and serene confidence because after all it is your house.

It may have its secrets but those secrets belong to you because it's your house. Everything in it belongs to you. You don't have to ask anyone if you may enter this room or that room. You have all the keys on a ring in a basement corridor near the kitchen. Any time you want you can take these keys and unlock rooms you haven't been in for a while. You can go sit in a room and feel what it has to tell you.

This house is yours. It may not all make sense, but you are free to explore.

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Cary Tennis

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