Almost everyone has The One That Got Away; that one person who eluded you because they simply weren’t feeling it (the most painful of the options), or they had to go elsewhere and the timing just wasn’t right. I’ve had both scenarios. And both scenarios were bloody horrendous. At the risk of sounding Thought Catalog-y, clearly these relationships weren’t meant to be. Things work out exactly how they should, and as much as you will something to happen, you can’t control another person’s feelings. 

So what happens when The One That Got Away comes back? What do you do when the person you dated for a bit (and really freakin’ liked) wants to be “just friends?” Should you let them back into your life, and is it even possible? 

“It’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’: You can’t be friends with someone you find attractive because ‘sex always gets in the way.’”

The short answer? Yes. It is possible to be “just friends.” But only if you both don’t find each other attractive. Read that again: Only if you both don’t find each other attractive. Otherwise you’re fucked. Or not, as the case may be. You can only be friends with an ex if you are both on the same page and enough time has passed that the wounds from your romantic relationship are as healed as they’ll ever be.

It’s When Harry Met Sally: You can’t be friends with someone you find attractive because “sex always gets in the way.” But, if you still find them attractive and the thought of them kissing you doesn’t feel weird, don’t do it, man. Don’t do it! You will end up entirely devastated all over again.

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You’ll probably feel a lot of rage towards them, too: Rage that they’re stupid enough to say no to you; rage that this near-perfect person (in your eyes) isn’t the one you get to have wonderful, romantic experiences with; and worst of all, rage towards yourself for giving them that power over you. The last one’s a killer, because you’ll probably hold onto that anger for a long, long time. If you keep hanging out with them or sporadically catching up, even via message, every time you’re going to hate yourself for not having the self esteem to say, “Fuck off, you can’t have your cake at eat it, too.” 

And then you wonder, Should I even be thinking this? What’s wrong with giving this person with whom I shared some pretty darn intimate moments the time of day? Clearly I like them and this ex-specific affection doesn’t go anywhere. What’s wrong with accepting the situation how it is? Surely it’s better to have love of some form in your life than none at all? Then your goddamn limbic system kicks in and yells, “No! I will not. I refuse. All of those silly Disney films and rom-coms have given me hope. No matter how cold, dead my heart is, I still have hope. Maybe even hope that The Ex will realise the error of their ways.”

“And then you wonder, What’s wrong with giving this person the time of day?”

So this really messes with you because, um, hello, hope and faith are some of the most precious, priceless things in this world. But then Old Man Logic pipes up and booms, “Yoooo, abort. Abort, abort, abort! Amor up! Protect yourself. Oooh, girl, what is you doing?” And in no time you find yourself weeping at work, pouring out your poor, broken heart to the interwebs.

But then maybe I’m projecting :D.   

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Nevertheless after all of this, and no matter how much, rationally, you understand — how much you get it — there remains the question that no one night stand or bottle of wine can answer: “Why don’t you love me?” This feeling of inadequacy tears you apart. If you love me enough to be my friend, why can’t you love me more, like you used to? It would be lovely to accept the “It’s not you, it’s me” line, but we all know that it’s as much you as it is them. And so we dig. 

What changed, what’d I do? What is it about me that turned them off? These self-interrogations create even more of a chasm in your splintered heart, until eventually you realize that it’s the disappointment that’s what’s really destroying you: The disappointment that you don’t get to continue to have that special, super-deep, tender connection with them. Or rather, they don’t want to continue it with you. 

“Nevertheless there remains the question that no one night stand or bottle of wine can answer: ‘Why don’t you love me?’”

Anger quickly returns as you resent them for forcing you into the role of Unrequited Lover #Who-Knows-How-Many. Things would’ve been fine if you had both agreed that nah, it’s not good for either of us. But the loss of power, the finishing of your romantic relationship not being a mutual ending, but a rejection, makes you feel like a powerless fool. And the whole scenario is made even worse because in spite of everything, you know that there’s a lesson in it. You’re not quite sure yet what it is, but there’s some insight to be gained from this torturous experience. 

We break ourselves down to build ourselves back up. I am a VIP in The Friend Zone because almost every guy who has wanted to be “just friends” post dating has genuinely tried to stay friends with me. Slowly I’ve phased them out, knowing better every time, but there’s two that remain: one who I’ve successfully become friends with but have learned to keep at arm’s length as he can be a bit of an energy vampire, and the second, well, the second…I’m still trying to find the lesson.

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