My ex-husband and I began dating when I was very young: I was 14 years, 8 months and a sophomore in high school; he had just turned 17 and was a junior. We had been friends for the year prior, but then suddenly Cupid’s arrow hit us and we saw each other in a very different light. Our friendship blossomed into romance, our first and only romantic relationship for both of us until the time when we separated 22 years later. We both thought we had found our “forever” person.
After five plus of dating but before our wedding, I had the distinct thought that I was settling in my choice of marriage partner. My fiancé was a wonderful man: smart, caring, and loving. I knew he wouldn’t physical abuse me, and he would be a good provider. I was sure he would make a great dad, and that was very important to me. He was my best friend, yet I also knew that in marrying him, I was giving up any chance of having romance in my life. My ex was not a romantic person. I’m not an over-the-top romantic, but I am a woman who appreciates having her birthday acknowledged or occasionally having flowers or a new book given to her. I also knew that the passion between us was more than lacking at times. Yet when I looked at the whole picture of whom he was, I thought that sacrificing romance and passion was a small price to pay for marrying my best friend. It was, after all, what common advice dictated.
It turns out that wasn’t true. I needed romance and passion in my lifelong relationship with my partner. I needed friendship, to be certain, but I also needed more. I needed someone who would also cherish me as a woman. As the years passed, this need became more important rather than less, and I began to realize how much was actually missing from my marriage.
The time right after my ex-husband and I separated was the best our relationship had seen in a long time. We occasionally began talking on occasion, and we started to find our friendship again. What we came to realize was that we made far better friends than lovers. In the case of popular advice, our relationship was not the norm: marrying our best friend resulted in us also losing our best friend. Our relationship was better as a friendship rather than a romance. That doesn’t in any way deny the romantic feelings we had for each other. However, it does break with conventional wisdom.
A year after our divorce finalized, I am far happier as a divorced woman than I could ever have imagined. I never dreamed my marriage would end, but I am grateful it did. Staying in a relationship that was no longer even a friendship was not a healthy option for either of us.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC