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Love often follows friendship, but can friendship follow love?

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Courtney Dunham Correspondent

Remember how Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal debated whether men and women could be friends without sex getting in the way in “When Harry Met Sally?” Well forget the sex – can they be friends without marriage or a former relationship getting in the way?

Since moving out of our house and finally into my own place, my estranged husband and I have gotten to be good friends again. We get together almost every weekend for a movie or dinner. I have to admit, it’s been good having him around. It feels much different than those last few years that we lived together.

Some might say we’re dating again, but I wouldn’t call it that. It’s more like we’ve rekindled an old friendship that’s become fun again, free of criticism, hurt and the struggles of day-to-day living. Whatever it’s become, I’m not sure it can last through the reality that divorce will bring.

Right now we exist in limbo land – a place where no further action is taking place. It was a huge, emotional decision to leave my home and start over, which is all I’ve been able to face so far. Spending more enjoyable time with him again has made me realize that there is still love between us. But it’s more of a comfortable love with something missing that never evolved as we both grew and changed. Still, we’ve been together for so long, it’s hard to imagine life without him completely.

I’ve never doubted my decision to leave the marriage, and when we’re together for more than a couple of days, things come up that remind me, “Oh, that’s right – that’s why we’re not together anymore.” But all the reasoning in the world doesn’t stop me from feeling sad when he leaves after getting a small taste of what it could have been like if only things were different. But I’ve been down this road so many times and know it just can’t work. Yet why do I keep going back, making plans for the next weekend and dragging this whole process out longer? Because it’s really hard to let go – much harder than it was to leave.

As much as I’ve embraced this new life, it’s tempting to hold on to what’s comfortable. Everyone I know is either married or has a serious boyfriend, so it’s been a challenge figuring out where I belong. I’ve become more independent and value my alone time more now because it’s something I’ve chosen. Sure I get lonely, but there’s a solace about being alone by choice, instead of feeling alone in a relationship.

So I do my best to embrace this time on my own. I know it’s where I need to be now to heal. Lately I’ve been wondering if holding on to the little bit I am is delaying the end. Without an end, how can there be a beginning?

I am laying down tracks for a life I know is possible in my heart. I don’t know where and when I will find love again, but I know I don’t want to give up on it. It’s hard to have faith in things we can’t see or touch, and to walk blindly down a path that seems so foreign. I just know that I couldn’t stand still anymore. Someone recently told me the best advice: simply move forward and pretend like your life is already better until one day it is.

Will we be friends when this is all over? I don’t have the answers now. I only know that there’s no right or wrong, and I can only do what feels right to me. I have no doubt that I’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. But it’s a journey, and part of taking one is never knowing where the turns will take us.

First we were friends. Then we were married. Then we weren’t friends for a while. What’s next? I’ll keep you posted.

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