Q & A Wednesdays: Why can’t we be friends?

Posted by in dating after divorce, love after 40 | 0 comments

Dear Sandy,

I have been in a relationship for the past two years with an incredible guy. It’s intense; I love him very much, and we have an amazing connection. But it has not been easy. He comes from a horribly sad family situation. He was sexually abused by his mother. His relationship with his father is horrible. He blames him for not intervening. Understandably, he has major trust issues.

We broke up last April in order to assess our future. He wanted to get married, and I was not sure if he was the one. As much as I loved him, I needed time and space to evaluate my feelings.

A few months later, we got back together as ‘friends with benefits.’ Our relationship was open, but our love remained strong. I still wasn’t sure if I could marry him, but I knew I loved him.

During those few months, I didn’t date anyone else, but he did. This ‘friends with benefits’ situation wasn’t working well for either of us, and we broke up again to regroup.

I did a lot of inner work, journaling every day, trying to figure out if he was the ‘one’.

By the end of three months, I had my answer. I was ready to commit to the man I loved. We agreed to meet for drinks and discuss.

And that’s when he told me that he’d met another woman and was moving in with her. She was the one. He was sure of it. And he wished me well.

I am devastated, but I miss him and still want to be his friend. We are so intimately bonded. I am a part of his family. He wants to be my friend, too. I am not sure if I can handle it, but I want him in my life.

What should I do? Can we be friends? This is torturing me…


Dear Hannah,

Sounds like your relationship is quite complex. A person who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a parent is someone who has been deeply damaged. This affects their ability to trust and form healthy relationships.

To compound the issue, he also has a contentious relationship with his father. Understandably, this added to his lack of ability to trust. Trust is core to any healthy relationship.

The fact that your boyfriend was with you for two years and jumped into this new relationship so quickly is a sign to me that this is most probably an unhealthy relationship.

When a person rebounds, it can be for a variety of reasons.

A healthy person spends time alone or in therapy or coaching in order to learn and grow and create healthier relationships moving forward.

It sounds like your boyfriend wanted to be with someone with whom he felt safe. Safety is key to a person who has suffered this type of childhood trauma.

I know people who were sexually abused by a parent, and it left a huge hole in their heart. My friend has been in therapy for most of her life, and she is still struggling with issues of trust and boundary-setting.

My suggestion to you is to move on. Being his friend will keep you tethered to your ex in an unhealthy way.

It will be painful at first, but it’s hard to be just friends with someone whom you loved to this degree.

Journal about the gifts in this relationship. Also write about what was toxic for you.

Think about who you became in the relationship. A caretaker? A nurturer? What role do you want to take on in a future relationship?

If you don’t let go of your ex, you won’t be able to make room for the right man.

Surround yourself with the love and support of your loving family and friends. Keep busy, stay happy, and you’ll eventually move on to a healthy relationship.




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