Dear Worrier Princess: Friends to the End
Dear Worrier Princess is an advice column based off The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend, the viral queer advice zine by Maddy Court (a.k.a.@xenaworrierprincess on Instagram).
In this column, Maddy tackles the intersection of romantic partners and friends. When you’re no longer a couple, what happens to your shared friends? How do you deal when your best friend gets a girlfriend and stops returning your texts?
Queery #1: I don’t have that many lesbian friends, and my ex girlfriend had an entire friend circle of badass queer women that I got along with quite well. I’d like to maintain friendships with them, and they seem to want to maintain friendships with me as well but my ex is having a hard time keeping her feelings for me at bay, and I don’t want to delay her healing by staying around. Should I just back off or should I not let her hinder possibly valuable friendships?
Sometimes people break up, untangle their lives, and go back to being strangers. Queer women, however, are famous for breaking up and lingering in hazy boundaries and gray tones of intimacy. Queeries like yours come across my desk all the time. Queeries such as: my ex-girlfriend is a negative presence in my life, is it wise to share custody of our cat? What if my girlfriend and I broke up, but we still want to live together? What if we co-host a gay bingo night and it’s just starting to get popular? Once, mere days after a devastating break-up, I went to a Sufjan Stevens concert with my ex-girlfriend. We’d had the tickets for months. During a tearful processing session, we decided we’d only be punishing ourselves by staying home. It was the first night of the Carrie and Lowell tour and Sufjan was giving a performance I can only describe as “up there, being beautiful.” Directly in front of us, a straight couple was arguing in loud, angry whispers. I leaned forward in my seat and delivered a simultaneous tap on each of their shoulders.
“You are ruining this for us,” I said, gesturing towards my ex-girlfriend to emphasize the “us.” She smiled and for a moment, I believed I could still make her happy. Then the concert ended, and we boarded trains going opposite directions.
What I’m saying is that spending time with your ex can be positive, but it takes intention and lots of communication. This brings me to my next point: has your ex actually asked for space, or are you assuming you know what she needs? There’s a middle-ground between dumping your mutual friends and overwhelming her with your presence. This could mean a temporary moratorium on seeing each other. It could mean sharing space at parties, but not in smaller groups. It could mean you each spend time with your friends separately. You won’t know until you ask her.
And finally, here’s some perspective: it’s a rare queer woman who hasn’t been friends with a couple, experienced their break-up in Dolby Digital HD Surround Sound, and afterwards, navigated the shifted terrain of each friendship. It’s a rare friend group that doesn’t contain at least one set of ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, and/or ex-partners. These situations are complicated and uncomfortable to varying degrees, but don’t resign yourself to losing important, close friends just because your relationship is over.
Queery #2: For the past couple of years I've been in a wonderful gay relationship, and I know that when my girlfriend and I first got together we were totally *unbearable* and I didn't always give heaps of time to my friends. Luckily some of my friends stuck it out nonetheless, and I managed to develop one really amazing friendship that's the closest thing I've had to a BFF for years. Even though we live in different cities now we managed to stay in contact every day through messaging and other social media for several years. Recently though my BFF came out as gay and started dating another friend, and ever since they have settled into a relationship we barely talk. It's killing me because I know that it's normal to lose yourself in love, but the long distance friendship is harder than I imagined through this period. And I'm devastated cos I hardly ever make friends let alone BFFs. I'm not sure what to do to keep the flame of friendship alive and not be jealous/possessive.
My all-time saddest break-up wasn’t with someone I was dating, it was with a close friend. At the time, I felt like I was overreacting. How could I feel heartbreak over someone I never slept with, someone I never even wanted to sleep with? The world teaches us that romantic relationships are inherently deeper and more significant than friendships. But the truth is that friendships can be vulnerable and life-altering in all the ways that romantic relationships can be. Friendships are vital, even for people with serious partners. You learned this the hard way when forfeited your friends in favor of your girlfriend.
It's not jealous or possessive to expect your BFF to make time for you. Still, I doubt your BFF is purposefully ignoring you. Coming out is a full-time job and they’re experiencing the rush of their first gay relationship. How do you two usually communicate? Do you text, FaceTime, or email back and forth? Using your preferred form of communication, say something like: “I’m happy you’ve found an amazing relationship with an amazing person, but lately I’ve been feeling some distance between us. When I first met my girlfriend, I was so wrapped up in our relationship that I neglected my friendships. In hindsight, I wish I’d made time for my friends. I really love you and our friendship, I hope we can reconnect.” This message is honest and empathetic. It’s infinitely better than saying nothing, or giving up.
Just like long-distance dating, long-distance friendships take effort and time. While every relationship goes through slow periods, you deserve reciprocity and your BFF deserves the chance to learn from their mistakes.
are you in a pickle regarding your love life? do you have a crush you can't figure out how to talk to, an ex you'd like to reconnect with but don't know if it's appropriate or the right time?
dear worrier princess answers your qs about love and strife in relationships in this complex and modern queer world.