Everything I lost when I started dating my best friend
Macey and I spent many of our high school sleepovers in the same way—on opposite ends of the couch with books in our hands, sitting over a canvas or a sketchpad creating art or coming home from the beach with freshly sun-kissed skin. We had something that I think is rare. We were best friends who trusted each other; she actually allowed me to be in the room while she made art and I told her my most embarrassing stories, like the time I put a signed love letter in my crush’s locker before class.
Friendship has always been the most important relationship in my life. I’m an advocate for choosing your family. Mine was built from supportive, loving people in my family of origin and friendships I’ve found in the years since. When I found Macey’s friendship, it was like filling in the missing pieces of a conversation I’ve been having my entire life. I wanted to keep talking to her from the minute she asked if she could sit with me at lunch on the first day of high school.
When we realized we had romantic feelings for each other, I felt in equal parts: This is amazing and I can’t believe our friendship has to end. I didn’t want to lose my best friend. I wanted to spend more nights sitting on top of her aunt’s boat making up stories about our favorite characters and imagining our friends’ futures. I wanted to fart in front of her and laugh about it. I wanted our relationship to be us facing the world together, when so often, romantic relationships become about two people at odds with each other fighting about how to pay bills, spend money and clean the house. I didn’t want to talk about taxes with Macey someday. I wanted to talk about what was on our minds when we couldn’t sleep.
We dove in and started a romantic relationship anyway, morphing our quiet queer teen love story into ten years together. I was right; there are some aspects of our friendship that we’ve lost. When I was excited about our first few dates or our first kiss, I couldn’t call my best friend and tell her every single detail of how the night went, how the movie was boring but the kiss was worth waiting for. Early in our relationship, I went bowling with Macey’s family to impress her even though I absolutely hate bowling and would rather do almost anything else. I even wore lipstick a couple of times despite being a no-makeup kind of person. I wondered what it meant to be someone’s girlfriend instead of their best friend—did it mean that I could no longer be me? Did I need to be a more romantic, mysterious version of myself?
It was like filling in the missing pieces of a conversation I’ve been having my entire life. I wanted to keep talking to her from the minute she asked if she could sit with me at lunch on the first day of high school.
It took a couple of years, but I realized that I didn’t need to alter who I was to be in a romantic relationship. I could make a bad pun in front of Macey. I could tell her that I actually hate bowling and I’m never going again. While I’ve worn makeup a few times out of my own choice, I haven’t worn lipstick.
Even when we’re being our weird selves, we sometimes need to be more serious to tackle life’s problems. Macey and I have had to navigate moving, choosing careers, getting a higher education, health insurance and job hunting in our ten-year relationship. I supported her through her coming out and she helped me heal after a sexual assault. We’ve talked more about taxes than I’d ever like to admit, but we at least follow up all our so-called “boring adult conversations” with something fun, like a discussion of the best book we’ve read recently or which superpowers we’d give our cats if we could. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days when our little daily decisions didn’t affect the other because I want to buy way too many sushi rolls without worrying that years from now, the person I love will resent me for spending $6 on salmon.
I’m surprised by how much more uncertain I am about the future with Macey as my wife than I would be about her as my best friend. It isn’t that I doubt our relationship or her, because I don’t. There are so many social expectations, often from a very cisheteronormative lens, of romantic relationships that aren’t also placed on friendships. We hold up romantic relationships as the end goal that everyone needs to achieve and friendships are considered lesser and we aren’t expected to prioritize them as we get older.
When I think about our future, I worry about things I know I don’t have to: Was my proposal to Macey beautiful enough, or could I have done better? Am I really the best version of myself or am I some crappy, subpar version that’s holding her back? What if I make a mistake that hurts her? How do I accept love and support when I’m in a really hard situation without feeling like a burden? What if I change and I’m not the person she always dreamed I would be?
Whenever I doubt myself, I talk to Macey candidly like she’s my best friend. Even though we each have several other people we consider our best friends now, she still is.
“I’m feeling like my proposal wasn’t epic enough,” I’ll say, or, “I’m frustrated because we spent way too much time this week talking about moving logistics.”
In these moments, we get to be each other’s best friend again. We’ll head to the bookstore to buy each other a fun hardcover or stay in and have a nerdy movie marathon. We’ll create inside jokes. Macey will paint and let me sit in the same room as her. I’ll tell her about the time I baked a cake for a guy I liked and gave it to him.
I lost a few things when I started dating my best friend, but I found something even better because I’m marrying her: We can keep our conversation going for the rest of our lives. It may not be back-and-forths on AIM and long distance calls anymore, but it’s a conversation I love having.
Alaina Leary Lavoie
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