"You're doing what?"
I heard that a lot in the spring of 2007, whenever I explained to friends that I had broken up with my Nathan, boyfriend of four years, yet we were still living together in the apartment we'd shared for the last two. It was a temporary matter, I'd say, a situation that would last about a month or two, until we found our own places.
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It turned out to be about six. And they were strange times. Even now, more than a year later, I'm in awe that we didn't manage to kill each other. Even stranger: by the time we parted ways and even to this day, we've managed to stay friends.
A "friendly breakup" sounds good in theory. The term is an oxymoron, something I always regarded with skepticism whenever friends would lay claim to it. After a breakup, the instinct is to get as far away from that person as possible. Maybe with enough distance, you'll remember what attracted you to each other in the first place, maybe even a lesson that validates the relationship. In time, perhaps you'll even start to like them again. But let's all agree: there's nothing friendly about breakups.
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Indeed, during the first few days our interactions were definitively awkward; it became apparent that the breakup was for real. On the first night, coming home to Nathan on the sofa watching TV, I made a beeline for the bathroom and sat in the claw-foot tub. When it came time to go to sleep, I recall Nathan and I briefly negotiating who should sleep where. "I'm not the one who wanted to break up," he smiled, implying that technically, the couch was the bed I had made for myself when I ended the relationship.
Still, I didn't hate him enough to necessitate sleeping in another room, and sleeping on the couch seemed sadder than the breakup itself. Friends offered their own couches, but I politely refused. Having aged beyond my hardy twenties, I knew a stiff neck and cranky mood would weary me into conciliation. "I don't know how you do it, man," Nathan's friend, Ben, told him. "I'd be a baby about the whole thing. A baby!"