A long time ago, I fell in love with a girl. The Girl was attractive, brilliant, sassy, independent, interesting – I was hooked. She also possessed a mysterious ability to see straight through the slightest posturing of my ego and to mercilessly poke holes in it. This was sheer torture, but it was perhaps the most attractive feature of all, evoking the way a supervillain loves a hero – a nemesis who creates a profound raison d’être.
If this sounds sane, it isn’t entirely. This nemesis love was insufficient to sustain us as a couple. However, over two years after our breakup we reconnected and a tight friendship instantly blossomed.
Though special, the friendship remained tumultuous – a state of affairs that I eventually accepted as destiny – but without the steroid of romance to inflate our conflicts. We both pursued other relationships, untainted by jealousy.
I was in the midst of ending another such relationship – I had reflected deeply and gathered a great deal of courage to do so – when it occurred to me that I still had feelings for the Girl.
Like many guys before me, I wondered, “Should I tell her and risk losing her friendship, or should I hide my feelings and maintain the status quo?”
Propped up by the courage (and adrenaline) that I had acquired for the breakup, I called the Girl immediately. First, like close friends do, I told her how the breakup went, and she comforted me. Then, I dropped the bomb on her.
She did not receive the news well. In her view, I had compromised a lifetime of friendship to serve my whimsical greed. She said she’d need time to recover. The conversation ended abruptly.
Two weeks later she called to tell me that she loved me – as a friend – but that nonetheless our friendship was over. “I do not want to communicate any more, in any way.” Years hence, both of us have kept this commitment.
A story like this one – guy and girl are friends, guy breaks the news to the girl that he loves her – was recounted to me recently over a drink. The girl was not only unaware of her friend’s love, but was also in a committed relationship when he approached her. The story, as told to me, portrayed the guy as a selfish perpetrator, lacking respect for the girl.
I argued that the guy had made the right decision – that he needed courage to tell the truth at the risk of losing her completely. The unpleasantness that the girl experienced was a cost of that truth, but it did not make his action wrong.
I sometimes feel sad that I lost a friendship that was once so special, but I do not feel guilt. If my decision was wrong, I do not regret it. Perhaps supervillains simply have an easier time forgiving themselves.