I am not that girl. I am not the type that waits for couples to break up so that I can swoop in. I don’t do that. I didn’t do it this time either – or at least I didn’t mean to. I cannot be the only one who has been in a kind of incestuous group of friends who spend so much time together they end up hooking up. Then if you hang out with the same group of people for long enough there’s bound to be cross over. But then that’s when problems start.
My boyfriend and I got together at the end of August, right before sixth year started. It was also roughly two months after he and his ex-girlfriend, who is also my best friend, Tara*, broke up. When he asked me out, I told him I needed to go to Tara first to make sure there wasn’t a problem. So the next day, I told her what was going on and she said she was fine with it and I could go for it. Everything went smoothly, and Mark* and I ‘officially’ got together that day. The next few days were not so smooth.
Four days passed in which nothing unusual happened, but my other friends in the group started acting weird towards me. I knew something was going on, and then it eventually surfaced that Tara realised that the situation wasn’t really ok with her. It was just a shock and hadn’t sunk in for a while. But now it had, and she was not happy about it at all.
Looking back on it now, it didn’t need to be as dramatic as it was. But hindsight is 20:20 vision, and most people know how dramatic a situation can feel when you’re in the thick of it. There were several days of talking things out and trying to understand each other, but in the end we reached an impasse. She knew that she couldn’t tell us to break up and I knew she might not ever be ok with it. So Tara and I gave each other a wide berth for a while before we went back to hanging out in our usual circle of friends. All of that happened in a very short space of time, but the way I felt about the situation lasted a lot longer.
Mark and I spent the first two months of our relationship avoiding each other when we were around her. That part was really on us. It was actually on me. No situation could illustrate the phrase “that awkward moment when” any better. I felt so self-conscious around her that Mark and I nearly behaved like we weren’t even friends, let alone together. There were no goodbye hugs, we stood at opposite ends of the group, and we would barely even look at each other. She didn’t ask us to do any of that; I was just trying to make it easier for her. I was also trying to make myself feel better. I was trying to convince myself that I really wasn’t that girl. Even a long time after all of the drama seemed to have blown over, I had deluded myself into a state of paranoia, thinking that every time she would sit beside one of her friends outside our own group, she was talking about what I did.
Like I said, in this lovely realm of hindsight, it sounds crazy to think that everyone was talking about him and I, how we got together, when they broke up, weren’t we best friends, and so on. But that is how I felt. I had no evidence to support this; Tara wasn’t the type to spread stories and the truth is, nobody would care about things like that in the big scheme of things. All of it was in my own head, which was nearly worse because I didn’t know how to make that go away. There was a lot more separating from the group to get any time to be a couple and I kept that up for so long that it’s a blur as to when we stopped doing that. All the while I was convincing myself that it was all for Tara; she was the one who needed time to get used to it and I had done nothing wrong because she broke up with him and I didn’t like him when they were still together.
Of course the reality was that if I really believed she would have to get used to it, then ensuring she didn’t see us as a couple was the wrong approach. Furthermore, it wasn’t for her. It was really so that I could ease my own guilt. All of this stuff is a grey area and I know there is a huge number of people who will say that I did the worst thing in the world. “Girls don‘t date their best friend‘s ex.” But there will also be a huge number of people who will say that I did nothing wrong. The problem is, most of the problems we face are grey areas, so it often comes down to how we feel. I felt guilty, even though I didn’t really believe I should. I felt like I had to compensate. I thought, “I’ve done this terrible thing, the least I can do is avoid reminding her at all costs.”
Even now, I’d almost be afraid to say I was too hard on myself in case I end up letting myself off the hook. Every time I decide I did nothing wrong, I take it back just as quickly. The main thing I learned was to make sure not to bury feelings in other feelings. I felt guilty deep down, but I ended up making myself feel victimised. By extension I ended up creating more drama than there actually was for myself and not getting to enjoy the first few months of a new relationship. I’m not going to say now in hindsight whether I was right or wrong, but I can say that I made everything much harder for myself. I think that is so easy to do when you’re in a situation where you hear opinion after opinion and then you feel completely different to all of them. I ended up doubting my own beliefs, and like I said, I don’t really know for sure if it was right or wrong. But I know if I had the choice to go back and avoid it all by not going out with Mark, I wouldn’t change a thing.
* Names changed