Love U: Letting her go — when a friendship crosses the point of no return

Elizabeth Gu | Daily Trojan

Elizabeth Gu | Daily Trojan

From break ups to make ups and everything in between, “Love U” captures the nuances of college students’ relationships. “Love U” runs in DeeTs on Mondays.

I don’t remember the first time I met her. It must have been some time freshman year — we lived in the same building and had mutual friends — but we became friends sophomore year. We went to a concert together at LA Live and had quite the adventure trying to return to campus on the Metro, since no cabs would take us the short distance to campus and Uber had not yet achieved ubiquity. I remember contemplating kissing her in the lobby of Troy when we said our goodbyes. I still think about that night sometimes and wonder how things could have gone.

We became best friends instead. She helped me get over my failed attempt at rekindling my high school relationship and I, in turn, helped her when she started a long-distance relationship with a guy she knew from childhood. We met each other’s parents, our friends joked about us getting married, but apart from one drunken mistake, we remained platonic. I started to develop feelings for her, but her relationship and my fear of losing our friendship kept those feelings well in check. Then they broke up, shortly before the start of junior year. On an inebriated night a few weeks later, we passed the point of no return.

Maybe I was too eager. She was my best friend, she had just gotten out of a relationship and she needed me. I should have just been a shoulder to cry on, but I wanted more. I wanted to know that I was good enough to be loved again.

I’m still not sure what to call what we had — “dating” seems presumptuous and “hooking up” crass and inadequate. I loved her. It was a relationship built on deep and sincere friendship, which made the end that much worse.

She had planned to go abroad in the spring, and, on a whim, I applied and was accepted to study abroad in the same country, albeit at a different university a few hundred miles away, a quick flight or train journey.

Before we left for winter break, she told me she wanted to be single while we were abroad, that she needed time to learn how to be alone. Against the wishes of my heart, I agreed. I was going to be traveling with my family out of the country so the “breakup” at least came at a convenient time.

We kept in touch over the winter break, and my tortured heart deceived me into thinking that she wanted to stay together abroad. I constructed a beautiful fantasy of our time in Europe — weekends in Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam. I made plans to visit her one of the first weekends after we settled in and she invited me to stay with her. Shortly after I booked the train tickets, she called to say that she had changed her mind –– this wasn’t what she wanted anymore. A couple weeks later, I saw her on a trip organized by USC and overheard her in a bar telling another girl that her ex was coming to visit and that she loved him.

I think that’s what made it hurt the most, that she chose him over me. I was nothing but a brief interlude in her real relationship — a rebound, a mistake, unworthy of being hers. It would have been easier if she had remained single, or even dated someone new, but the fact that she went back to a relationship — the troubles of which I was intimately familiar with — twisted the dagger in my heart.

Several months later she sent me a lengthy email apologizing for how she treated me. Foolishly, I agreed to visit her again only to be rebuffed once more. Finally, after a rendezvous in Amsterdam, I broke off contact completely.

Months passed. We met once for coffee at the beginning of senior year when she told me she had gotten back together with him, again. Despite brief and awkward interactions forced by mutual friends, I avoided her for most of the semester. I still had my hope — as I’m sure every unrequited lover does — that she would realize her mistake and come back to me. Then, at the beginning of December, she texted me saying that she had broken up with her boyfriend.

I thought I had learned my lesson. We resumed contact but I kept my distance. We went to a movie together and talked on and off over winter break, but otherwise not much had changed. At the beginning of this semester, she invited me over for lunch and said she wanted to give things another try. The next few days moved very quickly, and I thought things were going well, that my hopes were finally being realized, but after a stupid argument she got cold feet — this wasn’t what she wanted, she only wanted to “casually date.”

We haven’t spoken much since. We agreed to try and just be friends, but we both know that probably won’t happen. Too many painful memories, too many tacit expectations. Conflicting emotions churn in my heart: anger over the rejection, guilt for my mistakes, longing for the past and loss for what could have been. I miss her. The greatest part of our relationship was also what makes it the hardest to move on from — the underlying friendship.

I’m doing better now. My friend, an aspiring psychologist, gave me some advice that really helped — simply identify my feelings and the reason behind them. The act of stating “I’m feeling X because Y” is strangely comforting. It helps me understand and compartmentalize my emotions. I’m putting myself out there more too, but my heart’s not really in it. The hardest part of giving up on someone is letting go of the life you imagine with them. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that yet.