After living with my ex-significant-other for almost five years, I realized that he and I didn't want the same things. I was comfortable as we were, but I felt he deserved a chance to find someone who had the same dreams he did, someone to marry and have a family with.
So one evening as we sat on the couch after a TV show, I just said something like, "It seems like you and I are looking for different things. We're so good
as friends -- but being a couple doesn't make sense if we're not trying to build the same future, y'know?"
He wasn't ready for that realization yet, so he resisted it... and he assumed at first that I was upset at him or disappointed in him somehow, so I had to do some convincing there. It really was
a no-fault situation, and once I made him understand that I still adored him, he was able to see my point more clearly.
We went together to find him a new apartment, and I helped him move. The following night, we went to see Lyle Lovett at the Paramount in Austin, just as we'd planned to before the "breakup" happened.
Three weeks later, it became clear that his new apartment was intolerable (the air conditioning didn't work, but the landlord just kept pretending
it did), so I helped him break that lease and move again.
We talked on the phone, had lunch every week or so, went to concerts and plays, and not much changed, really... the friendship had always been the best part of us.
Yes, there was a little bit of tension for awhile, because he still halfway wanted to be together and I did not -- but that eased over time, and soon he began dating... and then I introduced him to an old friend of mine from high school who had moved back into the area, and by golly, they ended up married, and now they have a 13-year-old boy (my pseudo-nephew)!
We can talk about literally anything, and we each know we can count on the other no matter what. That's much too good a friendship to throw away just because we didn't want to be a couple anymore, y'know? We split up in 1989, yet he remains my closest, dearest friend in all the world.
So... in the immortal words of Neil Sedaka, breaking up is hard to do. But you can
do it gracefully, caringly, without rancor... and you can
Natalie's right, though -- it might be best not to use that "let's be friends" phrase during the initial stages of the breakup. It's such a painful cliche!