Sunken Ships is a Zikoko series that explores the how and why of the end of all relationships — familial, romantic or just good old friendships.

Mary* and Joseph* are exes who dated for less than a year. In this episode of Zikoko Sunken Ships, they discuss how they should’ve been friends before jumping headfirst into a relationship, and how their friends influenced their breakup. Here’s their story:

Mary and Joseph met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. They got to talking and realised they liked each other. 

Mary was tired of being calculative whenever it came to relationships, and that’s why when Joseph asked her out, she agreed. 

Endless fights and a couple of realisations later, they decide to end their romantic relationship and pursue a new one as friends

Why exactly did you break up? 

Mary: We are both very stubborn, so our fights were endless. We didn’t argue or shout at each other, but we’d refuse to communicate. I’m not a confrontational person, so instead of talking about what’s wrong, I’d go quiet. Unfortunately, he was like that too. That’s why I broke up with him.

At one point, I also thought he was cheating on me. I saw a video on his phone, and the body language between him and the girl in the video was very fishy. There was even a suggestive kiss, but it wasn’t on the lips. 

Joseph: She didn’t add that she broke up with me more than once during our relationship. It was at least three times, and all for different reasons. The first time, it was because my friends and her friends got into some drama. The second and third were because we fought, and both gave each other the silent treatment. 

The video she’s talking about was probably an old one from before we even got together. Even the “suggestive” kiss, what’s that? If she didn’t kiss me on the lips, how was it suggestive? 

Mary: I don’t know how to explain it. It was sha a suggestive kiss. 

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So about this friend drama…

Mary: His friends drank and partied a lot in a very unhealthy way. They were also very loud and always involved in girl drama. It’s like that lifestyle excited them, and it was a stark contrast to my bookish friends who kept to themselves a lot. 

They thought he wasn’t good enough for me and our characters clashed. It may have aided why I broke up with him, but it wasn’t the main reason. 

Joseph: I found the whole concept of her friends thinking I was not good enough ridiculous. At some point, both our friend groups were very close. Close enough that one of her friends almost dated one of mine. Everything was good with the world, but we started dating, and suddenly, her friends had a problem with mine. 

And Mary liked the lifestyle. Maybe not the whole package, but she enjoyed the outings and partied moderately. So, what’s the problem? 

Mary: I didn’t say I broke up with you because of the lifestyle. It was just a reason on top of the many other reasons, such as our inability to have difficult conversations. We didn’t handle fights healthily, and that needed to end. 


That’s fair. 

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So, how did the transition from ex to friends go? 

Mary: It was pretty easy. After we broke up, we stopped talking for about a month. Then, we just started talking about anything and everything. 

Plus, I had no expectations of him, so some of his actions and reactions didn’t bother me as much as they would have. 

We bantered easily, which was one of the easiest parts of our romantic relationship. 

It also helped that we were both on the same page regarding the relationship ending. Nobody was secretly in love with the other and trying to get them back. We are both adults who recognised that one type of relationship didn’t work out and switched to another. 

Joseph: I didn’t try to fight it. I knew what we had romantically had run its course. 

Mary: Funny how it took us breaking up to be good friends finally. My relationship with him is now full of banter and trust. We talk to each other about people we’re seeing, and I can have difficult conversations with him. 

We also did a lot of work on ourselves as individuals. I can have difficult conversations with him as friends, and sometimes, these are conversations I can’t have with anyone else. 

Joseph: Yeah, we have a great relationship. She’s one of the best people in my life. We went about having a relationship through the wrong route. We should have been friends instead.

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What’s something you both wish you’d have done differently in your romantic relationship? 

Mary: Talk more. If we had spoken about a lot more things before we started to date, we’d have realised we needed to work on our friendship as the foundation of whatever we wanted to build romantically. 

Joseph: Yeah, we definitely should have talked more. 

Do you think the breakup was a good decision? 

Joseph: Absolutely. It was good for both of us, but our friendship has been excellent. It’s so good that I don’t even refer to her as my ex to people who don’t know we dated. I tell them she’s my friend. 

Mary: Yes. Our friendship has been nice, and I don’t think I’d have preferred it any other way. 

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