7/16/2012 2:50 PM
I’m probably the last person who should write a blog on this topic, since I'm definitely an outlier at the very end of the spectrum. I’m friends with nearly all the people I’ve seriously dated. My best friend of nearly twenty years is an ex. I started a business with another ex (yes, after we were exes). I share offspring with a third, and he’s at my house at least twice a week. You pretty much can’t turn around near me without bumping into one of my exes.
My husband is the complete opposite. He has a scorched earth policy when it comes to ending relationships. I’ve never met anyone he’s dated, and I’ll be surprised if I ever do. He does not know where any of his exes are or what they’re up to, and he has no curiosity about them. (This is also a man who has no use for social media of any kind, making it easier for him to avoid the news of the continued existence of his exes.)
So, I’m aware that there are arguments both for and against keeping exes around, such as:
PRO: Your exes know things about you no one else does.
A recent email from my best friend reads, “Why is the guy Heather [our old roommate] is with in this picture labeled ‘Shrinking Marty?’” The answer is too long to go into here, but, the question is what’s important. Our shared history means that each of us operates as a sort of walking repository for the other. He’s reminded me of all sorts of history I’ve forgotten, and given me a lot of valuable perspective on situations with people I dated after him.
CON: Your ex can keep you from meeting someone new.
I went from dating, to friends with benefits, to just friends with one guy. And, we discovered that when we hung out together, people still thought we were a couple. This really hindered both our games when we were out and wanted to meet people.
Another friend commented recently that he’d realized that his close relationship with an ex-girlfriend was keeping him from looking for someone new. His relationship with her gave him the sort of emotional intimacy that he’d normally seek in a romantic relationship.
If your close friendship with your ex becomes a crutch or an impediment, it’s probably a good idea to cool things down, at least for awhile, if you want to increase your odds of meeting someone else.
PRO: There was a reason you dated this person.
And, to me, the reasons we dated are reasons that I still want them as friends after it’s over. It can take time to be friendly, but, these are people who I enjoy and want in my life.
CON: There was also a reason you broke up.
In many cases, the qualities that led to your break up are ones that you wouldn’t want in a friend, either. In these cases, it’s probably better to just let this person fade into your past.
CON, for now: You’re not ready to be friends.
I went on a few dates with someone, and I didn’t feel that we clicked. I told him so, and while I was breaking it off, he said that he’d still like to be friends. I took him at his word, and we got together for dinner again.
It was a disaster. It turned out that he was more into me that I was into him. He drank too much, spent the evening telling me why he’d be a perfect boyfriend for me (pro tip: if you need to recite a speech about why you are perfect for someone, you probably aren’t) and tried to kiss me at the end of the evening.
If you are being “friends” with someone with an eye toward getting them back, or to ease your feelings of guilt at leaving, you are not really friends with this person. It’s dishonest to pretend to want to be friends if you want something more, or if you would rather just be rid of someone.
Pretty much anything in the “CON” column can go away, given enough time. The exes I have as friends are valuable enough to me that I am happy to have them in my life, no matter how rocky the road was while we were getting there.
Are you friends with any of your exes?
Photo: Dru Bloomfield