It Is Possible To Stay Friends With Your Ex, Just Not Right Away
Recently, this article made the argument that men should sever ties with their exes because women are tired of getting into relationships with guys who were still hung up on their ex-girlfriends.
I'm here to argue the other side of this statement.
It's not that the article's conclusion is incorrect.
But in my opinion, the premises are faulty for four reasons:
1. It's naïve to make the blanket statement, “You can't be friends with your ex.”
My sister and her ex are not only the best of friends, but they have been roommates for the past four years.
Their daughter is very happy with the arrangement of having both of her parents living amicably under the same roof.
A loving and supportive — if nontraditional — family arrangement somehow works for them, even as they each date other people.
But before they found this happy, healthy new relationship as best friends and co-parents, there was a whole lot of rough turf to travel.
Right after they divorced, they couldn't be in the same room together because emotions were too raw and tender to allow for any contact without the constant explosions of vitriol.
Before they could find common ground as friends, they had to work through the pain of their irreconcilable differences as a couple.
After a few years, they did.
Despite disagreeing with this major point of the article, I do agree that after a breakup, you can't be friends with your ex immediately.
2. You can't end a relationship based on a certain kind of intimacy, and immediately transition to less intimate one.
It's like trying to heal a burn while your hand's still in the fire.
Whether you're dumping someone or being dumped, breaking off a relationship is a giant suck sandwich.
It's a nightmare filled with pain, guilt, fear, rejection, remorse, pity and self-loathing.
It's understandable that what often pops out of our mouths at that moment is the incredibly bad idea of “Let's still be friends.”
In our minds, this makes total sense, as if a sort of downgrade of the relationship would be easier than just ending it.
It's as though slowly sawing through a gangrenous limb is better than hacking it off with an ax.
It's going to be bad either way, but chopping is going to be a whole lot less agonizing.
“That's ridiculous,” I hear you saying.
“We genuinely like each other. We're just not meant to be together as a couple.”
Super. Maybe you're right.
Let's revisit that idea in a year or so.
But immediately post-breakup, staying in constant communication probably isn't a realistic idea.
3. Friendship is generally a relationship between equals.
But in most breakups, there isn't equality.
There's usually a dumper and a dumpee, and the feelings are stronger on the dumpee's part.
The dumper is happily moving past the relationship.
The new “friendship” is charged with all that emotion, as well as all the history between you as a couple.
So, when your ex starts dating someone new, the girl is more than just your buddy's new girlfriend. She's the woman he chose to be with after he didn't want to be with you.
Or, the alternative could happen.
When you find yourselves out together one evening, perhaps with alcohol involved (it happens), she might get a little flirty.
It seems harmless to have a casual hookup. (You're just “friends with benefits,” right?)
But when you wake up to reach for the woman you still love and she avoids your embrace, it's like breaking up all over again.
That's when the jagged wound of the breakup starts to fester. You're still sawing away at the gangrenous limb.
Instead of facing the pain and letting yourself heal, you're trapped in the agony of a breakup that goes on and on.
That's the worst possible time to try to date someone new.
4. The real message of the article is misleading.
It isn't that it's not healthy to try to maintain a friendship in the emotionally charged aftermath of a broken relationship.
It's that trying to have a relationship with someone who's doing that is pretty likely to end in heartbreak for you.
I totally agree.
But you can't control whether someone broke off his or her last relationship in a healthy way.
What you can control is whether you choose to get into one with someone who hasn't.
Most people don't suddenly spring the existence of an ex on you.
Let's not be disingenuous. As soon as you've figured out you like this guy or girl, you started social-media stalking him or her like a private dick on a caper.
Chances are, you already saw those red-flagged people on his or her timeline.
You saw those coy little comments, winks and cryptic remarks that were probably some sort of cutesy little in-jokes back from when the two of them were a couple.
You absolutely get to decide you don't want any part in that kind of messy, trailing, boundary-less sh*t with someone's ex. Step away from this guy.
What you don't get to do is dive into a relationship with someone, blinders on, and then suddenly, start making demands on who that person can or can't be friends with.
If you're tired of being with a guy who is always pining for his ex, stop dating him.
There are plenty of truly unencumbered, emotionally available guys who would love to make you their number one.
Phoebe Fox is the author of the “Breakup Doctor” series (from Henery Press). Her latest book, “Heart Conditions,” will be released February 9. You can find her at www.phoebefoxauthor.com, or on Twitter @PhoebeFoxAuthor.
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