In the next installment in our series on all the relationships is our lives, Karen discusses our relationships with our exes! Stay tuned for Jim’s response in part two.
Recently, when Jim, Brigitte and I got together to discuss the next few installments in our blog series, I discovered something rather concerning about the two of them. They don’t have any exes! No really, the two of them met when they were young, fell in love and actually lived happily ever after. (Try not to hate them because of it, they really are dear people). I know, that sounds infuriatingly simple doesn’t it! I’ll let them tell you more about it all at a future point but that left me to do the lead writing on the blog about exes.
If there is one thing I have, its exes! Oh, compared to some, there really aren’t that many, sort of, but they are memorable! What Jim and I wanted to discuss this month are those relationships with your exes that are still spilling over into your current life situation. Now let’s face it, some of that is unavoidable. If you have spent any significant amount of time with someone you have shared relationships with other people that are likely to continue. You share friends and family and those relationships don’t necessarily end because yours did. Especially if you share children together, that is the most important one. That doesn’t change because you are no longer together. In fact, figuring out how to co-parent after a break up is mandatory, actually being friends however is optional.
After long, deep, soul-searching thought, I’ve come to this conclusion. Being friends with your ex is similar to several things I’ve mentioned before, like world peace and living happily-ever-after, all worthy goals but probably unlikely to ever actually happen, in my lifetime anyway!
Now to clarify, I think it depends on the type of relationship. If you dated casually and just decided you really weren’t a good fit, than certainly you can still be friends. If you were friends with benefits, aside from the usual complications with that, your friendship can probably continue long after the benefit portion has ended. What I am talking about here is being friends after a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship. That is where the difficulty comes in.
Oh I know some of you are going to disagree with me. In theory, being friends with your ex would be a great idea, I understand. I just don’t think it’s practical. Most of the time, let’s face it if you were able to truly be friends with your ex you’d probably still be together. Real friendship, like any relationship, involves give and take, forgiveness and compromise, good times and bad times. If you couldn’t negotiate those obstacles when your marriage and your family were on the line, why would you be able to do that now?
So when people ask me if I’m still friends with my exes the answer is no. That doesn’t mean we don’t get along, most of the time we get along fine. What it means is that we don’t hang out socially. We may both attend events that involve our children, or even share an occasional holiday together, but the purpose of those events is co-parenting, not friendship. We don’t choose to hang out to spend time together. We don’t call each other when one of us needs someone to talk to. We don’t share the events of our day. That’s just the way it is. I have managed to stay friends with the other people those relationships have brought into my life. I have some wonderful friends, former in-laws and one really great step-daughter that I never would have had if it weren’t for those relationships. The relationship with the ex-husband/boyfriend however, was over when it ended.
Once years ago, I thought I had negotiated a real friendship with someone who was an ex, about fifteen years after the original relationship had ended. It went on for some time only to eventually discover that he had thought it was something else entirely and because I didn’t want to play along it did not end well. Coincidentally, this was also the only person I have dated ever more than once. Therefore, he is also the reason I have now have a rule about ever dating an ex again!
I never go back, at all, ever. That doesn’t mean I don’t give someone all the chances in the world, because I do, but when I’m done, I’m done. That means no ex-sex either! That is a phenomenon that seems to be common among a lot of my friends with exes. I have just never seen the appeal of it. If we are exes it means you screwed up and are no longer entitled to the good parts of the relationship, period. Like my friendship, if we could have worked it out you’d still have it.
As I said, I’m sure some of you will disagree. I’m sure some of you have had different experiences. If you can truly be friends with your ex, I wish you all the best. I just know for me, it’s not healthy. That doesn’t mean I hate them, it doesn’t mean I wish them ill will, it doesn’t mean we are antagonistic in any way. It just means that I don’t need a constant reminder in my life of heartache and failure. It means I’m able to let go, move on, and fill my life with people who make me feel good about myself, people who deserve my love, my trust and my friendship. So while being friends with an ex may certainly be possible, for me its simply not necessary. In the end, if it doesn’t make you feel good, doesn’t enrich your life in any way, let it go, move on, and don’t look back. There is a reason they are your ex!