The Ex Factor
Friendship with your ex.0
Stressed from moving and unable to handle anything additional on my plate, I cringed when I saw a semi-recent ex’s name pop up on my cell phone. “What could HE want?” I negatively wondered aloud and answered the phone with and annoyed and impatient “Hel-lo?” Turns out, he was calling to inform me he would have a car in the next few days and happy to drive me or any of my belongings around town. I silently tugged my foot free from my mouth. Later that day while walking past a different exes former apartment, I smiled at a racy memory, and strolled home wondering if maybe our exes are the best of both worlds.
Take my ex of four years for instance. Sure for a long time we couldn’t maintain a friendship for reasons other than, but in addition to, the fact that his current girlfriend would not permit it. One gloomy Monday morning I received a cheerful email from him asking me if I wanted to meet him for a drink. Um, of course I did! We met that night at Cafeteria’s Soho sister and caught up on our lives, families, etc. He had recently broken up with aforementioned girlfriend – the reason for separation apparently being his fault. As he peppered me with questions regarding his moral compass and showered me with borderline TMI about his relationship, I cautiously the direction in a way that would highlight his positive attributes with a reassuring and gentle tone.
“Why do you need these ex-boyfriend friends when you have so many regular friends?” asked my friend the next day. “I mean, isn’t it masochistic?”
Yes and no. Exes, unlike your regular friends, immediately resort to caretaker mode. You have a deeper sympathy for one another, and a strange high comes from softly supporting someone you were formerly romantically involved with. There is the opportunity to ask real questions about your intimacy from an expert source. Due to the delicacy of the relationship, tiptoe cautiously if you choose this direction.
Of course, many couples can’t reach this point because of leftover or underlying feelings, failure to set proper boundaries, etc., so before you go calling up all of your exes for advice, make sure you have both reconciled any old feelings and clarify your intention. But, as my one ex says, if someone played major role in your life in such an intense way, they really know you. You shouldn’t have to drop that person completely from your life. For well-adjusted people, a cordial, if distant, relationship with an ex is possible. When you add in current boyfriends and girlfriends insecurities skyrocket and the relationship becomes strained. Therefore, it is important to establish some boundaries.
I have found that if you are open from the start about your relationship with an ex, it makes the whole situation must easier for the current partner to deal with. For instance, I told my former Mexican pseudo-boyfriend that 1) I am friends with my ex, see him, hang out at his bar, and that we network with each others’ contacts. 2) I have no interest in ever being back together with him as he is crazy and talks wildly in his sleep. By being honest I didn’t have to try to hide that he is my ex or sneak text or phone calls or feel awkward when we saw him out. Conversely, he didn’t have to be suspicious of my relationship, feel threatened or jealous. It was a purely platonic relationship with someone I was no longer interested in dating. (It was able to develop into such because we set clear boundaries and took some time apart post-break up.)
Okay, so it’s a sticky situation that doesn’t work for everyone, but truth be told, you never know when you’re heart is going to cry out for an ex…or when you may need to borrow a car. Maintaining respect, kindness and boundaries will make your relationship with your ex comfortable and casual.
And always, always keep your pants on.
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