Over the years I’ve come to realize that my relationship exit style isn’t entirely the norm. My philosophy has always been to leave the way I arrived: alone. It sounds cold but the fact remains: I don’t want to stay friends with an ex. I’m not sure what it even means to forge a friendship from the lifeless, mangled mess that I’m trying to escape. The last time it was suggested, my only response was, “What would that look like?” I don’t want to know.
How does that type of dynamic affect the new BFF scenario? I imagine I’d be obligated to make nice with a new partner at some point. Why in the world would I want to do this? And what woman wants me hanging around her new relationship long after my sell by date? I’ve dated guys whose exes still called/texted/stayed in touch, I never appreciated it. What went so wrong with them that she’s still reaching out for support/friendship/familiarity?
No, for me it’s the quick yank band-aid approach, away to dust myself off in private, make sure all the parts still work and move on. I’m always a little surprised to realize that these dudes didn’t just vaporize after we were done. In some cases, I’ve seen them around the big metropolis I live in—they didn’t just lack the decency to disappear, sometimes they appear to thrive! That’s great; I just want no part of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish ill on these men. I just don’t want them in my life anymore, in any configuration. Friendship seems like an impossibility. If we’re so friendly, why did we break up?
AT the same time, it seems the conventions of adulthood and maturity demand that a person at least entertain the idea of maintaining a friendship after the romance dies. Here’s the thing: I don’t need friends that badly. I hate to think it’s a sign of stunted emotional development (well, I’m pretty sure it’s not), but I don’t even see the point of trying to remain friends. In my experience, the phenomenon of a mutual, amicable separation is a Hailey’s comet kind of thing (only it doesn’t happen as often as every 75 years). Generally, one person is more intent on the separation (possibly desperate for it?); and one person is…rather less so.
Sometimes, this type of imbalance can exist in a romantic partnership. It’s less comfortable in a friendship where, presumably, we’re on equal footing and I have never cried in a bathtub about anything concerning them. If I have any friend/boyfriend regrets, they’re the opposite: I have deeply regretted trying to make nice male friends into boyfriends, with consistently disastrous results. It’s a terrible idea.
But getting back to the BF to BFF transition, didn’t we part ways because some elemental part of the alchemy went sour? Is this sour alchemy the stuff of a thriving friendship? I really don’t understand. What can this person provide that my other friend– friends with whom I haven’t had emotionally fraught intimacy– provide?
In every case of an ex who expressed a desire for my excellent friendship, I have always been intent on avoiding outcomes not to my liking. What are the possible scenarios? Perhaps casually stalking my new BFF’s facebook page to scope out my replacement? Some awkward day time (emphatically non date time) hangouts, perhaps doing some fun (non date type) stuff? Sorry son, that job’s been outsourced—to my actual real friends! How about an evening movie/dinner/drinks, and a hasty deflection of an unwanted advance or awkward conversation.
When does this friendship go on the books? It can’t be too soon after the breakup because it’s all too fresh and everyone is too vulnerable, right? Or are we supposed to support each other through the hurt feelings and bruised egos? I feel sick just thinking about it. This is against nature! No, no, and no: for me, friends will be friends, and the exes will be distant memories.
I remember one boyfriend making a joke about how he figured me for the post-breakup stalking type. I was surprised to hear it but quick to correct him, “You will never see or hear from me again”. And I meant it. To be perfectly honest, I’m sparing myself the stress. If I actually cared about an ex, or loved them, all the more reason to never see them again. If I cared about them, their phone calls will not be returned, their emails will go unanswered, and they will be ignored should we happen to cross paths. The rare ex I will greet in public, didn’t mean much to me.
Does palling around with an ex work well for anyone? Friends who’ve attempted it seem to have put in a lot of extra effort for not much benefit. I tend to think it’s not even possible. I’m willing to accept that some might see it as a sign of a nascent (or glaring) character flaw, and I’m ok with that. I want my friendships to be light work and laughter, not heavy lifting and baggage.
Thanks pdcphoto for the image!
Sarah Innis loves reading, watching horror movies, cooking + eating vegan and sitting on her couch pondering the big issues (Taylor Swift and feminism mostly). She sometimes breastfeeds rubber dolls. She's contributed to xojane and hellogiggles and tweets at @sarahinnis. You can also follow her blog-lite at https://witchfox.tumblr.com/
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