Step 1: Break up and vow to remain friends.
Step 2: “Remain friends” by IMing each other the day after the break-up and acting as though everything is totally cool. After all, you two are mature adults.
Step 3: Spend the next year IMing and calling each other at least once a week. Mature friendship at its finest. You laugh at the people who can’t be friends with their exes. “This is what everybody makes such a fuss about?” you wonder. “This is easy!”
Step 4: Scroll through Facebook and pretend that seeing a picture of him with some other chick doesn’t drive you batshit crazy, because you both agreed that everything is totally cool, remember?
Step 5: No seriously, who is that chick? She keeps showing up on his Facebook page. Wait, who’s that other chick? Is he seeing two girls? Are they friends? Should you care? You don’t care. But maybe one more picture…
Step 6: Spend another year randomly messaging each other while not caring AT ALL about all of these pictures of him with another girl. Or series of girls. Who the eff are these girls?
Step 7: Call him crying on some gloomy winter day and tell him how much you miss him and that you’d like to get back together. You’ve managed to remain friends, so getting back together should be easy, right?
Step 8: Get pretty pissed-off when, during the gut-wrenching conversation, he says he wants to date girls who are “more outgoing” than you. Vow that things between you two are no longer totally cool; in fact, for the first time, this all feels a little too real.
Step 9: Accept his apology for his insensitive comments when he calls you a couple of days later. You always knew he was a good guy; isn’t that why you dated in the first place?
Step 10: Spend the next few years keeping in touch on a much more random basis. Not because you feel like you have to. Not because you feel like there still might be something between the two of you. Not because you’re motivated by the possibility of getting together again one day. Simply because you care about him as a person, and no longer as a dating prospect.
Step 11: Six or more years after vowing to remain friends, spend an hour talking to him while walking around town together. Watch, completely unfazed, as every single member of your family—parents, siblings, aunts, uncles—greets him with a hug and genuine warmth whenever they see him.
Step 12: Even though you legitimately only want friendship from him, literally never ask about his dating life again. Ugh with all those pictures.
Thanks, FAndry for the awesome Russian street graffiti photo!
Megan S. is an associate editor at Dating & Hookup. She's a big fan of pop culture, comedy and essay collections (but just a regular fan of any sport that isn't softball or golf).
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