Disclaimer: this article is based on my own experiences and my feelings on this subject because of those experiences.
With one week until Valentine’s Day, I wanted to delve into a topic that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I have spent the last few years, let’s say 7 or 8 being the definitive years of my dating life of thus far, with the idea that in order to have a healthy, and successful break-up I had to remain friends with my ex. I had to be ‘the cool ex-girlfriend who wasn’t hurt or affected. The majority of my relationships to be fair had begun as friendships so I wanted to keep those going, but the older I get the more I realize how unhealthy it can be to tirelessly try to maintain a friendship with an ex. Naturally, there are many factors that may lead you to believe you need to keep that friendship bracelet on; perhaps you’re in the same friend group and you don’t want to mess that up, maybe you share a child or pet. For me personally, I fear the mutual friends of my ex and myself will choose him over me. And if I’m not cool about him being around then I’m somehow the bad guy. I end up appearing ‘petty’ and he “wins”. This is post-break-up powerplay that isn’t healthy for me. Whatever the case may be I am now (after many years) under the firm belief that we do not owe anyone any of our time or emotions. That is just the key in this for me: EMOTIONS.
Within the activities, I have found myself participating in with an ex as I try to maintain a friendship there have been emotions brought up. Maybe we grabbed a drink somewhere we used to go to, this can bring up memories I don’t really need to relive (good or bad) because we already lived it once. And let’s not play pretend that it does not sometimes lead to a hookup that we regret. In my case, I found myself going out of my way to invite my ex to my birthday parties, or gatherings with friends so everyone could see how cool we were despite the breakup. Very slowly I began to inform him of my small daily wins and everything felt good. Here we were not romantically connected anymore, no obligations, but still maintaining the same level of contact and honestly intimacy in our chats. This cycle needed to stop when it began to sink my mind back into the habit of texting him daily once again and things became too familiar for my liking. A person who had broken my trust and my heart was now let back into my life in an emotional witness-protection program with a constant defence of “no we’re cool now, he’s much better as a friend”. But who was I trying to prove to that we were able to be just friends? Our mutual friends? Him? Certainly not myself right? This was becoming more complicated than our relationship and it had to stop.
I had found that a friendship with a former lover brought out the most negative qualities from the relationship into the friendship. All the petty remarks but this time around there is no fear of losing them, we’re just playing, right? Like you do with a friend. You’re able to say the things you felt you couldn’t before and it is not always the nicest. Yet, all of the hurt from the broken relationship remains, the pain and betrayal remain, and it requires a different level of forgiveness now. Perhaps we reach a point where we (as exes) think we’re okay to talk about new love interests with one another, and sometimes you just aren’t ready. And the sting, the heart drop you feel when someone who was once your everything finds someone new, well it hurts. I leaned more toward playing it cool, mentioning a new guy only if prodded about it. I’ve been on the opposite side of that, I’ve met the ex of a person I’m dating and I can’t help but compare my own experiences to theirs. Don’t do that, don’t be a Nikki. I’m sure you can see the bias rambling found it’s place in this article and that’s okay because this is my site. But what do you do next? The cutoff phase, the opposite of Thank U, Next. A friendship breakup is hard, a love breakup is harder but now combine the two. It’s a grieving process and your emotions don’t make any sense. It’s like a detox from a person and the needs they fulfilled and it is hard.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friends with your ex what I’m saying is that we need to scratch out this notion that you’re a bad person if you aren’t. I’m not a relationship expert, nor a psychologist of any capacity, but I don’t want to be labelled as the bad guy for not wanting to see someone I have a deep and emotional history with. I shouldn’t have to feel bad about not being the cool ex-girlfriend. I can still be cordial, and yes I’m still close with a few of my exes, but I don’t need to interact or message my ex on a regular basis because let’s face it: there is a reason we broke up.