Yes, I am friendly with a few ex-girlfriends.
Apparently, that’s unusual.
I guess that’s unusual.
Recently a friend commented: “You seem to be friends with a lot of your exes.”
I just replied: “Yea, well…” and let it trail off.
She didn’t back down: “You must realize how unusual that is.”
I wanted to scream “IT’S NOT THAT UNUSUAL IF THEY’RE NOT AN ASSHOLE!”
But I didn’t, I remained reasonable and shrugged again. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that comment.
I’m single and have never been married. I have, however, had long-term relationships and short-term but by and large, I’ve been single my entire life. And if you’re single by the time you reach my age, the odds are strong that you’ve dated a few women (or men, or both, whatever your into). Considering that, statistically speaking, I am friends with a fraction of the women I’ve dated.
My feelings around this remain simple.
Okay, so the romance didn’t work and THAT part of my connection with this person failed, it doesn’t mean I dislike them. It just means that, for whatever reason(s), we weren’t compatible. Why would I chuck away someone just because we didn’t jive romantically?
This isn’t some sort of high school “I just want to be friends” thing either. If I feel a genuine kinship with someone, why not attempt to keep that? Regardless of why or who ended it.
Of course, I understand that’s not right for everyone. I get that.
While I am friendly with some women I have dated, it doesn’t mean it’s always been easy.
Establishing boundaries is trial & error.
It’s hard to shake the image of that person naked and I assure you, it doesn’t go away. It diminishes, but it doesn’t go away. This makes the principle boundary — the exclusion of physical contact outside of a hello cheek kiss and/or hug — paramount to success as friends. If you can’t subvert those thoughts, then you shouldn’t be friends. Of course, you can think about it…but don’t say it or attempt to act on it.
You may have great sex, but if you’re broken up it may just be that “after sex” part that is the problem.
Remember, there’s a reason why you’re not together.
It’s also not a good idea to talk about sex for two reasons:
I’m not keen to hear about their physical entanglements anymore than they would wanna hear about mine.
Either, or both, may become randy which may lead to maybe not the best decisions.
With that said, you both have a keen insight into your behavior in a relationship. This can lend a certain insight into your behavior in a relationship when you hit a hiccup in the next (and you will).
This awareness can provide a level of honesty that you may not get from a different friend or a therapist.
That can be both good and bad.
I dated one woman for five years, we broke up and because we had a vacation planned we still went on that vacation. To a tropical island. We did anything and everything we wanted to without any baggage. It was absolutely liberating. We couldn’t have been closer and as a result, we got closer. And for the next two or three years, we would have lunch together every week until I moved out of state. Admittedly, that was unusual.
However, it was, to this day, the best vacation, and relationship, and sex I’ve ever had.
Another woman I dated felt compelled to share a little too much (sex) about her new relationship. Fortunately, I had no qualms about saying: “No, I don’t wanna know about this shit. Save that for your other friends.” It’s not that I’m a prude, it’s just that’s one of those discussions I wouldn’t feel comfortable having with anyone I’d been intimate with.
We’re all adults. It’s pretty safe to presume if you’ve been dating for a little bit, you’re sleeping together. I don’t need the specifics on that.
Remaining friends with an ex isn’t about holding on to the hope that you may get back together. It’s also not about having some sort of fantasy of “friends with benefits.” If that’s your intention or desire, you might lack the emotional maturity to be friends with that person.
For the handful of women, I am friendly with, there is a long line of women who are probably not my biggest fans…nor I theirs. And that could be for a myriad of reasons. And I doubt any of us give it too much thought these days.
“Regrets, I’ve had a few,
But then again too few to mention
Did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
Planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this,
I did it My Way.” — written by Paul Anka, popularized by Frank Sinatra
Has having women I’ve dated as friends caused tension in my relationships? Yep. Suffice it to say, those relationships did not last. I’ll always go to bat for a friend over a girlfriend. The friendships have deeper roots. That’s just the way I’m wired.
“FRIEND” or “EX” — That is the question.
Exactly how to refer to them is odd for sure. It’s only been through trial and error that I’ve learned to simply refer to all female friends as “friends” until there is a need to explain that I may or may not have dated them. I used to say “an ex” or “someone I dated.” That’s a very bad idea. The truth is that as honest as that the comment may be, explaining how you’re friends with someone you dated for five years can be misconstrued…and frankly, I think it’s hard for women to think of their guy being friends with someone he used to sleep with.
However, to be clear, it’s not like I talk to these women every day/week/month or even year, in some cases. But I, and they, know that regardless of the gap in time or the circumstances, we’re friends and if they needed me, I’d be there.
Life is short, we’re growing more divisive and people are becoming increasingly awful to each other. So knowing there is someone who knows you that well, accepts you and wants to be friends with you is a good feeling.
I understand this isn’t something many people can get behind and that’s cool. They have their reasons in the same way I have mine.
Good people have always been hard to find so when you find someone worth keeping, you do the work necessary to keep them. It may not be easy, you’ll forget a birthday or something special but you know that this person already accepts your foibles. It may be uncomfortable for a bit, but if they’re worth it and you both emotionally mature enough, you can do it…if you want to.
Do I think it’s strange to be friends with ex-girlfriends? No.
Do I understand that many people just don’t understand that? Yes. I suppose.
I just don’t care or even think about it too much.
Do I ever think about reconciling romantically with any of them? I’ll never tell, we’re friends.