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Rams’ Rede: friendship with exes

Rams’ Rede:

About three months ago, my girlfriend of a year and I decided to call it quits. We’ve been back in communication recently, and I don’t know what is supposed to happen from that. Can you ever truly be friends with an ex?

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Confused

Dear Confused,

In short, the answer is no. You cannot truly be friends with an ex, and if you are, it takes an awful lot of work.

Here’s how it breaks down: when you’re in a loving, committed relationship with another human being, there are feelings that develop. Depending on how long and in what depth this relationship is in, the big “love” word may be thrown around. You grow attached to this other person and a connection is fostered.

You and your lady friend were together for a year. That is 12 months of always having someone to talk to, of having date nights, of sharing your life with another individual. Even if it wasn’t always good, that is a year of communication and building a life together.

And when that connection is severed, feelings don’t just diminish. That love that you have for someone else doesn’t disintegrate with the official relationship status. Even if you made the decision to go your separate ways amicably and without deliberately trying to inflict pain on one another, that separation can be hard to decipher when there are still feelings involved.

When you commit yourself to someone and are seeing them exclusively, you generally open up and share things about yourself, and the other party does the same. So when you break up, you have to accept that the other person saw you for exactly who you are, and still made the decision to walk away. That can be a hard pill to swallow, I understand. And the natural inclination is often to continue talking to your ex, because when you’ve gone 12 months speaking to them every day and sharing bits of your experiences, it can be hard to suddenly end all communication.

But believe me when I tell you that this is exactly what you should do. Breakups are hard, but they don’t get any easier by tip-toeing the line between significant other and friend. If you really don’t think that there is a chance of the two of you getting back together, do everyone a favor and just stop. It will get worse before it gets better, but when you reach that point, you’ll understand.

There is a very distinct reason that friendships between exes rarely work out well, and it’s because what once was black and white is not all shades of gray. When you two were in a relationship, you could share everything with that other person. That is one of the perks of that kind of connection with someone: you can tell them everything, and probability states that they’ll probably like you anyway. But when the commitment piece is no longer there, suddenly that open line of communication isn’t there. You can no longer tell them everything, because there are certain things that they won’t want to know.

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Such as your interest in others. It may not be anytime soon, but eventually both of you will want to start seeing other people. It doesn’t matter how great the two of you get along post-breakup, she will not want to hear about the other women in your life. It doesn’t matter what she says or how cool she acts about it; trust me when I tell you that she doesn’t want to know.

And the same probably goes for you. I highly doubt that you will want to hear about her upcoming dates, or give her pointers on what to wear when another man wines and dines her. Because the two of you may be broken up, but that doesn’t mean you stopped caring for her.

And because the lines are muddled on what you can and cannot share, and how often the two of you may be in communication before it wanders into “weird” territory, it is just easier if you don’t try to chart the tumultuous waters of friendship after relationship. I know it’s hard and I know that there will be hundreds of other people telling you otherwise, but if you still decide to pursue a friendship with you ex, it will end badly. It will be easier on all involved to sever the ties, and move forward.

In Brief:

Friendship with an ex involves a lot of gray areas that are hard to decipher.

There are things such as your pursuit of other people and how often you two should talk that are far too difficult to answer.

It may be a challenge, but it’s better for all involved to end communication.

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