#213: Be “the ex”

01 Aug

I’m still mostly in shock about this, but it’s definitely something I’ve never done before, so I feel like I have to write about it.

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m always talking about how I wish I could be friends with ex-boyfriends. Unless they’ve done something unforgivable as a human being (and to me, almost nothing is unforgivable), I don’t see any reason why the things that attracted 2 people to each other romantically can’t also form the basis of a great friendship.  Unfortunately, the people I date don’t see it that way and usually want nothing to do with me after we break up.

Except for the man with whom I spent 3 years.  We’d been able to be friends.  Not best friends, not even friends who saw each other that often, but friends all the same.  We’d meet up maybe once a month or so for an hour or so for dinner or lunch or frisbee or badminton, and that was the extent of our relationship.  So it wasn’t much, but I was pretty proud of the fact that we’d been able to maintain a sense of friendship over the years.

Of course, I appreciate that everyone’s opinions are formed from years of unique experiences, but whenever someone I knew would question a significant other’s ex as a friend, I’d wonder just how strong their relationship was.  I’m not saying I’ve never wondered whether my boyfriend was clinging too closely to someone from his history.  I mean, yeah, I wrote an entire essay in the New York Times about my attempt to come to terms with it–but even that wasn’t really about the friendship itself; it was about communication in our own relationship.

So I understand where these doubts can come from.  I get that it’s a real issue.  I just never thought I would be “the ex.”

To have someone you’ve known for almost 7 years tell you out of the blue that he doesn’t feel comfortable hanging out with you because his girlfriend of 7 months has been cheated on before is the emotional equivalent of being suddenly dunked into freezing cold water.  When you come up for air, all you can do is gasp and try to rub the blurriness out of your eyes, but no matter how much you rub, more water keeps dripping in front of them and it’s impossible to see clearly.

It’s like: what?  Why was I just dunked in water?  What’s going on here?  We had plans to have dinner and now suddenly I’m shaking the ice-cold liquid from my skin?  We had casual plans to eat a meal for maybe an hour and now suddenly you’re saying you’ve come to the conclusion that this is best for your relationship?  You’ve decided that dumping chilly water over my head is the logical solution to an insecurity issue your girlfriend has? Instead of having an adult conversation where you tell her you’ve never cheated on anyone and I’ve never stolen anyone’s boyfriend and we have absolutely no romantic feelings for each other and I’ve wanted to meet her for months and I think it’s so great that you seemed to have such a good relationship from what I’ve heard and hey, by the way, you’re trustworthy and care about her too much to do anything to ruin what you have, instead of discussing it, you’ve decided it’s easier to just cut me out of your life?

Well, yeah.  It is easier.  For sure.  But does that automatically make it the right choice?

Because I’m still standing here soaking wet, and I don’t understand why.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in People


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