It was Thanksgiving day and my boyfriend and I were cooking at our place for two very special guests. My 5-year-old son, and his father...my ex.
Most women would consider the idea of entertaining both men under the same roof to be absolutely insane, but I wasn't worried a single bit. My ex and my boyfriend had more than just me in common - they are also insanely mature. They also know I don't dismiss, discount, or eliminate men from my life based solely on the status of our relationship changing. This is what I come with and I don't apologize for it.
Toxic people have no place in your social circles and shouldn't have the honor of knowing you anymore.
But on occasion, you meet that person who you mistakingly mark as a lover first. In the end, you realize that who that person was all along was a really good friend. You don't miss the sex, you don't miss the intimacy or romance - you just miss the friendship because it was genuine. For me, that old rule of never befriending an ex didn't always apply. Some of my closest friendships started out between the sheets. So what? My overly-welcoming vagina shouldn't be the reason I cancel everyone who ever graced her with their presence. Right?
To me, staying friends with some of my exes is a defining quality. I am this way, because I love this way and these friendships work because I'm conscious, genuine and honest - with myself and my partners. If staying friends with an ex is on your to-do list, here's a few pointers from a self-proclaimed master:
Define The Friendship
First of all, let's set some boundaries. Not every ex is worthy of friendship. That ex that cheated? The ex that constantly belittles you for letting him go? That ex that still tries to get back together with you? Those aren't the ex-lovers that can go into the "let's stay friends" box - at least not mine.
Being friends with an ex should hold the same requirements as staying friends with your college roommate. When the friendship hasn't changed just because the core motivator was removed, that's a sign that this is a legitimate friend and not just someone your holding onto for unhealthy reasons.
Your Friends Are My Friends
If you're not single, and you're still friends with an ex, then a new obstacle takes center stage. Your partner might feel a way about the possible competition. The best way to calm worried nerves is to let them decide for themselves by introducing the ex to the current. Let them see that there is no chemistry between the two of you that he should be worried about, and see maybe why you wanted to stay friends in the first place. If the idea of introducing the two of them makes you want to cower and hide - then maybe you're kidding yourself about that ex after all.
Understand It Won't Always Be Kosher
Staying friends with an ex isn't just an interesting experience, it's also a little taboo. So, the mere idea of it may send possible suitors running for the hills. In most circles, staying friends with an ex is a red flag, so you'll have to do a little work to make sure it's not a red flag for a new partner. If they voice their legitimate concerns, take them seriously. Have that conversation as many times as needed. But in the end, follow your gut. Unhealthy friendships can ruin healthy relationships - but the opposite is also true.
Don't Entertain Flirtation
Maintaining a friendship with an ex or anyone you were once romantically attracted to gets a lot harder if lines are blurred. If you're friends - real friends - then that means you are not options for each other's dating roster. If you guys want to occasionally sleep together, then call it what it is - polyamory. But if you genuinely wish to keep that friend a friend, keep flirting out of the equation. If you can't digest this friendship without a side of sexual tension, then you probably need to get real about what this friendship really is (i.e. a crush).
When An Ex Becomes A Crutch
If you've been single for a while but you have a million male friends you messed around with at some point, then I'm sorry to say, you're walking around on crutches. Being single, in all of its agony and glory, is meant to be a space for you to reflect on you and sit with yourself so you understand who you are - unbothered by commitments or emotional pulls.
If your goal is to not be single one day, you might need to fully embrace this phase no matter how long it lasts in order to move onto coupledom. Bear in mind that not having a man to text late at night about your problems allows to you check in with yourself about them instead. But if you have an ex on reserve speed dial for those moments, then the purpose is kind of defeated.
Staying friends with certain exes was something that took some time to figure out for me. But one defining quality stands out. We have things in common. Real, tangible things in common that are not happy hour or Netflix and Chill. So, if we want to hang out, there's usually an activity in mind. A band that only he and I would find so fascinating, or an event within our mutual industries. Going to hang out all the time just to get drinks and talk feels a little too much like dating for my taste. If we're still friends, there has to be a defined purpose in order to avoid a slippery slope.
Take The Time, Do It Right
One thing that absolutely must happen if you are to befriend an ex is space and time. Even if there are no hurt feelings involved, deciding to be friends should be approached only after a cool-down period. Say outright that you would like to be friends, real friends. Then take a month or maybe even two to get some space. That time is super necessary in order to create a clean slate and shake off any vibes that might be carried into a platonic friendship.
Champagne For Real Friends
Here's an easy way to tell if your friend-ex is really a friend. Tell him about your dates. This is what friends do, they talk about their dating life. If I told my female best friend about my last sexual encounter and she responded by shutting her eyes and saying, "Eh...too much information," I would think she lost her mind. Being friends means knowing about each other's lives - not just the elements we can handle. If your ex launches into defense mode or unfairly criticizes your new boo - that's not a friend, that's just another hater.
If you can't be real friends, it's time to say goodbye.
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