People who know me reasonably well will tell you I’m a forgiving sort of girl … eventually. I do a fairly sound job of mentally analysing life events and coming to rational, fair conclusions when disappointment rides into town.
I also know that it’s exceedingly unlikely that my actions, neuroses and hang-ups alone were responsible for the various failures that have strewn my path when it comes to relationships; that said I don’t mind taking it on the chin when I mess up.
So my approach to relationship spillages, crashes and breakdowns is simple … learn from them and move on. Increasingly I find however that men will say they are “friends” with their ex’s, maybe like it’s a testament and honour to the memory? I really don’t know the answer here because the concept is most definitely alien to me. And here’s why.
It’s not that I’m a cold-blooded and heartless bitch; I may like occasionally to portray that image but the reality is I’m nothing like that. My feeling on this topic is that it’s impossible to have a purely platonic and caring friendship with someone you once had feelings for. Let me give you an example.
It must be at least six months since I finished with Mr Distant Cynic .. or maybe that should be “petered out” with. We had gone in the space of ten months from being keen to indifferent for a whole variety of reasons, needless to say for my part the indifference grew to the extent that one day it dawned on me that I hadn’t spoken to him for two weeks. The spark had well and truly gone out. Thank goodness. What was once a flame was now spent ashes in the grate of another seemingly pointless episode.
At the end of our little sojourn I finally made it to the place on the page that everyone around me had been at for some time; Mr Distant Cynic had capitalised on my loneliness when I relocated last year. He spends much time abroad on business so the set-up we had of me being available for him when he was home was efficient to say the least. Once that penny dropped I found it remarkably easy to make all the necessary emotional realignments at lightning-speed.
Now, given that we had spent ten months or so seeing each other on and off (more “off” than “on” towards the end needless to say..) there was a tendency to think we could be “friends”. I believe “staying friends” is taking the finality out of it, a little like a safety cushion to shield you from the blow that it’s all over.
Mr Distant Cynic had boasted on several occasions that he was friends with a number of his ex’s; indeed he once commented that a few of them were now married and that he knew for a fact that the new husbands hated the “arrangement”. I imagine a thoughtful and considerate ex would bow out but no, he found that quite amusing. Can you see where I’m going here?
And so yesterday when after several months of zero communication his message popped up on Skype, I sensed he was on an information gathering exercise. And I was right.
After opening gambit chit-chat he asked “so how are you? How’s business? Family? Is there a new man?”
I deftly answered the first three questions and body-swerved the fourth, knowing that he would come back to it again. And he did.
So this time I answered that yes, I had been seeing someone. I also added that it was early days but that he was probably the most genuine and honest person I’d met in long time. Because that was the right and true answer to his pointless probe.
Out of politeness I then asked “and how about you?”
“Yes am seeing someone …” he answered, “unbelievably she’s even busier than I am…. which suits me fine …. she is a very lovely person …”
So all in all, you might say that’s a great result for both of us, which of course it is but I feel that was a conversation we’d have been better off not having for one simple reason … pride.
We all like to think we left an imprint on the minds and hearts of our ex’s, don’t we? Not to the extent that they can’t move on and find happiness elsewhere, but in the moments when their minds drift off for a moment wouldn’t we like them to think “oh … she really was something else” (in the dreamy and wistful sense …)
You see, when I said I was seeing seeing an honest and genuine man, what I really wanted to tag on the end was “he’s the complete opposite of you”. And I’m sure he’d have wanted to come back with “oh bully for you”
And when he told me his new squeeze was a “very lovely person” I desperately wanted to retort “and I wasn’t, I suppose???”
These thoughts and desires are not conducive with leaving wistful imprints .. just a nasty aftertaste.
In truth I think maybe people have all sorts of other reasons for keeping in touch and for “staying friends”. Maybe they are harbouring a deep-rooted hope that it isn’t really over. Perhaps at some point they think “benefits” could be added to the equation. For me it’s quite straightforward; I’ll nod in acknowledgment if I bump into an ex in Tesco but that’s as far as I need to go.
Once you’ve said your goodbyes it’s better to nurture the memories rather than stir up the residual resentment.
After all … they’re called “ex” for a reason.