The Ex Factor … and why “au revoir” should be “adieu”

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.

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Filed under attraction, dating, internet dating, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, love and the universe, Men, relationships, Women

4 responses to “The Ex Factor … and why “au revoir” should be “adieu”

  1. You know, I hope that if my next relationship follows those that preceeded it and head rapidly towards the abyss of failure, that the person I date shares the same opinion as you.

    I spent god knows how long trying to explain the concept of why friends doesn’t work to my Ex. It’s just something that’s finished and is better left that way.

  2. Wow where to start on this one!! Great post Debs, personally I think you have the right attitude. It’s easy when you break up to say “lets stay friends” but in reality how can you stay friends? Not real friends anyway.
    I suppose I’ve stayed friends with a few of my ex’s but we’re not real friends, like you said we’ll acknowledge each other if we see each other and the occasional comment on facebook may happen but that’s it. I don’t really want to see them or spend time with them so they aren’t really friends.
    For me this has really been highlighted recently. My last ex totally broke my heart, he ditched me after finding a replacement so there was no way we were ever going to be friends but we went through the usual “let’s be friends” crap, for me because I didn’t want to admit defeat to another woman so I kinda hoped he’d changed his mind, for him to keep him from feeling horribly guilty (which he actually should feel – asshole). But, it’s funny how quick you move from that I can’t cope without them to realising you’ve not spoken for weeks. I’ve come to the realisation this week that we aren’t actually friends at all, he knew that a family member was having an op this week, a family member who treated him like family and he’s not even had the decency to contact to see how they are. That’s hardly friendship is it? SO, that and reading your blog I realise that I’m in the wrong, expecting to be friends with someone you’ve shared a lot with and been intimate with will never really work, there’s always going to be a level of feeling there that will never go away meaning you can’t ever fully open up and be friends.
    Ex’s really should remain in the past.

  3. It’s good to see you sounding happy Deborah (if it’s possible to see a sound?).

    I’d say many exes stay acquaintances, but that depends on how amicable and mutual the decision to split was. If it was one sided or there was any bitterness then it’s pointless and unhealthy trying to be friends.

    Anyone claiming to be friends with lots of exes is probably just doing it for marketing purposes along the lines of “if we stayed friends I must be a nice guy”.

    I would have picked up on the “genuine and honest person” comment immediately if it had been said to me, but I expect it went straight over the head of Mr Distant Cynic.

  4. Alex

    Hmm, now you’ve made me think. I’m friends with three exes. Not the must see each other all the time type admittedly, but more than nodding acquaintances. We’ll chat on the phone a bit, meet every now and then, and swap stories of nightmare relationships. In each case, I was the dumpee, we didn’t say “let’s still be friends” and we didn’t see each other for ages.

    Then someone invented Facebook and because we had old friends in common we started getting those friend suggestions, and I started getting out of the blue messages from women who’d broken my heart 10 years or more earlier.

    Maybe I’m a sucker, too kind, or just forgiving, but I can’t carry my hurt that long, so I replied, and we caught up, and now we are friends. The past is so long behind us, I guess we can laugh about it.

    Does this make me the odd one out?

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