He's an Ex for a Reason!

You know that feeling, when the anger, hatred and pain that has clouded you emotionally and physically begins to break and those harsh reactionary feelings start to fade.

This happened to me for the first time this week, as I was standing in a group of friends and talking about foreign policy and dancing (a strangely normal convo for me) and I recounted, without skipping a beat, a story my ex had told me. I told it with passion and sadness, the way he had told me and it was an incredible story. He was a great storyteller and a person who unabashedly lived a wild life.  It was the first time I had thought about him in a few weeks, and the first I’d mentioned his name without a thick layer of sarcasm and surrounded by expletives. Since then, I’ve had the urge to call him,  not for closure or to check in and make sure he’s as miserable as he deserves; but to see how his class is going, which of his students have crushes on him, to see Valentine’s Day pics from his niece/nephew and to hear hilarious stories from his parent’s visit to CA.

I just miss him, as a friend. We spent most of our relationship across the country as friends not lovers, and I remember now, how great that was.

But reality hit before I could bring myself to pick up the phone, when my good friend and client started going through a similar situation after an enormously hurtful relationship.  Her ex had reached out over and over and repeatedly hurt her. I could hardly stand seeing her emotionally back at ground zero  after so much growth, so I had to stop and consider whether reaching out to rekindle a friendship was worth the potential pain.

I’m not going to lie; this is a completely selfish blog post as I consider opening up a new/old friendship or just let it go and let sleeping dogs lie.

{Any advice is totally welcome, since I am in no way an expert… yet}

Here is some of the advice I am giving to myself (and to you since you’re reading this)

 

Take more time than you think you’ll need

There is no formula to predict how much time you need to process the relationship. If you’re doing the arbitrary math that sounds like “take the amount of time you were together and divide it by 2 then multiply it by the number of pets you owned and subtract the number of voicemails he left on your phone and add 5 if you were Facebook official…”  to convince yourself or your friends it’s NOT too soon to talk, it’s probably too soon.

Wait for it….

Be honest about why you’re calling

Also, if you are stretching for reasons to reach out to them, it’s too soon.

If they forgot their sweater at your place, or still owe you $25 dollars and you’ve convinced yourself  that you need to let them know asap, think again. There should be no hidden agenda. When you send a text, or leave a voicemail, be very clear about your intentions. “Hey, I’m calling to catch up and see how things are going with the new job.” or “I want my $25 dollars back”. Whatever you really want, be upfront to allow your ex the emotional space to respond openly and honestly without feeling like they got suckered into a relationship talk when you asked them to call about an update on Dewey the cat.

Know your emotional limits before connecting

What are you really doing? What are you really hoping to get out of this friendship? If it’s closure, you might not get it. Closure is a massive myth and can only be healed with time and distance. That’s my opinion anyways. Know that there will be things that come up during this conversation that will be painful or bring up emotions that you don’t expect, and be honest with yourself about them. Keep a time limit on the conversation so you don’t get in too deep. Maybe it would help if you call them before a friend picks you up to see a movie, or keep a mental timer like the FBI is tracing your call. Politely tell them it was nice to talk, but you’ve got to run and will catch up soon. Take baby steps and keep things light. And breathe.

 

Set your boundaries for what you talk about and how much you want to know

Most conversations spiral out of control when a casual conversation turns into a struggle for power. If you’ve followed my advice from 3 sentences ago, you’ve set expectations for yourself before you pick up the phone, so this should be easier. If you really want to be friends and can’t talk about new relationships because it will hurt too much, that’s ok and should be understandable. Let them know that. I’m sure they aren’t excited to hear about your romps either. Hurt feelings prompt backlashing and easily can turn into rage. (unless that’s just me?)

Set some boundaries, it will be better for both of you.

Bad boyfriends sometimes make bad friends

It’s fairly common after a few weeks of being apart that the breakup itself starts to fade and the optimist in you latches on to the good memories and remembers the best of times. And that’s amazing. But maybe you should keep it that way. For many people, the list of cons that heavily outweighed the pros were things that not only made then a shitty boyfriend, but will also make them a bad friend. If they were selfish, rude and made you feel small, you have every right to never be their friend. But if it was sexual incompatibility, different life goals or circumstances, maybe a friendship was the way you were meant to end up.

Some people brag about being friends with all their exes, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some exes are best left in the past.

R

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