The relationship with one’s ex is always a hot and controversial topic within the world of dating. Is it okay to remain friends with your ex after a relationship is over? Should both sides just drop each other, and lead on with separate lives? It seems that everyone has a strong opinion on this matter, and I happen to as well.
I’m often cognitive with what I write on this blog because I never know who might read it in the future (future girlfriends, co-workers, journalists when I run for president perhaps?), but I’m going to just come out and say it. I think it’s perfectly okay to remain friends with your exes, and in fact, I have tried to do so with most of mine. Is that a hot take?
I can already imagine a future girlfriend asking me about this very article in a less than pleasant demeanor, but it’s how I really feel. Every relationship is different, and there are certainly those where a clean break is a better option. However for the breakups that occur because of circumstances of life, or plain romantic incompatibility, is it really that bad to remain friends?
I didn’t always feel this way, but a romantic relationship that I had about 1.5 years ago really changed my mind. There was nothing bad about our relationship; we both lived in New York City, saw each other every week, talked every day, and almost never argued. However I chose to break it off because I was moving to South Korea for a year, and she had to eventually go back to her home country of Thailand anyways.
I was sad about the breakup, but I knew that she was even sadder. One of the last things that she said to me was, “it’s not good-bye, it’s until we see each other again.”
I didn’t really believe her at the time. It seemed to me that with the distance between us and all the moving parts in our lives, that it would be a near uncertainty for us to meet again. She wanted to remain friends but I didn’t, what was the point? The concept felt weird and it seemed pointless too, given that we probably weren’t going to see each other again.
I didn’t block her or anything, but I definitely didn’t make an effort to be friends. Months passed, and our usual daily conversations turned into short weekly ones, and then eventually to none at all. However during the Spring of this year, I ended up visiting her home of Thailand while on a short Asia tour with a friend.
It only took a bit over a year for my ex’s prophecy to come true. We saw each other again, and we talked like old times. The only difference was, this time she brought up the topic of our current love interests, and she told me about hers with great enthusiasm. It wasn’t a conversation designed to make me jealous or anything, but one that had genuine curiosity and intention behind it.
Our talk made me feel uneasy, but it was more so because I couldn’t believe my own hypocrisy. This was a girl that I broke up with, that I didn’t want to keep in contact with, and I had the audacity to be upset with her finding a new guy? Where was the logic behind that?
There’s a common notion that keeping in touch with your ex means that you aren’t over them. I guess that’s what I thought. I wanted both of us to get over each other, and remaining friends seemed mutually exclusive to achieving that task. While this is certainly true in many scenarios, I realized that it wasn’t for my particular one.
We didn’t break up because of a nasty fight or something scandalous, we broke up because of the circumstances in our lives. That’s how it is sometimes. Breaking up is never an easy thing, but it doesn’t have to a dramatic event that’s followed up by negative thoughts or hatred. Burning bridges isn’t a requisite to ending a romantic connection.
My ex moved on from me romantically, but not from me as a person and a friend. And you know what? I think it’s okay for me to feel the same way. Many relationships start out as friendships first, with both sides appreciating the innate qualities within one another. Those same qualities don’t just disappear when they’re combined into a relationship that doesn’t pan out.
Do you HAVE to be friends with your ex? Absolutely not. If it hurts you, or hurts them, and you really feel like it’s something that wouldn’t be right, then by all means, move on with your life. I’m not advocating for all exes to be friends. What I am saying is that it’s okay sometimes. Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting about someone, or ignoring the things that already happened. It could mean appreciating moments together, and looking forward to what’s next. It could be mean losing a partner, but gaining a friend.