So you tried real hard to make the relationship work, and now you are trying really hard to make the post-friendship work, because….because….why?? I actually believe that you only delay yourself from healing and moving onward and upward from the breakup when you try to push this supposed newly found friendship. I completely understand the many reasons that seem so legitimate, prideful, and gracious even, to remain in “friendly” contact with your ex.
Yes, I’ve said them all myself: “We already know so much about each other that it would seem odd not to talk to him; I’m going to show him that I am a bigger person then he once thought of me in our relationship; I am friends with all my ex-boyfriends, because that is just the person I am.” Every reason sounds so rational and adult, but is it? In fact I would go so far as to say that it is a rarity to find a true and lasting friendship born out of the ashes of a failed relationship.
Why this is so is because it is not that often that a break-up is done mutually, and done on such a (loving) level where partners acknowledge accurately what did and did not work for them and thus salvage the friendship out of it all. What does end up happening is that one person is left hanging and they put on the “I’m okay,…..really” face and continue to torture themselves every time they have to put on their game face to interact with their ex. They do comprehend that the other person wasn’t a fit, but there wasn’t quite enough tangible evidence to truly solidify the reason. This hanging person then tries to salvage something not knowing exactly what can come about, or if it is really what they need in their life. And there you have it. People don’t stay friends with ex-lovers unless they want something, subconsciously sometimes, whether it be just trying to find better closure, or trying to get the lover back.
So how can you and your ex tell if you are part of the chosen few who can successfully manage a post-breakup friendship? There are several tests that I feel can help you gauge where you’re at. Right off the bat you can already see warning signs if every time you know you may potentially run into your ex you get into a panic to look your best—better—then you ever had when you were dating. Maybe a sweat begins to come over you as you think of the happiest, cheerful face you can think to put on? When these little things happen your body is trying to let you know that there are other agendas going on in your mind that you are trying to step over. One other test, the best one in my book, is whether or not you can discuss dating other people. Do you get an irk in your stomach when you hear about your ex out on a date with another? Do you get a vengeful glee when you tell him about how well you were treated by this new beau out on a date? Or maybe you are afraid to mention a new lover since you know she has shown signs of still have feelings for you? These couple of tests, and I’m sure there are others, really will let you see the red flags and know if you are capable of handling such a friendship.
Time will tell, but maybe with all this in mind you may save yourself some mental anguish and realize that if the relationship didn’t work out to begin with it means that there was a missing friendship already, and the friendship you think you are now trying to create…. really isn’t meant to be there—never was—otherwise you would still be in the relationship.
Originally published in In the Scene Magazine