My very first relationship lasted for four years — from the time I was 17 until just before I turned 21.
At that age, most of my romantic notions were shaped by sappy movies like A Walk to Remember (if nothing else, I’m sure the ladies remember Shane West) and Love Actually, as well as a generous dose of emo tunes by Green Day and Hoobastank. In short, I thought that my relationships would last a lifetime, and even if they didn’t, everyone involved would all still find it in themselves to get along. Because that’s what being mature is all about, right?
In those wide-eyed wonder years, my then-boyfriend, B and I pinky-promised each other that no matter who we ended up marrying in life, we’d be present at each other’s weddings — and we all know how a pinky-promise is the most binding form of agreement to have ever existed.
Fast forward to today, seven years after we broke up, and I struggle to remember when the last time we spoke was. All I know is that he’s been happily attached to a sweet-looking girl for the past number of years and that they own a pet rabbit named Puffy.
We did try to stay in touch for the first few months, but it’s hard to just hang out or chat as friends with someone who has patiently borne the brunt of your nasty PMS-induced mood swings or caught a whiff of your smelliest farts.
On the flip side, I’ve somehow managed to remain (sort of) friends with my second boyfriend, D, for the past four years since we split up. Maybe it’s because we share so many mutual friends or maybe it’s because we work in related industries and have to deal with each other occasionally. Either way, I’ll admit that there have been times when I wish I hadn’t been so adamant about remaining friends.
We have an unspoken agreement not to bring up our current love lives, but the occasional slip does create a slight awkwardness, not just for us but the friends with us as well. Also, having once known someone at such a deep level means you’ll be able to tell when he’s lying/uncomfortable/upset/[insert emotion] with your eyes shut, but have to hold yourself back from reacting because of the changed dynamics between the both of you.
You will no longer be able to confide in each other like you used to (what they have to say will either hurt too much to hear or not interest you in the least), and being too “friendly” with each other will lead to all sorts of questions about whether residual feelings still exist between the both of you. In short, what’s left will be a watered-down version of what used to be, and really, why would you want to settle for that?
While I will say that the tension has considerably lessened with time, here are three simple questions you should ask yourself if you would still like to give staying friends with your ex a shot.
1. Are you still bitter about the breakup?
If you are, then why would you want to introduce those emotions into an already complicated relationship?
2. Can you keep your emotions in check?
No one likes being around an emotional wreck on a regular day, much less if he or she is someone you just got out of a relationship with.
3. Can you imagine them with anyone else?
If you answered no, then it’s probably best to put the “staying friends” idea on hold for now.
Whatever you decide, keep in mind that you guys broke up for a reason, and that cutting your ex off for a while might be the more mature thing to do than try to force a friendship.