The Ex Effect

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Throwback Thursday has got me thinking about an age-old conundrum: can you and should you stay friends with an ex? Staying friends with someone who was for a time significant within your life is often touted as a sign of maturity and, of course, there are circumstances which necessitate a continued involvement, such as co-parenting when two people have to put their possibly acrimonious feelings about each other aside for the sake of the children. Without the bind of offspring, maintaining a relationship with an ex has to be a matter of personal choice and that decision is probably dictated by the nature of the break up itself and the type of people you are.

I’m an all or nothing girl, always have been and always will be. Fiercely independent, I like my single life which allows me to do whatever I want when I want and being an introvert, I need lots of time on my own to recharge and reflect. So I only get involved with someone when my interest has been completely captured on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically. When I’m in, I’m all in, fully committed. I’ve never really seen the point in doing anything half-arsed, including love.  I give relationships my all until things don’t work out; I don’t like to walk away unless I know I’ve done all I can or a relationship has proved itself unfixable or harmful to my wellbeing. I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve broken hearts. That’s life.

I don’t stay friends with exes. I just can’t do it, regardless of how good or not a person has been to me during the relationship. The boyfriends who cheated on me were easy to walk away from and I would rather rub marmite in my eyes than stay friends with them. I can see merit in staying on friendly terms with good guys though but in my experience, friendship is always way too complicated when feelings are or have been involved. Danger lies in unclear boundaries, false hope and jealousy. Oft-debated, Men and women definitely can be friends, I have several platonic male friends in my life who I truly value, but only if they are not and have never been attracted to each other. Attraction is the minefield.

My ex-husband – Mr DJ – and I had a fairly amicable divorce. We married young, grew up, grew apart and financial issues destroyed the relationship. Dealing with massive debt and bankruptcy in my mid-twenties was not what I had envisaged when I said I do and the relationship was not strong enough to survive when he just buried his head in denial and expected me to deal with it all: the persistent phone calls, the threatening letters, bailiffs at the door etc. An older man came into my life, the first man who just ‘got me’, and made me realise that I was with the wrong person. Telling Mr DJ that I didn’t love him anymore and he deserved to be with someone who did love him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do but I’ve never regretted it. We were too young to be in a marriage that had no passion, no fire, just companionship and horrendously complicated finances. Leaving the marriage was like grieving for a death in the family but we supported each other through the process and were probably more honest with each other after our marriage ended than we had been during it. He started dating before I did and would often phone me asking for advice about the girls he was seeing. For me it wasn’t weird because I just wanted him to be happy and I didn’t feel anything for him anymore. We even exchanged Christmas presents eight months after we split. When he met someone he was serious about then the contact between us naturally faded and we both moved on. We’ve not spoken since the divorce was finalised years ago and that was best for both of us. I don’t miss him but think of him now and then. It was a different lifetime ago.

Thanks to Facebook I know Mr DJ has remarried and has kids now and I’m pleased for him. I hope the post-divorce years have been kind. Mr Control (who has featured in earlier blog posts) has a gorgeous little boy with his partner. Life has gone on for all of us. The prevalence of social media means it is now easier than ever to look up your ex. Not a good idea immediately after a break up (feels akin to sandpapering your heart) as that can prevent wounds from healing and encourage unhealthy attachments but after time has passed, it can be really quite cathartic to see that their life has continued without you, as yours has without them, and you know you have properly moved on when you can look at their pictures and feel nothing but pleasure to see them happy – or secretly pleased that they don’t look as attractive as they did when they were with you should that be the case ha ha. Apparently this is ‘The Ex Effect’, when you no longer view your ex as desirable without the rose-tinted glasses of lust and love you probably wore during your relationship. It’s just a natural part of the process. A relationship ends, you detach, focus on making yourself fulfilled and in time, new opportunities and new people come along. Staying friends with exes feels counter-intuitive to me. Just say goodbye, have a clean break and send them on their way with gratitude for what was shared and luck for the future. What is meant for you will not pass by you and you can’t make room for the things meant for you whilst still holding on to those that are not. Clear out the ex skeletons, refrain from constantly online stalking your ex (an occasional look up is fine, we all do it ha ha) and nostalgia-bingeing over past photos. Leave the past in the past, fully embrace the present and look forward to future experiences that may be better than those you have already enjoyed. Look after yourself and be happy.    

Take care, Lisa.     

📧 uncagedartbird@gmail.com

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