That headline is completely irresponsible.
No one has a wonderful relationship with their ex.
Not outside of feel-good movies and counseling case studies, anyway.
If you were just two lovely people who couldn’t make it work, then I could see it happening. No hard feelings, right?
But, in most cases, separation doesn’t happen when two otherwise wonderful people throw in the towel.
It happens when someone acts like a jerk, the other person gets even, the atmosphere degenerates into subtle jibes and passive-aggressive sneers, and all that tension finally erupts into a split of volcanic proportions.
Shake hands and be friends while the lava is still flowing?
Don’t think so.
That’s when you might reach out for some expert advice.
One book promises that you can still be friends and live happily ever after, even if your marriage falls apart. After all, haven’t many couples found their relationship improving after they split? Not living together works miracles.
An incredibly optimistic man of God, the Reverend Ronald Coleman, decided that the best way to bring exes together was to create a national day celebrating their non-relationship. National Ex-Spouse Day is held on April 14th every year.
Would you be able to ring up your ex once a year and ask him sincerely how his life is going—as if you really cared?
If you can, then you don’t need this article.
There are exes you can stay friends with. They’re rare.
I used to pride myself on remaining friends with my ex-boyfriends. I believed firmly in the old adage that challenges anyone who loves a person deeply to let them go and see if they come back. Maybe I waited a little too long to see if they’d come back, but I always made lemonade from lemons. I was a modern woman; I wouldn’t let a man make a mess out of me. I would focus on the love and the lessons, and let the rest go.
Of course, I was only in my twenties then. What did I know?
It took a co-worker’s frank comment to wake me up to the fact that most men don’t want to stay friends with their exes. They want to move on. Unless there’s a reason for continuing contact, like having friends or work in common, they’re not going to call you for a coffee date to catch up on old times.
It’s easy to slip into staying friends for selfish reasons.
We want to prove that we can forgive so utterly, so admirably, that we actually ask to see photos of him and his new girlfriend. If the choice is between never seeing him again and pretending we’re totally cool with this breakup thing, then we’re cool. We’ll keep the lines of communication open in case he ever realizes what a horrible mistake he made and asks for a second chance.
There are those exes you want to stay friends … but then there are the other ones.
These guys are on a whole different level. It’s easy to wipe your tears over a little spilt milk. But when the farm has been sold and you’re facing economic ruin, the mist in your eyes turns red.
Should you force yourself to be friends?
After a super-acrimonious split, you may feel a great deal of pressure to relegate what happened between you to water under the bridge. Be the bigger person, you tell yourself. Consider the kids.
But the man he was while you were together is the same man you’ll be dealing with after you part.
If he was open to using dirty tactics then—like playing on your feelings, or saying black is white when he thinks it will gain him the advantage, or claiming to know your deepest thoughts and feelings better than you do—then there’s an old saying that might be appropriate to your situation:
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
In those cases, we need to define a “wonderful relationship” a little differently.
A wonderful relationship with a difficult ex is not one where you blossom into best buddies.
It’s one where you’re not at risk for being hurt anymore.
It’s wonderful when he can’t hurt you anymore—and, it goes without saying, you don’t hurt him, either.
It’s ideal when you can co-exist without perpetuating the dysfunction that caused your split in the first place.
It’s okay if you’re not best friends. It’s okay if the thought of hugging him turns your stomach. It’s okay if you limit your contact. The terrain of your relationship is scorched and black. Let it cool before trying to plant seeds.
When both of you have been hurt so much, what you want to do is create a relationship that gets the job done without adding fuel to those still-smoldering embers.
Being friends is out. So be professional instead.
Maybe it works for you to pretend as if you have no personal history with this person, but rather a business relationship. If treating him like a former business partner helps you keep your cool and remain polite, then do it.
It’s wonderful when two people can occupy the same space without sniping, glaring, or pointing fingers. If you can reach that place with an ex, then you’ve achieved something meaningful.
So what if you don’t catch up for coffee dates?
So what if you don’t call each other on National Exes Day?
You’ve found peace. And peace is pretty darn wonderful.