I would have never dated me three or four years ago. Sure, I was lovely in most ways and I was a catch in most ways, but there was one little thing about dating that I just didn’t get: being friends after the breakup.
When my heart was broken before, I knew exactly how to manipulate the story to victimize myself and follow up with passionate vengeance. I never even gave a guy a fair chance to break up with me without it being ugly. And looking back on that, it makes me thoroughly sad.
These days, I understand relationships as more than ultimatums or pending doom and broken heartedness. Now I get it.
If I was that close to a guy before, close enough to let him be the only boy I would even kiss, he must have had something to contribute to the world and my life more than sex, right? Right. So why would I cut all of those positive things out of my life just because we made a decision to end the intimacy?
Upon realizing just how much I was giving up when I cut off all ties with my exes, I began changing my ways. I am now friends with all of my exes; yes, every last one. I have rebuilt the bridges I burned and, in fact, just hopped on a plane last month to go visit my most recent ex. As a FRIEND. And we had a great time!
When you are of the mentality that you can’t be friends with a dude after you break up, you are already hindering your relationship. You are already screwing up its natural course of growth and making aspects of the relationship ugly that don’t need to be. Damning your post-breakup relationship to Hell is not only immature, but it’s sad; if you liked a guy enough to date him, you should like him enough to be there for him when you’re done dating one another.
“But how the hell am I supposed to stay friends with him?!” you ask.
Good question. Here are some of the things that worked for me.
1. Don’t talk for a 1-3 months after the intimate relationship ends. You’ll need this time to readjust and get your own personal life back.
2. Don’t feel guilty for seeing him as something different than your typical friend.
3. Be supportive of him and encourage his healthy relationships with new women.
4. Be a shoulder for him to lean on.
5. Don’t be cutting. Save the resentment for your diary; it’s over now.
6. Don’t try to get back together. You can’t be friends if you’re trying to be more than friends.
7. Try to avoid the ‘remember when’ conversations. They bring on emotions.
8. Avoid comparisons. Don’t compare your new guys to him, and don’t let him compare the new girls to you.
9. Distance yourself from his closest friends and family. That means no calling his sister for advice or taking his new GF out for ice cream every night.
10. Recognize what you’re doing. You’re salvaging a friendship; give it time.
Yes, that list is long. And yes it is full of very difficult tasks, but let me tell you – I’m a f*cked up emotional creature, so if I can swing this I know you can. You’re probably never going to be super psyched about your ex dating a new girl, nor will you ever lose ALL of the feelings you once had for him, but being friends with him is possible. And important. And part of growing up.
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