I Don’t Like Being Friends with an Ex, so Why Should I?

It seems like it's either a big deal or not one at all

man and woman sitting on couch together

I am one of those people who has always thought that being friends with an ex made sense—after all, you spent a lot of time getting to know that person and caring about them, and in my experience, those feelings don’t simply vanish at the end of the relationship. I’ve also been relatively lucky: I only have two exes that were on the awful side of things, and neither of those relationships lasted very long. I also got married pretty young (twenty-two), so the exes I do have weren’t incredibly serious relationships to begin with, which might make those guys much easier to be friends with. I’m genuinely happy to see their photos on Facebook, follow their travel adventures on Instagram, and offer sincere congrats when they get new jobs, have a kid, or adopt an animal. My husband knows I’m friends with these guys and isn’t bothered by it—because there’s nothing to be bothered about. I mean, I’m even friends with two of my husband’s exes whom I genuinely consider to be really cool people—we trade non-flippant parenting advice and we’ve had meaningful conversations over the years. I could easily hang out with all of my exes at once and have a great time, and I’m equally certain I could sit down with my husband’s exes and have a blast.

However, I get that my way isn’t the best way—and I know that in the general scheme of things, I’m lucky to have exes that are healthy humans to be around. In fact, we recently received this reader email from someone coming from exactly the opposite point of view on the subject:

There is a pervasive idea floating out there that one must stay friends with one’s exes… but I don’t get why this is such a thing these days. I get that there are some very lucky people who manage to separate amicably, who truly harbor no ill will, and who wish the best for one another—and I even have a few exes I classify as such. However, in my experience, they are the exception and not the rule.

My most recent relationship didn’t end well. I don’t blame him entirely, but by the time I pulled it together and broke off our relationship, I was a shell of my former self. Now that I’ve found that person who appreciates me and all I have to offer, I’ve spent ample time trying not to be triggered by the baggage left from the (what I’ve recently found the courage to identify as) emotional abuse my ex heaped on me for the majority of our relationship. Most of my friends chose my ex when we split, and I don’t blame them—he’s easier to like, until you really need him for something—and I keep myself from going to group events when I know he’ll be there. Sure, I could be polite, but I don’t want him to cast his shadow on me. I don’t want to do small talk.

I don’t want to be his friend.

People don’t usually end relationships because they got along so well during them—so why is there this idea that two people should magically get along well afterward? Yes, it would be nice if everyone everywhere could get along all the time, but then we’d have to agree on what “getting along” entails, and we seem to have a hard enough time just learning to respect one another’s differences.

Why does anyone want to still be friends with someone they’re no longer involved with?

What about you: are you into being friends with an ex? What works for those friendships, and what doesn’t? Do you and your current partner have rules about interactions with exes?

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