Thought Catalog

Can You Be Friends With An Ex On Facebook?

  • 0

The bonds that hold couples together are often tenuous. Shared interests, mutual loneliness, insatiable sexual desire and fear of death are the most common. A need for a work visa or green card is maybe one of the lesser rationales. Sheer boredom is somewhere in the top 10. The destruction of those bonds via a romantic separation is messy and painful. Most clear-headed, lucid individuals prefer a clean break. Accept that the arrangement has reached its natural conclusion and shove off for the open sea of casual dating. The sooner you put Old Yeller down, the less strained barking he will engage in. The sad, old dog appreciates the bit of mercy.

It’s far more complicated in a world where everyone in your social circle is constantly connected via the internet. Social networking has hatched a whole new set of miserable scenarios that play out during a separation. We fret over whether or not to remove someone from Facebook or Twitter that has deserted us. We ponder the possibility that they will say or do something to puncture our thinly veiled membrane of self-esteem. The clean break requires a social networking purge to work. You don’t want to drag Old Yeller’s corpse out of the grave and parade him around the town square. You want to leave him resting comfortably in the ground. Dead relationships, just like dead dogs, belong in the ground to rest.

There’s always that one ex that thinks they can rekindle your connection. They get some wild notion to request your friendship on Facebook or start following you on Tumblr again. The purpose behind this is rarely transparent. Perhaps they like creating drama? It could be that they are so paranoid that they must keep tabs on your progress in getting over the relationship trauma. They could also just want to say passive-aggressive things about your weight when they get drunk. Whatever the motive, the end result is rarely positive. The conundrum that comes into play is that to deny a friend request, especially one from a person you have been intimate with, is a potent insult. Our society has actually come up with a way to make it explicit when you don’t want to be someone’s ‘friend.’ No longer can you subtly ignore a person’s attempts at friendship. All it takes is a click of a button to understand where you fit into another individual’s affairs.

I recently experienced this phenomenon and it took me a great deal of introspection to come to a conclusion on how to approach the situation. I’m generally a magnanimous guy. I appreciate people and want to help them lead happier lives. I don’t want to be a source of misery for anyone. A rejected friend request could lead to the declined questioning their self-worth or wallowing in depression. Simultaneously, I am not a masochist. I take no pleasure from squeezing myself into a series of unsavory interactions, anymore than I would want to perpetrate that on another person.

An online friendship with an ex invites a myriad of potential hiccups, which makes it rarely seem worth it. The new relationship, life-altering move, promotion, wild party or significantly improved figure can all plunge me into a whirling sea of misery. I don’t want to be petty, and I try to manage my baser instincts, but moments of weakness abound in my history. I am a pragmatist when it comes to my behavior. I am far less prone to engaging in anti-social behavior than I used to be, but I can assure you that those personality traits will crop up again, with grotesque results.

This is why a post-separation friend request ideally should come years after the messy business has concluded. Everyone needs time to transcend a painful moment, be it an unexpected death, a lost job or a breakup. It’s damn near impossible to simply pretend none of it happened. When my father died in 2006, I felt strongly that I had to spend one week at home grieving and no more. Grief is a vacuum cleaner indiscriminately sucking up your will to live. I did not want to be consumed. I went back to my college and finished my degree. Six years later, I can reflect on what transpired and coexist with tragedy.

If you really love someone with anything resembling sincerity, when they leave you, it’s not unlike a death. My last relationship represented all I had ever wanted, and it was unceremoniously taken from me eight months ago. The burden of that loss is one that I cannot yet carry. If it took me six years to come to terms with the loss of my father, it will take me at least one year to accept that the woman I love unconditionally does not love me.

If my ex somehow reads this, understand that your friend request will remain pending for the time being. I don’t necessarily want to be your friend, because I still want to be so much more. Take that as a compliment. One day, I will learn to live inside the world you made for me.

Not now. TC mark

More from Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog Videos


    • CC

      there is a setting where you can make sure they don’t ever show up on your newsfeed.. and make it so they can’t see your stuff either

      • kidsmeal

        But that doesn’t keep you from wistfully looking at their profile at least once a week. It’s best to just delete them. trust.

    • nippledinky mcgnonagal

      beautifully written. love it <3

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.schilling.754 David Schilling

        Thanks.

    • Nicole

      Aww.

    • Eva

      ” I don’t necessarily want to be your friend, because I still want to be so much more.”

    • Mel

      This was beautifully written, particularly the end.

    • http://mangopeels.wordpress.com quantumtheory

      never friend an ex…life is better that way

    • Karen

      My last ex broke up with me by blocking me on FB. Heh. Of course, I was about to break up with him anyway, so it wasn’t that tragic, I was mostly just offended and appalled at his cowardice. Meh. His loss, right?

      • Michael Koh

        I blocked you because you didn’t see my tweet

    • DEM

      This article speaks to me. I am in a similar situation and I feel that nothing will help me except complete detachment to create my own world to live in, before going into others. The end, being as poignant as it was, made me shed a single tear. This tear was not out of sadness or fear, but out of the realization that others, right now, feel the same that I do. Thank you kind sir

    • KRose

      I agree 100% completely. Facebook is the reason I have so many friends in relationship purgatory… hanging on to their exes for an overextended amount of time… can’t unfriend them… can’t move on.

    • http://gravatar.com/deorling Jenna

      This was painfully true for me as well. It took me too long to realize that I could not have any kind of friendship with my ex (at least not yet) and that definitely contributed to more pain. In the end, I made things easier for him than for myself by not pulling away entirely.

    • D

      This rings so true. I told my ex that she can’t simulatenously be my friend and the single biggest source of pain. I’m not ready for that and the only way to brave it is on your own. You can’t just shift your perspective and not look at the other person the way you did not too long ago. If you’re on the sad side of the breakup, it just takes time. And no way I can know what she’s up to. No FB friends for now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.schilling.754 David Schilling

        ‘I told my ex that she can’t simulatenously be my friend and the single biggest source of pain.’ Well said.

    • Guest

      “If you really love someone with anything resembling sincerity, when they leave you, it’s not unlike a death.”
      cue balling uncontrollably for the 786 time this week.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.schilling.754 David Schilling

        You too?

    • sean

      Unfriend them, in the end it will be worth it. Move on, as hard as it is. Either you will learn to get over them, or they will realize they miss you in their life. Go from there.
      In my case, finally got over her. Seeing this, it was back to her missing me. Who would have thought. Sometimes a new perspective is valuable.

    • Joe

      What’s up the assumption that an ex is even on facebook? A majority of the women I’ve dated don’t have facebook pages.

    • SaraLily

      agreed! i was the “heartbreaker” with my last long term relationship and was surprised at first when he deleted me off facebook but when he explained how it would be too painful and difficult, i completely understood. until both of us have moved on from what happened between us, being friends on social networking won’t make anything easier. better to sever all ties now, allow room for healing, and tinker with the possibility of friendship later.

    • http://thedgadventures.tumblr.com douchegirl

      I’ve been on both sides but of course, the hardest one is to be the “dumpee”. When my last relationship ended, i decided to make my life way easier by deleting/blocking my ex on every single social media site. To this day, one of the best decisions I ever made.

    • R

      Funny this article came at exactly the right time, lo and behold who decides to send me a friend request. The last paragraph was definitely the same exact thought that went through my mind.

    • Harper

      I deleted my ex from every social media except Facebook… just because I was the one dumped and happen to be a girl. Didn’t want to seem like the crazy petty bitch… but it’s the worst. Especially when every so often he enjoys making his FB presence known to me… I can’t tell if it’s a power move or his way of being like “hey friend!” Either way – this article makes me want to take the plunge and just unfriend his ass. But it would be too grand a gesture at this point, not to mention a little random. I am just trying to remain as unaffected and neutral as he is. Even if it’s a total sham.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.schilling.754 David Schilling

        Try your best to ignore it. Sounds like he’s being very passive-aggressive.

    • Liz

      I deleted my Facebook just so I wouldn’t have to deal with this. It sucks.

    • Mellissa

      Current situation, and well written. Article definitely speaks to me. I need to definitely take the lead and let go for good & on all social networks. Its been many years too long-all the back and forth. Although, I deleted him 5 months ago on everything, I recently accepted a friend request. Terrible mistake. It’s hard quitting someone you love, even if its the right thing to do.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.schilling.754 David Schilling

        Ultimately, the other person just doesn’t want you forgetting about them. It’s selfish.

    • http://peanutbutterrunner.com Jen

      this is a difficult concept but true. i struggle with “don’t look at the wall. you’ll crash into the wall.” why do i keep wanting to look at the wall? thank you for the post.

    • http://alexandramarieb.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/getting-older-and-relationships/ Getting older, and relationships « That's what she said

      […] Always break-up in real life and via social media. This does not change with age or position in life. “The clean break requires a social networking purge to work. You don’t want to drag Old Yeller’s corpse out of the grave and parade him around the town square. You want to leave him resting comfortably in the ground. Dead relationships, just like dead dogs, belong in the ground to rest.” Source […]

    • Kristy

      My ex boyfriend requested me on linkedin the business networking site after a year of no contact. I was just starting to move on and there he was. I was heartbroken all over again but acepted because I didn’t want to see like I was still affected and I do still care about him. Our situation was a little crazy. I was seperated when we were together, nine years older than him and living an hour away. It was difficult and an emotional time. He disappeared last year and never gave me a explanation. I know he was insecure in our relationship and me being seperated freaked him out. We have mutual friends and I am so fearful that a friend told him I miscarried our child. I wanted to tell him but he didn’t respond to my calls. I just left it alone and tried to move on. Now I think he knows but can’t be sure. Anyway, I have no idea why he would want to connect with me on linkedin. He has since viewed my profile and so has a co worker of his. I am at a loss and almost wish he would email me and say something.

    • https://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/forgetting-they-ever-existed/ Forgetting They Ever Existed | Thought Catalog

      […] a full hour without thinking a single thought about that person, so-and-so tags their location on Facebook, recoating any faded ink memories and negating your erasing […]

    • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/09/forgetting-they-ever-existed/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

      […] a full hour without thinking a single thought about that person, so-and-so tags their location on Facebook, recoating any faded ink memories and negating your erasing […]

    blog comments powered by Disqus