I would like to dedicate an article to my best friend and the controversial topic of staying friends with exes (OH,MYGOD). I’ve officially known Liam (the bestie in question) for over a decade and been very close to him for exactly three years today. We’ve had many ups and downs, most of which are quite unusual and we have, yes, indeed at one point, been a couple.
Since I started dating when I was around 13, I have always attempted to remain friends with my exes. Good friends, close friends, best friends, sex friends. All kinds of friends, often too close. Funnily enough, this did not go un-noticed by people around me, including other friends, family, acquaintances, future partners and eventually it began to be an expectation and almost tradition that when breaking up with someone, I would always and without fail, attempt to be their friend.
Now, to me this seemed reasonable, fair and my right to be friends with whoever I wanted. However, I wasn’t friends with them in term of mates, casual friends, the occasional text, catch-ups now and again and just generally remaining civil. Ooooh no, not me. With me they have to be my BEST FRIEND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I held exes in the same regard that I did when we were together – loving them, giving them attention, talking to them every day, often sleeping with them, asking their advice and seeing them rather a lot.
In hindsight, this was a bit weird. It was probably for a lot of reasons – my insecurities, my desire to please others, my bitchy controversial streak to name a few. However, at the time, every time since I was younger, I admit I had inappropriate relationships with my exes and I know that I’m not the first person in the world to do this.
Why do we do it?
Such a good question, no? I know a lot of people that have tried to remain friends with exes and 99.9% of the time it fails. It fails because it’s a very difficult dynamic, it causes heartache so we have to ask ourselves, why do we put ourselves through this?
Although I failed to recognise my own ridiculous behaviour, I saw it in my friends and tried to discourage it. ‘Stop texting him, stop calling him!’ blah blah blah. We all know it’s stupid to stay in touch with exes, be close to them, be their friend but many of us do it. I assume it’s because when you’re with someone in a romantic capacity, you build up an intimacy that you don’t have with any of your friends or family. They become your person, your other half, your best friend and your soul mate… it’s very hard to let that go.
How does it happen?
In my case, it just became second nature to me, I assumed I could be friends with my exes, I actively wanted it. You could argue that it was because I wanted them back, but the majority of the time for one reason or another – it was me who instigated the break up and I didn’t want to be together.
It’s also arguable I was keeping them, as they would say in How I Met Your Mother – ‘on the hook’. This is a horrible, but perfectly real idea. Somebody being on your hook is created by the attention you give them with the idea that one day you’ll be romantically involved hovering in the background. Yet you don’t discuss it, you never articulate that this will be the case but you allow them to follow you around, do things for you and ultimately, sadly… use them as you have little/no intention of ever being with them. We all know people that have done this, we’ve probably done it ourselves and at times, I may have done it but all in all… I was doing it for different reasons.
Why did I do it?
I was searching for a soul mate. I was lonely and insecure and I was reluctant to let go of people whom I had dedicated so much of my life to. I value my relationships and the people in my life and letting people go is really hard for me. I believed, truly in my heart that if I maintained these weird ex-friendship situations, we would eventually move past the shit bit and have an incredible friendship. People told me this was stupid, this was unrealistic… yet it happened.
Does it ever actually work?
Me and Liam had difficulties for about two years before I can safely say we were entirely platonic on both sides. This happened around the time I came out, it happened around the time Liam went to University and what can I say, everything came together for us. We never really worked as a couple yet we didn’t understand why. We loved each other more than anything, we made each other laugh, we felt we should have our own sitcom but for some reason we could not make it work.
Over the years we tried all sorts to try and make it work and came up with every idea under the sun why it wouldn’t. Even now that I know I am gay, regardless of this… Liam and I should not be together. We are the best of friends though.
It’s here I state that perhaps holding onto friendships with exes is worth it. I’m not encouraging unhealthy relationships and god knows that if you’re still in love with someone you can’t be with its best to stop staring at their Instagram, stalking them on Facebook and Twitter, asking after them and basically.. just get on with your life. However, when it came to Liam… I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t listen to other people on this particular occasion. I genuinely feel that my fucked up approach to friendships with exes served me very well as it eventually got me my fantastic and wonderful best friend.
So as a word of advice- don’t hang on to every ex in your life, don’t be a weird stalker and I don’t recommend my approach for everyone as Liam was a specific case and I’m very lucky to have him in my life. But I would say… trust yourself and trust your instincts. There is always a reason behind your actions and you can only take advice from so many people, articles, magazines etc.
There’s almost a stigma attached to being friends with your ex, but hey… make your own choices yeah? Brill.