Yesterday I read this wince worthy article, All My Exes Live In Texts: Why the Social Media Generation Never Breaks Up (this could have been me!) and it reminded me not only of why it’s critical to avoid collecting exes if you don’t want to be managing numerous crumb relationships in Never Never Available Land, but it also reminded me of why it’s even more important to stop this whole let’s be friend bullsh*t that we engage in after we break up with a shady ex. This post is one of my most read posts on being friends with your ex.
One of the issues that gets frequently discussed and debated in dating and relationships is the whole issue of trying to remain friends with your ex. I’ve written about it so many times over the years and yet I continue to be baffled as to why particularly with women, we seem to have a hardcore desire to throw ourselves at the front line of pain with exes that mistreated us.
The reason why we want to remain friends with our exes, even when they have treated us ‘less than’ with an absence of love, care, trust, and respect, is because we want to feel valid. We often spend so long feeling invalid, friendship is like the last chance saloon.
We’ve expended emotions and energy on the other person and are heavily invested. Bad enough to feel rejected because they cannot (or refuse to) be and do as we would like them to, but we then convince ourselves that if we don’t continue to be a part of their lives after the break up, we’ll feel even more rejected and invalid because we’re not even ‘good enough’ to be kept around on the periphery zone as a friend.
It’s not just feeling valid though that will have you itching to offer or take the hand of friendship; it’s hoping that they’ll miss you enough to come crawling back on their hands and knees and beg to be taken back.
It’s wanting to be there on some terms rather than no terms. It’s trying to be The Good Girl (or The Good Guy) because you don’t want to seem as if you’re being immature. It’s a willingness to accept a downgrade because you think you can shag your way back up to being the girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s wanting to keep tabs on them and to have a hand in their lives.
More importantly, remaining friends with your ex, aside from being some sort of validation of your worthiness, the act in itself makes the process of letting go somewhat less painful. Call it putting off the inevitable.
However, when someone has treated you with an absence of love, care, trust, and respect, attempting to remain their friend in any capacity is a grave mistake that those who attempt it learn about all too quickly.
When you choose to remain friends with someone who didn’t treat you well, you actually validate whatever negative ideas that they have about you plus, it’s like giving them a Get Out of Assclown Jail Free Card.
You see in life, there are universal societal norms that exist whether you live in a big city, tiny town, little village or a mud hut in the middle of a jungle and it’s this:
When we break up with somebody, if we really have treated them in without genuine love, care, trust and respect, they will not want to be our friend. If they do offer or accept the hand of friendship, then it means I’m Not That Bad, after all, I’m good enough to be considered a friend.
In the hands of someone who has at best taken advantage of you and at worst, abused you, you are screaming with your actions ‘I DON’T RESPECT MYSELF ENOUGH‘.
Whatever deluded ideas they have about their reasons for not treating you decently in the relationship, you just legitimised them. They just got off scot free and should you ever find yourself in the position of telling them all about themselves, some will have no shame in reminding you that you either offered or accepted the hand of friendship.
Life requires consequences and it is the only way that we learn from our actions and get to connect the dots with what results. Shady folk, and yes assclowns, don’t experience enough natural consequences. If they did, they’d have to address their issues. Instead, where one person won’t put up with their assholery, someone else will. Even worse, too many people take responsibility for their behaviour and hunt them down.
If the consequence that you create for someone after they have used you up in a relationship, is to not only offer or take the hand of friendship, but to continue to be there for a shag, an ego stroke, or a shoulder to lean on, hanging around, waiting for scraps of attention and behaving like a dutiful friend, the only ‘consequence’ that they are learning is that they can continue to reap the fringe benefits of your misguided affections. There are certainly no negative consequences.
Let me say as I’ve said many times before: If someone didn’t treat you with love, care, trust, and respect in the relationship, you can be damn sure that they will not make a friend of any reasonable level once you’re out. The same person that doesn’t give a damn about your feelings isn’t going to give a hoot when it’s over. They’re not thinking about you; they’re thinking about themselves.
Have some self-respect because trying to be friends with someone who has little or no respect for you will rob you of your dignity. That’s you robbing you, not them.
Every.Single.Time you play happy clapper friends with an ex that mistreated you, you’re saying I love you more than I love myself and you didn’t actually treat me as badly as you know or I know you did, because if you did, there’s no way in hell I should be giving you the time of day let alone anything else. That doesn’t actually mean that what they did didn’t happen, but it’s you that’s watering it down by trying to massage your ego with friendship. You’re marginalising yourself and you’re also marginalising what you experienced. You want them to have even an iota of an idea of what they have put you through? Cut.Them.Off. Let them miss out on you. Let them go and mess with someone else.
It is not your job to fix/heal/help or teach them a lesson so that you get to be ‘right’ and validated.
In life, when it comes to breaking up, we all have narcissistic tendencies. We want to feel less rejected or feel like less of an asshole. But it’s best to keep your ego in check because if you let these desires overwhelm and hijack you, you will make friends with the wolf or if you’re the assclown, ‘friendship fake’ to make yourself feel less of a creep.
If you broke up with someone because they couldn’t give you the relationship you want and they treated you without love, care, trust, and respect, your only option is to distance yourself from them so that you can grieve the relationship and move on. Don’t try to be their friend so you can validate yourself and be ‘right’ because you’re doing it at the expense of your self-respect.
Use No Contact for several months and put a complete focus on you, and if after you have genuinely spent 100% of your efforts distancing yourself from the source of your pain and doing everything to let go of the relationship, heal, and move on, you still feel a burning desire to be their friend, go ahead and put your hand in the fire. Trust me when I say it will still burn, but it’ll be a lesson learned.
There is another universal relationship norm that many people believe in which is that you should attempt to be friends with your ex. What is forgotten is that you should only attempt to be friends with an ex that 1) treated you well and 2) when enough time has passed and you have both gotten over the loss of the relationship. Let me assure you, for those of you hankering for friendship with people who didn’t treat you well, this is not you and it would serve you well to remember how poorly you were treated instead of trying to magic up a friendship out of thin air.
I’ve painted the girls bunk bed, something I’ve been meaning to do for nearly a year. It was fun! And messy.
I must need my sleep as I haven’t been able to keep my eyes open long enough to watch the rest of Orange Is The New Black or to read more than a few pages of a book.
I did start watching a film called ’10 Years’ this morning (check me with the lie-in) with Channing Tatum. Lots of ex tension in this. It reminded me that I want to watch 500 Days of Summer again.
The house looks like we’ve been burgled as I’ve been on a decluttering rampage. Thank feck the cleaner’s coming tomorrow although I tidy in advance of the cleaner coming. Yawning already…
Been doing lots of arts and craft stuff with the kids. When my back was turned they splattered the wall with paint… Bejaysus!
I’ve replenished my underwear drawer, something else I’ve been meaning to do for months.
I get a pain in my finger every time work related stuff – hilarious! My body is saying ‘Hurry the eff up and get back to your holiday!’