Been there, fucked that
Can you really be friends with your ex?
Can you really be friends with your ex?
The short answer is: no. The long answer is: well, yeah… maybe.
The end of a relationship is the end of a cycle. Cycles need to be honoured. Cycles need their winter – the time for dark, quiet, wild, watery release. As much as they need their summer – the time of play, colour, movement, laughter, light.
Trying to stay friends with your ex can be a little like trying to keep your bathers on during winter. Throwing yourself in the ocean in the middle of a storm just to feel… something. However, we also know that love is not so black and white. Not so, hot and cold. Every intimate connection we make is entwined with its own story, special places and shared revelations.
So instead of questioning whether it’s possible to be friends, ask: What do I really want from this connection? If there was a long-standing friendship before the intimate love, maybe it’s possible to go back to that place once the cycle has been honoured in time and tears.
When we think of friendships though, we often bring to mind people in our life who champion our wins, our love life, our joy, our magic. Is your ex really someone who can push the summer of love you shared aside to be this friend for you?
Take a moment to dig deep and consider this: Do you really want to be mates with them or is it that you actually (subconsciously or not) want to them back? If you reflect on the basis of your relationship without the sexual element, were they actually a good friend to you when you were lovers? In a healthy intimate relationship, love and friendship are bound together by each other.
Love comes from a genuine place of care and is not simply a by-product of the sexual elements of your relationships. Love is generous, kind, and whole-hearted. How gentle and graceful were they with your heart? This is a wonderful measure of someone who can be a good friend to you, as friendships require a great deal of love and patience too. Love also requires action, not simply words.
What are they currently showing you about their capacity to be a loving friend?
Why didn’t it work?
At risk of getting all Agony Aunt on you, if you look back on the events that unfolded in the tumbling down of the relationship, which part was not working? If its demise had anything to do with cheating, a lack of respect, or dishonesty, would you even accept this in a friendship? In many ways, friendships are more sacred than sexual relationships, and often last longer, so we need the same kind of boundaries and deep mutual respect within them.
Full disclosure: pandemic life has created circumstances which may be unprecedented in terms of our love lives. The formation and falling apart of lovers in the past couple of years has occurred through the lens of Facetime calls, sick family members, lacking libidos (can’t blame you), seas separating people, first dates while wearing masks, isolating from lovers and quarantining in tiny rooms with them.
So, I’m going to do you a favour and cut you some slack. Similar to when the First World War happened, it’s totally fair that us humans crave real, deep, secure connection at a time where we fear losing this kind of stability on multiple levels in our lives. We have been challenged by this on a fundamental level lately, in ways that are both deeply personal, highly political and at times might have felt like we had total control taken from us. Bringing us to our knees to surrender over and over to unfathomable change. Of course you crave connection, darling. But when we are scared to lose ‘another thing’ in our lives, we might try to hang on too long to something that is no longer serving us.
If you’re going to do it, do it with boundaries.
If you’ve gone through the checklist and you’ve realised that you do want to stay connected to your ex-lover human, do it with a strong container (AKA clear boundaries and intention).
What kind of friends will you be? Discuss this with them. Maybe you will chat online occasionally about your favourite new music because that was something you shared. Maybe you just want to know each other is doing okay in pandemic life and have a phone call every few months, where you agree not to mention current partners. Or it could look like having no social media connection but still catching up for a coffee and beach swim each month.
Re-building a friendship with someone who has been between your legs many times takes time. Generally, it is a good idea to avoid adding booze, casual sex, taking about new lovers (maybe with time) or watching rom-coms together to the mix. If you both genuinely want a friendship and not to re-light the old flame, there should be a mutual willingness for conversations around boundaries to ensure respect and relational safety.
Light my fire, again
Life’s short and some fires aren’t meant to burn forever. But sometimes the flame does just need a little more kindling and a cool evening with a good vino. For sure, most times we do just need to learn to walk away. In fact, this is what we must do to keep growing. Especially, when we aren’t nourished by our lover anymore. Sometimes though, with self-work and reflection from both lovers and the time and space to come back to love with an even bigger heart, the flame takes again.
Disclaimer: coming back to love, only really works when the lovers are on the same page. You cannot force someone back into love with you because consent in love matters, honey. If it’s a one-sided experience, embrace your internal winter. Sunshine will come, promise! But if you both really want it? And you’re both there willing, waiting and ready to re-build this thing like your joy depends upon it? Then, fuck friendship.
Fight for it. Work for it together. Go and be love.