Thursday, June 11, 2009

Exes, friends, and family

In talking with a number of friends and family members recently, exes has become an overwhelmingly frequent topic. It seems that no one knows what to do about them.

First off, for those relationships that end relatively well, we often want to maintain the underlying friendship. This one seems like a no-brainer, but let me be clear about this: you cannot go straight from being romantically involved to being platonic friends. Yet almost everyone I know, both male and female, have convinced themselves at one time or other that they can be the exception to this rule. And so they begin this pattern of recapping their day to their ex while searching for/going on disconnected dates with others, until one of them finally realizes that he/she cannot rely on their ex emotionally and simultaneously try to move on, and they cut all ties. We need a cooling off period after a relationship, to get used to the others absence and rediscover our independence. Friendships can be reformed, but they must be just that: started anew after the raw emotions settle down.

Secondly, for those relationships that end not so well, how should we handle it? Whether one publicly or privately copes, we feel any from a range of passionate feelings: hurt, anger, betrayal, jealousy, longing, love and hate. It only makes sense that those who can put us on cloud nine can hurt us just as drastically, so passive feelings are not an option. Yet how long should we feel that way? If one harbors strong feelings of resentment/hatred well into their next relationship, is this simply symptomatic of the extent of emotional damage? Or is it a sign that they have not completely gotten over their ex?

Lastly, for those particularly long term relationships or marriages, what should one do about the family? Does one need to divorce the spouse's family too, even though they may have played a major role in one's own life? And if not completely, what are our obligations to the ex-family in terms of life cycle events?

As usual, I have more questions than answer, so please post your thoughts.


lightgetsin said...

oy. What a question, as usual :)
I'm only going to comment on one part of it, because I have a lot of the same questions. You ask, "If one harbors strong feelings of resentment/hatred well into their next relationship, is this simply symptomatic of the extent of emotional damage? Or is it a sign that they have not completely gotten over their ex?"

I am not sure that a sign of "getting over" someone is feeling indifferent toward them or the results of the relationship. I think we carry it all with us, and that's okay. I wouldn't expect someone who dated me to have no feelings toward me - that would seem wrong. I would think though that if someone spends more time dwelling about the past relationship, or if resentment or hatred from the past relationship prevents the person from having a happy new relationship, then it's time to address those feelings. Not in terms of 'getting over' the other person but in terms of healing and figuring out how to live with acceptance and without hate.

As for the families... I think it really depends, and I think the ex who wants to be friends with the family still should respect the member of the family's wishes. Sometimes it might be okay and sometimes not.

lightgetsin said...

oh, Amanda that was me, Vivi. Looks like they deleted my blog for nonuse. boo.

Anonymous said...

For "getting over" relationships (i.e. the time period before dating someone else or attempting to have a friendship with ex), I always felt like a good rule of thumb for the time it takes emotionally is a minimum of about 1 week for each month of dating, lol.

And you're under no obligation to continue ties with their family, unless there are children involved. Kids make everything way more complicated.

Also, as far as maintaining friendship with exes in the first place, I'm honestly not sure it's worth it most of the time. I mean, when you break up with people, it's typically because there is some aspect(s) of their personality that is a dealbreaker romantically, which might also be a dealbreaker friendship-wise. And putting a lot of emotional resources into someone that you've rejected can interfere with putting appropriate emotional resources into someone new.
If the dating period was really short (and doesn't involve sex), it would be a lot easier to see someone as a potential friend (or potential date for a friend). Because there are lots of great people that just aren't right for each other.

But in general, I think it's usually too complicated to try to continue a friendship with an ex. Certainly future partners would appreciate not having to compete with anyone. (I for one am happy that my husband does not maintain a relationship with any of his ex-girlfriends. With a handful of mine, i.e. a few guys that were dated for less than a month or two, I don't really have much contact beyond occasional facebook posts. I'm sure we are both fine with that.)

Jen N

Bela Naomi said...

this dialogue reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies:

Harry Burns: Would you like to have dinner?... Just friends.

Sally Albright: I thought you didn't believe men and women could be friends.

Harry Burns: When did I say that?

Sally Albright: On the ride to New York.

Harry Burns: No, no, no, I never said that... Yes, that's right, they can't be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can... This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted... That doesn't work either, because what happens then is, the person you're involved with can't understand why you need to be friends with the person you're just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say "No, no, no it's not true, nothing is missing from the relationship," the person you're involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you're just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let's face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can't be friends.

Yusef said...

I usually don't remember exes very well. Right after the break up I remember them all too well but once I get along with my life I forget them really easy. I know how to get in touch with all of them but whether I do depends solely on how many things remind me of them after the fact. If I remember enough good stuff then its worth touching base. None of my exes contact me because I'm an extremely difficult person to break up with :)

As for the friends and family...everyone should know that the only reason you came in contact was through the ex. Unless the person you met was an associate of your ex, then its fair. But my exes turned friends don't invite me to any cool parties. So I wouldn't know. I would definitely come through with a cushion friend though.

Simmy said...

Cold turkey--best possible approach. It is direct, to the point, and finalizes everything in a neat and tidy manner.
So that way--when you run into the bastard in public, you can all play the game of make believe. . . like nothing ever even happened. . . or one of you can leave the country. . . it is a genius approach to being an emotionally detached (fill in the blank bloggers).