Being Friends With Your Ex – Okay Or No Way?

Being friends with your ex

Most people I know absolutely can’t stand their ex- boyfriends/ex- girlfriends, ex-husbands and/or ex-wives. In my opinion, it seems almost cliché to hate your ex, like you have to, like society teaches us that if you can’t stand the person enough to get divorced, you are not allowed to be friends, like it is wrong to be friends and care about a person because you divorced them (or they divorced you or it was mutual.)

I could not disagree more. Twelve years ago, when I was living in Boston, I dated a guy for a few months. It didn’t work out, but I remember clearly that he said he wanted to be friends. “Whatever,” I thought at the time, but he said something that has always stuck with me. He told me that if you can’t or if you refuse to be friends with a person with whom you had a relationship, then you never really had anything substantial, that the relationship didn’t mean that much. “If you like someone enough to be in a relationship with that person, then you should want to be friends.” I’ve never forgotten this wise piece of insight. By the way, the guy and I have remained friends.

Now, I must confess that my ex and I have never been friends. Our relationship is pretty despicable, although I honestly can’t take all the blame for that one. For the past five years, I have tried extremely hard to be friends with my ex, not only for the benefit of our kids (which could be a whole other blog in and of itself-why it’s important to be friends with your ex solely for your kids sake) but because going back to my sweet Boston friend’s words of wisdom, I loved my ex enough to marry him. Just because the marriage didn’t work out (because we both had issues with each other and knew being married to each other was wrong) it doesn’t mean I don’t care about him. I completely care!! Yes, we still have our issues with each other, always will. But, sometimes I look at him and I think, “Aww… he can be sweet and charming.” And at times, I can’t help but smile at a funny comment he makes. And then there are the memories…the times we were happy together. Those will never be forgotten. So, I want to be friends with him, I want to know how he’s doing, I still care. And it saddens me immensely that he can’t make more of an effort to put the past behind us and be my friend.

So, what I’ve learned from that is, both people have to want the friendship. But, I truly believe that with most people, if one person reaches out and extends the olive branch and says, “Hey, I’d really like to be friends and I mean it,” the other one will come around. In most cases, I think. Be the bigger person, be the one who initiates the friendship. Who cares about your pride? Who cares who ended it! And if the person rejects you, so what? At least you can say you tried.

On another subject, I am also friends with almost every guy I’ve dated in my life. I think it’s difficult to be friends with an ex when the feelings of being hurt are still raw, but in time, if you had anything substantial, and you genuinely like the person, what’s wrong with a friendship, just because the relationship didn’t work out?? It actually makes sense, doesn’t it?

A couple weeks ago, my sister was in town and I went to meet her downtown at her company cocktail party. Since I so rarely get into the city, I decided to text a few people who live in the city to come meet me there. One was a close friend from college, the other, an old boyfriend (who I consider a really good friend.) Both of them came to meet me, and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them both. Regarding the ex, he knows I have a serious boyfriend, and that our relationship is strictly platonic. And that’s all he wants, too. In other words, there is no agenda on either of our parts to be anything more than friends.

When I was dating this guy, I truly enjoyed his company. I always knew it wouldn’t work out with him, (he’s a lot younger than I am) but four years ago, when it was over, I told him “I’d like to be friends.” And I meant it. There really wasn’t any hurt on either part and the split was mutual, both of us realizing we wanted different things. He’s extremely kind, very smart, gives great advice and it funny and fun. So, why on earth wouldn’t I want to remain friends with him? I probably see him 3 or 4 times a year, and I’m so happy about it. It’s nice to catch up with him and see how his life’s going, and tell him about my life, just like girlfriends do. Is there really that much of a difference? Of course there’s a difference between a girl and a guy friend, but my point is, this is a friendship that I appreciate, and I feel lucky to have it.

I believe a person can never have too many friends, and that all friends do is enrich our lives, they make us happy, they help us learn, they teach us how to give and love. If you once loved someone (or really dug them), then having them in your life is a gift.

So, next time you run into your ex at Starbucks, or the next time your ex comes to pick up your kids and ignores you, just say hi. Be friendly. Smile. No one ever got hurt from being too nice. Don’t worry so much about “treating him the way he treats you.” Just treat him the way you’d like to be treated and maybe tell him sometime that you’d like to be friends. Genuine friends. Think about it. He’s your family. You share kids. Or maybe you don’t, but if you were ever romantically involved, you shared a hell of a lot. So, why not keep sharing? In a platonic way. Will you ever be BFF with your ex? My guess is no. But if you can open your heart to having just one more friend, it can only make your life better.

Jackie Pilossoph

Jackie Pilossoph is the author of FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE and two other novels. She is also a freelance magazine writer and weekly newspaper columnist. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in Communication from Boston University. She lives in Chicago and is working on her fourth novel.