You Say He's Just a Friend

This is a controversial topic, so I know all of you probably have very strong feelings about this:
Can you and should you be friends with an ex under any circumstances?

I know, I know. You're probably all shaking your heads, saying "Why, TNS, why? Why are you breaking yet another break up rule? You're still in contact with SCL, and now you're thinking about being friends? What's wrong with you, woman?"

Yes, yes. I hear you. I hear your judgment. I hear your cries. I hear you, I promise.

BUT--hear me out. I think I have some important points on this, wisdom I've gained from others, and some legitimate ways of thinking about this.

First, I think the the way our culture deals with relationships in general is just plain shitty. We love falling in love. We love getting attached. But as soon as things get tough and we get broken up with, we're out the door, cutting out the person from our lives, and thinking of moving on to bigger and better things. It's a very consumerist approach to relationships. They're disposable, they're replaceable, and if one doesn't work, we throw it out for an upgrade.

Now, while this "cold turkey," rip-off-the-Bandaid approach to a break-up seems much, much harder at first than remaining in contact with an ex, I would argue it is in fact much, much easier in the long term. So, you cry your eyes out for awhile, but eventually the ex works his or her way out of your system and you're no longer thinking about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? I've done this before, and I know this is how it often goes.

What we don't think about is how we can transform our relationships over time. We cannot seem to grieve the loss of the relationship and then allow it to be become a new kind of relationship. Instead we cut out the person with whom we were in the relationship because it's just plain easier than finding a new way to move in the world as acquaintances, friends, etc.

When I was in grad school, I suffered a trauma, and a professor there really stepped up as my support when I needed it. We became quite close as I confided in her, but eventually, once some time had passed and I was no longer in crisis, she expressed that it was no longer appropriate to continue to be that kind of support to me. She was a professor, I was a student, and we needed to engage each other in new ways now that the crisis had passed. She could no longer serve as a therapist, and I could no longer depend on her the way that I had.

I was devastated. No, I was PISSED! I was angry, hurt, needy, felt rejected, all of those "break up" feelings were right there, kicking me in the gut and making me feel horribly shitty. Here was the person who supported me most during a time when I was incredibly vulnerable, and now she was abandoning me. I imagined creating crisis just to maintain the relationship. I didn't want it to change. Sound like a break up? It really kind of was.

Now that some time has passed I can appreciate her a lot more, especially what she taught me about relationships. She was the one who introduced me to the concept of transforming relationships--that the tendency in our culture is simply to cut off, not to relearn how to be with someone. With she and I, it was awkward as hell. I resisted, pushed her boundaries, and made her so angry that she eventually said she couldn't talk to me anymore about it. I felt traumatized, betrayed, and alone. But eventually, I could see her in a public place and not freak out. I learned to say "Hi, how are you?" and talk casually. And I even got to the point where I could thank her for pulling away and teaching me so much.

So, I bring this wisdom with me now. I cannot resist the changes happening in my relationship with SCL. I cannot expect him to change his mind. I cannot forget that this was the most healthy decision he could make, and ultimately it was best for me to. But what I do hope is to eventually find a new way to be in relationship with him--not a desperate one, not one in which I'm trying to manipulate him to come back, but one that allows for a new relationship to emerge. A less intense, less intimate, but nonetheless meaningful relationship.

Is it possible? I'd like to figure that out. And if it isn't, you all can have the pleasure of saying "I told you so." And who doesn't love that?


  1. I really think it just depends....In the past my wishy washy realtionships or you know casual relationships I could totally push away and go at it with a different approach, such as friends. With the LTR that had me sobbing like a buffoon for months heck no! It just didnt work, and believe me I tried, I wanted it sooo bad but the lines were blurred and it couldnt just BE friends and in the end I was hurt...AGAIN! Sorry I am rambling, hope this helps =D

  2. Not rambling at all! I'm not saying it'll work. I'm saying I'd like to have an open mind about it. If it just makes everything worse, I won't force it. I just hope that we can work it out. So far we've managed to set up good boundaries and stick to them. That seems to be a big part of it so far.