Do you have to be friends with your ex?

Signs of cheating that might surprise you. Credit: iStock
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Picture the scene: You and your soon-to-be-ex are standing in your bedroom looking at a giant turd on the floor.

You two have argued about how it got there and who’s responsible; you’ve blamed and taken on about it; you’ve cried and shouted, sulked and moaned.

Then he leaves. The relationship is over.

But instead of cleaning the turd up, you decide to leave it there. Mr Man has left the building, but you’re still sitting with the crap.

This is what ‘trying to be friends with an ex’ looks like to me.

Because the only way you can plausibly be ‘friends’ with an ex without the shit, is if you’re both equally so over each other that, once the pressure to feign it or fix it is off, you’re able to remain amiable for the kids’ sake.

Or: You were only ever friends to begin with, but your genitals intersected with your relationship programming, got confused and thought you had to make something of it.

That’s it.

Sure there are many reasons people believe ‘trying to be friends’ is reasonable, but allow me to offer alternatives…

Got the same social circle? This isn’t kindergarten and you can make new ones. Feel sorry for him? Use your misdirected pity for charity work. Think he just needs time to figure himself out? Get a therapist and figure yourself out. You’re lonely? Get a pet. He won’t take no for an answer? Get a restraining order. Horny? Two things: Many fish in the sea and masturbation.

There. Easy Peasy.

Because, let’s get real here, after all the excuses, there are only two ways ‘trying to be friends with your ex’ goes…

One: Both partners are pretending it’s over and can’t accept that it’s over (it’ll end in sex and/or tears).

Two: One partner is pretending it’s over but can’t accept that it’s over (it’ll end in sex and/or tears).

Either way: sex and tears.

Which sounds pretty much like every relationship in my 20s and 30s.

Anyway. Look. Maybe the key to the pointlessness lies in the word ‘trying’. If you have to ‘try make something work’ – whether it’s a love relationship, friendship or a friendship with an ex love relationship – you’ve already lost out. On time, on opportunity, on new experiences…

This isn’t to say that relationships don’t take effort, they just shouldn’t be ‘trying’. They shouldn’t take the kind of effort that depletes and diminishes you and your chances of a healthy relationship.

Because clinging to the past to pull it into your future, will only ever cast a shadow over everything.

Especially potential new relationships.

If you’re texting your ex unpacking your day and feelings, while your current Mr Man is missing out on this intimate information, there’s a problem. Then you’re in a relationship with two people.

Unless all three of you are groovy with an open relationship, that kind of set-up is going to end in – that’s right – tears.

And probably no sex. So, literally, no win anywhere.

Distance and time after a break-up can offer one of the most powerful healing tools for those with a measure of emotional intelligence: perspective.

‘Should I be friends with my ex’ is the last item on your checklist of ‘figuring stuff out’ after a break-up.

Because it really isn’t about them anymore, it’s all about you.