February 9, 2009

So You Want To Be Friends With An Ex

Posted in *cringe*, Advice I have no business giving at 10:25 am by Dagny Taggart

Part I

It can happen.  I’ve seen it happen.  I”m currently the beneficiary of a few such friendships.  Not, it should be noted, with anyone I’ve dated seriously (though the ex-fiancé and his wife would be happy to see me, I think, if I ventured into their neck of the woods). 

Friendship is a relationship, just like dating, engagement, and marriage are relationships.  This means that for the relationship to be a good fit, for things to work, one needs to have respect, some amount of things in common, and some degree of trust.  The first and the last are generally where things go wrong in any kind of relationship.

A lot of people feel that friendship has a different set of boundaries than romantic relationships.  And if you’ve ended your romantic association and want to be friends afterwards, it’s likely you make that distinction, as well.  So the first rule?  Respect each other’s boundaries.

You might not always know what that person’s boundaries are, especially if you didn’t know each other before you dated, or date for very long.  If that’s the case, then just tread carefully.  Ask questions if you want to know something, but be prepared to accept a non-answer.  And accept that non-answer gracefully.  This gives you more information about what kind of friendship the other person deems acceptable, and then you have the option of deciding whether or not you want to participate.

As with any other relationship, it’s helpful to remind yourself that the other person’s choices aren’t wrong.  They get to do what is best for them, and set boundaries that allow them to live as angst-free as possible.  So when someone says, “The kinds of friends I want to have wouldn’t say that/share that/treat me like that”, your only respectful choices are to say, “Okay, I’ll try not to do that again,” or “I don’t really think we can maintain the kind of friendship I’d like to have, then.”

If someone didn’t respect you when you were dating, it’s going to be hard to establish that respect as friends.

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4 Comments »

  1. I-66 said,

    I find it necessary to differentiate between actual friends and mere acquaintances in post-relationship relationships. I am not friends with any of my exes, however I maintain Facebook acquaintance status (which really should be an elective option when friending someone). There are many differences.

  2. Lisa said,

    I am friends with one ex, but I think that only worked out because he lives across the country and we had a lot of time and physical distance before reconnecting as friends. And we’re friends in that we email a couple times a year and I saw him and his family when I was out in CA, and if they came to DC I’d be happy to introduce them to Nick. But a day-to-day friendship? Haven’t been able to manage a healthy one.

  3. In one of the more odd moments of my life, I hosted an engagement party for an all caps EX. It took us a long time to get back to friends after our rather ugly break (ugly for me) but we got there eventually.

  4. Fluffycat said,

    This is very apt for my life at the moment. Very true about the mutual respect.


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