The Ex-Factor

I’m a little (though not totally) embarrassed to say that I spent some time watching Jersey Shore this weekend. On the episode in question, Sammi and Ronnie are dating, or were dating, or might be dating. From what I can tell, they’re actually in the midst of breaking up. It’s a lot of drama that includes tears, screaming, and “anonymous” letters about Ronnie’s two-timing ways.

It got me thinking about the ridiculousness of having to live in the same space as an ex-boyfriend. If you ask me, it’s bad enough trying to be friends with one.

I am generally of the belief that it’s impossible to stay friends with an ex. There’s so often residual sexual tension, and jealousy, and unresolved emotions (fights that still sting, hearts still healing, you know the drill). Though, now that I think about it, I am friends with an ex of my own. But we only dated for a very short while, and it took a little bit of time—and both moving on to other people—before we could get there.

Maybe that’s the secret? You can be friends once you’ve both found your bigger and better?

Or maybe it’s the separation thing. I have friends who, while they are going through breakups, tell me that they and the guys are still talking because they are “trying to remain friends.” If I could shake them through the phone I would. A person needs a little breathing room. Even if the friendship will be possible eventually, time away is of the essence.

The devil’s advocate in me won’t shut up about ex-couple friends of mine. They dated through high school and college, have since broken up, but have been pretty good friends ever since. I’ve asked them both how they do it, and neither seems to have the secret. “I don’t know,” they’ll both say. “We just do.” Helpful.

We’ve already discussed whether you can stay friends with a friend’s ex. But can you stay friends with an ex? The rational part of me says no. But the part that learns by example says maybe.


{I usually don’t believe in made-up celebratory occasions like “National Pretzel Day” and “National Romance Month.” But it seems worth mentioning that some blogs I’m lucky to be acquainted with (all about friendship in various forms) are celebrating September as “The Month of Friendship.” This week, each of the five participating members are writing and sharing blog posts. We each take a very different approach to the issues surrounding these complicated relationships, so if you’re interested, go see what they have to say. Today, Debba from Girlfriendology writes about the origins of the celebration.)


Filed under The Gender Gap

10 responses to “The Ex-Factor

  1. I’ve never been able to stay friends with an ex. It just doesn’t work that way with me–it’s always onward and over.

  2. I think it depends on the circumstances surrounding your relationship and break-up, and definitely the amount of time that’s passed. I’m friends with a few of my exes, but certainly not all of them. For those that I am friends with, we’ve been broken up for at least 5 years, and we broke up either because we just weren’t right for each other romantically, or because one of us just wasn’t in a good place to be in a relationship at the time. It did take a long time for us to get back on good terms though.

    And the ones that I’m not friends with, it’s because the break-ups were ugly. Things were said that can’t be taken back, and these guys ruined significant periods of time in my life and hurt me way too much to ever let them back in.

  3. This is a tricky one. I’m on decent terms with a couple of my exes – the ones with whom the breakups weren’t too bad. By which I mean: we’re Facebook friends, but we don’t talk all that often.

    I am still actually friends with one ex – though he was always more a friend than anything. We were friends for four years before dating for two months, and though we fought like cat and dog for a while after breaking up, we’ve remained friends. We definitely needed that breathing space before we could be friends again.

    So I think it depends – on the people, on the breakup, on how you handle yourselves afterwards. Thought-provoking post, Rachel, as usual.

  4. I don’t think it is possible if you weren’t ever really friends before you were a couple, because you don’t have that history to revert to, only the history of coupledom. I think it is possible if you were friends first, but I agree that it can’t just happen immediately, it needs a good amount of time, depending on how long you were together, the level of commitment, how it ended, etc.

  5. I notice that I can stay friends with far away exes. Anyone who I dated who is actually around the city I am in now I could not be friends with. Mostly because they were always really mean to my fiance during the period when we were actually trying to stay friends. Eff that.

  6. Is it possible? Yes. For me? Not so far. Although I have exes with whom I am on good terms, I wouldn’t say any of them are friends.

  7. Emily

    I think it can only work if the breakup was truly mutual. If both people honestly recognize that it wasn’t working and are mature enough to realize that ending a relationship isn’t about “he/she sucks” but instead is about making sure both people are making the best possible life choices, then I think a friendship is possible. There may still need to be a bit of an off-period where both people recover their equilibrium, but a friendship should be possible after that. The only time I tried to remain friends with someone when the breakup wasn’t mutual was a disaster – I agreed to keep being friends because I felt guilty as the dumper, and lines kept getting blurrier until we were back together. Another breakup inevitably ensued, and it was messy and ugly and we basically have never spoken again. I’ve always been sorry for how poorly that situation went.

  8. Ana

    Agree with most of the above: Yes, its possible but only if the breakup was low-key, both have moved on, and only after some “breathing room” to heal the inevitable hurt (no matter how “mutual” it was, there is always SOMEONE who has the upper hand in a break up)

    Most of the time the “trying to be friends” just leads to encounters and conversations that stir up old feelings and prolong the healing & moving on. Its just not worth it, in my book. Unless you have to see the person for some other reason and you fall into a friendship again, I stopped actively seeking and encouraging friendships with my exes.

  9. One of my best friends is an ex. We dated for about 6 months almost 10 years ago. There was a cooling off period, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Leave a Reply to Anne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s