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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Can you be friends with an ex?

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And as we stood in the elevator, it seemed like a romantic comedy. Two people whose last interaction involved screaming and crying were talking. There was no screaming or yelling. It was pleasant and fun. She laid her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her shoulders and walked her off the elevator. I couldn’t help but wonder, can you really be friends an ex?

Obviously, if you have children, the calculus is different. Kids need their parents if its safe to do so. Sometimes it is not and saving children from further abuse or instability of any kind must be the primary consideration. However, what happens when there are no children to consider? Is it worth being friends with your ex?

The consensus is that checking in with an ex is alright but interactions should not be more than every few months. Like a distant friend of acquaintance. She wanted to be friends. I had blocked her everywhere. I walk away from my relationships with a clean break. And after how things ended, I didn’t want any connections. After 6 months of travel I drifted back to Seattle. This put us on opposite coasts and given all that had happened I was quite content with this idea. When she messaged me on one of the services I hadn’t blocked her on I stared at the message for a few moments before deciding to reply.

The first time I saw her she was getting out of an Uber that I insisted on paying for. Our breakup had been dramatic. I wrote about it previously. She was in Seattle, on the wrong side of the country but she had finally come west. I was surprised but felt like after a year and half I would meet her on my turf for once. She was in my city; my rules. I had fallen for her offer of sex. I was still convinced she was going to scream at me and tell me how awful I was. I invited her to my car for a cigarette. One cigarette turned into 5 or 6 and I invited her upstairs. It was 2 am but no one was tired. I had planned to work all night. I had plenty to do. But now we were catching up on the last 18 months. Where we had spent the pandemic and how the whole thing had gone.

We made love it at least tried to. The fault was in me. One disadvantage of my new medications for autism and adhd is that engine failure can strike at any time. Fortunately, we had been here before. We ended and cuddled as we passed into sleep. Just like the old days. Her, curled up underneath me and in my arm until I turned over to sleep on my stomach. Then she still found a way to be under me. That was her favorite place: tucked into me like a kitten under her momma.

She didn’t leave my place for 4 days. We went to the beach in ocean shores. We ordered great food. We talked about everything. We built a playlist about us. We each chose songs about each other. It was healing. Our talks were healing. I didn’t know I needed closure. But I did. I was long over our year together. I had already started to see some other people and had some other hookups. I had gotten her out of my system. But I hadn’t.

We had a good 4 days together. We had sex many more times. We cuddled and slept together and it was like the old days. It felt so lovely and familiar. It was time for her to catch her plane back to the East. I dropped her off at her friends house. We had one last teary conversation. I never drive in silence but I drove back into the city in total silence. My mind was whirling with thoughts and feelings. There were so many feelings that I didn’t know I had. I decided to give friendship a try. It couldn’t hurt to try.

So we started texting. We called and chatted. We had many more talks about us. We briefly talked about getting back together. I rejected the notion. We agreed it was a bad idea. It’s hard to navigate friendship post-breakup. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns. We fell back into those patterns too. Soon we were talking daily and FaceTiming back and forth. Our conversations went back to the way they were before the break-up. We talked about when she might come back out here. She begged me to join her in the outer banks in North Carolina. I felt like that was a little too much and I wasn’t comfortably flying in a pandemic. I had already canceled my trip to New Orleans because of the Delta variant and how it was ravaging the area. Thanks to hurricane Ida, it seems like that was wise.

I’ve written about dating bi-polar before. I was impressed with her progress. She seemed like the worst of the crazy roller-coaster had evened itself out. I was hopeful, not just because of its effects on me but because it seemed to make her life better. I was always invested in trying to give her a good life. I wanted her to be healthy and happy as she could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before she ended up in the hospital due to other medical complications and communication broke down. I was disappointed in some of the hurtful comments. I struggled with how to handle this situation. I was trying to be emotionally mature in this relationship. Somehow no matter what I did I just could not keep up. One thing to me was clear: I was not ok with wondering when I was going to be verbally attacked. I was not ok with jumping back into that cycle of hurtful words being said and the requisite apologies and excuses. I decided to walk away.

So we are left with the question posed at the beginning, can you be friends with your ex? As it turns out, in my case no. Ultimately, it was not emotionally safe for me to stay in that space. My intuition not to continue things with exes still seems to stand. This has not exactly gone well but that is a story for another time.

My advice to anyone is to follow the consensus I found online. If you want to hang out with them alone or in a group setting occasionally then that might work but keeping them around and in your phone constantly just doesn’t seem healthy. It is hard to move on and live your own life. Sometimes, the toxic behaviors or modes of being that were the reason the relationship ended in the first place are still very much present and that presents a unique problem. I found that things hadn’t changed as much I had hoped. Relationships are complicated and romantic relationships add a level of complication. Right now, I’m not dating or doing anything in the romantic sphere. I need to take more time for myself. I have things that I need to complete and things I need to do.

Cameron Cowanhttps://www.cameronjournal.com/
Cameron Cowan is a writer, thinker, and human being navigating the streets of Seattle.

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