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love life: should you remain friends with an ex?

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I have been thinking about my former attachments – for want of a better word – and relationships, generally, in the past few weeks, which is the logical outcome of writing on the stuff.  Every fortnight, as the black mist of the writer’s deadline approaches, I ponder the relevance, the meaning, the point – whatevs – of relationships altogether. Why even bother with them? And why should I care what my exes are up to nowadays? But the question came back like a bad melon: should I have remained friends with my exes?

Well. In my salad days, I believed it perfectly acceptable to occasionally meet up for coffee with former lovers/boyfriends (call them what you will). Because isn’t it so nice that we can still be friends. Friendly friends. But nowadays I’m old and cynical and look upon boyfriends past with a quiet weariness. I came to the conclusion that, yes, my exes might just as well be dead to me. Nay, we at ‘Love Life’ are not a heartless bitch. I just cannot think of one good reason to continue seeing an ex.

Sometimes (rarely), spending time with an ex rekindles old feelings and heralds the beginning of a new relationship, but more often, it turns into coldness because one person isn’t getting what they want. If the breakup was not mutual you are in one of two camps: you want your ex back or you got rid of them and your ex wants you back. The first camp is decidedly the worse place to be in. In this case, seeing your ex does nothing but recall the wistful feelings of a love long passed. It’s a bit like the memories triggered by a particular sad song, but in this case the memories may very well cause a series of recollections that lead to feeling hurt again. Cue resentment.

The plot thickens. Spending time with your ex – especially if you are still attracted to them – may prevent you from moving on and finding someone else because seeing them, albeit occasionally,  may still feed your need for someone special. But ultimately it never satiates that need; it simply dilutes it. I believe that there is nothing but a wide and empty chasm between a relationship and complete coldness. Yet I know plenty of people who still see their exes occasionally. What is behind their actions and what do they gain from doing such a thing? Is what they have really friendship, in the full complete, rosy, sense of the word? If not, why would it be worth their time?

My reasoning goes thus: I have no shortage of friends in my life, so why do I need this particular person to be my friend, especially if they left me? It is almost masochistic, like chasing a phantom relationship that does not exist anymore. And could they really be a friend? I would not feel comfortable telling them about my escapades (or any intimate facts about my life), nor do I want to hear about the person they have been seeing lately. And then there’s memory. Memory is a powerful and a dangerous thing. Is it not enough to say that the time we spent together was a beautiful, passionately felt time in our lives and to box it away, far into the vaults of memory? Because, alas, the feelings and emotions that a relationship excites can only be experienced at the time and never recalled.

Such reflections do not mean that you cannot be kind, or have a laugh or two when you do bump into an ex. But actively seeking out time with them seems absurd.

Disagree with me? Say why in the comments. Maybe we at ‘Love Life’ are overly sensitive, very immature, or both. Far be it for me to dictate what you should all do in your love lives.

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