Being willing and able to maintain a friendship with someone you've actually loved in the past always seemed to me to be civilized and evolved, the height of maturity. I've always prided myself on having had amicable break ups and maintaining good ties with ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends.
But I'm no longer the idealistic version of myself who thought partners who had survived failed romantic entanglements should keep themselves semi-entangled in an uncomfortable bond simply for the sake of emotional maturity.
I now think it's possibly more responsible and definitely more preferable to cut ties and move on.
Because I've tried and tried and tried to be "friends" with exes. By most people's measure I've even been successful at it. My exes LOVE me. But in the end, maintaining those relationships has been great for them and has sucked for me. And with friends like that …?
Below are three reasons I gave up the niceties and stopped being friends with my exes.
1. I realized I didn't even LIKE my ex.
First, there was Ex-Husband Number 1. He's the ex my friends lovingly refer to as "the asshole." Materialistic, misogynistic and not even attractive, we decided we'd be friends after the divorce. We even traveled together, went to shows and I introduced him to the woman who would be his next girlfriend. (He treated her like crap, too.) After some time passed I realized he was still the same man I had fallen for, married, didn't actually like and had worked super hard to become unmarried to. Why on Earth was I maintaining contact?
2. I realized I was encouraging false hope.
Then there was Ex-Husband Number 2. I'd learned my lesson and married a genuinely nice guy. But where the first one had been materialistic and willing to work hard to pay for all that he desired, the second one was the world's greatest slacker, who literally referred to me as his "savior," after I let him move in when he'd been evicted for not paying rent.
When that marriage ended, I remained focused on how sweet a guy he was. And who doesn't want a sweet guy as a friend? But because I'd been his "savior" (and not a lot of folks here ever meet, let alone marry, their "savior"), he always held a torch. It took me 10 years of post-marriage friendship, which included enduring his inappropriate flirtations, innuendo and affirmation-seeking, to realize that maintaining a friendship with him was in actuality giving him false hope for a possible reconciliation.
3. I realized I was doing it for the kid.
And then there was Most Recent Ex-Boyfriend. Most Recent Ex-Boyfriend retained a special place in my heart because he actually maintains a warm and loving relationship with my nine-year-old son. They've been close since we first started dating, when my son was five. But it's taken me nearly two years post-breakup and enough continued condescending lectures, dismissive comments and backhanded compliments to recognize that though the two of THEM can maintain a warm friendship (I mean, THEY never broke up, right?), the two of us really don't need to.
Basically what I've realized is that the reasons I broke up with them in the first place still apply -- whether lover, partner, or friend. And just so you know, meanness, greed, slackerdom and arrogant disregard actually become even less palatable after you are no longer in love with someone.
On the whole, friendship should feel good, be life-affirming and provide comfort in a harsh, harsh world. And though it might make you sound mature and evolved to be able to say, "Yeah, that's my ex, but we're still friends," if that's the biggest benefit you get from maintaining a friendship with someone you thought it was best to say sayonara to, take it from me -- it's not worth it.