I Love My Exes (And Also Their New Girlfriends)

There is nothing so hilarious as the, "Gurl, I totally understand," moments that occasionally happen over margaritas when you're chilling with your ex's new gal.
Publish date:
October 9, 2012
exes, friendship

A few weeks ago, I was signing books at the East Hampton Public Library's annual Authors Night benefit. Sandwiched between the handsome David Baldacci and the lovely Kelly Killoren Bensimon, I found I had a lot of time on my hands to eavesdrop on my more popular neighbors' conversations with fans.

A lovely blonde woman rushed up to Baldacci with a nearly identical friend and announced proudly, "This is my husband's ex-wife, and she is such a fan of yours!" Baldacci, who was unfailingly polite and gracious the entire evening, kindly gave them his attention.

Later on, the ladies were joined by the husband/ex-husband, who chatted with them and seemed to be having a lovely time of it. When they were done talking, he gave his ex-wife a nice hug and walked off with his current wife, holding her hand. As I schvitzed in the sweltering heat and felt my makeup melt, I thought to myself, "Damn. Those folks have really got it right."

It is common knowledge that after a romantic relationship ends, one ought to cut the other person off entirely, get rid of all objects that remind one of the lost beloved, and possibly build an icon of the ex out of dog poop, put it in a bag, light the bag on fire, and toss it on the front doorstep of said individual. One should do this whilst listening to the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift singing about never ever ever getting back together with Donnie Darko.

Now, some exes do deserve the dog-poop-and-Taylor-Swift treatment –- maybe even with some Kelly Clarkson or Alanis thrown in for good measure. But in my experience, unless you only choose to date dicks, some of your exes might actually be worth talking to in the months or years after your breakup.

I say "months or years" because no one, and I mean no one, should try to be BFFs with a guy right after a break-up. That's just foolish and awful and may end with someone's tires getting slashed. I don't imagine the ex-wife at the Authors Night event was particularly fond of her former husband in the immediate aftermath of their divorce. I'm sure it took years to go from being at least mildly antagonistic to being at peace with the breakup to being actual friends to being buddy-buddy with his new wife.

I'm not buddies with all my exes. In fact, I think some of them are dummies. I'm sure some of my exes feel the same way about me. And if you've got an abusive ex or a crazy stalker ex or the kind of ex who regularly shits on your sunshine, I believe you should stay away from that dude. But I have noticed that I seem to be on friendly terms with more of my exes than is considered normal -– as evidenced by my brother Steve and my BFF Katherine both recently saying to me, "How are you still friends with these guys?"

I guess it gives me a certain sense of peace to have renewed an alliance with these folks. Also, some of them are really cool people -– or else I wouldn't have dated them in the first place. Why should I miss out on the nonsexual aspects of their awesomeness just because we ain't boning no more?

Plus -– and here we circle back to those gals from Authors Night -– some of them have really great taste in chicks (I mean, obviously). I don't think I could ever be friends with an ex who cheated on me, much less with the gal with whom he cheated. However, if he met her or started dating her after we broke up, I might just be able to befriend his new lady –- or (and this is even more likely) the lady after that one. I've found that they often have a lot in common with me, and there is nothing so hilarious as the, "Gurl, I totally understand," moments that occasionally happen over margaritas when you're chilling with your ex's new gal. And your bonding likely won't be limited to having seen him nekkid or having dealt with his whiny attitude regarding the New York Jets.

For example, I found over brunch recently that an ex's new-ish lady and I both used to be artsy high school teachers. Another ex's wife is raising their genius baby, and I like to ask her questions so I can file away some wisdom for my own potential future parentage. And a third ex's ex is doing a bang-up job of decorating her new apartment, but she's looking for some cool art -– so I gave her the contact info of a really talented fourth ex of mine. My head kind of started to hurt when I contemplated all the relationships contained in that last situation, but my heart felt good.

I asked some of my buddies, as well as the many fine humans on Twitter and Facebook, for their suggestions on how to build and maintain a friendship with an ex. Here's what they came up with:

"Don't ever have sex with them. Ever. Sex with an ex is like feeding a mogwai after midnight. Nothing good comes from it." – Matthew, 35

"Wait for the length of time you were together to elapse before being pals again." – Will, 38

"Wait until the point in time where you realize you're fine without your ex, and they without you. Then you can be friends without Room Elephants." – Genesis, 28

"If there are no gut wrenching feelings between the two of you it is quite possible after at least a year. You once liked something about them and you can again. It can also be a healthy way to move on sometimes as well." – Jenny, 41

"Keep it in public, keep it classy, and don't talk about your current love life. Ever." – Carly, 24

"If you're the one who broke it off and you want to be friends, be patient. Forcing it will drive them away." – Lorimer, 31

"Keep it real. Be friends with them because you want to be friends. Don't use it as an excuse to be in contact with them or to try to have input in their life." – Heather, 37

"Respect each other's choices to move forward and don't look back." – Judy, 53

"It's much easier to be friends once you are safely ensconced in a new relationship." – Tony, 42

"Know that you'll never be 'normal friends.' It'll be a different kind of thing but that's fine." – Emily, 26

"Make sure the sex was bad! That always works!" – Al, 38

What do you gals think? Is it absofreakinglutely nuts to be buds with an ex -– much less his new gal? Or is it fun and fulfilling? (And do you agree with Al that the friendship will only work if the sex sucked?) Sound off in the comments, dear ladies!