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Poll: “Do You Stay Friends With Your Exes?”

This week on Dear Wendy, exes have been a bit of a recurring theme — specifically, friendships with exes. So I thought I’d put up a poll to see how many of you remain friends with your exes and what your thoughts are about maintaining those ties. And if you have never stayed friendly with an ex, what are your feelings about your current or future partner having friendships with exes? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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avatar Beckaleigh September 28, 2011, 12:17 pm

I am only friendly with one ex and that’s because we have a child together. Otherwise, I don’t think we’d keep in touch.

avatar honeybeenicki September 28, 2011, 12:33 pm

That’s more than a lot of people can handle, even with kids involved. My husband and his ex-wife aren’t exactly even what you’d call “friendly.” Actually… she’s friendlier to me than him, but they are at least civil when the kids are around.

avatar Beckaleigh September 28, 2011, 12:47 pm

It wasn’t always friendly, but after almost 11 years of sharing a child and not being together, we’ve come to understand that its not in anyone’s interest to bicker. I know that this doesn’t always happen so I feel lucky that we can be friendly and not have to worry about the other one running to court every two seconds for something silly.

avatar honeybeenicki September 28, 2011, 1:05 pm

When my husband and his ex first split, it was actually quite friendly but after she got together with someone else (one of his friends) and they ultimately got married, she suddenly became nearly unbearable and wasn’t willing to work with us for anything. She even stood by while he screamed at my husband in the street in front of their house about how he was a deadbeat dad that never saw his kids and never paid child support (he sees them every other weekend, a few days a week, and a few weeks over school break and child support comes straight from his check). I wish everyone could just have amicable relationships when there are kids involved because the kid(s) will always be most important.

avatar honeybeenicki September 28, 2011, 12:22 pm

I am not friends with anyone that I was serious with (and thats because I haven’t found one worth being friends with), but people I casually dated (for only a short amount of time) or exes from high school or early in college are fair game for friendship if it ended well.

avatar MsMisery September 28, 2011, 1:12 pm

Same here. I am only friends with one “ex,” and we really only dated for a month, casually. There wasn’t enough time or effort given for us to damage each other. But all my other exes need to not exist.

avatar silver_dragon_girl September 28, 2011, 12:24 pm

I tried to stay friends with an ex once. It was a disaster. That is one mistake I have learned from and will never make again.

For instance, I haven’t spoken to my most recent ex in two months. Today is his birthday- when I was weaning myself off of talking to him all day, I told myself that on his birthday I could tell him “happy birthday” because by then it would have been long enough.

And today I thought to myself, “Yeah, no. Not gonna even go down that road.”

No good can come of it.

Budj budjer September 28, 2011, 12:25 pm

Fb friends and would be pleasant in person but typically I can’t revert to friends on any level more than acquaintance-like if I have been romantically involved.

avatar ForeverYoung September 28, 2011, 12:30 pm

I chose the option of “I haven’t met one I would want to stay in touch with”. I think for me, when i’m in a relationship I am completely vulnerable with that person and give pieces of myself to them that I don’t give to friends. Like they get to see every insecurity and flaw that I keep hidden from the rest of the world. That’s why for me after a break up I can’t find myself wanting to be friends with them. I just think when I break up with someone it has always been because of a breach of trust – whether it’s cheating or something small like I trusted that we would be able to make it through the ups and downs. So when that trust is broken – even if it was broken in a relatively nice way – I don’t want to remain friendly with them. I hold them to a higher standard than my friends – so when it’s over I can’t really downgrade to a friendship relationship.

I don’t think I explained that well, but hopefully y’all can read between the lines.

avatar overit September 29, 2011, 3:54 pm

No I get what you mean. I feel the same way. Once somebody’s seen you naked at some of your most vulnerable moments (especially during intimacy) it’s never going to go back to way it used to be before you two were together. And what I’ve normally noticed is that a lot of times the two in the relationship (or at least 1 party) never wanted to be friends in the first place, so how would it happen after the fact? Then again maybe I’m too cynical. :/

avatar AliceInDairyland September 28, 2011, 12:30 pm

I am friends with my last ex (and only long-term-relationship-ex) however we certainly aren’t what I would call GOOD friends simply because I am busy, have a boyfriend, work and have lots of other friends and naturally he just ends up on the bottom of the totem pole of priorities. We talk on the phone probably once a month and meet up every 3-4 months just to catch up.

We dated for a little over 2 years, and since I am 21 that was a big part of my life. We started dating when I was 17 and so we had one year of highschool and one year of me being in college (he was a year younger). I knew he was not a person I was going to spend the rest of my life with after a few months, but I did really enjoy spending time with him and I learned a lot from the relationship.

As we have talked about before… I LOVED my ex, but I was never IN LOVE with my ex and maybe that makes being friends easier? (As to how you can date someone for 2 years and not be in love with them is a different story for a different day…) He is a good person, and we basically grew up together and I learned a lot from the relationship. I still love him, care about him, and want the best for him and so he knows if he needs anything (most often it is advice) he can come to me. However I have set up some excellent boundaries for myself so I don’t end up being emotionally attached to his success and failures like I used to.

avatar thyme September 28, 2011, 12:35 pm

I am “friendly” with all my exes in that we send “happy birthday” texts and catch up on the phone like once or twice a year. Maybe have coffee or something less than once a year. But I don’t regularly hang out with any of them.

But then, I’ve never been in a relationship with someone I had any pre-existing mutual friends with. I can imagine becoming friends with an ex that you have lots of mutual friends with.

I still think the healthiest (and least-painful, in the long run) way to break up with a person is to completely avoid contact with that person until you are good and over them romantically. And if it makes your stomach turn to hear about his new lady, you are not over him yet.

avatar LSS86 September 28, 2011, 6:14 pm

I’m the same way. I completely cut off communication with a couple of my exes, but all the other ones – even the ones who didn’t treat me very well – still get a “happy birthday” or a friendly chat if I run into them.

avatar Ladybug September 28, 2011, 12:46 pm

I’m not best friends with any of my exes, but I’m still FB friends with most of them since most of the relationships ended on good terms. The ones I’m friendliest with don’t live near me, so there’s not much face time. One of them is actually married to the friend we met through, and she’s one of my best friends from college, so the three of us hang out whenever I’m in the area.

avatar GatorGirl September 28, 2011, 12:50 pm

I picked “I haven’t met one I would want to stay in touch with” option which is 99% true. The only ex I am remotely friendly with is my BF from high school and that consists of like 2 Facebook messages. Our relationship ended so long ago and sort of amicably, I have no bad feelings more like no feelings at all. My most recent ex was emotionaly and physically abusive- so I have ZERO desire to ever even be in the same state as him again let alone a friendship.

I’ve struggled with this issue with my now BF, his ex wanted to be friends with not only him, but me too. I just couldn’t do it, I just thought it was too weird. We’ve moved to another state, so it’s not really an issue anymore, but it was strange at first.

avatar Ktfran September 28, 2011, 12:54 pm

I’m not friends with anyone I casually dated. However, I’ve had three serious relationships, one of which resulted in a broken engagement. All of those relationships ended for different reasons but they ended amicably and with nothing but respect for one another. Two of them, I remained friendly with for years afterwards but eventually lost contact. Life happens. One of them, I’m still friends with.

I can understand if it were a bad breakup, not wanting to remain friends. But, if it was decided you were better off as friends, I see nothing wrong with keeping in touch. If someone I was seeing had a problem with that, I would end that relationship because that’s not the kind of relationship I want. Vice versa. I wouldn’t tell someone not to be friends with another person. Even if it is an ex, or a girl, or a friend I didn’t care for.

The way I see it, if you aren’t secure in your current relationship, what’s the point of being in that relationship? I think jealousy over exes, friends, family members, children, etc. are a sign of insecurity and I want nothing to do with that. But that’s just me.

avatar honeybeenicki September 28, 2011, 1:07 pm

I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head.

mandalee mandalee September 28, 2011, 1:21 pm

I’m not friends with any of my exes. The most recent ex before my husband wanted desperately to remain friends for some reason, but in reality there was just too much water under the bridge for that to happen. He wasn’t the greatest boyfriend, so I had no idea why he thought he’d make a good friend.

I don’t mind if my husband was friends with any of his exes, as long as they weren’t crazy or still hung up on him. One of his random hookups years before me ended up dating one of his college roommates and we’re both friendly with her. I’d like her a lot more if she didn’t constantly mention their two night hookup in passing LOL but what can ya do?

My rule for exes are if they are interfering with your relationship or are causing issues, that’s when they are the problem. Most of the time though emotional baggage+previous naked time together+drama-free future, doesn’t always mix. If you weren’t friends before you dated, why on earth would you want to be friends after?

avatar Kerrycontrary September 28, 2011, 1:27 pm

I cannot be friends with an ex that I had a serious long-term relationship with. Or someone who really burned me either during the relationship or after the breakup. The only people I’m friendly with (as in friends on facebook, will make small talk) are guys that I dated casually and I wasn’t serious with. Then there’s no hard feelings or awkwardness.

BriarRose BriarRose September 28, 2011, 1:33 pm

This is actually something I’m struggling with right now. My boyfriend and I broke up about a month ago (I started it and he ended it, so I guess I’ll call it amicable). He truly wants to be friends, and has expressed that in being friends, he hopes we can get back together. So we’ve hung out several times in the last month, and are going to his friend’s wedding this Saturday. But I’m finding it to be too difficult-whereas I once I had hope we’d figure things out and get back together, now I’m just annoyed, sad, and confused. I miss him and what we had, I still care for him deeply, but contact from him is sporadic and while I know I have no right to get upset (after all, we’re just “friends”), it still hurts to feel ignored. I’m past the point of thinking we’ll get back together, but I miss him and it’s quite tempting to think we can hang out and be friends. I know realistically we both need time apart to get to the place we can genuinely be friends, but neither of us is strong enough to enfore that time apart. Ugh.

avatar moonflowers September 28, 2011, 1:53 pm

Sorry about all the stuff you’re going through. Two recommendations that might make it a bit easier:

1) Remind yourself, “ex-boyfriend.” Don’t call him your boyfriend. It will hurt a bit the first few times, but keep saying it to be realistic. If you do get back with him, you can change it back to “boyfriend,” but right now, call him for what he is.

2) No contact. Seeing him is only going to cause you pain, confusion, and frustration. If the plan is to try to get back together, you need time to heal from the hurt of the breakup and to deal with whatever broke you two up in the first place, to get the second time around off to a good start.

No contact (no face to face, phone, email, text, IM, facebook, etc) gives you the space to heal and freedom from the huge torrent of emotions that can hijack your mind every time you run into him.

And if you don’t get back with him in the end, no contact helps you get over him faster so the pain won’t linger as much as it would if you keep seeing him regularly and reopening that wound.

Hang in there. *hugs*

BriarRose BriarRose September 28, 2011, 2:56 pm

Thanks so much for your reply! That was very nice and unexpected….I was just rambling into the ether. I have to laugh at myself, because I didn’t even realize I called him my “boyfriend” while writing. Force of habit, I guess. I will cop to being somewhat in denial though, because for the first week or two, hearing “I love you” from this man who just a week prior, had indeed been my boyfriend, made it difficult to think otherwise.

The really sad part (at least to me) is that my mature, rational side has come to accept that we truly aren’t right for each other and that this break up needs to stick. The part of me that truly loves him, despite everything, is mightly pissed at me and my stupid maturity.

avatar lets_be_honest September 28, 2011, 3:12 pm

Your last paragraph is so adorable and so sad at the same time. Best of luck!

avatar moonflowers September 28, 2011, 1:44 pm

My ex is the type of guy who cuts off all contact with past romantic interests – I saw that behavior whenever we’d run into a girl he used to like. So it doesn’t surprise me that he’s never tried to be friends, and that doesn’t encourage me to try to be friendly with him either. We weren’t friends before we dated, and part of why we broke up was our incompatibility, so it makes sense we’re not close now.

Whew. I used to think I was a terrible person for not being mature enough to be friends with my ex, but it seems like irrecoverable relationships are more common than I’d thought.

avatar MsMisery September 28, 2011, 3:02 pm

I don’t think maturity has anything to do with it. How many relationships end on a good note? Or are healthy for their entire span? If they were, we’d never break up with anyone. It’s unrealistic to be friends with someone that you had “more-than-friends” feelings for and then they hurt you badly. “Being the bigger person” can get bent. 8-|

avatar Morgan September 28, 2011, 1:46 pm

It really really depends on whether we were friends before we started dating. I have one ex who I am still very good friends with, because we were friends first. Other exes, most of whom I only casually dated anyway, I’d say I’m friendly with, but we aren’t close friends because we were never really that close.

avatar Calle September 28, 2011, 2:12 pm

It depends on the situation. For me, I am only friendly with a few guys I had short term relationships with (we were casual but exclusive). However, it isn’t a close friendship in any of the cases. Personally, I am cool with any potential boyfriend being friends with an ex if it was a casual relationship or if they happened to have a child together. However, I really, really have a hard time understanding people who are super close friends with someone they shared a serious relationship with if there wasn’t any pre-existing ties, like mutual friends. I dated a guy like that once and he said “well, she was a big part of my life.” That’s cool and all, but it was weird when the two wanted to hang out solo during the weekends sometimes and the fact that I found out she was discussing her relationship problems with him. That was crossing a line for me. I supposed for me certain things, like being around someone you were once in love with, should stay in the past if you hope to move on and fall in love again. Anyway, my ex’s friend’s boyfriend broke up with her because of the friendship and I broke up with the ex because of it too. Last I heard, a friend of mine told me that the two are still friends and were bad talking both me and the other guy for being “immature.” I really think people just need to respect that everyone has a certain set of boundaries.

avatar Calle September 28, 2011, 2:12 pm

It depends on the situation. For me, I am only friendly with a few guys I had short term relationships with (we were casual but exclusive). However, it isn’t a close friendship in any of the cases. Personally, I am cool with any potential boyfriend being friends with an ex if it was a casual relationship or if they happened to have a child together. However, I really, really have a hard time understanding people who are super close friends with someone they shared a serious relationship with if there wasn’t any pre-existing ties, like mutual friends. I dated a guy like that once and he said “well, she was a big part of my life.” That’s cool and all, but it was weird when the two wanted to hang out solo during the weekends sometimes and the fact that I found out she was discussing her relationship problems with him. That was crossing a line for me. I supposed for me certain things, like being around someone you were once in love with, should stay in the past if you hope to move on and fall in love again. Anyway, my ex’s friend’s boyfriend broke up with her because of the friendship and I broke up with the ex because of it too. Last I heard, a friend of mine told me that the two are still friends and were bad talking both me and the other guy for being “immature.” I really think people just need to respect that everyone has a certain set of boundaries.

avatar Calle September 28, 2011, 2:17 pm

I forgot to add, part of the issue was that I kept thinking was that you guys hang out together a lot, are good friends who discuss personal matters, and were once in love, and are so close that you insist that person is a huge part of your life. What’s to keep you from going back if there wasn’t a nasty break up or cheating?

avatar Natasia Rose September 28, 2011, 2:50 pm

I’m friends with almost all my exes and one of them is still my bff even now that we are both married to other people. The only ones I don’t talk to are the ones that specifically asked to break off contact permanently and I can both understand and respect that. I can see how after a messy relationship it would be better to cut off contact completely!

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't September 28, 2011, 3:16 pm

One casual ex from high school (now gay- ha!) who is still one of my dearest friends. One ex who I’m FB friends with and who I see occasionally through mutual friends (we’re civil in public and make no effort to talk to each other outside of that). He’s not a very nice human being though, so I don’t really *want* to be friends with him.

And my most recent ex, who dumped me horribly and then added insult to injury by un-friending me on facebook. So needless to say, we’re not friends and I dare say won’t ever be friends. it was a clean break because we really had no mutual friends and are geographically distant, so I don’t have to worry about bumping into him randomly. Maybe in a few years time, we’ll get in contact again, but I highly doubt it- there was too large a betrayal of trust involved in our breakup for me to ever be able to trust him in any capacity again.

avatar ApplePancakes September 28, 2011, 3:35 pm

I haven’t remained friends with any exes beyond just casual acquaintances. For me, I don’t feel like I can switch to “friend” level with someone I’ve been that intimate with.

It used to not bother me much when a significant other kept in friendly contact with an ex, until one certain relationship. He still had feelings for his ex that broke up with him a few months before he got together with me, and insisted they could still just be friends. He was pretty traumatized by that messy break-up, and obliviously said and did some pretty stupid and mean things to me that made it clear I was in second place after her. For him, in that situation, staying friends with her was total BS, and he could never admit it. Even years after I knew he was over her, he still thought being friends with her was a good idea. Maybe in some alternate universe they could have been, but I felt like I would never be okay with him being friends with her because of how deeply I had been hurt by his feelings for her in the beginning. Maybe that wasn’t mature of me, but I couldn’t stand the reminder of all of the hurtful stuff and emotional baggage from those early days.