One of the biggest themes in the letters I get from people asking for advice is trouble with exes. Specifically, one or both members of a relationship have remained friendly with exes much to their partner’s chagrin. There were two letters in last week’s Shortcuts column regarding friendships with exes, and a commenter called me out over conflicting advice to each LW: “It is kind of ironic that in the first letter it is a legitimate problem that the boyfriend is still in contact with his exes but in the third it should be no concern at all.” The situations were entirely different and, therefore, called for different advice. But, I suppose a blanket tip for anyone who still keeps a friendship/relationship with an ex, for whatever reason, is to make sure whoever you date is cool with it.
Anyway, I’m curious: have you stayed friends with your exes?
joanna February 9, 2016, 1:08 pm
There are exes I’m friendly with now, but we took time and space apart after the break-up.
Sketchee February 16, 2016, 3:05 am
A similar boat here! Even then, we’re not best friends. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. Or bringing that with me into my future. Some exes demand a relationship level of attention. So they really aren’t ones who I stay friends with. They want a Break Up In Name Only.
Stonegypsy February 9, 2016, 1:15 pm
I’m friends with my exes from both of my last two serious relationships, and we are all part of the same friend group, and hang out often, both in groups and one on one. But I don’t think any of us would date or get into a relationship with someone who was uncomfortable with that
ktfran February 9, 2016, 1:18 pm
Ooh… I hope the comments get interesting on this one. I like a good debate on this site.
Portia February 9, 2016, 1:32 pm
Me too 🙂
Portia February 9, 2016, 1:30 pm
I’m not friends with my exes. Not necessarily because I never want to be friends, but it just didn’t work out. For the most part, it was because one of us was still interested romantically. I would have no problem if a partner was friends with an ex and it was just friendship, but Bassanio is the same way as me and doesn’t have friends who are exes.
snoopy128 February 9, 2016, 3:04 pm
I’m the same way.
There’s an ex or two I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but it didn’t work out.
Em February 9, 2016, 4:21 pm
There is one serious ex I actually wish I could have even a casual friendship with now. He cheated and married the other woman a hot second after we broke up, but was very special to me when we were together. I wish he’d ended things any other way because he was someone I would’ve wanted to remain in contact with, but the cheat-y breakup meant the end was very sad and a little nasty. I can’t be friends with someone who hurt me like that. We no longer live near one another so I can’t say how it’d be if we had a run-in now that almost 2 years have passed and emotions settled. Sometimes I can tell he has been checking on me online and it makes me wonder if he has regrets about how the end played out too. In any case, that door is better left closed.
I think it varies. It’s easier for me to be friends with guys I dated casually than anyone I dated seriously, but less desire to do so. I’ve had only a couple serious exes and both were cheat-y endings so the desire to know they’re well is stronger, but not a great idea IMO. If a couple was married and had kids, that makes a huge difference.
I have never had an issue with a boyfriend who was friends or friendly with his ex(es) and if I ever have that issue I think it’d be a sign I’m in the wrong relationship.
Mylaray February 9, 2016, 1:36 pm
One of my best friends is my ex. We talk everyday and see each other at least once a week. The past couple of years, my husband and I have been doing double dates with his fiancee. My friend has a condo in Miami and a bunch of our friends have gone on vacation there with my ex, and my husband hasn’t always been there. He’s a best friend far more than he is my ex. We have even gone into a side business together. My husband completely trusts me and him, but it very much didn’t start out that way. My husband was very uncomfortable with the idea of even seeing an ex, mostly due to the fact that he didn’t really have any prior relationships or know anyone who hung out with an ex. I don’t talk to any of my other exes and I think the friendship has worked out so well because we were clearly never fit for a romantic relationship.
keyblade February 9, 2016, 1:46 pm
I haven’t stayed friends with any ex for more than a couple casual years. I think there is probably a difference between former boyfriends versus a former spouse or co-parent.
gigi February 9, 2016, 1:48 pm
I am sort of friends with my ex. We went through a period of not really talking too much (except for kid stuff) right after he left, but time mellows out sharp feelings. I text him several times throughout the week, funny stuff I find on the internet, because I get his sense of humor. I have picked him up at the hospital after procedures, & he has driven me to one of mine, I make cookies for him sometimes & he works on my car sometimes. I would never take him back, & he did some really shitty things as a husband, but he is a likeable person for a friend. I think my BF is less than comfortable with this, he hates his own ex & doesn’t really understand. But that’s the way it is, & it works for me. I don’t think there can be any “blanket advice” – every situation is different.
jlyfsh February 9, 2016, 1:55 pm
I don’t have many exes and those I do have were from previous stages of life (high school and college). The friendships we did have were very surface to start and so they didn’t survive the after time had passed and everyone moved on to jobs in other states, etc. Not sure what would have happened if we all remained in the same places with similar friend circles.
The only divorcees I know didn’t have children and their marriages imploded at the end with everyone sort of hating each other. None of them remained friends to say the least!
Jane63 February 9, 2016, 2:21 pm
The only ex I am friends with is my ex husband. We were married for 20 years have been divorced for 10 and we email and text pretty much every week. Our marriage did not work, however, our friendship does. I don’t know how I would feel if I was dating someone who was friends with their ex. I don’t think I would like it. I have opted out of dating so it is not an issue for me. And if my ex is in a relationship and stops contacting me I respect that and I do not contact him.
Bittergaymark February 9, 2016, 2:23 pm
If some one can’t remain friendly with most of their exes — then that person is either a) fucking crazy. or b) somehow only dates truly horrible people…. which means they are in fact, a) fucking crazy. I rest my case.
MissDre February 9, 2016, 2:26 pm
I think there’s a difference between “remaining friendly” and actually being friends. Would I be friendly if I saw any of my ex’s out and about? Sure. The past is the past and I no longer carry any feelings, negative or positive, about any of them. Do I care what’s going on in their lives or actually want to be friends with them? Nah. Not interested.
SpaceySteph February 9, 2016, 2:30 pm
Yup totally agree. I think if someone is mortal enemies with all their exes then yes, there’s some crazy there. But if you are just not friend/not in contact but would be able to be civil if you bumped into them, then that is pretty normal I think. Or does BGM think you need to be BFFs with all your exes or else you’re insane?
dinoceros February 9, 2016, 4:43 pm
There’s a difference between “can’t” and “won’t.” Could I if I wanted to? Sure. Do I want to? Not really, not enough to put a lot of effort in. I have plenty of friends and have moved a lot, so it would require a lot of work to keep in touch with an ex who is 1,000 miles away. I’d rather spend that time on other friends.
AndSoItGoes February 10, 2016, 12:02 am
There really is a lot of wisdom in this, BGM. The people I’d never want to talk to again are people I shouldn’t have been dating in the first place.
There is, though, one other reason why one couldn’t remain friends with an ex (which Portia mentioned): one party still has feelings. This has been the reason I couldn’t make a friendship work with exes that didn’t suck. In one case, he kept saying he could be friends, but then asked the same question over and over: why can’t we be together? Since I knew I’d never be interested in him that way again, and he was willing to keep putting himself in a position to get hurt, I pulled away. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Skyblossom February 10, 2016, 8:43 am
Sometimes someone refuses to accept that you are finished. I had one serious ex and he kept coming by trying to get back together. We had been broken up for longer than we had been together and he still wouldn’t accept that we were done. I thought that telling him that I was seriously dating someone else would make him understand that we were done but that just made him come back more often. A few weeks before I graduated from college he asked me to elope with him because he felt like he was losing me. This was two and a half years after I had broken up with him because he was cheating on me. There was no desire on my part to be friends with someone who kept trying to get back together even though I was seriously dating someone else.
About a year into dating him I found out that his dad kept cheating on his mom and his mom would be upset for about a week and then they would be back together again. He seemed to think that it was fine for men to cheat and the partner would be upset but it wouldn’t end the relationship. That was his expectation but it wasn’t mine. I expected a monogamous relationship to be monogamous. If I had known his family dynamic going into the relationship and if he had been honest about wanting to have a primary partner while having sex with other women I wouldn’t have been in that relationship so on that point you are correct, we shouldn’t have been together. Since he hid his dad’s cheating for a year and he hid his own cheating instead of having an open discussion about what he wanted in a relationship I found us to be totally incompatible.
Also, the concept of remaining friends with an ex is fairly new. When I was dating when you broke up you were done. You moved on and didn’t try to keep in touch. Partly that was due to the lack of social media so you didn’t text and you didn’t have Facebook or any thing besides a landline. It was also due to women mostly being friends with women and men mostly being friends with men and if you did have a friend of the opposite gender you definitely didn’t date them so your ex wasn’t a member of your group of friends. Once you quit seeing each other you didn’t see each other unless one or the other of you made a special effort. If people dated within the same major then they would have seen each other but that didn’t happen much. It was unusual that I dated my husband because we did have similar majors and were in the same social group. He was the only person I dated out of that group because I knew it would be awkward to date someone and then be around them after a breakup. When I met my husband and spent some time around him I knew that I could have a serious relationship with him and that it could go on to marriage and so I broke my rule of not dating within the department because the potential was there for the long term. I never assumed that it would work but I knew that it might work.
veritek33 February 9, 2016, 2:29 pm
I’m friends with only one of my exes, but sometimes it’s really, really hard. He has boundary issues and will flirt and make comments about how sexy I am, etc. And I’m like Dude, you had your chance. We tried this. TWICE. It didn’t work.
But, he can also be a really good friend when you need him. He helped me move and he helped me paint a wall in my new house. We have great conversations and I helped him get a new suit for a job interview and edited some of his college papers.
It’s just hard sometimes. And we took about 6 months after our breakup before we even tried to be friends. I won’t say it’s perfect and some days it’s hard, but we try.
veritek33 February 9, 2016, 2:30 pm
But there are other guys I’ve dated that if I never see again it will be too soon. So, I say it’s dependent on the situation and a case by case basis.
RedRoverRedRover February 9, 2016, 2:32 pm
I’ve remained friends with the majority of my exes, until life just naturally caused us to drift (leaving university, switching jobs, etc). There are only two I can think of that I didn’t. But the difference for me is that I was also friends with all those guys before dating. So we were able to go back to being friends, generally.
ktfran February 9, 2016, 5:46 pm
I’m basically in the same boat. All serious relationships, we broke up on friendly terms. We remained friendly after and would sometimes even chat on the phone or message one another because we still liked one another, just not as a couple. Then life would happen and we drifted apart. But I’ve also drifted apart with non romantic friends too. So there you have it.
ktfran February 9, 2016, 5:49 pm
Ooh, also, I’m still FB friends with every one of my serious exes. There were like 4. So no big deal.
SasLinna February 9, 2016, 3:01 pm
If the relationship was healthy overall and simply ended due to incompatibility without too much drama, staying friends is fine. If there was a ton of drama, if there was any type of abuse, or if one party is not over the other at all – stay away. And it’s usually in the latter situation that people ask for advice on this, so we get a very skewed sample of cases.
Eve February 9, 2016, 4:11 pm
For me personally this is a no. In my experience nothing good has come out being friends or friendly with an ex (yet again I’ve only had two long-term relationships so it’s not exactly worthy of any statistics haha).
I would genuinely love to be friendly with my most recent ex but he pretends he doesn’t know me when we bump into each other, which is quite frequently (I was the one who broke up with him over a year ago so I guess that’s fair enough). We tried being friendly a few months after the break up but then all of the sudden he stopped talking to me and that’s that.
vivian February 9, 2016, 4:13 pm
I really loved him and being friends with him will hurt me more despite he asked for the friendship but I declined.
muchachaenlaventana February 9, 2016, 4:33 pm
yeah I agree with @sas- I really only have 3 ex boyfriends, one I haven’t spoken to in about 8 years– that ended in a terrible, messy, explosion of hell and feelings and sadness and too much said and not said and yeah, trying to revisit any of that to eke out a friendship would have been impossible then and seems silly now. Sometimes I wish I could reach out just to see how he was getting along, but he is the one who ended things and royally fcked me over so my pride prohibits that ha.
My other two exes I am on friendly terms with. One is a good friend of my brother’s and when I see him which happens occasionally we are friendly, chit chat, catch up and its all good. Another is an ex who I went cold turkey with after we broke up and he keeps contacting me (4 years later) to meet up or text, so clearly ulterior motive. I finally met up with him for drinks and it was really nice! I think he would have gladly hooked up with me, but was super respectful once I mentioned I had a boyfriend, and if we lived closer I wouldn’t mind having a friendly rapport with him but at the same time don’t really see much of a point in it.
shakeourtree February 9, 2016, 4:39 pm
I prefer to move on and not look back. My longest relationship was with someone who treated me horribly, and I have no desire to ever see or speak to him ever again. My last ex is a nice enough guy, and I thought that I would maybe want to be friends with him after going no-contact for a while immediately after the breakup. But now it’s been almost a year, and I don’t miss him, so I don’t see the point in inviting him back into my life.
dinoceros February 9, 2016, 4:46 pm
I have kept in regular touch with two exes, but our communication petered out after our lives continued to go in different directions. I was Facebook friends with some for a while, but after we never spoke, one of us unfriended the other. There are a few that I’d never speak to. One ex is in a sports pool that I run each year, but we don’t interact beyond that. I’m totally fine with all this. As I stated in another comment, I just don’t really care enough. I have other friends from various states that I’ve lived in to keep in touch with and that really takes most of my effort, to where trying to keep in touch with exes is not really feasible. Plus, I’m in my late 20s, so exes from early 20s are typically in different life places than me now.
kare February 9, 2016, 4:56 pm
Let’s see…Ex number 1 fat shamed me while I was recovering from an eating disorder, cheated on me, then started drunk dialing me even months after we broke up.
Ex number 2 tried to break into my apartment and threatened to kill himself.
Ex number 3 (who I work in the same office with) told me we “would never fucking be friends” despite him being friends with all his other exes, bad-mouthed me to everyone for “breaking his heart”, then got engaged to a married sex worker a couple of months later.
So hard “no” on friends with exes for me.
bparker February 9, 2016, 5:39 pm
I’m friendly with a few exes in varying degrees and really good friends with one. The one I’m still close with can actually sound like a strange scenario but I’ll share it anyways. He was a brief but fairly intense fling right after I ended a LTR about three years ago. After our fling ended, we remained close due to a shared hobby and now he is my current boyfriend’s best friend and tells people that I am his sister as that is the closeness of friendship we have now. My current boyfriend knows about our history and is fine with us still being friends and is not threatened at all and the three of us spend a lot of time together.
FannyBrice February 9, 2016, 6:13 pm
Years ago, I had an epiphany that I wasn’t friends with any of my exes because I wasn’t friends with them to begin with – I just…didn’t like them that much. Which was a huge wake up call to review how I was picking these guys and why I was going out with them if I didn’t like them. It was a very valuable insight/experience to have.
Lynn February 10, 2016, 9:32 am
Yeah, I’m friends and/or am friendly with all but one. My boyfriend isn’t a jealous person, and so he’s met about three of my exes/guys I’ve dated… And loves them. We were at a wedding once and he and one of the more serious guys I’ve dated were hanging out and being super buddy buddy. It was a little surprising at first, but it’s been great.
Steph February 10, 2016, 11:25 am
I checked the “remain friends with a few for various reasons” box, but it’s more acquaintances. We used to play softball on the same team and were friends before we dated. Since then, I have moved and the field is too far from my new location to play during the week, but we have the same friends and are occasionally at the same place. We are friendly, but we don’t actively reach out to each other like we do our other friends.
Nookie February 11, 2016, 5:39 am
Wow, that is a lot of votes!!
I’m ‘friendly’ with most of my serious exes but as I had a bad/good habit of dating people who lived other places, I don’t really run into them. I wish them well and am happy to see them with girls that are hopefully better suited to them.
Once the Frenchman, one I really loved, decided to tell me years after our relationship that he had omitted the truth about his whole history before meeting me. Which was confusing, why did I need to know that after all this time?