I am not a psychologist of any kind. I only speak from my experience, and I strongly recommend finding a professional you trust.
The great majority of the time, you shouldn’t be friends with your ex. Those of you who just thought “but we are exceptional”? You definitely shouldn’t be friends. Be cordial, be civil, be kind. Just don’t be friends. The line is where you start talking to each other without necessity.
Let’s start this post by setting out that you do not want to get back together with your ex right now. You think you do, but what you really want is the avoidance of a pain, loss, grief, embarrassment, and having to start over from scratch. Because – come on, you know this deep down – if you do get back together now, all you get back to is the day before the breakup. Nothing changed. You haven’t changed. They haven’t changed. Whatever caused them to leave the relationship hasn’t changed. All you get if you get back together is the day before the breakup with the breakup looming in the very near future.
All you get if you get back together is the day before the breakup with the breakup looming in the very near future.
I was really desperate to stay friends for a couple of ways, about which I was in denial for a very long time.
A. The urge to know. Is she going to date someone else immediately? Does that mean they were together before we broke up? Who does she think is an upgrade from me?
B. The hanging onto a string. If I stop talking to her, I have to admit that she is really gone. It’s no longer a break. Or a separation. It marks an end.
C. The territory. My ex is still giving me a big chunk of her time. Who is going to fill it if I relinquish it? Am I willingly giving my ex’s new beau more time to spend with her?
And, you know, these actually worked exactly as designed. I was up to date on her affairs, I still felt like I had a special place in her life, and I was continuously and gladly given a big chunk of her time.
Ex went through a couple of short relationships. I did too (not realizing at the time) so she doesn’t think I’m a loser who can’t get a date.
But “we” stayed the same.
Until one day when I realized. It would be good for this post if this were triggered by some dramatic event, but it wasn’t. Just one day I woke up and realized.
Even though she hadn’t found herself the next big relationship, she is on her way. I was still in the same state as the day after our breakup. I was still mentally in some way in a relationship with her. She was seeking a new one.
The day will come that she will find the new relationship, and that day will feel to me like a whole brand new breakup. I will be hurt all over again.
So I cut her loose.
And here is what I realized after I cut her loose and how I prevented any chance there may have been of getting her back.
1. She did not “lose” me till I cut her loose. Even though she only rarely saw me by running into each other. She had my attention. She knew she was in my daily thoughts. That’s what a person wants, and she had had it.
Between the breakup and cutting her lose, she said nice things about me, but she said them with much more heartfelt tone after I cut her loose (according to our mutual friends).
Why would she fight for something she already has? Why would she want me back if she can have my love and attention while pursuing other relationships? Why would she stop hurting you if hurting you never had the consequences?
I believe to this day that, if there was any chance of her coming back to me, I made sure it didn’t happen by showing her she can have me without being in a relationship with me.
2. I was not becoming more attractive to her than the day she decided to leave me, the lowest point in her attraction to me. By hanging onto the remnants of our relationship, I chose a place where a certain degree of denial was possible. Without full acknowledgement of the breakup and full accountability of my part in it, I was not about to learn and grow and become a person who can get her back. So by trying to not let her go, I was making sure she wasn’t coming back.
3. I was hurt a lot, often, and deeply, which didn’t make me a home she wanted to return to. You think you hide your emotions well? Don’t forget: your ex can see through it.
What I thought I still had after the breakup, I didn’t anyway. And it got taken away little by little. When she had a date with someone else. When she had a third date. When she didn’t reply to my text for a long time. When her reply got shorter. When she answered a voicemail with a text instead of a phone call. When she repeated outfit. When she invited the new person to a social event. When someone called her girlfriend.
Each of those hit me like a whole new breakup. I was hurt a lot. I probably acted overly nice, overly accommodating, overly grownup, snarky, or sarcastic.
Remember, this is an ex. She would have seen through it all, and it was probably very awkward and unpleasant to her knowing how much I was still hurting. No matter how much someone might love you, they can only take unpleasant so much. As the events that cause these hurt come delayed, they don’t realize why you are still hurting and they don’t see when it’s all going to end. They can only take so much. No matter how much they love you. Before they start avoiding you.
I can tell you from experience that, even if you get chipped away little by little and accumulate a great amount of hurt, it will still hurt just as much the day you allow yourself to realize the relationship is over.
Possibly it hurt me more because I also had to kick myself for putting me through the torture first.
Now, here are the two counter arguments I made to keep myself in close contact with her.
Counterproductive thought 1
What if one day she wakes up and realizes she wants me back. Shouldn’t I be there?
Yeah, sure. Make sure everyone knows you’re not looking for a new relationship yet. Make sure you don’t block her phone, text, or email on the peak of emotions. Let it be known that you forgive her fully, you respect her for her journey, and you’re working on personal healing.
(don’t be that person who pounds the point through over and over. Just answer only when asked. Don’t worry; your mutual friends would ask.)
Counterproductive thought 2
What if she just has a vulnerable moment where anyone can step in to comfort her? And get into her heart? Shouldn’t I be right there?
About this, I feel even silly to answer.
I’m an gosh darn ex! If she wanted me in the moment of vulnerability, she would think of me. If she wanted me, she wouldn’t accept anyone else. She would seek me out.
If it didn’t have to be me and I get to capture the moment just by luck or by proximity, if it can be anyone, why would I want to be “anyone”?
From an ex to “anyone” is a major downgrade, and I know this because I’ve done it with my other ex. I saw it in her eyes. In the way she looked at me.
So what is it that I’m suggesting?
Draw a line intentionally, firmly, and for yourself. Be cordial and civil with your ex. But don’t give your ex anything that is a privilege of your past together.
Embrace and accept that the relationship is over. Sure it may not be over. That’s a possibility. But being in denial about it being over does not help.
Go on and grow. Learn a lesson from this. So you don’t remain the person she left.
Be firm with the belief that, if you get her back today, they will leave again.
If you’re getting them back, this is (to me) the only way. If you’re not getting them back, it saves you years of time wasted in denial. Either you get them back or not get them back, you have to cut them loose, or you’ll keep causing yourself pain.