Thursday, 1 April 2010

Auntie Seraphic and Friendly Ex

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Is it okay to stay friends with an ex-boyfriend?


Friendly Ex

Dear Friendly Ex,

Not only is it okay to stay friends with an ex-boyfriend, it can be evidence of virtue. I write as one who crosses the street if she sees an ex-boyfriend walking down her side. This is usually because I behaved abominably while we were dating, or because he behaved abominably while we were dating, or both. The very best of my exes is Volker, and we still correspond occasionally. Volker has a lot of virtue.

There are a few important things to keep in mind in a friendship with an ex. Here they are:

1. Always remember he is your ex. Make sure he is NOT the most important man in your life. Make friends with other men and spend time with your father and brothers, if you have any.

2. Don't force the friendship. I've noticed that my friendships with ex-boyfriends start out intense, and then peter out to occasional coffees or emails. Don't expect too much from an ex-boyfriend. Of course, if the friendship is important to both of you, you should make time for each other. But you know me: I think women are better at that kind of thing.

3. If he gets a new girlfriend, be prepared to hear "see you later". If he gets a wife, be prepared to say "good-bye". It is possible to stay friends with a married man who was once your boyfriend, but most of the time, he just will not have time for you. His wife, unless she too is your friend, may very well count every minute he spends with you a minute he could have spent with her.

If he becomes a priest or brother, he may very well need your friendship, as he regards you as a safe and solid woman friend. Just make sure he is not the most important man in your life.

One problem with a Single girl being friends with consecrated men is that they have a protective vow of celibacy and you don't. Sometimes men in religious life will lean emotionally on a female friend (phone calls, coffee, long confidences) and then, when the woman needs to do a little emotional leaning herself, the men jump right back. Oh no no no no no. That would go against their vow of celibacy, you know. Of course, not ALL men in religious life (and certainly not MY friends in religious life) are like that. But some are. So beware.

Grace and peace,
Auntie Seraphic


Jessica said...

Hmm...I must say I'm surprised by your opinion on this one, given your general view on male/female friendships in general. There was a time when I would have agreed that one sign of a good relationship between two healthy people was that it was possible to be friends afterwards, but that hasn't always been true in my experience. Maybe just strive for mutual cordiality? :)

One question that has helped me when thinking about friendships with exes is "Why do you want to be friends?" If there's any hint of unrealistic hope on either side, it's probably my opinion. YMMV.

Seraphic said...

It depends, I think, on the situation. If the people were friends, and then dated, and then had an amicable "this isn't working", it is sometimes possible for them to go back to being friends.

I don't really have a problem with men and women being friends. I have a problem with women thinking men can be their bestest buddies in the universe, and with women fooling themselves that they only like the guys they're feeding brownies "as friends." Finally, I have a problem with guys using girls for emotional support (including the brownies), but then not reciprocating.

Mike said...

Hm. I like! I echo a bit of Jessica's comment in that it came as a bit of a surprise from you, Dorothy :) But - this is where I clearly saw the advantage of having lots of experience - and it shows! you're able to see things much more objectively and with a lot of wisdom. Anyway, all that to say that I agree and that while I think it's a very difficult thing to do (maintaining a friendship with an ex) if it can be done (and might I point out that it rarely works if it isn't grounded in Christ?), it can be a very beautiful and worthwhile thing. Life is beautifully messy and I love it!