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Dear Breakup Girl,
Staying friends: mature or masochistic? My ex wants very much for us to be
friends, and I'm a little torn over it. I can't imagine not seeing or speaking
to him. It would be like cutting off a limb. But I'm finding myself still
hanging on his calls and e-mails. If I don't hear from him for a week I get
upset. Some of my friends think I should just take a breather from him, but I
really want to stay in touch, and I have lots of friends who have nice
Jerry/Elaine things with their exes. The other thing is that he left me to go
back to his previous girlfriend, who he's still with. So right now, I don't
think there's much chance of us getting back together, much as I might dream. I
also know that it always takes me a while to get over people whether I see them
or not. Do you think I'm torturing myself unnecessarily?
Yep. What you are pursuing right now is not
friendship, it's I Can't Believe He's Not My Boyfriend. Of course you can't
imagine not seeing or speaking to him right now; I mean, he was your boyfriend
-- I imagine you'd gotten kinda used to seeing and speaking to him. But listen,
we have to be really careful about what "friends" means after a
breakup ... and about the best way to get there. Advice for
1. Be circumspect. Sometimes "I'd really like for
us to stay friends" means "Let's break up, but I don't hate
you." All full-on, active friendship may not be what's intended. And if
one party doesn't really mean it, you can't force the fit.
2. Do not equate being friends with being
"mature." (Um, hanging on his calls and getting upset when they don't
come is not all that mature.) Important Breakup Girl maxim: Your
ability to be friends with an ex is not a measure of your maturity, or of the
value of the romantic relationship that went before. It is a measure of a
particular vibe -- a two-way vibe -- with a particular person under particular
circumstances. Nothing more, nothing less.
3. Sometimes the mature thing is to say to yourself,
"I don't need 'mature' 'So, what's new with you?' coffee summits to prove
to myself how mature we both are about this whole thing."
I am not saying that you two will not have a cool
Jerry-Elaine thing down the road. In fact, the reason these things really can
work -- lest you all accuse BG of being a big fat naysayer -- is that
friendships often find room to flourish when the "I'm not fully
comfortably in this relationship ... should we break up?" question is
finally resolved for the doubting, stressing partner.
But the way for you to get there, if any, is to take
that breather. It will still, as you say, take you a while to get over him. Um,
duh. That's 'cause he was your boyfriend and he's going out with someone else
now. But going cold turkey is not a magic cure-all ... but it will streamline
the process. Right now, for you, keeping the lines of communication open means
keeping the wounds open. Also, note that bugging him about not calling (if you
are) will not make him really psyched to call.
How about saying something like this: "I
appreciate that you want to stay friends, and so do I. But I can't be a real
friend until I've gotten some distance from the whole thing. I'd ask you, as my
friend, to understand that as part of that commitment, I might not be in touch
for a while, and it would help if you didn't call me either, UNLESS OF COURSE
YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT THAT DINGBAT AND COME CRAWLING BACK TO ME, IN WHICH
CASE I MIGHT TAKE YOU BACK IF I'M NOT TOO BUSY." Okay, say that to a
friend to get it out of your system, then say the first part (up to
"UNLESS") to your ex.
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