cultivating friendships with exes

Are you the type of person who somehow manages to stay friends with all of your exes?  If you are, you are not alone.  Some people are capable of moving past emotional pain in a way that may seem heartless to others. Contrary to bad relationship propaganda, not all people who remain friends with exes are still in love with them.  

When it comes to being friends with my past lovers, I have been on both sides of the spectrum of jealousy since my past lovers include both men and women.  I am still friendly with my first ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend from high school twenty years ago.  Now that I only date women, I find that I face a whole new set of challenges.  I find that I am the type of person that accepts people for all of their flaws.  The only type of people that I do not attempt to remain friends with are compulsive liars and cruel backstabbers… then again, I tend to avoid dating people like that. 

I believe that the reason it is so hard to remain friends with an ex once you start dating someone else is because we fail to set clear expectations of acceptable conduct when transitioning into a friendship role.  It is highly possible that at least in person in this friendship may still be harboring an attraction.  

Mutual attraction is dangerous in a platonic relationship and actually toxic when you’re trying to move on.  If you are dating someone while still attracted to your ex, and trying to be friends with that said ex… you are an ass.  This is a disaster waiting to happen and the reason most people cannot be friends with an ex.  Either get over the person or carry your flame without exposing another innocent person to it in the dating world.  

It is not fair to another person to date while you are in rebound mode.  Don’t be desperate by trying to use another person to get over a tragic love. This is why so many people cheat on someone with an ex.  All it takes is a few drinks and a lingering look and the next thing you know, you are naked and going at it.  Try excusing that behavior to your new hottie.  

If you are still attracted to your ex, you should never try to be their friend while dating other people.  Why?  Because, we have these weird emotional reactions that are sometimes nothing more than bad habits. If you start dating and your ex knows you are attracted to her still, there is this weird animal possessive reaction that women have that causes them to feel threatened by the “other woman.”  While she may not want to be with you and visa versa; for a moment, she may get jealous that someone else has your attention and is taking it away from her.  If she feels threatened, she may react rashly and attempt to seduce you to prove to herself that you still love her.  This is a primal reaction that does happen.  As soon as she gets you into bed, she is going to freak out and withdraw.  Why?  Because both of you have identified that the relationship is in fact over- and for a good reason too!  Damn these pesky emotions!  They always wreak havoc everywhere they go.  

Never share details of your sex life with your ex.  It sounds like common sense but this mistake happens all the time.  One or both of you try to act like you’re not jealous by pretending it is alright to talk about current lovers.  The truth is that the main reason your ex wants to know about your sex life is nothing more than egotism.  They really want to know if you are having better sex with someone else.  She may feel the need to compete with the other woman if she feels that your new lover is giving you more orgasms than she did.  No one wants to be the second best.  Share the explicit details of your sex life with any other friend except your ex.  

Another scenario to consider if you are over your ex, but she’s not over you: be clear about your intentions.  Give her space.  As much as you want to be close to her because you love her as a friend and miss her- you have to be selfless and give a wounded bird time to heal.  Keep the communication neutral so that you do not lose touch if this is what both of you want.  Talk on FaceBook and text before trying to hang out.  Keep it friendly.  If this works, take baby steps and get to the point that you can have coffee together and hang out.                                                                                         
My own experiences are not enough to encompass everyone’s personalities or situations.  These are just some of the mistakes that I made that allowed me to get to the point of remaining friends with some amazing people.  The most important thing that I learned is simply setting expectations and knowing your own boundaries up front.

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Bella is an entrepreneur with a passion for writing. After making the step to come out as a lesbian, she made the decision to bridge the communication gap in the LGBTQIA+ community by sharing her voice. Her blogs cover subjects such as effective communication, dating, and health.