Happy freakin’ Monday. What better day of the week to talk about break-ups? I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it seems as if all at once it was no longer okay to indulge in bad feelings toward an ex after a break-up. Oh, no, we had to all be friends, anger was passe. Well, I would like to bring back some anger and good, old-fashioned anti-social behavior. Justin Timberlake tried to bring back sexy, I’m bringing back angry. If I call it vintage, maybe it will catch on.
Refresh Yourself–Part 5:
You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
Don’t expect to be friends after a break-up. This might feel wrong when everybody is grown-up and dedicated to feigning maturity, but it isn’t. If you liked each other well enough to start dating, then there is a good chance that one or both of you has some strong feelings invested in the relationship—feelings likely to get hurt when the relationship ends. And, when feelings get hurt the potential for things to get messy goes up exponentially.
In this age of rampant fakeness there is an almost overwhelming push be friends with one’s exes. But why? Do you really care so much about the person you dumped that you want to maintain a friendship? Are you really okie-dokie fine just being pals with the person who broke up with you? Sometimes it seems as if we have become so afraid of having to take a course of action that has adverse consequences that we chose a placating middle-ground, a faux friendship that satisfies no one.
Look, I’m not saying it is impossible to be friends after a break-up, I’m simply saying that you shouldn’t automatically expect that you and your ex will be friends after you split. See, generally, the person doing the breaking up isn’t as interested in being BFFs as they are interested in not having someone alive in the world wishing that they would be attacked by a komodo dragon with a bad spleen. And, generally, the person being kicked to the curb isn’t as interested in being chums as they are in pretending they are unaffected by this latest rejection, or looking for a way to desperately hang onto even a piece of someone who does not want them.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to stay friends, it is probably best to keep your expectations low. At best, going from being a couple to platonic acquaintances represents a period of readjustment. At worst, it lands you on the evening news as a murder/suicide like the late Phil Hartman and his wife. More frequently, we navigate tricky grounds somewhere between these extremes.
If you instigate the break-up and want to stay friends, you have to realize that the other person may not want to be friends or may not be able be friends—now or ever. And you have to accept that. Much as you may think it would be great for everyone to get along as if your whole dating episode together didn’t fizzle out and necessitate a conclusion, the other person may need time, therapy, and several episodes of Oprah to come to the same conclusion. Hard as that may be on you, breaking up means that the other person has regained their autonomy and you no longer have a claim on them or their friendship, just as then no longer have a claim on you.
If you are the one being dumped, then it is time for another bout of brutal honesty, first with yourself and then with your soon-to-be-ex. Honestly assess whether you really can be friends and then, just as honestly, share that with the person who broke your heart or bruised your ego—whatever is more painful for you. Being mature doesn’t mean you have to pretend you are okay watching someone you love date someone else, it means you have the right and responsibility to remove yourself from a situation that will only hurt you.
Thanks for reading and please join us next Monday when we will explore some of the scariest damn words in the English language, “I love you.” Makes me shiver just to type that...