We commit all sorts of crimes against our friends and partners. But what about when a partnership ends? Is it a crime to try to be friends with an ex?
I nearly always try and often fail. It seems to me that it comes down to three main criteria: means, opportunity and motive.
Means: the ability to commit to a friendship, a whole friendship and nothing but a friendship.
In other words, in order to be friends with an ex, you have to be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you’re not going to end up back in bed or in love. During my break-up with Sam I did both repeatedly and every Sunday morning as I left his apartment, I went through the agony of the break-up all over again. Our so-called friendship was nothing more than sheer torture. In the end, I had no choice but to restrain him from my phone, my email and my heart.
Opportunity: the possibility of a friendship taking place.
Sometimes your ex doesn’t want to be friends. Maybe they discovered that they actually didn’t like you so much, hence the aforementioned break-up. Or maybe they don’t have the means. In another attempted friendship with an ex, our meeting for a few drinks turned into nothing less than an interrogation: Why didn’t I want to be with him? Was there no chance for us at all? Did I not think that at the age of 32 I should be considering settling down? I escaped as quickly as I could.
Motive: the desire to be friends purely for the sake of being friends.
I wanted to be friends with my ex Michael, in a clever, but futile, attempt at avoiding the pain of the break-up. If I could still see him on a regular basis, what was I really losing after all? It turned out, of course, that there was a lot more at stake than having Michael in my life. My dignity and sanity, for example. When he introduced me to his new girlfriend, I wasn’t happy for him; it was like he had just thrown away the key. You cannot circumvent the pain of separation by not separating. It only prolongs the inevitable. In the end, I had to accept that it really was the end and set myself free.
There are thankfully odd occasions when it works, when you both want to be friends, are emotionally capable of it and don’t have any ulterior motives. I am very good friends with three of my ex-boyfriends and I value these friendships dearly.
But it is the ex-boyfriends who I would most love to be friends with that I know that I can’t; men that I have thought too highly of, loved too much to continue on in their lives as a mere bystander rather than their accomplice. And that for me is the saddest crime of all.