As the Dagger wedding approaches (This Saturday!) and Lady E and I bid adieu to our single lives, I find myself thinking about the beginning. I think about how we initially despised each other the first day of graduate school, but after a couple of rounds of beers we grew not only to not hate each other (Frat boy! Feminist!), but eventually fell in love.
We both carried baggage from our previous relationships, as everyone does, and backed into our eventual courtship like two Roman soldiers holding a massive shield with our spears drawn only to not realize our backs were vulnerable to an attack from behind. As we bumped into each other, we quickly spun around with daggers drawn (pardon the pun) and were forced to start fresh with each other. Our détente took a significant amount of time to achieve, but once we got there, we quickly realized there was no one else in the world for us.
But one thing we didn’t have to overcome was the persistent and annoying presence of ex-lovers lurking about under the guise of “friendship,” which brings us to today’s subject.
CNN calls itself “The Most Trusted Name in News.” I didn’t realize that the definition of “news” now also consisted of “hackneyed dating advice from a site called ‘The Frisky.’” Clearly one of two things is happening here. 1) CNN’s news pedigree ain’t what it used to be; or 2) The general populace quickly tires of developments pertaining to the current economic crisis, developments in Afghanistan, and debate surrounding government run health care and needs a little playful diversion about their relationships written by people who aren’t qualified to give you advice about what to put on top of a Wheat Thin.
I suspect it’s the second one, but I’ve been wrong before. Today’s article helpfully lays out rules for remaining friends with an ex-lover. Those of you who have been a part of this Love Lounge for virtually any length of time immediately recognize this premise as patently stupid in the eyes of E Dagger. So it is with great relish that I present to you today’s offering:
By Ami Angelowicz from The Frisky by way of CNN.com
As always, the original article is linked above. Below is the original text with my comments to follow in italics. Put on your relationship pants, and let’s dig in.
So you’ve made it through the horrifying breakup with someone you cared about … now what? To be friends or not to be friends, that is the question.
No, that is not the question, Shakespeare. As I’ve stated numerous times before, remaining friends with an ex is like signing up for ritual torture inflicted via periodic sorcery and low-grade self-loathing. I’ll ask it again, why do you need to continue hanging out with someone you no longer have sex with? That’s like Sam Malone getting sober and choosing to work in a bar, the one thing that REALLY bothered me about “Cheers.” Well, that and never being able to figure out why someone as reputedly smart as Frasier Crane spent so much time with a bunch of barflies at some dive night after night, but I digress.
Most of the time I like to make a nice clean break adhering to a “no contact” and “no getting back together” policy. I’ve learned from experience that this is a necessary move for me to heal my ailing heart and move on. In time, I am usually content to be “acquaintances with history,” exchanging an email every once in a while or having friendly drinks with the exes that I still respect.
Again I ask, “Why?” I’m never rude to anyone I’ve dated seriously if I happen to bump into them, but why do I give a crap what they’re up to now? Maybe I’m unique in that I never dated anyone inside my immediate social circle, and thus, had to see them all the time, but that brings me to another serious question. I’ve seen some social groups exchange dating partners and cycle through the entire roster of allegiances like it’s baseball’s Hot Stove Season. How do people do this? The radio station I worked at was notorious for this merry-go-round of dating, and whenever a relationship hit the skids, it weirded up the whole office until each person paired off with two others and the whole horrific cycle began again. I can’t imagine putting myself and everyone else through this type of self-indulgence. Always pick off a member from a different herd, if you ask me. Dating’s hard enough without leftover group politics.
But that’s only after time has passed and I’ve removed the rose-colored glasses that I used to gaze at him through. And, of course, there are the guys that I know I won’t ever see or speak with ever again … those that have committed offenses of the heart too heinous to be forgiven in this lifetime. But it’s not always so black and white. Some people are worth keeping in your life.
After thinking about this long and hard (that’s what she said) I could only come up with one person I even fooled around with that I’m still friends with. And why are we still friends? Probably because we never dated. This is why I continue not to understand the appeal of Facebook. Your chances for having to interact with someone you once boned is exponentially higher concurrently increasing your opportunity for awkward interactions and reheated mental aggravation at whatever unresolved issues the two of you had. And people actually sign up for this! I find this absolutely mystifying.
After three years of love, friendship, and co-habitation, my relationship with Jeff suddenly unraveled. I called him up while he was on tour in Europe with his band. I had been up all night crying after I received an email from him telling me how much he missed me and I knew that it was time to be honest and do one of the hardest, most dreaded things I would ever have to do. I had been trying to talk myself out of it for days, but I just couldn’t.
This sounds like every breakup you’ve ever had, doesn’t it, ladies? My rockstar boyfriend was touring Europe, and after receiving a sweet email he sent me when he took time out of what I’m sure was a ball-breaking travel and performance schedule, I knew I had to break up with him. Doesn’t that happen to every woman at least once in her life, if not twice?
“Jeff, I need to talk to you.”
“Oh no, what?” he said. He must have known on some level.
Perhaps it was your casual use of the dreaded construction “Jeff, I need to talk to you.” You might as well have heaved a bowling ball at his face with all the subtlety that sentence conveys. “He must have known on some level.” Jesus. Ya’ think?
“I have feelings for someone else,” I responded.
“No,” he said, “No.” It was silent.
“Yes,” I said ashamed.
“No,” he said again.
Question: Do you think one of the things Ami liked best about Jeff was his garrulous nature and expansive vocabulary.
“Yes.” I huddled in the corner of our bedroom realizing for the first time that it would no longer be ours. We cried together on the phone. It was devastating.
After moving all my stuff out and starting my life over-new place, new relationship, new me-I realized that Jeff was like family and I missed him. He knew all my friends, my family, everything about my life, and although I knew we weren’t meant to be together romantically, I was determined to have him in my life as a friend.
Of course you did. You were the one to break up with him putting you in a position of power. So you dump his ass, decide you miss him, and then want him back in your life in every way except a sexual one. How selfish can you get?
Luckily, he felt the same way.
He’s an idiot then. Jeff needs to cleanse himself and slay some Euro-groupies pronto.
Sure, it was rough at first, but in time we were actually able to make our friendship work, which is a testament to the bond we share. How did we do it? There were some guidelines we both followed that made it possible. Here are six rules for making that awkward transition from lovers to friends.
And after a truly staggering amount of preamble in this article, we finally arrive at the meat of it. For those of you psychotic enough to wish to remain friends with your exes, here are the guidelines for doing so. Although I’ve spent this entire article railing against its very premise, I’ll put those feelings aside and attempt to judge these on their own merits.
1. Mourning period: Give each other time to mourn the death of the relationship. The longer you two were together, the longer it will probably take before you are ready for friendship. It could be two months or two years-feel it out. You’ll know when the time is right because both of you will feel ready for it. Let hearts heal and flames fizzle out before hopping on the friendship train.
OK, I can’t do it. How stupid is this notion? When you let the hearts heal and flames fizzle, that generally means in most sane circles that you’re ready to move on with your life and throw your line back in the water for some fresh fish. So why in the name of Jesus’ third testicle would you, as soon as you’re ready to move on with your life, re-connect with the person you’ve just anguished over, by the count of this author, for two whole years? That seems like someone getting over a horrendous case of botulism and pooping their eyeballs out, coming out of the hospital and immediately sitting down at the nicest restaurant in town to order a big old batch of clams.
2. Keep it platonic: No sex, no kissing, no hand-holding, no flirting, no monkey business. At any time. Ever. Even after nights of heavy drinking.
I call b.s.here too. Spend enough time together with someone you used to diddle, and you’ll fall into your old habits soon enough. You know the terrain, it’s reasonably fun, and it’s a good way to kill time. It’s sort of the same reason I’ll just pop Contra into the old NES and play through it in 45 minutes. Easy, familiar and fun.
3. Set clear emotional boundaries: Feeling down, having issues, looking to get your emotional needs fulfilled? Don’t go to him. Keep the friendship simple and without too much emotional entanglement. Talk about the things you have in common, shared interests, the things that made you friends during your relationship.
Alright, so let’s see if I follow her logic thus far. You need to spend up to two years apart at which point it’s okay to become friends with your former lover, but you can’t ever have sex again. Furthermore, it’s imperative that you not lean on each other to fulfill your emotional needs or pick each other up when you’re down. So basically the type of friendship Ms. Angelowicz advises you have with your ex is tantamount to the relationship between a community service worker and a lonely old man with no family at a nursing home. The two of you can get together and play Parcheesi while having conversations with the emotional depth of a typical Deputy Dawg cartoon. Why are we putting ourselves through this again?
4. Seek out a love life: Meet other dudes. Date other dudes. If you’re pretending to be friends with him as you wait for him to fall in love with you again, then it’s not truly a friendship. Sorry to break it to you.
Yeah, gee whiz, that was tough to hear and not at all self-evident, Ami, you nimrod.
On that note, no need to discuss your burgeoning love life with your ex. Not because you’re trying to spare any feelings, but rather out of respect and decorum. Call me old-fashioned. There may come a point when it’s cool for the two of you to discuss it. If it works for you and there’s no jealousy on either end … be my guest!
Update: Wait two years, don’t fool around with each other anymore, avoid any emotional depth, and don’t discuss your current interpersonal connections. This sounds like the recipe for delicious friendship stew! Thanks, Ami!
5. No relationship analysis: If possible, avoid analyzing your relationship. Do that with your other friends, your therapist, or your journal. Keep the focus on your friendship instead. If there is some closure you still need and you want to discuss it, wait until you have some distance and perspective and can talk about it without getting too emotional.
Update: Wait two years, don’t fool around with each other anymore, avoid any emotional depth, don’t discuss your current interpersonal connections, and steer clear of discussing your past together. That officially leaves wildlife, the show “Pimp My Ride,” and the 1990 Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers as viable conversation topics.
But in all seriousness, if two people could actually adhere to these rules: No sex, avoidance of emotionally challenging issues, forgoing gossip of current friends and lovers, and shunning discussion of past lovers, you’d essentially have every relationship Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” has with the world. Rejecting all things emotional or uniquely and relationally stressful in your interactions doesn’t mean you have a successful post-breakup relationship, it means you have Asperger’s Syndrome.
6. More than friendly feelings: If you or your ex starts to have more than friendly feelings toward the other, back off and evaluate. Some people do get back together, but you should be very mindful about opening that door again unless you are sure. Also, unrequited love makes for a very bad “friendship.” Duh.
If you and your ex somehow manage more-than-friendly feelings after following these ridiculous rules, congratulations, reward yourself with copious amounts of oral sex because you two are clearly meant to be together. Also, I love her inclusion of “Duh” at the end of this column. It basically sums up every cockeyed assertion she mustered in this ode to misguided dating nonsense.
As always, E Dagger’s #1 Rule of Dating still stands: Get your exes out of your life.
Don’t attempt to circumvent the unpleasantness by concocting a series of contrived rules, each one dumber than the last. Don’t think you can dump someone and then ask to be involved in their life – that’s their choice, and you can suck it for your presumption. When a relationship ends, let it end. It’s over, and it’s time to start anew.
Because you never know how that new relationship can blossom. Five years ago I found out, and five days from now I make it official. And previous relationships always hover over you like a persistent rain cloud, but you can’t see the sun until you get those out the way. You’ll never do that with half-cooked attempts at friendship with a bunch of people you don’t really like anymore.
No matter the actual weather on Saturday, the sun shines brightly as ever and I take the leap into marriage. All the relationships from the past serve as prelude to this, and Saturday I say goodbye to them forever because they matter no more. They haven’t mattered in years, but Saturday is their symbolic exorcism.
Which once again brings me back to the beginning. My life as a single man ends, and as a married one begins. With each ending comes a new beginning. And the future has never looked brighter. Relationships aren’t for the timid, and as bold as you were in taking the leap into one, be just as bold and be prepared to say goodbye when it’s over. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Don’t be afraid to recognize when the end comes.
As I sit at the beginning of a new chapter in my relationship with Lady E, I know how the end is written. We’re together until death do us part, and while I’m not usually one for spoilers, this time I welcome the comfort in knowing that no matter how the remaining chapters unfold, we’ll face our challenges together.
The next time you see me in the Love Lounge, it’s as a new man. And I can’t wait.
06 Oct 2009 E Dagger