How not to remain friends with your ex

Back in high school, I had a long relationship. It lasted a total of a month. We were both sure it was the real deal 😉 After a month, he joined the Army. I figured that was the end of it, but he insisted that we remain friends. No harm in that, right?

Disney's version of this blog title


Wrong. Our whole relationship was based on my showing him around the city and doing some remedial American culture education, since his family had been missionaries for more than a decade, first in Guatemala, and then Peru.

He spent most of that *magical* month preparing to be a in a play, Bury the Dead, about four slain soldiers who refused burial. After the breakup, he invited me to attend, opening night. I took my mom, since the playhouse was in an unfamiliar part of town. We got there late, and the programs were gone. The play.was.awful. I found myself wishing that a cam light would fall on his head and put him out of my misery.

The house lights came up. My mom and I rushed to the car, where we could berate the terrible play, with the lackluster acting, and staging that tried too hard to be avant-garde. I realized, too late, perhaps, that we had left during intermission. That boy never called me again. Whew.

“But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead”” Matthew 8:22


I don’t always believe that remaining friends with one’s ex is a good thing. I’m certainly friendly with my ex-husband. We make it work because we share a significant history and two precious children.

It’s also relatively simple to remain friends if the relationship ended in its fresh, green, state and was of short duration. I have a couple such friendships, those started over a date, but never materialized into love.

There are other relationships, those ended in pain, those remembered with a twang of regret, those too volatile to maintain. What of those? Maybe they end with a simple goodbye, or maybe with a rush of feet past the usher as you beat a hasty retreat.

Have you ever seen a terrible play? What have you done to make sure dead relationships don’t rise again?


32 responses to “How not to remain friends with your ex

  1. So… once upon a time, I was engaged to this guy. And we’d planned our whole life together and worked together and our families loved each other, etc.

    And then we broke up. We both took the break up really hard and made really stupid decisions as we tried to process through what it looked like to pick up the pieces and make individual futures for our lives. There was half a year when it was really tense between us.

    Then we dealt with it and became close friends again. And like a broken bone, the relationship was stronger as a friendship because of the crap we went through. It’s been almost 5 years now… and he’s one of my best friends. He’s married now, and I really like and respect his wife and feel she’s perfect for him.

    And my ex and I– we’re still really good friends. I think that with enough time to heal, a lot of relationships can be mended. .. particularly those that were healthy and respectful.

    Also, i’ve been to plays that suck. I sometimes think intermission is a kind of grace for those who can’t handle any more…

    • That’s a great story! I don’t think all exes have to become ex-friends, just that some aren’t worth the added effort to make it work (see the post before this).

      I like your idea of intermission being a grace for the overwrought. I will keep that in mind. Thanks for stopping by with the comment.

  2. I think avoiding or denying the temptation to reconnect is important. You know better, you know?

  3. I’ve always been a guy who has always felt comfortable in the presence of women. I get along really well with them (I guess it’s my feminine side :)).

    Being a married man now, I try to keep my distance and not get too close to women. I hand a “friend” who was always too flirty and frankly a temptation to me and I knew it was time to cut ties.

    I prefer to do that than fall into temptation.

    • I had plenty of male friendships, even when I was married, that were, and always will be, friendships, married guys and single guys, but, oddly, once the divorce was final, the married ones’ wives didn’t like the idea of them being friends with me. I laugh, because my single/married state has nothing to do with whether I find their husbands attractive 😛

      I know that has nothing to do with your story, just a bonus crappy aspect of being a single mom, I guess.

      • I understand where Moe is coming from. To this day, my wife will tell me sometimes, “Did you see the way that woman was looking at you?” Of course, I didn’t. I’m kind of oblivious, I guess. I guess that’s the price I pay for being a stud. 🙂 Ha ha. I’m kidding.

      • Does she take it as a compliment? I probably would, as long as my significant other didn’t seem too interested in reciprocating the attraction. I guess I am just friendly, and resent not being a friend because I’m an unattached female. Does that make sense?

  4. I could open a can of worms on my perspectives on male/female relationships. I’ve been through the ringer in just about every way. Like Moe, I’m very VERY comfortable around women. It’s led to many a difficult scenario.

    At this point in my life, I believe exes should remain exes. There has been too much intimacy to try to keep it without having severe boundary difficulties.

    Being single now, I do my best to honor women and not allow too much intimacy in my friendships. It’s hard because I’m not a surface kind of guy. I go deep in my friendships. However, since I’m at a place in my life where I’m looking for a wife, I don’t want to risk any ambiguity.

    I completely back off women that are in relationships. I believe it is just honor and respecting to their significant other. I don’t spend ANY alone time with them. It’s just a boundary I’ve made for myself.

    • maybe I’m giving men too much credit for self-control? When I flew into Little Rock, my best friend had her husband (we were all friends before they married) to pick me up. There’s no mutual attraction, there. We chatted for the hour or so it took to get back to their house, and were friends.

      I don’t think I’ve dishonored my friend in that way. I don’t think her husband dishonored her. I would feel horrible if I thought that some man didn’t want to be friends because he thought I couldn’t control myself around him. I wonder why men aren’t offended by that.

      I guess I’m too liberal on this point, too. I don’t know why close friendships have to be divided on gender lines.

      • I always thought I’d have to base friendship on sex. And then I ended up with a male best friend. It wasn’t something that I sought out, but there it is. We’re both married and madly in love with our spouses (I have no doubt that helps), but we spend a fair amount of time just hanging out together sans them, the same way I would with a girl bff.

        There are moments when our gender differences assert themselves (like the other day when I was super excited about a mutual friend’s pregnancy, couldn’t wait to tell my bestie and had him respond, “Meh.”), but truly, it’s like any other close friend I’ve ever had.

        Anyway, if you’re too liberal, so am I. I love my dude best friend.

      • Yours is a great story. I had a friend in college just like that – he’s making it big in Hollywood, so, I fully expect him to honor our agreement that I would be his date to his 2nd Oscars (if he’s not married to Natlie Portman by then).

        I think all friendships are going to have issues of closeness and issues of disparateness (is that word?), so, I don’t know if that’s a gendered or personality thing.

      • I think Alise’s story is cool. I’ve always wanted that. Some of my VERY best friends over the years have been female. Unfortunately as platonic as we wanted it to be, there was always some undercurrent of tension. I just could never get it to work long term. Longest I lasted was 3 years before we had to back off. It was too intense.

        It’s not a matter of liberality vs conservative(ality) in my case. Just my personal position of honor, respect and protecting hearts on both sides of the relationship and significant others. I’m not painting a broad stroke in saying that if you do it, you’re wrong. That’s just the conclusion I’ve come to for my own life. Believe me, if there were another way, I’d make it happen.

      • You’re just too hot, right, T? I love you, brother. I hope we can always be blog-buddies. I’ll try to keep a fire extinguisher on hand, just in case 😉

    • Haha! We will always be bloggy buddies! Hopefully we can meet IRL too!

    • Mike and I have found that as a married couple it is really important to find other married couples we can connect with as a couple. In this way, we get to hang out with people of the opposite sex and not have any weirdness. Our closest married couple friends are sooooo important to us. And, the best part of it is that the wife (Heather) is just like Mike (my hubs) and the husband (Trevor) is just like me. So, we have this amazing ability to understand eachother and the difficulties and happinesses of our marriages and our spouses. Heather can tell me why Mike is Mike. And Trevor can tell Mike why Keri is Keri. It’s totally a God thing. And, I know without a doubt that none of us would still be married today if we did not have eachother during the hard, hard times.

      I know this doesn’t exactly apply to the single folk, but it’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  5. I think your situation is very unique and there are probably not many like it. Mine is not so good and therefore the ex stays the ex.

    On another note…it’s been an interesting year or so, because for some reason a good number of my exes have shown up in the picture…either to say hi, ran into them at a store or they sought me out (to which most of them I ignored). I think I have “Losers wanted here” scribbled across my forehead…trying to scrub it off quickly!!

    • It’s not all rainbows and bunnies with the ex, but we’re working on it. There are shoots of green.

      Isn’t it weird how they come back together like that – like a plague 😉 If they are losers, ignoring them is best.

  6. My wife is a high school teacher so she tries to support her kids. So to answer your question, yes, I’ve seen some bad plays. They did a good job for kids of course, but yeah… The discussion in the comments is a good one too. 🙂

    Thanks Kristin.

  7. I do not have an ex-husband, but I do ex-boyfriends. I got married at 20, so there’s only been 2 others. Ex #1 was too old for me and I never seen or heard from him again. I think that was a God thing because he probably was a rapist. Who knows. Ex #2 – Is an embarrassment that I even dated him. I think I just felt sorry for him. He’s married and has his own fam and although I had him as friends at one time on facebook, I couldn’t stand him. As a person, he just was too annoying. So I deleted that connection. And I have no interest in seeing any of those guys again.

    There are guys that I had crushes on that never panned out. Now I look at them and realize I was so different back then. I was young and stupid. Even when I got married, that is true. It certainly at times has felt like a “why did I choose this man to marry?” scenario, but we keep working at it because we know….the grass is not greener on the other side. It’s just not. My sister is going through a divorce now and sometimes I envy her alone time and she can go hang out with friends and have a social life and she doesn’t have to be accountable to anyone except herself. She has a son, but she only has him PT. He’s at school most of the time. And she gets extremely lonely. So in that regard, I don’t envy her. I just realize that we all have insecurities even in our marriages and we gotta keep our eyes on what God wants. Otherwise, we will fall for the first guy that comes along who says we are pretty. I don’t think I could be friends with my ex. Marriage is sacred. Gotta protect it.

    • The grass does look pretty over there sometimes? Married life looks green to me too, sometimes, again, more.

      There are only one or two ex-boyfriends that I can’t see myself being friends with. I’m not talking about hanging out with them or going out to eat with or anything, but being friendly and kind and wanting good things for them and their families. I don’t wish ill on the one or two exceptions, they just aren’t the type I would pursue a friendship with.

      Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. I appreciate it!

      • Yes, and I think it depends on who you dated! I don’t wish any of my ex’s ill either. I just don’t want to be friends with them or share my life with them.

        And yes, marriage is sometimes green but so is the single life. I once heard a sermon and the guy said “Married people want to be single and single people want to be married”. I think that is mostly true. Not that I want to be single, but sometimes when life is so overwhelming, I envy the time to myself, the social life (ha ha, I don’t have one), and not be bothered by someone every minute of the day for something. I think both sides have their pluses, but yes, having someone to love you back is always a good thing even if they leave their dirty socks all over the floor 🙂

      • I think you explained it perfectly.

  8. I have an ex-girlfriend who is a little on the awkward side of things… (for real, no lie). Thing is, she is the daughter of my mom’s best friend… goes to my parent’s church, serves with my brother (who is the student pastor), etc. So needless to say, in one way or another, she’s going to be in my life. Kinda weird… over 10 years ago…. but still a ‘relationship’ I try to distance myself with. 🙂

  9. The whole “dead relationship” thing is all so weird in this day and age. I’ve found that it is really bad for me to be even FB friends with anyone I have had a more than platonic past with. Just too much history that I don’t need in the present.

    So, Kristin, a whole ‘notha post…what about relationships with women that have ended? Those are always super messy in my experience. 😦

  10. I never thought of using that verse to apply to exes. My XF attends the same small church that I do, because neither one of us had any intention of being anywhere but where God wanted us to be, even if we weren’t necessarily there together. That made things awkward at first. She later expressed that she wanted to go back to being friends because she had no other friends. I had to tell her that wasn’t my responsibility, but she needed to find other friends. We eventually settled on “Let’s not have things be awkward anymore” and that’s where we’re at. Had I gone on to being her friend, it would’ve been the same functionally as I had been when we were together, but without the commitment and forthcoming marriage. Translation, I would have had to sit and listen to her on the phone all night, only this time without the hope of getting something out of it.

    Jesus indeed said it best: let the dead bury their own dead.

    • yeah, when you have to see them, and more than that, are called to be their brother or sister in Christ every Sunday and beyond, it gets messy. I think drawing the line so things don’t get quite so messy, as you did, is best. Otherwise, she would keep leaning on you when you need to be moving on!

      Thanks for stopping by Zechariah, and commenting here. 😀

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