How To Stay Friends With Your Ex Without Looking Like A Desperate Loser
The Debrief: So, you want to stay buddies with your ex? There'll be plenty of people telling you it's a bad idea, because it can lead to Sad Feelings. But if we wanted to avoid these, we'd never end up shagging people in the first place.
I am a big fan of staying friends with exes wherever possible, and not just because I occasionally need their input on articles about my sex skills. While some exes are douchebags, others are probably just lovely, fun people who didn't happen to be The One. And as I said to one of my lovely exes the other day: life's too short to say 'no' to fun.
Here's a guide on how to stay mates without looking like (or, indeed, being) a twat.
First check: what's your motivation?
There are loads of reasons for being friends with your ex:
1.You enjoy their company and/or they're the only one who'll watch the Great British Bake Off with you.
2.You don't want to have to battle for custody of your other friends, like a parent throwing presents at their kids to get them on-side in a divorce.
3.They're hot, and you reckon they'll be good for the odd nostalgic drunken fumble.
4.You want the chance to make them jealous by mentioning your new squeeze.
5.You're still hopelessly in love with them, and you want to win them back.
No shaming here: I'll put my hand up to all of these, though options 4 and 5 have rarely ended well. I'm not writing them down so you go 'oh God I'm a 5, I'm a 5!' and bury yourself in misery forever. We've all been 5s at some point: it's the way of the world. If you are a 5, maybe just play it cool for a while. Concentrate on some of your other friends, and make sure that if you do keep seeing your ex, you take regular checks on how you're feeling. Ending a night with a smile and an easy goodbye? Sweet. Ending it by sobbing to your housemates that you'll never love again? Not so sweet.
Once you've nailed what your motivation is, you're ready to dive in. And by 'dive in' I mean:
Take it slowly
Suggesting a one-on-one pub crawl two days after you've split up isn't a great idea, but including them in a group outing? Sure. Asking their advice about work? Awesome. Asking for hand job tips, so you can impress your new partner? Not so much.
Everything in moderation. You may be used to spending every night entwined with them on a sofa, so when you cut back to 'just friends' territory you may think a thrice-weekly coffee date is quite restrained. But bear in mind that the time you spend with them is time you can't spend doing other things, like having a rebound shagathon to celebrate your single status. Sometimes it's helpful to have a literal break before you get cracking on the 'friends' thing. For example: with one of my ex-partners, seeing him straight after the breakup was pretty hard, because all I wanted to do was strip him naked and moan 'LOVE ME AGAIN' through a mouthful of his penis. So instead of going straight from passionate lovers to casual friends, we scheduled a drink in the diary about six months after the split, and agreed not to speak in the meantime. It gave us both time to get our heads clear, and me the opportunity to masturbate until I could think straight.
Whether you want their exploits popping up on your facebook feed is entirely up to you. I have some exes on facebook, and others I don't. I follow a couple of my exes on Twitter, and more are occasionally RTd into my timeline. Whatever contact you stay in, remember the difference between 'keeping in touch' and 'stalking.' If it's something they'd be freaked out by if they knew: don't do it.
Bite your tongue
It's really tempting to drop some hints about how great your life is now. But your seemingly off-the-cuff 'yeah I'm quite busy since I joined Tinder' is not as subtle as you think. It's the equivalent of putting a megaphone in your ex's face and screeching 'EVERYONE WANTS ME': they will either think you're a loser or be actively hurt. On the other hand, don't feign misery just to spare their feelings - do the basic check: would I say this to my other friends? If you would, go for it. If you wouldn't? Swallow that humbebrag.
Don't go too far the other way, either: one of my exes was so good at avoiding brags that it took me two years of keeping-in-touch before I realised he had a new girlfriend. Luckily I hadn't tried to jump him in that time, but he's incredibly hot so it was a very close call. Which leads me to:
When should I introduce them to my new partner?
That depends on when you meet your new partner. Did you meet them while you and your ex were together, and is your new partner a significant contributing factor to your break up? If so, introducing them at all will be like adding water to a chip-pan fire. Or rather, adding another chip-pan fire to a chip-pan fire.
'This is So-and-so, my new partner.'
'This is So-and-so, the person who helped me shatter your heart into tiny pieces. By the way I think they're better than you.'
If, though, your next partner is just someone you've met and you hope they get on with, introduce as soon as you've got a good reason. Think 'we're all invited to the same wedding' not 'I can't wait to show ex hot my new shag is!'
Don't ignore sex
Sex is a big thing: don't pretend it doesn't exist, or do that weird thing where you make jokes about how totally unbelievable it was that you ever went to bed with them.
Should you actually shag your ex? Eh, why not - if you both fancy it, go for it. I've had some excellent ex-sex, and I'm sure I'll have more if I get dumped in the near future. Just make sure both of you know what's on the table – it's pretty horrible to jump aboard someone then realise ten minutes later that they've seen this as a glorious reunion rather than the one-off nostalgia shag it was for you. While you can't do anything if your ex decides to be a massive arsehole, you can certainly try not to be one yourself.
Remember your history
Maybe this is the most important one, which is why I've saved it for last. There's a whole world of heartbreak and emotion wrapped up in the phrase 'just friends' – most of it comes from the 'just.' Like you've both been demoted from an important role to a less-important one, and that everything you had before has crumbled into dust. That's not true.
Firstly, friends are important, and they'll always be important – there's no 'just' about it. What's more, you will always have your history. Some will be good ('I've still got that cool sculpture we made when we were high at Uni') and some bad ('Remember when you were sick at my parents' wedding anniversary and my entire family thought you were a waster?') but it will all still be there. That may mean you've got to be a teeny bit more sensitive, and a hell of a lot more forgiving if your ex puts their foot in it, but it also means it's worth it. You get to reminisce about the good memories and make a few new ones. Best of all, no one ever has to pick a 'side', because you're both on the same team.
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