Should you try to be friends with exes?

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I was just reading an article where someone was trying to be “best friends” with their ex. I’ve always found this concept puzzling. Maybe its a sign that all my relationships end spectacularly badly and I’m terrible at it, but I’ve never had even the slightest inclination to hang out after we’d broken up. It’s not like they’re a bad bunch – most of them were and I’m sure still are great guys, although like most people, there were a couple of embarrassing toads that I try to pretend never happened and will deny strenuously if asked. So why no ongoing friendship with the normal ones? I think I just had no interest whatsoever in pretending that I was okay with the demise of the relationship and hear about the other women they were now dating. I also discovered early on that if I spent any significant time with an ex, I’d blow the gasket in the memory part of my brain (the one that recalls why we broke up) and think it was a good idea to microwave the relationship. In that way, relationships are a lot like lasagne – it’s still okay after the first reheat but after you’ve zapped it three times, it becomes hard and rubbery and completely inedible.

Once you have kids though, you have to try because you’ll be having to interact on a regular basis for years and years. There a quite a few divorces happening at the moment and some are doing better on this front than others. The ones where they only speak through their lawyers makes you want to cry for both them and their kids. Because it doesn’t necessarily get better with time. I went to a wedding a few years ago where the parents, who had only been married for five years in total and broke up when their child was three, still could not be in the same room with each other thirty odd years later. They had literally be fighting six times longer than they had been married. It’s easy from the outside to say that you’d be one of those people who put aside their anger and sense of betrayal and do everything they can to make it easier on the kids, but given my history of inability to be friends with exes, it doesn’t look good.

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Still, I have never stooped to revenge (not yet anyway. I’m leaving my options open though. Never say never and all that). Growing up with brothers and all their friends, I saw the results from the male perspective, which made me realise that it really didn’t change anything. No matter what the girls said or did, there was never an “oh my God! I made a huge mistake! I thought I wanted to break up but I just realised now after your brilliantly executed revenge plan how amazing you are and that I love you and want to be with you forever!” moment. I don’t know one instance outside a romance novel where this has happened (correct me if I’m wrong and you have witnessed this). Generally people know if they don’t want to be with someone and you should be worried if they suddenly do a 180 because there’s something you don’t know. I’d recommend checking your Lotto ticket and the health of your elderly relatives before taking them back. While revenge serves little purpose for the couple involved, it is greatly entertaining for those in their social sphere. My favourite revenge stunt though was the one who barged into the guy’s apartment brandishing a 2 litre bottle of milk. She headed straight for his bedroom and poured the whole thing into his mattress. It wasn’t long before it started to stink. What she hadn’t factored in was that he was a guy in his early twenties and didn’t really care and slept on it anyway. He waited out the sink, because it does eventually go away, and wore a lot of aftershave.

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Another called the council and reported that his car (a trusty and still working bright orange seventies Volvo) was abandoned. So he woke up one morning about to head to uni and found that they’d towed it away. The cost of retrieval was more than the value of the car, so it was never reclaimed. There were quite a few in the strings of girlfriends who slept with their ex’s best friend, which is a sure fire way to ensure that you never get back together, rather than make them jealous. On the flip side though, was the guy who was devastated when his girlfriend, who he thought everything was going incredibly well with, broke up with him because he made her too happy and she’d gained 5kgs.

So maybe there is something to trying to be friends with exes. If we all had that skill, practiced when we were younger and had nothing to lose but our pride, then it might make things a lot easier if later on we got divorced, when the stakes become a lot higher and children are involved. Clearly this wouldn’t work in every case, but it might be something that is worth more thought if our kids ever come to us asking advice. I don’t think it’s likely either, but one day they might be desperate enough and I’ll be ready to go!

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Death becomes us

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There’s nothing like a funeral to make you take a long hard look at your life. Even if you’ve live a long, well regarded life, it still doesn’t quite seem enough, given the loved ones who grieve your passing. Sadder still would be have no one who missed you, though in a way it would be easier knowing that your death would cause no pain. My great uncle was 95 and had accomplished some amazing things, but the thing that stood out most, which is unusual for a very accomplished man but fit well with my own memories of him, was how kind and caring he was, as a family man and as a doctor, and how he didn’t judge any of the people who came to him with their problems. Because it is incredibly hard not to judge and to care greatly for people outside our immediate circle. To be open and understanding leaves you vulnerable to being hurt yourself, which is why it is far easier to build a fortress and hand the key out to only a select few who you know can be trusted. The emotional resilience in people who can do this is remarkable.

The photographs shown to Moonlight Sonata flicked between a vital young man, a man in middle age then in increments inching towards the time of his passing. The beauty and tragedy of aging flowing in one inevitable direction. I have always known him as a grandfather, so for me he seemed to stay the same until near the end when he became much more fragile. Seeing the earlier photos on the big screens though, showed that for a lie. He was once the age I am now, younger and older. This too will one day be me, my life shown in a series of photos.

Sitting in the chapel, my thoughts inevitably turned to how my own funeral would go and if I were to die tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d be happy with what I’ve accomplished. I haven’t saved hundreds of lives, brought new lives into the world or helped countless people through difficult times. The things I’ve done have also been done by millions of others. I’ve yet to leave a smudge, let alone my mark on life.

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This, perhaps, is the tragedy of a shortened life. So much potential unrealised. What could they have done if given the chance? I have, regretfully, been to the funerals of two children close to me and they are almost indescribable. There are no words to convey the horrific sadness. How their parents kept moving shows a bravery and strength I don’t know if I possess. How can you find the joy to celebrate that they lived when it was not enough?

To believe that this life is not the end and that we will meet them again in some other time and place is comforting. I don’t think it matters where or in what form it comes. For myself, I’m happy to believe that death is the end, but for my loved ones? No. If they were to go on living in some form, I’d want to be there too.

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