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.
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.
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!