Monday, March 14, 2011

Dragging It Out

Many people make themselves intensely miserable because they don't know how to break up once and for all. It so happens that I'm witnessing several such stories around me at this moment. Instead of ending a profoundly unhappy relationship once and for all, people keep going in endless circles, arguing, fighting, crying, and making both themselves and their former partners completely miserable. 

Then, there are also those who are into "remaining friends" with their former partners and spouses. It's possible that there are cases when such "friendships" are healthy and don't serve the purpose of manipulating the next romantic partner into permanent submission, but I'm yet to see them. More often than not, such relationships are not about friendship at all. They are about people trying to make themselves feel more important at the expense of new partners.

I always warned everybody I ever dated that if the relationship were to end, it would end completely. After we are done, we don't get in touch any more in any way, form, or manner. And I also reserve the right to forget the names and faces of each and all former partners. As a result, today I don't have to drag around the useless baggage of failed relationships and marriages. 


Pagan Topologist said...

I think it may be a little different when tow people have a child together.

Clarissa said...

They can get the court to decide visitations rights for them.

However, the people I'm talking about that I'm observing right now don't have children together.

Pagan Topologist said...

I am glad that my first wife and I worked oout things like visitation and child support on our own without relying on the courts.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those people who tends to stay friends- or at least friendly- with my exes, and I don't see it as unhealthy at all. There are two major reasons why I do this:
Firstly, as a queerish person, I'm inevitably going to end up bumping into my (local) exes on a reasonably regular basis. Circles are small, numbers of mutual friends are high. It's entirely impractical to cut someone out entirely, as well as being incredibly rude to mutual friends. Because of this, learning how to get along with exes is pretty much essential.
The second reason, though, is more important to me, being more about friendship than civility. I value the relationships I've had with my exes highly. They're incredibly important people to me, and my relationships tend to be based on solid friendships. I have no interest in cutting people out of my life because one aspect of our relationship turns out not to work any more. Likewise, I don't describe these relationships as 'failed'- they just changed.
However, I'm very aware that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about this. I tend to take two basic steps to try and ensure that our friendships remain healthy for all concerned. The first thing I do is absolutely, no matter what, impose a period of no-contact after a breakup. This can be anything from weeks to several months long- however long it takes to be able to contact them without any difficulty. Getting back in touch is generally tentative. The other thing is that I'll only be friends with exes where I'm sure they're not being harmed by it.
While I'm aware that this isn't for everyone, some of my most valuable friendships are with people with whom I was previously involved. People whom I'm happy to see moving on with their lives and, of course, finding new relationships with other people.

Clarissa said...

"They're incredibly important people to me, and my relationships tend to be based on solid friendships."

-I never understood it when people said this. How is that possible? Northing could be more different than a romantic relationship and a friendship. A romantic relationship is based on an intense sexual passion while a friendship can only be based on a complete absence thereof.

marroncito said...

I've been married 3 years now. My wife and I are friends with several of both of our ex's. They live in Houston like we do and we see them frequently and welcome them in our home.

I think this is because we still care about them. I like the way considertheteacosy put it about having just one aspect of the relationship change.

When our relationships with theses ex's don't have baggage (some do), there are still a lot of shared experiences, memories, feelings with those people. They were/are part of shaping who my wife and I are today. Also, since the non-baggage heavy relationships didn't end badly, there's a lot of trust there with these ex's because we know them so well and have shared so much with them.

One of the things I love especially about her ex's is that they meet some of my wife's emotional needs that I don't and probably can't. I can't be all things to her, so having strong friendships like this gives her additional love, support, etc.

Clarissa said...

I can imagine nothing more manipulative than telling one's partner that they don't fulfill your emotional needs so you'll go to your ex for that. What would I do to anybody who tried that spiel on me is scary to contemplate. :-)

But, of course, everybody has a different level of tolerance in their personal life.

Rimi said...

My ex and I are great friends now. But this friendship is different from my other friendships; had I not had, as Clarissa says, 'intense sexual passion' for him, I'd quite possibly never have been his friend.

But having been in an intense and enormously enjoyable relationship with him for a couple of years, I've developed an unerasable affection for him, and concern for his well-being, plus a gradual appreciation for those qualities that stayed hidden behind a somewhat disagreeable manner at first. He's not my new best friend, but we speak a few times a week, and I'd definitely keep things that way till such a time when either him or I or both feel like this is getting in the way of our current lives, and we'd like to end things.

I think, in short, that there is a basic difference of approach in those friendships we form with people we meet right off, and those formed of lingering affection, or simply having known a person very well.

Clarissa said...

My first husband tried to "remain friends." I was young and naive, so I agreed to try. The very first time we met "as friends", it became painfully obvious that he just wanted me back and it was all a ploy.

What I don't understand in the friendships with the exes is the following: to our friends we always narrate every detail of our new romantic relationships. Doing that to an ex seems petty and spiteful. So you have to keep silent about the details of new relationships. But that isn't a friendship any more because it's heavily censored.

Rimi said...

Oh dear. I suppose we have different understandings of friendship. I discuss my relationships with only one friend in detail. I have tonnes of other friends, who get to hear snatches about my relationship if it is relevant to the topic or a good anecdote, but no more.

Also, let's face it, most of us different kinds of friendships, at different spaces of our lives and different levels of intimacy. I've not had any problems with being friends with my recentest ex because I want to. The others, I've wished good luck and good bye to, and haven't looked back. It all depends.

Clarissa said...

So let's say, you met the man of your dreams who is everything you ever wanted and whom you desire like you never thought was possible. You are not going to persecute your friends with stories about his amazingness? If so, I envy you because such restraint is not possible for me. :-) :-)

Rimi said...

Hardly restraint. You would feel joy in sharing. I would feel... oh I don't know, acutely uncomfortable. I'd gush to two or three people -- my mum, my closest friend for these purposes, a couple more people. But to talk about it beyond that would make me feel, irrationally, that I'm losing my joy by scattering it amongst people who don't really care as much as I, or my mum, or my three friends would care about this wonderful happy thing.

It's not just about romance. I'm this way about most parts of my life. I 'share' very selectively, though I'd always tell is directly asked. I'm not actively secretive. But there it is :-)

Clarissa said...

I understand what you mean completely. I have very few people in my life. I just don't get why one would keep anybody other than these closest people around at all. Wouldn't they be a huge waste of time?

I'm autistic, so I see these things very differently than most people. :-)

Pagan Topologist said...

I have generally only a small amount of contact with former partners, though we tend to be friendly enough when we happen to see each other. My first wife and I do exchange holiday gifts. However, with few exceptions, if any one of my former partners called me at three o'clock in the morning with an emergency, I would help them out if I could. (This has not happened so far.)

marroncito said...


"I can imagine nothing more manipulative ... than telling one's partner that they don't fulfill your emotional needs so you'll go to your ex for that. What would I do to anybody who tried that spiel on me is scary to contemplate."

i'm sorry i communicated poorly. that wasn't the meaning of what i wrote. i'll try again.

i truly don't believe that one person can be everything to another person. some examples of this. husbands can't be their spouses fathers, mothers, friends, etc. in our life, my wife draws strength and support from all of these people. i encourage her to keep these relationships as strong as possible. this is what i mean when i say that one person doesn't fulfill all of another person's needs. i'm sorry if i came across as trying to be sleazy.

specific to this post, i think ex's can be beneficial to your spouse if your marital relationship is healthy. they have inside jokes, they understand a lot about each other. they trust each other. they have shared interests that my wife and i don't have. in short they're part of her support network.

having said that, i also want to point out that i find it far more controlling, scary and manipulative to believe that one person can be the only source (not saying you or anyone said that, just clarifying) of fulfilling emotional needs.

thank you for letting me be part of your blog.