When you're living in a city as small as Cape Town, the chances of running into your ex are about as high as the people you meet in Purple Turtle, and just like the exterior of Long Street's most infamous building, is met with mixed emotions. Nostalgia, confusion, attraction, disgust. The reaction of bumping into someone that used to be part of your existence differs from one individual to the next and depends entirely on circumstance and the manner in which the relationship ended. The impromptu sighting could welcome a gentle smile that says "I'm happy for you" or even a smouldering eye-fuck that says "do me baby one more time," and while most cases of the ex are usually met with some colorful sledging, I couldn't help but wonder about the possibility of being friends with your ex?
It's a topic that raises many eyebrows and much debate; can one maintain a completely platonic relationship with an ex partner? On the one extreme, abso-freaking-lutely, hell to the no, no, not! An ex is an ex and the past should in no way interfere with one's present or future, especially when they've already moved on to the next relationship. One can easily argue the unwarranted side-effects and complications that such a friendship may have on your current relationship status. Jealousy, resentment, questions around whether or not you're actually over it. Is it fair to your present partner and more importantly, is it fair to you?
But what about those rare romantic relationships that have managed to salvage the good, whose separation, unlike seventy percent of relationships happened to have an amicable ending? Are they exponentially setting themselves up for failure, another round of pain and disappointment or have they simply progressed beyond the realm of conventional expectations? Are they so secure in their own skins and relationships to be able to afford this kind of optimism or do they need a serious reality check? Are there certain rules and conditions that one should stick to in order to prevent the "inevitable"? When all is forgiven but not completely forgotten, can one still remain friends with a former lover?
Earlier this year, I received an unexpected email (formerly known as a "letter") that was probably about two years overdue. An open apology from an ex-boyfriend who had reached out to me after years of inexplicable silence. Our last encounter was just another one of those typical tragedies only without the Swedish pop quartet. Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy says I love you, boy changes his mind and disappears off the face of the planet. It could have been far worse than any of Lindsay Lohan's recent performances but unlike many of my ghosts of ex-mas past, I did not feel anger or resentment. Only immense sadness that lasted four months before dragging myself out of bed and into the arms of another loving man.
I was at a happy place in my life and felt confident enough to respond to him without compromising my feelings towards my current relationship. One phone call later and all those memories came flooding back only this time, uncomplicated by feelings of love, lust and longing. "I'm going to be in town next week and would love to see you." Mmmm...I wondered. On the one hand, this could be a recipe for disaster and on the
other, a successful coup d'etat against single-minded mentalities. I saw this as the ideal opportunity to conduct a potentially hazardous social experiment; one that would prove the masses wrong and solidify my love for Aiden. I decided to invite him to spend the week with us in our cosy, one bedroomed studio apartment.
He came, he stayed but he did not conquer, except for our living room of course which had become "his space" for the duration of his stay. The conversation flowed as quickly as the red wine and for the first time in two years, I got to know my friend again. The most gratifying part about the whole situation was how well he got along with Aiden who at first was hesitant but soon warmed up to the idea.
My ex could see how happy I was and even asked for advice on how to deal with his own baby-mamma drama's. We were even brave enough to bring up the past and had a good laugh at it although it was no laughing matter at the time. We we're both genuinely happy for one another and revelled in each other's company. Had I achieved the impossible? Was the key to just being friends the ability to learn from the pain and grow better instead of growing bitter or was this new-found friendship one in a million?
Break-ups are exhausting and excruciating especially when you're the one getting burnt, and while parting circumstances are not always favourable, sometimes there's room for miracles. We all process break-ups differently, and while some of us have mastered the art of living side by side with our mortal enemy, others would rather take their chances in Chinese torture chambers. It's a risk that requires serious consideration and a higher level of maturity, free from any questionable motives. Does your desire to reconnect with an ex carry some hidden agenda or are your intentions truly honourable?
When it comes to ex's: friend or foe?