Dehydrated: It’s OK not to have the ex-factor

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Can you be friends with your ex?

I don’t mean on ‘friendly terms’ like saying hi to them in the street or passing time of day on the bus, I mean real, share-a-pizza, buy each other drinks, wingman and sleepover kind of friends?

It’s something every women’s magazine explores at some point, and they usually come to the same, sensible conclusion: becoming friends with your ex is the mature thing to do. And of course, they’re right. It’s much better to be able to walk across campus with a smile and a wave at the ex if you see them. I mean, what grown-up, self-respecting woman throws herself into the nearest bush because she’s just caught sight of her ex-boyfriend with his gorgeous new beau, and whilst she’s looking flawless, I’ve still got sick in my hair from the night before?

But it’s just not that simple, really, is it? They all seem to overlook the obvious point that you became ex’s for a reason, be it they cheated on you with the girl with a septum piercing who sits three seats in front of you in your seminar, or because they were boring and you simply felt something better would come along. Hell, I’ve ghosted on someone because they pulled the most ridiculous ‘I’m-eating-you-out’ face I’ve ever had the ‘pleasure’ of witnessing.

They also seem to disregard the whole ‘relationship’ part of it. This isn’t just some one night stand, to be repressed with the rest of your regrets; this is someone who held you while you were sleeping, the person who held your hair when you were sick. It’s not even these bigger, perhaps more loving gestures in your relationship either that make it hard to be friends with them; it’s the little intimacies: he’s the person whose blackheads you’ve squeezed out their back, the person who’s seen you scratch-n-sniff your armpits whilst you’re trying to decide whether or not to shower today.

There are some intimacies that only come from being in a couple; when you become friends, those sorts of ‘privileged’ affections, by their own volition, have to melt away. But we can’t just simply disregard them entirely like they never happened. So where does that affection go?

For a lot of people, myself included, it turns into embarrassment, tinging once sweet and cutesy memories red with your own blushes. The sight of someone whose face I’ve sat on a few months after I’ve stopped sitting on said face never fills me with joy, even if the split was amicable. Unsurprisingly, my low embarrassment threshold is the reason why I just never have been able to successfully be friends with an ex. It’s not for the want of trying. I’d love to be able to be like to them ‘So that’s the end of that. Thanks for your time, now go: run free and prosper’, but instead it’s like ‘Okay, you’ve seen me naked. You need to not exist.’

Now, I’m not saying being friends with an ex is an impossibility for everyone (because you’re not all as socially inept as I am), it’s just a process that should never be rushed. Much like you need time to grieve when someone passes away, both parties need a period of mourning when your relationship dies, to cherish the memories and good times you had together and process the fact that you probably won’t be making anymore again. And that period can be as long as you need it to be. Being unable to stomach walking past them to begin with isn’t immaturity, it’s fucking reasonable, especially if your relationship lasted for a few years or was particularly intense.

So ignore what your friends say, forget what the mags suggest: if you don’t want to be friends with your ex, then don’t, but if you really want to be friends with them? Give it time – lots and lots of time, and a dash of patience. And if you really feel you can’t get over them? Then it may be time to get under someone else.

Rebecca Curry is your Editor-in-Chief

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