Should I stay or should I go?
February 4, 2020 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Ex wants to be friends, friends telling me to stay away....

My ex has reached out, 4 months after ending our relationship, and would like to try being friends again.

We were best friends longer than we were together, miss each other terribly and have never been closer to another human, this was true even when we were just friends.

I have talked to three close friends this morning and gotten:

"Voting Leopards Eating People's Faces again are we?"
"Dude, I have no hard feelings towards her but she rewrote history to make you the bad guy, be extremely careful."
"I wouldn't, but I know you guys miss your friendship, if you choose this path you will have my full support."

There is a chance for ripples or nuclear level detonations from this within the friend group. This whole mess started from a poly situation and marriages have ended, feelings are raw, lifelong best friends are not speaking, etc.

I sound like a drama addict writing this, I am not, I miss my friend. In this whole mess we are the only pair who want the same thing from each other.

What would you do?
posted by Twinge to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How do you know you want the same thing from each other? How sure are you about what you want? How sure are you about what she wants? These are the operative questions.

There have been times in the past when I told myself, and really believed, that I was content to rebuild a friendship and not want anything more. Every time I was wrong about my motivations, and usually the other person made the same mistake and we kept hurting each other because of it. Four months is a pretty short time.
posted by sallybrown at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Listen to your friends. I mean, it sounds like a really bad idea to me for you to get back together, but even if it didn't, I'd trust the unanimous recommendations of your friends before I'd trust the recommendations of random internet strangers who undoubtedly have a less full picture view than your friends do.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2020 [44 favorites]

Definitely your friends are in a much better position to judge than us. What if you decide to wait a year from now and see if things have cooled off.
posted by bleep at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

My default position is do not try to do friends with exes, because in my experience it always ends up with one person wanting something different from the other and more hurt feelings/drama/distress.

You've presented nothing that makes me think your case might be an exception. Four months is not a long time to "get over" an ex and is not a long time to stop missing a once-dear friend.

Given the risk for nuclear-level repercussions, this seems like a bad idea, especially this soon.
posted by kochenta at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

You know, I wrote a whole long answer about how one of my very best friends is an ex and how we managed to do it but how I still wouldn’t recommend that path to anyone, but then I re-read this question and...

Frankly, why are you asking all of your friends and us? That’s not the low-drama action, friend. Be friends if you’re gonna be friends, but keep everyone else out of it. Sounds like it’s already affected quite a few folks and I would be tired of that in my orbit, too.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

There is a chance for ripples or nuclear level detonations from this within the friend group. This whole mess started from a poly situation and marriages have ended, feelings are raw, lifelong best friends are not speaking, etc.

Sounds like you need to choose your bff or your friends group.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2020

There are too many variables for us to answer this. But if the reasons your friends are against it is because of the standard "friendships with exes are too hard," there's good reason to ignore that. While ending contact has sometimes been the best option for me after breakups for the sake of my own mental health, considering that a "rule" overemphasizes romantic relationships and underemphasizes the importance of platonic relationships.

If this is really going to affect other people within your circle, consider why. For example, is it because this person harmed someone else, so they'll be upset that you're friends with them? If so, decide whether this is more the equivalent of "befriending someone's abuser," in which case you need to think very hard about whom you want to support here, or is it more a "high school level drama" kind of thing.
posted by metasarah at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


Your friends don't want to be dragged into drama either, and they're telling you up front that is what will follow.

Maybe in a year. Or two.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

jeweled accumulation - I think gathering this data before responding is the opposite of drama, I hope it's thinking before acting.... I could be wrong, my confidence is at a lifelong low currently because of this.

metasarah - The concerns from the friends mentioned in my post are mature and adult, however the mess with those 2-3 people who are currently acting nuts about the situation is highschool meangirls level drama. These are lifelong friends but at the same time I'm not totally surprised. They will see any relationship with her, the interloper, as betrayal by me.

Ok, after thinking this all over I have responded to her:

"Hey, I know you'll be at the party Friday, why don't we see how that goes before planning any further steps forward, ok?" We have not seen each other at all since Sept.
posted by Twinge at 11:08 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

My default position is always aim for a cordial friendship with exes, do the intense internal emotional work required to make my end of that friendship feasible as quickly as possible, then wait for them to re-initiate contact if they want. But then, my other default position is don't get in relationships - intimate or otherwise - with drama llamas.
posted by flabdablet at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2020

Generally speaking, you are not supposed to attempt to be friends again if drama is still going on, hasn't passed on, or was pretty recent. The general guideline is about a year.

I have been very sorry personally when my exes reached out to me and I responded. It never ended well for me. If this already has trainwreck drama going on and it's only been four months, at the very least give it a year since the breakup before you revisit this idea.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:17 AM on February 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

Thanks everyone, all your answers are best answers, seriously.

I will pump the brakes.
posted by Twinge at 11:18 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is a chance for ripples or nuclear level detonations from this within the friend group.

It sounds like you've already had phase 1 of that. Listen to your friends: they're the people who've been with you through this whole thing.

Please note also: I am friends with a few of my exes and always, always try to stay friends if I can. Sometimes you can't.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:19 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read your earlier posts about this situation and I think you should run far away. These people were not who you thought they were, the slow reveal about the lying, abuse and cheating is pretty telling. This person lied to you extensively over a long period of time, you may have felt close and intimate but you weren't. I don't lie to my close friends, I may tell them I'm keeping a secret but I don't lie and mislead.

You were not this person's priority at any point and you should be better and kinder to yourself.
posted by fshgrl at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2020 [12 favorites]

I could be wrong, my confidence is at a lifelong low currently because of this.

Eeeeee, not a good time to bring this person back in your life, then! Heal more first.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

Maybe in a year decade. Or two.

(fixed that for you ;-)
posted by sammyo at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am friends with my exes and absolutely opposed to "standard truisms" about friendships with exes being inappropriate or whatever.

And even I think that four months with the dynamics you describe is too soon. Not because it would blow up your friend group, but because missing each other intently is not a great foundation for what you're saying that you want. If you two truly want to do the work to invest in a long-term friendship, you need to let some time go by and move on with your lives first. If you're going to have to be in the same place at the same time, limit exposure and stick to being polite distant acquaintances. No shared looks.

Let the "we" dissolve. When you're two individuals again, you can reassess how you can rebuild a friendship and what it might look like.
posted by desuetude at 12:13 PM on February 4, 2020 [16 favorites]

4 months is probably too soon unless you want the relationship to start up again.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:48 PM on February 4, 2020

Wow, on reading your previous questions, your relationship with your ex was an absolute train wreck, why would you ever dive back into that? You say you don’t want drama but I really have to wonder. Your friends are right, not only would I avoid this person for a year, I’d avoid them for good.
posted by Jubey at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

I think there are two requirements for being friends with exes:

1) You both need to treat each other with the kind of basic care and respect a friendship requires.
2) You both need to accept that you're just friends. If one of you is secretly hoping you'll get back together, or is going to be upset if the other person starts dating someone new, it isn't going to be a healthy or equitable situation.

If these two conditions aren't met, stay away from this person until they are, no matter how much you miss them.
posted by orange swan at 4:25 PM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Four months is about when people start realizing that the person they broke up with was actually pretty cool, and that they're not going to easily find another relationship with that level of trust, intimacy, and understanding - that even if there's someone better out there in the world, it'd take years to get to know them and develop the relationship.

See also: The number of breakups in summer followed by a Christmas Eve phone call that's basically "oh honey leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life; please can't we just be friends; even if we're never together-together again, I miss you so much..."

It's too soon. It's long enough for both of you to realize what you've lost; it's not long enough for either of you to have changed enough for the relationship to be different now.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:31 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Way too soon. You are both still attached to and missing each other, and this is a way to rekindle that connection, even if you don't mean it to be. You can be friends when you don't care if you're friends again. If you re-start an intimate friendship, it's gonna be awful and hurt and you'll wonder why you fooled yourself into thinking it's okay. Those issues and hurt are still very close to the surface. It doesn't matter that you were friends for longer.

Also is she dating the guy you were worried about that? Then hell no. Run, fast.

You need to stop thinking of her as the human you are closest to, and then maybe you can be friends... very far down the road.

(I am friends with exes. I am not friends with anyone I've dated in the past few years except one guy, and he and I were only intimate a few times; I don't think of him as an ex at all.)
posted by bluedaisy at 4:33 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

On seeing Jubey's comment, I went back and read your previous questions. Sorry to quote your own previous words back at you, but you're talking about rekindling a connection with someone who made you feel like this, just four months ago:
My stomach hurts 24/7 and I exist in a near constant state of rage. I cannot go back to the bleeding ulcers and puking blood from when I was a teen who couldn't deal with anything yet this feels exactly like that. I don't want to feel anything, I have no interest in anything but leaving this all behind ... How can I stop this rage and the constant pain of this burning stomach?
Why on earth would you want to reconnect with the person that caused that? And it would also blow up your friendship group? Why, why, why? What possible reason could there be to reconnect?

And you say above
I miss my friend. In this whole mess we are the only pair who want the same thing from each other.
In fact, all the other questions you've written about this person make it very clear that the problem was that you didn't want the same thing from each other. You wanted a significant romantic partner, she wanted something much more casual. None of this pain is going to magically go away if you try to realign as friends.

I've been on MeFi for 15 years now and in a decade and a half of DTMFAs I have to say this is right up there on the rankings of obvious answers. Should you stay or should you go? Go. Pull on your big girl pants, walk away from this person, and go and broaden your horizons. Find some new hobbies, make some new friends. There's a whole world out there where people don't live embroiled in this kind of drama, I promise you.
posted by penguin pie at 4:36 PM on February 4, 2020 [18 favorites]

As I said above, I'm pumping the brakes, hard. It's clear that thinking clearly is a long way off still.
posted by Twinge at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

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