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Old 03-06-2011, 06:18 PM
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Default How to be Friends with an Ex

I did a thread search but didn't find much. So hopefully, I didn't miss some amazing thread with awesome advice.

Summary - O has decided to break up with me. I did not want the relationship to end and am feeling pretty depressed about the whole thing. Basically he doesn't feel like he can be enough time-wise and energy-wise. We have always been friends and we share a lot of the same friends. And I've never really had a break up before, O was my first love. I feel pretty lost.

The question, at large.

What experiences do you have with break-ups in general and particularly where you were good friends prior to dating and shared a social circle? How did you navigate transitioning back to being just friends, if you could? How were breakups when one person had a tough time accepting the end of things? Also, how do people deal with socializing with their former SO and their SO's SO? And any other information or anecdotes you may have on the subject of poly break-ups...
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Old 03-06-2011, 06:43 PM
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ImaginaryIllusion ImaginaryIllusion is offline
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Sorry to hear that Ray.

I'm not sure I can offer anything wrt the heartbreak. I don't recall ever doing much breaking up...I'm sure it'll happen eventually, but my not so extensive list of relationships either were either short & in high school, or they're still going.

If you're having a hard time accepting the end...then I would suggest taking some time to yourself, and away from O. Whenever I've seen people who try to go immediately from lovers to friends without any time to re-establish themselves as an individual, they never seem to break away from the couple mentality. Give you and him some space to mourn and rebuild.

As for friends...if you're breaking up on fairly amicable terms then it shouldn't be too hard to keep them around. Back home my social circle was fairly extensive and intertwined, with a few couples where both partners were closely tied to the group. When they broke up, it tended to cause a lot of strain all around if it wasn't peaceful, with lots of people taking sides, or getting torn between the two.
For the sake of your friendships, I'd suggest trying to make it easy for them to stay friends with both of you...however you can make that work. Hopefully O will do the same...it kinda sucks to be caught in the middle.
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Old 03-06-2011, 07:00 PM
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Default Hard, not impossible

The first challenge for you - since you were not the one who ended the relationship - is getting to a point of acceptance. Now, I don't mean understanding - which is intellectual. In my experience, until I've gotten to a place of real acceptance, I couldn't be friends. It was too painful. You know you haven't emotionally accepted the break-up if you're still asking "Why or why now?" and thinking about "it would have been great, if only..."

So, assuming you can garner some measure of acceptance, my view on staying friends has been very, very simple. I hold on to the simple idea that - "I loved this person before the breakup and breaking up doesn't change that one bit."

The hard part is allowing that love to transition from romantic to platonic in its expression. Every instance I can think of where I haven't been able to stay friends with a partner it was because one of us refused to let the expression of love to make that important transition.

A current partner of mine says this really well. She told me early on: "I make commitments to people, not relationships." I find that achingly beautiful. What she means by that is that she is committed to making those transitions you have to make when the relationship with someone else changes form (whether she desires the change or not).

I find that I have to heavily monitor my behavior in the early stages of a transition to make sure I'm not giving the impression that I'm trying to drag the relationship back to the way it was. You also have to find ways to not burden them with the guilt of your pain. Your pain is inevitable; it is real. But, if you want to remain close with them, then you have to find someone else to comfort you.

Lastly, don't be afraid to give it some time. You have to give each other enough space so that you can make a break, start a transition, and rebond... It helps when you have mutual interests that you can stay connected around. Much harder to rebond/re-connect without that base to go back to.

That's what I've distilled from my experience. Still friends with - most notably - my high school sweetheart, my college sweetheart (former fiance), and my "ex-wife" (still married but permanently separated).
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Last edited by MindfulAgony; 03-06-2011 at 07:19 PM. Reason: grammar + bolding "L's" words
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:41 PM
Malach Malach is offline
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It's tough.

The woman I had been dating broke things off after her live-in boyfriend became uncomfortable with her dating around. I had fallen for her pretty hard, but didn't want to strain her primary relationship, so I let it go. We've remained friends--good friends, even. I think I know her better now than I did when we were dating, and we still talk nearly every day. I wish things had turned out differently, and I'm sometimes sad that they didn't...but having her in my life as a friend is a lot better than nothing at all.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:09 PM
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I've maintained a friendship with every ex I have but one. In that case, it's her choice.

My experience is that it's important to first find acceptance within yourself that loving someone does not mean that you are going to be more than friends-you can love someone and be "just friends" (to begin with or again).

The next thing is to take time to rebuild your life so that the time you normally spent together in a "couples" capacity is "rescheduled" into something else.

Then slowly re-incorporate them back into your life starting with reasonably large social settings first. Then working down to smaller social settings.

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Old 03-06-2011, 11:31 PM
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Even though your heart has been dashed to bits, you can take comfort in knowing that it ended because he feels he couldn't give you what you needed. It would feel far worse if it was due to the relationship having disintegrated into something painful and antagonistic. So, at least there's that. And because of that, I would think dialogue and communication are still possible between you.

Now, about relating to all your mutual friends. I have been a part of several large circles of friends and acquaintances in the past. Both these groups saw lots of dating amongst each other going on. Yes, several times I had dated someone who had previously dated another woman I was friends with, and who subsequently dated another friend. Past loves would be invited to weddings and housewarmings, would fix each other up with new friends, and so on, and everyone knew we'd all just moved on. I've always been a proponent of recycling boyfriends, haha, anyway...

Now, granted we all were very outspoken and willing to look at the dynamics of relationships, friendships, and so on. These were both groups of people that embraced self-awareness, self-examination, and were kind of part of the human potential movement, so to speak, so it might be a bit different than your circle of friends. However...

Personally, I had a few relationships in these circles that ended and I saw that instinctively I wanted to isolate myself from the pack to deal with it. But not hiding out helped immensely!! I still showed up to social events and get-togethers -- why be the one who's curled in a corner crying? -- and I reminded myself that I had every right to be out and about with them as he did. I had friends I wanted to stay in touch with. It's so easy to think that a group will follow conventional stupidity and take sides when a couple in their midst breaks up, but you can make sure you don't present an attitude that would be ripe for that happening.

I just held my held high, whether I felt I did something wrong in the relationship to bring about its end or not, and I talked about it to the people with whom I felt safe, until it could be acknowledged more openly among everyone. I talked about my feelings, without wanting to turn anyone against my new ex, but just to be heard. If you're careful not to trash someone after they break up with you, all your friends will likely be able to be supportive of both of you. Give yourself enough private time to mourn the relationship, too, and it won't be as hard to face all your mutual friends out in the open.

But go out and socialize with everyone just for the sake of getting out and being in the company of people you like. You don't have to talk abut it if you don't feel like it, either, and you can say so if someone asks what happened and you're not ready to answer. Just take care of yourself, whether you're alone or in a crowd.
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Last edited by nycindie; 03-07-2011 at 02:33 AM.
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Old 03-08-2011, 06:05 AM
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Thanks guys. You've all said some really important things. Of course it's always the easier said than done routine. Pretty much every one I've talked to here or elsewhere has said that some space is really necessary. I feel so torn. We've been and will be getting some more space but I go back and forth between wanting to commit to care and work out a friendship to being like, fuck this, I gave you my heart and you didn't even seem to care. He barely seems to be affected by any of this. I feel like I'd fallen irrevocably in love with him and I don't know how to put it back in the bag. The acceptance bit, I'm working on that one but it is not easy.

Do you guys have any stories about your first loves and how it ended and what it felt like? I hear that the first is always really tough to get over.
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Old 03-11-2011, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray View Post
I did a thread search but didn't find much. So hopefully, I didn't miss some amazing thread with awesome advice.

Summary - O has decided to break up with me. I did not want the relationship to end and am feeling pretty depressed about the whole thing. Basically he doesn't feel like he can be enough time-wise and energy-wise. We have always been friends and we share a lot of the same friends. And I've never really had a break up before, O was my first love. I feel pretty lost.

The question, at large.

What experiences do you have with break-ups in general and particularly where you were good friends prior to dating and shared a social circle? How did you navigate transitioning back to being just friends, if you could? How were breakups when one person had a tough time accepting the end of things? Also, how do people deal with socializing with their former SO and their SO's SO? And any other information or anecdotes you may have on the subject of poly break-ups...
Well... how do you do it...

You just do. If the friendship means that much you have to put in leg work to making it work. You can't trust your instincts here, its almost like you have to re-write the book on how your interactions work.

In general my breakups are explosive as the beginnings of my relationships. I have only experienced keeping them as friends once. I am a big fan of dropping the person and moving on, at least for a time.

My current roomate E... well she was a local friend and we just ended up hooking up. (our love was very accidental.. ) Transitioning from loving someone to being friendly was f-ing hard work. Seeing her flirting and picking up men was one of the hardest things I had witnessed. I still had tinges for months... but the friendship was worth it. She in her own f-ed up way grounds me (she shows me a perspective on women I don't want hahaha). We make better friends than lovers anyways. Her and I would seriously butt heads if we were dating.
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Old 03-13-2011, 02:12 AM
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@ Ari - I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that can be a tad 'explosive' when it comes to big changes with people. I guess it's a bit different for everyone and some people find it easier to be friends with their exes than others. I was beginning to feel like I was defective for struggling to transition.

@ nycindie - Initially, I understood that he didn't want to come out to his friends giving the timing with he and A's wedding. But it became clear that he had no intentions of ever coming out even to his friends who are all like swinger/pagan/kinky and wouldn't have cared. It's definitely been something I've not liked. Looking back, it's something I wish I'd made a bigger fuss over it.

@ TP - I think many of them didn't know. Our training friends are pretty mainstream, monogamous folk. If they suspected anything, it would have been an affair. His friends may have figured out that we were physically involved but I don't think that anyone knew it went deeper than that.

Things are calming a bit but I'm still a mess. It's been helpful to have some space. I've decided that regardless of his typical Vulcan zen characteristics, that until he can show a shred of sympathy, I don't think we'll be doing much more than coexisting. I mean, the way he's acting, I don't know if he remotely even cares that we broke up. Or if even our relationship really mattered to him? Everyone's entitled to deal with things their own way but it doesn't even look like he's got anything to deal with. He doesn't realize (or maybe just doesn't care) that he often fails to relate to people in an empathetic manner or a way that makes sense to anyone other than himself.
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Old 03-16-2011, 07:15 PM
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Well, having had some time to not see him, I've been doing a little better. I wouldn't say I'm doing well but I'm trying to be realistic in my perception of him and his actions. Looking back, when the relationship started, I'd never really been in one before, I had no experience with any kind of non-monogamy and I'd just left/been abandoned by my church 'family'. I was in a very vulnerable spot with little experience by which to judge whether or not getting into the relationship was wise.

Knowing what I know now, I'm not sure that I would have decided to get involved. I don't think he and his wife were ready and they still aren't. He apparently can't actually accept the risk of an alternative lifestyle. I question whether she was ever fully comfortable with any of it. Or perhaps she was ok with him having a make-out buddy but nothing more. And the two of them have some major communication issues. I don't think they were ever really willing to do the work to be poly. When it started, I didn't have the ability to ask the right questions or see through the bullshit. Now when I look at the situation, it seems really obvious that they weren't on the same page with each other or me.

I hate that I may never be able to have a friendship with him again. And tomorrow night is the knitting group and I wish I could go but I'm pretty sure that A will be there. I'm not sure that I'm ready to handle that. I don't think I'd have much fun. And there's a martial arts test on saturday that one of my friends is doing and has begged me to come. I want to be there to support him but I know I'll see O. And I wish I didn't have to. On the bright side, this friend is having a St. Patty's Day party tonight and was kind enough not to invite O (he's the only one of our training friends that knows). I never asked him to do it but I do appreciate that he was considerate to make an event that I could feel comfortable attending.
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