The Editors Debate: Should You Stay Friends With Your Exes?

Jennifer and Ashley disagree on how much you should keep in contact with your ex, Ashley fashions a decorative hair doll.

Jennifer: How much contact should you have with your ex? Well, I think my initial impulse is to say “all the contact! Be besties! Embrace that relationship and your shared past with octopus arms!” But the reality is somewhat more complicated, isn’t it?

Ashey: I don’t believe that’s actually your initial impulse. If you’re participating in an Editors Debate and taking a side which you wouldn’t normally take while at the same time augmenting and exaggerating your stance on the issue, then shame on you because I take Editors Debate very, very seriously.

Jennifer: Okay, fine, but I am really proud of some of the friendships that I’ve maintained with my exes. That said, those are exes I’ve broken up with. I’m sorry, but as the great musical group ABBA once stated, “the winner takes it all.” One person fundamentally walks away from a relationship and is okay, and the other person walks away and is devastated. If you were the devestated party I cannot imagine how you ca have a successful friendship at first. Unless you are very evolved person, I suppose. I couldn’t do it.

Ashley: How do you expect those “friend exes” you have to be friends with you if they were devastated?

Jennifer: I assume that we are both lying to ourselves about the situation a little tiny bit, OR, more likely, enough time has passed that the relationship has been all but forgotten.

Ashley: So why are you friends? Because you have mutual interests or a similar sense of humor? OR BECAUSE YOU LOVE STEPPING ON HEARTS? ANGUISH MONGER.

Jennifer: Always a little bit of both, yes? No, because you and your ex have a shared history and it’s desirable not to go from being very, very close to being complete strangers. That’s the worst thing about break-ups, the way you instantly become total strangers.

Ashley: What if you broke up because it turns out one party is a terrible person?

Jennifer: Well, then you should never see them again. Likewise, if you were the devastated party, give yourself a lot of time. More time than you could possibly think you’d need. If you are the party who walked away okay, maybe still put some distance between you and your ex, even though, sure, you could be friendly instantly. But ultimately, yes, I think friendship is a very worthy goal.

Ashley: Seems like it’s a pretty volatile thing, though. I feel like, in times in which I’ve tried to be friends with exes, it became pretty clear that I was just doing it because it was comforting or familiar to be around them. It took me a bit to realize that’s not a healthy way of interacting with another human and ultimately, I didn’t really have a better reason for continuing to know the person.

Jennifer: Wait – really? You didn’t want good things for them? You weren’t curious about how their life would play out? Because ultimately I think those are things I always come to feel about my exes – even ones from relationships that didn’t end well.

Ashley: It’s natural to be curious about how someone’s life turns out. It’s natural to still have fondness and concern for a person you spent a lot of time with. But I feel like friendships between exes are almost always just impressions of actual friendships and seldom make it out of that state. I guess my feeling is, why bother? Strikes me as unhealthy.

Jennifer: But you do LIKE your exes to begin with, right? I guess I have a difficult time forming strong bonds with people and when I do, I am eager to maintain them for a lifetime. I don’t mind not sleeping with a person anymore, but it makes me sad that there would be good things that happened to them that I’d never know about, because we were no longer in a position where we could call each other up and get coffee now and then.

Ashley: I relate to that. I just can’t quit you. Even though you’re a stupid slut who prefers ewoks to Yoda and would spend 1k on a sunsuit.

Jennifer:  I’m all of that, Ashley, and you’re an ignorant harlot who can’t even understand Two Princes and burns down puppy mills left and right. You complete me.

Ashley: We should stay friends. I’ll refresh your Facebook profile every thirty minutes. I’ll go to your Twitter homepage so I can see @ replies! I’ll IM you with tentative greetings like, “Hey. How’s it going?” AND I’LL TELL MYSELF IT’S BECAUSE I CARE FOR YOU. AND WILL NEVER STOP CARING. Not because I have some sort of unhealthy attachment that I long to feed indiscriminately. Never that.

Jennifer: Okay. If we ever break up, I’m going to call you when I’m out at parties and pretend it’s pocket dialing to prove I have a social life and say cool things in the background. That a thing? That a thing people do? I’ll be like “hey, I’m at the Jane hotel, new harlot friend, I’m just hanging, thinking other people could come because I’ll be here until midnight!” It will be so subtle. New harlot friend won’t know I’m doing the deliberate pocket dial, she’ll think its weird I’m loudly stating our location. All I’ll want is for you to rush there without me ever having to say I need you, that I’ve always needed you.

Ashley: I won’t understand what you’re doing. And I’ll be fucking heartbroken. I will be devastated because that used to be me you’d take with you to hotel parties against my will. Whatever. It won’t matter. I’ll still send you flowers on your birthday. And I’ll get you a first edition of that children’s book you loved growing up. And I’m gonna covertly check your facebook status so I have fodder for conversation in those tentative gchat conversations. And every year around the anniversary of some anonymous family member’s death, I’m gonna fucking text you just so you know someone is fucking thinking about you.  My text will be like, “I know it’s a tough time for you right now. Just want to let you know I’m here if you need to talk.” And I’ll choke on my tears if you don’t reply. CHOKE TO DEATH.

Jennifer: OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO CONSIDERATE. WHY DID WE BREAK UP WHAT HAPPENED!? I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE THAT FAMILY MEMBER BUT YOU REMEMBERED!

Ashley: OH MY GOD THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED ALL ALONG. WE WERE MEANT FOR EACH OTHER AND YOU KNOW BECAUSE WE STAYED FRIENDS AND YOU SAW THAT I LOVED YOU AND WAS NOT OBSESSIVE OR WEIRD. JUST LOYAL. AND TENDER.

Jennifer: YOU HAD SO MANY FEELINGS! AND YOU NEVER CALL ME A DUMB SLUT ANYMORE! EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT NOW

Ashley: LET’S NEVER BE APART.

Jennifer: I hated the hotel parties without you.

Ashley: I hated making dolls from your hair! They were inadequate substitutes!

Jennifer: I hated the way I felt compelled to send you packets of my hair from time to time with notes attached saying things like “just checking in, buddy!”

Ashley: I hated how considerate I knew that was!

Jennifer: I used the vanilla shampoo. Only for the hair-doll hair. Only for that

Ashley: HAIR DOLL SMELL GOOD.

Share This Post:
    • August S.

      This started out as a sensible debate about the emotional costs of maintaining some sort of relationship after a breakup, then devolved into weirdly autobiographic fanfiction…vast improvement. A+! I’m glad you two crazy kids could make it work.

    • Rosebud

      I agree with Ashley on this one.

      There is a reason you broke up and especially if your the one who was devastated. It is not healthy to attempt to be friends if the only result ends up stalking and always comparing your life to what your life could have been with them or what his/her life is now.

      My advice is to block them. Every single outlet, facebook, twitter, gmail. I have gone to the extreme of blocking all of one my ex’s emails accounts. No news is good news for me.

    • Eileen

      I think for the first few months, you probably shouldn’t talk to an ex. Once some time has past and you’re over the relationship, though, if you still find yourself caring how the person is doing (for nice reasons, not schaudenfreude), why not be friends?

    • Will

      Finally figured out how i feel about exes a few days ago. If im not #1 (and im not going to be after a break up) than i insist on being nothing. Thats how i can not care about who is #1 currently. And i don’t want to hear about him. After you guys break up i still don’t want to hear about him, or hear from you.

    • j

      Goodness, have you never had chemistry fizzle with someone who you got along really well with? I wouldn’t date someone I didn’t love in a “friend” way as well as a romantic way. I think it’s pretty unfortunate if you have nothing left to share with someone if you aren’t “together”.

    • old rocker

      I think Miss Apple’s lyric said it all: What a cunning way to condescend; once were lovers and now we’re friends

    • Megan

      I’m somewhat durnk on a Monday night, and you two are funny. Well done.

    • Jen Dziura

      This was the best Editors Debate ever. And by debate, I mean “debate,” which is a-okay with me. Thanks for this.

    • Patricia

      I’m friends with two exes, the ones I’ve had longer and truly serious relationships with. As for guys I date casually and even have one nit stands, I generally end up being friends with them. Not friieeends, but friendly acquaintances who’ll happily get together for coffee and even a drink. I think that connecting with someone gets harder with time, because we get pickier and pickier, so I don’t see the point of cutting someone you once really loved just because the status quo of the relationship has changed. Sure if the guy turns out to be a bad person, I cut him off as I’d do with anyone else. But as a genera rule, I try to stay on a friendly basis.

    • Jamie Peck

      I tend to stay friends with people I’ve hooked up with or dated casually, because we were always more friends to begin with. Every time I’ve been in love, though, it’s ended in utter emotional devastation for me and there was no way in hell I was going to be friends with that person. I’m hoping my current relationship is different (knock on wood).