I was 21 when I got into my first real relationship. His name was Brian and while the details of our beginnings are hazy since I have a shotty memory, I remember him bringing me wine, chocolates–truly courting me in a way that I’d always imagined a guy would. We spent weekends together, went on vacations together, confessed our feelings during a sunset at my parents lakehouse in New Hampshire and fought loudly while cooking meals at his condo I moved into. When we ended three years later in a surprisingly mutual understanding, he was still my best friend. We had been through a lot, he knew me better than almost anyone ever had and it was hard to disconnect from that (had the breakup been another round of screaming, it might have been a different story). When we broke up we continued the friendship and while we’ve drifted apart–him living with his new girlfriend in Connecticut, and me in Boulder making bad decisions with my love life, we still email every couple months, acquaintances now but no hard feelings.
I’ve dated a lot of boys in the past six years since I’ve been single and I’ve walked away from a lot of them with barely a word said afterwards but there are a few that I’ve stayed friends with, that I thought were worth keeping in my life. After all, I had dated them for a reason and while it didn’t work out and I felt wronged at the time, it didn’t make them a bad person. There was something I liked about them as a person that made me pursue them (and allow them to pursue me) and I’ve always believed that relationships are built on strong friendships. And sometimes, the relationship part just doesn’t work but the friendship still does. Case in point: one of my very good friends Chad happens to be a guy I dated briefly when I first moved here. I was sad when it ended, I probably cried a lot since crying apparently is my thing, but we’ve stayed friends and now we go see movies, play puzzles, drink beer and bitch about our dating lives. I’m even trying to set up with another of my good friends, that’s how platonic this friendship is.
I even stayed friends with Daniel, an ex I wrote about on another blog, whom I had quite the tumultuous relationship with–a constant back and forth and with, I’m sure, both of us feeling like the other was treating us badly. The fact of the matter is that, despite all the sadness and anger and toxicity that was our relationship, we still had a mutual respect of the other and when I took off for Europe, he was my biggest supporter and cheerleader that what I was doing was something great. After two years, we were in a good place to become friends. He remains one of the most inspirational and motivated human beings that I have ever met and I’m proud to call him a friend. I’m pretty sure none of my friends who witnessed that drawn out relationship would have guessed that we’d be on good terms today and that I’d be genuinely happy that he is in a relationship that seems to make him really happy. Some people are just meant to be in your life, and sometimes that purpose isn’t always clear in the beginning.
This weekend, in two separate scenarios, I was basically told I was not normal because I was friends with my exes. One person was a friend, the other a complete stranger. They could not fathom why I would ever stay friends with an ex. Totally understandable but it still struck me: I had never been considered not normal because of this before. If people commented on it, it was usually how admirable it was to foster these friendships, but they couldn’t do it themselves. It’s not like I’m friends with all my exes; certain ones I can’t be friends with and lately, to be honest, I find it harder and harder to maintain a friendship or even want to.
But not normal?
Am I really that big of an anomaly? Is it really that weird that I stay friends with some of my exes? Where do you fall on this spectrum? Do you stay friends with someone you’ve dated or do you sever all ties, what’s done is done?