Case of the Ex
Photo by Fabien Bulteau

Case of the Ex

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By On & Dave Mekahel Cederberg

Exes. Most of us have had one, just like most of us are one. For such a widely common social thread, it is surprising that there is not more of a cultural standard in terms of how we are expected to deal with them, once it happens. It is likely that many factors play into why there is not more of a dialogue surrounding it, namely most people keep their private affairs just that, private, especially when it comes to “failures.” In an era where “anything goes” and non-traditional approaches to sex and sexuality are not only front and center, but also accepted and revered, it is time to sort out just what to do when we are presented with the (sometimes) inevitable case of the ex. 

Let’s start off by stating, circumstances matter. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a complicated position when a relationship ends, outside of the usual emotional messiness that is brought upon by the two parties involved. Kids, for example, place two former partners in a position where they can never truly go their separate ways. For as long as the kids are around, ties will remain. And then there were co-workers, another “rise above” occasion for the greater good of everyone including your dignity. Albeit complicated, these sort of arrangements provide us with the opportunity to define non-traditional relationships for ourselves and our existence, while also teaching any children and fellow humans involved, the importance of respect and the ability to put differences aside for the greater good of all – teaching points that can easily be taken advantage of. But what if there are no children involved and work is separate? What if the relationship just reaches its expiration date, as many do? Is it best to try to salvage a friendship from the wreckage of the romance or make a clean break, cutting ties and communication? Also, isn’t every relationship different?

What if we were friends first? The list of circumstances (or rationalizations depending on how you view it) can be endless. Dave has long subscribed to the removal method – this entails wiping an ex from the present and leaving the relationship (and person) in the past. Although this might seem to be over the top, it is not implemented with rigorous anxiety and malice, but rather from a place of genuine understanding, acceptance and foresight. He is also a strong believer in the old adage, some people are in your life for a reason and others for a season. This concept is also applicable to a break-up. By default, the end of a romantic relationship ends with a season, since “because we used to sleep together” isn’t a substantive leg to stand on. Letting go is difficult, that is not a question. What is more difficult, is navigating the space that is left between two people once a romantic relationship ends. There will forever be differing views of the previous relationship as well as its unraveling, not the most solid foundation to build a friendship upon. You know what happened, and it can be hard enough maintaining your sense of self and boundaries during a break-up. The most counterproductive thing to do is to keep the person with whom you are trying to remove from your habitual domestic life, in your orbit – yes that means everything from checking up on social media platforms to hook ups. Just because the relationship is over, that doesn’t mean the boundaries are too. On, with his huge heart, favors the idea of finding a space in his life for an ex. When he met Dave, he still had his ex, the one who broke his heart, stashed in random places throughout his life. There was a cell phone plan with his ex’s name on it, random birthday messages and text exchanges regarding clerical issues lingering from years past. Dave urged On to put a mild amount of effort into respectfully ignoring the ex, as he himself had reaped the personal benefits of doing so from previous relationships. Throughout conversations, On quickly saw that from a respect standpoint, the communication with the ex was not ideal, especially now that there is another party, his new partner, involved. Ultimately the communication between On and his ex all but ended as On disengaged in the most appropriate manner. Three years later, his ex came back around during what was seemingly a personal low point for himself. He was not hesitant to send inappropriate texts and voice messages reliving the relationship past while also interfering with On’s presence. The boomerang effect that took place left our heads spinning and our minds made up – exes (for the most part) all have a special place together, and it’s not within the confines of our relationship. As it pertains to the ex, you give someone an inch, they eventually come back for the whole mile. 

All of this is not to say that some of you reading this do not have circumstances within your relationship that defy experiences or perceptions and practices that we discussed. The takeaway is not that it is wrong or unhealthy for an ex to take on another role in your present life, but rather opening the conversation and thought processes surrounding the tendency we have to hoard people over the course of our life, when sometimes the best thing to do is to surrender the relationship and the connection. The uber connected, online world that we live in does not make this an easy task. Because of this, a great deal of purpose and intent is needed to dissolve a relationship and the physical person left behind. Life is only as good as the relationships that we cherish; choose wisely and dedicate yourself thoughtfully.