Tricky situation: remaining friends with an ex


Picture, if you will, a breakup between two people who had a romantic or sexual relationship. Their time together ends, and issues are at least somewhat resolved; sure, one person has done the actual breaking up while the other just sat there, but there are no hard feelings. They vow to be friends, which is really just a cop-out because no one means that while actually saying these words, and both go their separate ways.

In a stereotypical world, the couple will eventually meet again, and the circumstances will be thus: the woman will look amazing and will have found a man who cooks and cleans and is overall very supportive of her independence. The man will have made progress in his high-profile job in technology/business/law and will have found the woman of his dreams (think Victoria’s Secret model with brain activity). They will be extraordinarily happy for each other, and everything will be awesome, and the sheer comfortableness of it all will be lovely.

However, in the real world (or on a college campus), this is hardly the case. Breakups are rarely fair or comfortable and expected, and you could run into problems if you see them at school often or if both of you live in the dorms – or, excruciatingly, the same dorm hallway.

On a campus, excluding the possibility of a shared major, the chance of running into an ex is a bit slim. But chances are that if you live in the same dorm – a breeding ground for ill-advised sexual escapades – or the same apartment complex, you will feel compelled to avoid your ex. If the chance that you will run into the other person is high, you might be tempted to fall into bad situations that will just make the breaking up process far, far worse – but here’s how to avoid those uncomfortable scenes and actually come out of the process being friends with your ex.

Avoid the alcohol

Your first solution if forced to spend time with your ex will likely be along the lines of vodka, vodka and more vodka. While it sounds like an excellent plan, it is in fact alarmingly stupid. Alcohol might make hanging out easier, but it could lead to both drunken confessions and hookups with the ex, and that will just make the situation worse. Having a drink or two to loosen up a bit is fine; an entire bottle of tequila, not so much.

Pretend that things are actually normal

This is especially essential if you have any mutual friends. Accept the inevitable: you will see the other person in a social setting, where everyone else will know most (if not all) of the details of the relationship and subsequent break up. The key here is remembering that you are not the only one who feels awkward, and hopefully that knowledge will provide some consolation. Refraining from talking a lot about the breakup or points in the relationship will make yourself and everyone else far more comfortable in the situation.

Keep some things secret

I would love to pretend that after several weeks of being “just friends,” you can tell your ex anything about your life, including the emergence of a new significant other in your life. But there is no good way to break this sort of news if you have only been apart for a short time. The time that is needed depends on the people involved, though; an ex-boyfriend and I still cannot talk candidly about new relationships after three years apart. It’s best to keep new information about your romantic life hidden from your ex for at least a while, and then use your own discretion.