Thinking with You
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Can We Stay Friends?

I recently received an email from a reader asking for my thoughts on this tricky topic.  The question is: after you break up with someone, can you stay friends?

There are many ways to approach this question.  But I’m not one to beat around the bush, so let’s get to it.

Firstly, I would ask why you want to stay friends.  As Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo point out in the great book ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ (yes, it started as a book), it’s called a break-up because it’s broken.

What was it that caused you (or your ex) to end the relationship? Did he have some glaring character flaw?  Was it long-distance and just too hard to maintain?  Did you both lack the necessary relationship skills to get deeper with each other?  Or was he just not that into you?

Let’s break this down into separate scenarios:

1. He broke up with you but you’re still keen.

Ok.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  This is the situation where you write letters to him, you apologise, you promise to change, you go hot and cold and hot to try and mess with his head, you drive past his house to see if he’s home, you check to see if he’s texted you in the last five minutes, you date around with deadbeat guys who are just time-killers to try and make him jealous, you write songs about him, you journal about him, and you know but you know but you KNOW that God has brought THIS man to you and IT IS GOING TO WORK OUT.  Sound familiar?

Well.  I hate to break it to you, but if he wanted to be with you, he’d be with you.  Once I dated a guy for a month or two who was so ‘perfect’ for me I could have screamed.  He ticked (nearly) all the boxes!  But then, in a horror twist, he tells me he’s been planning a year-long overseas trip and can’t back out of it.  Of course, I say I can wait a year.  I can wait five years!  But no, he says that would not be fair to me.  So, heartbroken, I watched him (metaphorically) ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again.  Until a few years later at a party where I also met his hot blonde wife.  KILL ME NOW. 

Anyway, I asked my now-husband about that situation, and he assured me that if the guy had been really into me, he would have made it work somehow.  And this has been repeatedly confirmed to me with numerous guys I have asked, and in stories I have read. No matter what the reason is, if he’s not with you, he doesn’t want to be with you.   And there’s a 99% chance he’s not going to change his mind in a few months or years. 

(Could you be the 1%?  Maybe, although you may have to wait a really long time.  This is a legitimate question for older Christian girls, who think they’ve nabbed Mr Perfect but then he breaks it off…and we all know you’re never going to find anyone else quite so perfect…or are you?  What’s more perfect: a ‘perfect’ guy who doesn’t love you and won’t commit, or an imperfect guy who is totally into you and totally committed to you?  Argh, it’s a tough one, I know.  My advice is to lay low, date around, and move on as much as you can.  If he wants you, he’ll come back.  The problem is, a man becomes more of a catch as he ages and gets richer (and more mature).  You, on the other hand, have a biological clock ticking away, signalling impending doom as everything starts heading south.  Yikes!  Only you can decide how long you want to wait.

Also – remember Bradley Cooper’s character in He’s Just Not That Into You (the movie)? He ended up marrying the girl he’d dated for ages, because if he didn’t, and I quote, ‘he’d look like a dick’.  And do you remember what happened to that marriage?  Let’s just say things were involved – fake wood, cigarettes, boats, beef and broccoli – and not in a good way.)

A tip for young players: the only way, and I mean the only way, to get back a guy who has dumped you, and there are no guarantees, is to go totally underground and be unreachable.  Remember, guys want what they can’t have.  If he has dumped you, getting more of you is certainly not going to make him interested again.  He needs less of you, so that he can fantasise about how great things were, so that he can miss you, and so that he can wonder what you’re up to these days.  If he decides he wants you again, don’t worry, he will come and find you.

2. You broke up with him but you miss what he did for you.

Ooh.  Read that again.  If your boyfriend was one of those guys that is just great to have around – he pumps up your car tyres, offers you his jacket on a cold night, makes sure you lock your car doors, buys you treats, cooks the odd dinner for you, helps you build your IKEA desk, sorts out your finances…well, who wouldn’t miss a guy like that?  But let’s get this straight.  He had feelings for you (which is probably why he did that stuff) – then he made a move on you and asked you out – you said yes – you had a relationship – you realised you weren’t into him like that – you dumped him – he’s heartbroken – and you want him to stick around and mow your lawn?  Girrrl…that’s cold.  

Here’s the thing.  A romantic relationship is transactional (we can argue about that in a later post).  Have you heard the old saying, men give love to get sex?  And girls give sex to get love?  Well, in a crass way, it’s kind of true.  There’s nothing new about this.  It’s been happening for millennia.  To put it more kindly, men and women complement each other in certain ways, and when they are both humble, selfless and giving, they give to the other what the other needs, and the other gives to them what they need.  It’s like humans and plants.  Humans breathe out C02, plants breathe it in and breathe out oxygen, which humans need.  It’s the circle of life.  So, in our context, men give money, treats, security, care, protection, and public honour to their woman, and women give kindness, encouragement, appreciation, admiration, fidelity, and later on, sex. 

So I’m sorry, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  It’s not fair to stay ‘friends’ with him and keep stringing him along just so that you can enlist him to help you move house next month.  That’s manipulative, selfish and disrespectful.  Don’t do it. 

(Non-Christians may call this type of relationship ‘friends with benefits’.  So if you’re ok with giving sex or physical intimacy to a guy you don’t love that much, just so he comes over and moves your fridge…well…I feel sad for you.  It’s not going anywhere, and it’s going to cause havoc when a spouse comes along for either one of you. Think long-term and have a bit more self-respect…and find yourself a loving father figure to provide the care you need!)

Continued in next post…