Thinking with You
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Can We Stay Friends? Part 2

My last post introduces and deals with a couple of scenarios in which you might stay friends with your ex. Here are the rest:

3. It was a mutual break-up, but you still enjoy his company more than anyone else’s because he knows you like no-one else does.

For some reason, I’m picturing a lone cowboy out in the paddock, staring back at the one girl who’s ever taken the chance to know him.  (Or is that the cover of a Nicholas Sparks book?)  Where do I even start…

Firstly, is there really such a thing as a mutual breakup?  Genuine question here.  I mean, it’s got to be pretty rare that both parties in a relationship realise, at the same time, that they’d be better off alone.  So first of all, make sure you’re not in category 1 or 2, rather than this one.

Secondly, of course you have history.  The longer you’ve dated, the more history you have.  All those private jokes, romantic moments, mundane routine days, shared experiences, shared possessions, shared family connections…sure, it’s not ideal to close off that part of your history and pretend it didn’t exist.  That’s why I don’t think God really designed men and women to date around.  Because trust me, it hurts like hell, it’s exhausting, demoralizing, and makes marriage harder than it should be.  It’s history with another person who you’re not married to.  Less than ideal. 

But what are you going to do?  Keep building more history with this guy?  Oh, your future husband is really going to appreciate that.  I can just imagine, he starts dating you and soon realises that old ‘Brad’ is hanging back in the wings, just there ready to offer a little piece of personal knowledge about you whenever it’s needed.  Yeah, thanks a lot Brad!  (Think Win a Date with Tad Hamilton – one of the greatest movies of all time.)

Let’s talk about sex.  In the Old Testament, sex was often subtly referred to as ‘knowledge’.  As in, carnal knowledge.  As in, Adam knew his wife Eve, and she gave birth to son.  (Wink wink nudge nudge) Here’s the thing: knowledge is intimacy.  The more you know someone, the more intimate you are.  Think about that most relatable and yet totally inappropriate title of ‘work wife’. Do you have one?  (If my husband had a ‘work wife’…well, he just wouldn’t!  It’s totally wrong.) Anyway, your ‘work wife’ or ‘work husband’ (or whoever) no doubt has that title because they are your partner in crime, your helper, they’ve got your back, you tell them about your spat with the boss, how you got your money stuck in the vending machine, about your new brand of deodorant, and the state of your kitchen floor.  They know you. 

So let’s put our question into sexual terms.  Say that you and your boyfriend were having tons of sex, then you broke up.  But you keep having sex, because you used to have sex.  You knew each other, so you keep getting drawn back to each other, to keep knowing each other more and more.  Doesn’t this sound dysfunctional? (Actually this happens in movies all the time, doesn’t it.  It never works out.)

My point is; it’s not logical to keep developing a deeper and deeper relationship just because you were already pretty deep.  That’s like digging a deep hole that you can’t get out of (but realise you don’t want to be in), and instead of stopping and waiting for the rescue team, you just keep digging anyway, like, what the hell?  In fact, let me get all Freud on you – you keep digging because you don’t believe that a rescue team will ever come for you. 

Girl – don’t give up.  You’ve got to keep waiting and hoping for someone that you really do want to marry.  You’ve got to keep trying and improving yourself and moving around and meeting people and doing what you’ve got to do to attract a worthy man.  Don’t give up.

Here’s the other thing about staying friends with an ex.  In a relationship, you develop soul ties with a person.  All the stuff I’ve been mentioning, the shared experiences, both good and bad, the protection of each other – this develops soul ties.  You are literally tied to this person in your soul (or heart or whatever word works for you).  If you are still so tied to someone, how is someone new ever going to get in?  How is a new guy ever going to build up enough ‘credits’ with you to compete with ‘Brad’? 

If you are sure you can’t marry Brad, and you do want to get married one day, then Brad has to go.  You need to take a huge risk and make the painful and necessary decision to cut him off.  You need to de-tangle your soul ties (maybe by journaling, grieving, a letter for closure, in therapy, moving cities or whatever works for you), and open up your heart so that someone new can throw you a line. 

This includes getting rid of Brad’s old soccer jersey with his smell on it, Brad’s favourite mug from your kitchen, your photo album of you and Brad (yes), that cute love poem he gave you one time, and his mum’s mobile phone number. Harsh? It might take awhile, and you might not even be able to do this until you’re married. But it should be done.

If no one is asking you out, ever, you should check yourself for old soul-ties.  Men can vibe these kinds of things.  Maybe they can vibe that you’re still tied up elsewhere. 

4. You’re not that into him but you want to keep him around in case you never meet anyone else. 

Go back and read number 2.

5. You broke up with him but he’s hanging around like a lost puppy. 

Ok, this is just sad. But common.  You are not into him, you don’t really want to hang out with him, but he’s one of those ‘hangers-on’.  He accepts the scraps from your table, if you will.  Well, there’s two ways this can go.  Either you keep him around as a useful minion, or you respectfully and firmly put an end to it. 

If you want to pick the first option, go back and read number 2.  If you want to take the second approach, here’s how you do it.

-       Privately, clearly explain to him that the relationship is over.  Assure him that there will be no future. 

-       Give back anything that he owns.  Don’t receive any gifts or favours from him.  And don’t ask for favours!

-       Respectfully request that he no longer try to sit next to you at church, follow you to your car, or text and call you. 

-       Delete him from your social media (this is key).

-       Preferably, get a new boyfriend asap. 

On a serious note – in rare cases, you may find yourself in what could be called a domestic violence situation.  Some guys, due to their own insecurities and ego problems, cannot handle being dumped and then ignored.  Sometimes, these guys get very controlling, manipulative, and violent.  (You would have experienced signs of this during the relationship.)  If you have a boyfriend like this, tread carefully.  Usually the violence increases after the break-up.  Talk to a trusted professional counsellor, social worker or law enforcement officer about how to break up with this person.  Or Google local DV support services in your area, for advice.

6. You want to stay friends because you’re afraid of being alone - but you’re also afraid of intimacy, and anything deeper than friendship. 

Hmmm.  Look, ideally, a girl will grow up in a secure family unit with a protective father, then will marry out of that family into marriage with a kind, protective man.  No baggage, no in-between, no fuss.  But these days, this is a rare scenario.  A lot of girls these days don’t have that kind of family, or don’t have that kind of dad, or have moved away from their family, or are so mature they don’t want to sit under that covering anymore.  These kinds of girls have male friends, who help to fill some of the gaps.  Totally understandable. 

What’s also understandable is developing a romantic attachment to one of these friends, and perhaps starting an on-again, off-again kind of relationship that never seems to get to marriage.  I would suggest that this kind of girl probably has some daddy issues.  She’s felt uncovered for so long, she’s scared of being vulnerable.  So she wants to be covered, but she’s scared of the vulnerability required of marriage.  It’s a tough situation, and one I relate to. 

The best way to avoid these on-again, off-again, non-marriage scenarios is to come back under the covering of a father or father-figure, and get some of those old needs met.  You need to get a ‘top-up’ of fatherly love, protection and provision, and then ideally need to date someone who is willing to submit to the observation of your father or father-figure.

It’s not PC, it’s not modern, but it’s truth. 

7. A note on social media and communication.

Your Insta or FB profile is like a window to your life.  Like, literally, the front window of your house.  Who do you want looking inside?  When you break up with someone, I personally think it’s wise to disconnect from them on social media.  It’s not that you can’t have males on your social media (although even then I’m particular) – but it’s not wise to have your exes on social media.  Do you know how many affairs have started from people reconnecting over Facebook?  Tons!  It’s probably not going to happen in your first year of dating or marriage…but a few years in, when things get boring, or hard, it’s not that difficult to start fanning the old flames via a ‘harmless’ little comment or text on the old FB. 

Here’s a verse you should inscribe somewhere: ‘It’s the little foxes that ruin the vines’ (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s the tiny things, over time, that can bring down kingdoms (and marriages).  Relationships are incredibly fragile.  The devil is out to ruin marriages, you know.  Expect to hit the battlefield as soon as you say ‘I do.’  So you need to clear the margins, or for the rural Aussies reading this, do a bit of ‘back-burning’.  That’s when you purposely burn up some of the bush near important things (like your house) to create a wider firebreak, in case of bushfire.  It’s preparation for the onslaught that you expect to come. 

Thus - if you’re not connected on social media, then you can’t exactly ‘stumble’ into an illicit connection.  And the same goes for calls and texts.  A married man should not be ringing you or texting you about personal things.  (And if they’re professional things, be careful.  Remember how many men have affairs with their secretaries?)  And you shouldn’t be ringing or texting a married man, or the boyfriend of another girl, about personal matters – unless he’s your brother.  And you certainly shouldn’t be spending time one-on-one with a man who is ‘taken’, nor should a man spend time one-on-one with you if you are in a relationship with someone else.  I know this sounds a bit archaic and prudish, but why do you think hundreds of cultures around the world have been using these kinds of rules for thousands of years?  Because they know what happens. 

You’ve got to understand how strong the power of sex is.  Men and women are born with an instinct and a desire to connect, emotionally and sexually.  It’s a biological drive that has to be kept very disciplined and channelled into the right pathways.  Anything that can cause the river to divert, so to speak, must be given immediate attention. Guard your heart.  Dam your rivers.  Back-burn the bush!

So there are some thoughts from Ruth’s Home Truths about staying friends with your ex.  If I’ve missed any scenarios, or you have further questions, please message me using the button at the top right of the Facebook fan page!

Lots of love, ladies.  Stay strong!