real life

Why would anyone stay friends with their ex?

My Christmas Day is going to be very easy. Presents in bed, a walk on the beach, a couple of friends will pop round for drinks, we’ll eat seafood, chat and chill out.

Enter wide-eyed friend with wild hair currently battling sleepless nights whose Christmas Day is shaping up to be the total opposite. Hers will involve hours of prepping, cooking, four kids, in-laws, endless relatives… and an ex.

It’s that last addition that has me totally flummoxed. Why the ex? He has no business at the (already packed) Christmas table. They broke up five years ago, have no kids together, he hasn’t moved on but she has. Except, she hasn’t because he still gets a spot on the sympathy guest list to important events.

I’m not thanked for trying to suggest that he isn’t her responsibility and if she doesn’t really want him here, she shouldn’t feel obligated to invite him. When stress is dispensed, there are no brownie points for being nice to an ex.

Chris Martin & Gwyneth Paltrow are Hollywood’s pinup couple for ‘exes who can be friends’ after they ‘consciously uncoupled’ in 2014.
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There should be no guilt in letting go.

“When it’s over, it’s over. He has to move on,” I said, rolling my eyes down the phone.

“I can’t do it,” she replied, before rattling through the seemingly endless list of shopping she still has to do. I had to sit down.

I don’t get it. When you call time on a relationship, you don’t demote it and awkwardly work around it like the elephant in the room. It’s dissolved. Discontinued. Expired. You cry, perhaps you throw up, you stare at the TV through the entire night until it gets light again, you walk for hours, you breathe, it settles down and eventually it gets easier.

Is the friend zone the best place to be? Post continues after video…

Transiency is part of life and as soon as you accept that, the happier you will be. Part of that is learning to let go. You learn to enjoy moments of pure pleasure because you accept that they pass and it isn’t the objective to cling onto them.

Equally, in dealing with the dark and utterly crap times where your heart hurts so much you feel it might shatter under your skin, you keep half an eye on knowing it will get better again.

Anyone who truly believes without a whisper of a flicker of doubt that their relationship will last forever, absolutely guaranteed, is setting themselves up for a fall. You never know what’s around the corner. My dad left when I was three and my mum certainly didn’t see that coming; she thought she had found forever and it floored her.

When I got married at the tender age of 24, I believed that was forever. It wasn’t. Six years later I tried again and pinned my hopes to the F word once more.

Does an ex have any business at the Christmas table? Image via iStock.
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That was a fairy tale with contrasting plot twists and a different ending but it also ended in the letter D.

So, I have two ex-husbands. I have no idea where they’re living, what they’re doing with their lives and I couldn’t care less. They promised the world but spoke in a currency with no value. I fell apart, I struggled, picked up the pieces and I forced myself to move on because that’s what life is all about. You can’t cling to the past or to dreams that have been discontinued from the menu.

So, back to the crowded Christmas table. When someone has finished their role in your love life there is no point in hanging onto them for friendship. It wasn’t a role in ‘Friends’ they auditioned for. It was a play called ‘Partners’. Why do people confuse the two? The casting process is entirely different.

Can you ever really be friends with an ex? Image via iStock.

After the initial trial period you can’t simply turn around and say, “Sorry, your role as leading man didn’t work out so we’re going to offer you this bit part where you pop round for dinner once a month and sit on the end of the table wishing, pining and dreaming of what could have been.”

The job description is totally different. It’s as crazy as saying to a business man; “Sorry you didn’t work out as CEO, instead, please accept the role of mail man. You don’t get the same challenges, salary or career path but you’ll still get to see me occasionally.”

Any person with self-respect, walks away safe in the knowledge that you tried and, fun as it may have been, it simply wasn’t meant to last.

I’ve read this back with a wave of sadness – perhaps one thing that does last forever is emotional scars that are etched so deep they become part of your outlook on life.

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