‘We can still be friends’: Thoughts about my Exes

Is it really possible to stay close to your ex after a break-up?

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I first realised I was a teeny bit in love when I heard “The Winner Takes It All” playing on the radio, and I got terribly upset at the thought of being dumped by my girlfriend. Very twee of me. And rather inconvenient, since I’d caught feelings in the middle of A-Levels: I even skived off revising the Third Crusade in order to lose my virginity. But in my defence, I’d never felt that way before. Oh, there’d been other people. From fumbled schoolboy kisses in the bike shelters after crappy discos to teenage dates in art galleries (pretending to be rather more cultured than I am) I’d had my fair share. But this was my first proper girlfriend. More than that, despite the cliché, this was the first person I’d really fallen for. I couldn’t get her out of my head. She was in the place where Saladin and Richard the Lionheart should have been.  Dearest reader, I was a happy young fool; a happy young fool in what Hollywood calls lurve.

So with that experience, I have sufficient authority to say that that whoever it was that first said it was better loving and losing someone than never loving them at all was talking right out of their arse.

Obviously, she dumped me. Her reasoning was perfectly justifiable, and she was very sensible about it. I nodded along, agreed when she said we’d still be friends, and left amicably. Once I got home, I  preceded to crank up the ABBA and start crying. My Dad tried to perk me up a bit – “son, in life, you go out with lots of people, they break up with you, until there’s one person that doesn’t” – but it didn’t work. I was far more interested in being morose than moving on. I’m a humanities student, so being a tortured romantic (and Romantic) has a natural appeal. However, I was much less Percy Shelley, and much more a bit of a moron. I haven’t talked to her since. 

It’s been different with Girlfriend 2. Mainly that’s because we can’t afford to avoid each other. Short version is: friends, went out, split up. But since we’re at the same college, with the same friends, asides from ostracising ourselves from society, we’ve had to find a way to get along. She’s been much better at in than me. I was far too mopey and shy, whereas she toughed it out and is now doing better than ever. I wasted a term being an idiot, made the blood a lot more bad than I should have done, and was – once again – a bit of a moron. 

Which is sad, because she was lovely. Genuinely lovely. We got along like a house on fire. She cared for me, and made me smile like no one I’ve ever known. I royally cocked it up, and got depressed about it. I knew I’d let her down and shot myself in the foot. So I’ve resolved to do better this term. Not to get back together with her – both agreed that shouldn’t and won’t ever happen – but just to get along. 

Admittedly, mixed results so far. We’ve had a chat, and I can look her in the eye again. I even made her laugh recently, which felt brilliant. Baby steps, but I think we’ll be alright. 

Because it seems obvious to me that if you like someone enough to date, then you like them enough to spend time together, ask them about their day and make sure they’re doing alright. It can be tough (especially if you’re a sad sod like me). But much like Avengers: Endgame, it makes sense in hindsight. You can wonder what might have been, why it all went wrong, and curse the fact that Ross and Rachel made it look way too easy. But if you can be happy for them, if you can smile when they mention their date that night, or laugh together the way that only friends can, then things will work out okay. 

I really hope I can get there with my second ex. Truly. Especially as she was much nicer person, in hindsight, than my first one. I fell in love because I was young, foolish and, surprise, a bit of a moron. Oh well. Provides good copy, if nothing else.   

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