July 15, 2024

The Bedsit Banter Series: The Ex Factor

We all have exes. Ex-friends, ex-schoolmates, ex-colleagues, the list goes on and on, obviously depending on the length of one’s life and experiences. Then, of course, we have ex-lovers. No prizes for guessing which one I’m going to unpack and harp on about today! Generally, in every sphere of our lives we have encountered different characters and personalities that have played significant parts in our memories, which are now a part of our history. Some people are a mere, “Oh, I knew so and so once.” For some, the thought of them comes with a wave of bittersweet nostalgia, making it impossible to resist the urge to crack a longing smile. And then, there are those whose names are unmentionable, memories of them are locked up right at the back of the mind, in a dingy dusty dungeon, banished, only to creep out after stumbling across a trigger: the melody of a song, the ambience of a place or the lone random thought in the middle of the night.

In all fairness, when the word “ex” pops up, it almost never has any positivity attached to it. Every time I think or hear the word, right on cue, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know does a playback in my mind. Although some may have separated on amicable terms, just the mere fact of referring to them as an “ex,” somehow sounds rather abrasive and certainly does not roll off the tongue as easily as “former lover” or “former interest” does. Actually, on second thought, “former lover” just sounds far too posh for my liking. For the purposes of the blog title, let me not even glamourize or sugar coat it, an ex is an ex is an EX. There, I said it!

As I’ve walked through life, I have often seen and heard of people who have remained as just friends after having broken up and I still fail to wrap my head around it because I find it rather unfathomable. I always ask myself why people should maintain a friendship of sorts after exiting a romantic relationship. Is it a means of keeping one foot in the door in case it does not pan out with whichever prospects that may have come about after the said relationship? How does it even work though? When the ex gets into a new relationship, is it ok for them to actually formally introduce their new love interest to you, the ex, then you all join your hands together and sing “We Are Family?” I get the fact that there are circumstances where the relationship has to be cordial, in the event that you work or have a child together and communication is vital for the best interests of the child, or it’s unavoidable to meet, such as at church or chance encounters at the supermarket or at an event, but even then, keeping tabs on each other is just a no-no. In any situation, especially an ex-situation, grey areas are never a good place to be. If you’re going to talk, it might as well be a means to actually get back together. If there are no prospects of that happening, it’s wise to let it go.

A while back, I had an interesting conversation with an ex who I had finally decided to cut ties with. It was at a point in my life where I felt it was time to let this finally rest after what seemed to be a million futile attempts to talk it out and maybe give it another shot, coupled with another two million attempts to “finally” walk away and get closure. It had so happened that it was during one of the almost bi-monthly “just thought I’d check up on you” calls when ironically it dawned on me. I had been chasing closure for a long time and had only just realised why on earth I hadn’t caught it just as yet. It was me, entertaining these courtesy calls every so often, occasionally also returning the favour, allowing and reserving space for this person to still occupy when there simply wasn’t any space for them left. I was letting the pleasant memories roam loose and suppressing the negative ones only to believe that maybe, just maybe we could be onto something when there really wasn’t anything to be on. It was just a mirage. Take it from me, yes, “out of sight, out of mind,” but a call, a message or a note every so often from the very same person you’re trying to keep out of mind and certainly out of heart, doesn’t help. How are you then meant to move on and open your heart to new people, create fresh memories and experiences when the ghost of relationship past keeps calling you back, reminding you that what was could still be, and maybe even better? Needless to say, that call was the last one I received after having politely reminded him that we are exes and have no business “checking up on each other.”

Trying to exhume (see what I did there? lol) the grave of a dead romance will always bring out that nasty zombie that reminds you of why you broke up in the first place. Which brings me to another point. If the thought of getting back together with an ex lingers, ask yourself this: Why did we break up? Can it be fixed or worked on? Is there a window period for amends to be made? Is it a deal breaker? Can I forgive them and move on while working on this? There may be questions, a bit of confusion, anger and heartbreak, but look at it this way: maybe the break up was a launch pad for an unimaginable series of events that wouldn’t have been possible had you stayed together. But then again, maybe the break up could have also been a test that would then make you closer than ever before. Or it was just simply meant to happen as part of the losses we take in life? Whatever the reason is, at some point in the future, it’s best to believe that when looking back, it will all make some sort of sense even when it currently doesn’t.

Then comes the question of whether to remain amiable with the friends or family of an ex or not. I’ve learned that, in life, some of the strongest connections are made with the most unlikely people and building a bond with the friend of an ex during and after the period that you would be together isn’t really a crime…well, at least I’d like to believe that. Does the question of loyalty come into play? Yes and no. In my experience, I have had the honour of meeting one of my very close friends presently through a former relationship. I’m not meaning to brag, but we probably have a stronger connection in the short time we’ve known each other than they ever did in the however many years they have been friends for. Do I feel bad for “poaching” my ex’s friend? No need to. People meet people through other people all the time; this shouldn’t be a colossal crime just because it was through an expired (hehe) relationship. Yes, it’s bound to happen to have your mutual connection (the ex) creeping into conversation from time to time, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you know where you stand post-relationship. Should exes feel jealous of the bonds that are created with their friends? I find it mildly petty really. Like I said before, connections with people may come about in the most unlikely circumstances. However, this should not be a yardstick of any kind as circumstances differ. Yes, friendships can be kindled, however, I would strongly frown upon adopting an ex’s entire crew, tribe, clan and ancestors and making them one’s own. Boundaries still have to be set and maintained. Avoidable awkwardness is likely to occur in the event that you have a group hangout. Besides that, having a large chunk of mutual friends means you’ll always be in each other’s faces, which makes it a rather toxic environment should you want to actually get over each other and move on with your lives.

On the flipside, however, these so-called post-mortem friendships could also bring out the true colours of a person, friend and ex. A friendship with a friend of an ex is ok, as long as it’s just that. Once it crosses the boundaries of innocent friendship into something else, especially within a suspiciously short period of time, it just simply becomes disrespectful. Let me illustrate. Once upon a time, in a very distant past, I dated a boy (like literally, we were very young – high school to be precise). Anyway, it was good for x number of months (this isn’t getting old, haha!), and then we broke up, which was alright. I can’t say it was a train smash; it was only just high school anyway. At the time, I had a very close friend and obviously while we were together we’d hang out, all three or more of us and it was cool beans, no pressure just teenage shenanigans. After the break up, I started noticing that these two became really chummy, and although it bothered me slightly, I didn’t make it an issue. Next thing I knew, I’m getting a letter from so-called close friend asking me if I could give my blessing to her and said ex’s relationship. Before I continue with the story, let me put this letter-writing story into perspective. In high school, regardless of the fact that I would see my friends in most classes, break times, lunch times, sports aaand afternoon clubs, we would strangely still have the urge to write letters to each other, keeping each other in the loop of new developments – love interest wise, school wise, the inspiration used to coin that new nickname and so on and so forth. All this was captured in an assortment of coloured neon/gel pen cursive handwriting (we rarely used boring black or blue ink) on lined newsprint paper folded in origami fashion with intricate caricatures and doodles (there were no emojis back then; we were resourceful and made our own) only to be opened in a safe space like prep time or, depending on the level of school hecticness (haha, that’s cute!), at home. Letters were for good, interesting news, not for conveying confusing and betrayal type information. Basically what they asked of me might as well have been done in person. I remember failing to comprehend why they had asked me anyway when it was obvious that my opinion probably did not matter and the relationship was set to continue regardless…which it did. The lesson learned from that was, yes, give the benefit of the doubt, but always be careful of who your real friends are. As Killer T rightly asked, “Shamwari dzacho chaidzo ndedzipi apa? Itai tione.”
I could go on and on about the ex-factor but I think it’s best I leave it here for now. I’m sure I’ll be back with a sequel to this post but I certainly hope that I have managed to enlighten some folk on how to deal with ex-relationships. Let’s not forget that exes give us experiences and often help in forming opinions and even insights on what to look out for in future relationships. So, no matter how bad or amicable a break-up was, it’s always best to take the lessons learned and use them for the betterment of the future.

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