why can’t we all just get along?

Sing along: “Why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends…”
Most of the people who claim to hate “emotional drama” seem to be incredibly aware of it, while those who often thrive on it seem blithley unaware. i suppose i fall somewhere in between; i love love, and love is often dramatic, but it’s a drama that seems to wedge it’s way ‘tween actor and audience. (more…)

My pal Fody has been experiencing some of this too lately. We agree that it just sucks that we can’t just get along with our ex’s. Y’know, you start out as friends, then it develops, then it gets weird, then someone breaks it off, then there’s just this lingering sense of non-specific misgiving and negativity. What’s with that?
i once lived with a woman for about four years. we started as flirting friends, then (too too fast) fell in love and moved in together. in the end, we weren’t really all that compatable. ultimately, i cheated on her, and totally broke her heart; still having to admit this publicly (like now) is part of my pennace. i might say that she dumped me, but that would be incorrect; it was i who ended things by cheating. Still, we did break up. She moved out and made up for lost time, as it were, re-living the years she wasted with me (okay, i make it sound harsher than i need to, but that’s also part of my pennace).
We both wanted to not only regain our friendship, but rebuild it from the ground up. It was very hard in those early months, but over time, we got to the place where we could be really cool with each other. We were excited for each other’s prospects. I really liked her new boyfriend, who i thought was a much better match for her. She never seemed to much care for or understand my lifestyle post-breakup, but she was enthused to see that i was happy with myself. It probably took us a year to get to that stage.
Ultimately, our friendship ended up going where it likely would have gone had we not gotten together as a couple: nowhere. The visits turned into occasional phonecalls, then rare emails, then nothing at all. I often wonder where/what/who she’s up to, but really not enough to contact her. That sounds ridiculous, but there it is. i suppose it might be a measure of our real commitment to one another. Still, the relationship faded away with us as friends. We both said that we wanted to have our friendship back after the breakup, and we got it.

Trying to be friends again is a hard thing to do. Still, if you’re serious about becoming friends again, you’ve got to put in an effort, and it has to go both ways. Also, there needs to be a clear understanding both between and within the minds of the two people as to what they’re really after, and why.
It has to be clear that this is a friendship that both parties are after, not a renewal of the relationship. People often fool themselves into thinking all they want is a friendship when they may really want more. If two people are both saying, “friends” but one really means “lovers”, it’s just not gonna work out.
You have to know what you think of as a friendship, and what values you place upon it. For instance, i don’t believe in an awful lot of boundaries in my friendships; there’s nothing i wouldn’t discuss with, and nothing i wouldn’t consider doing for, a good friend. However, i tend to expect the same in return (this is something i’m working on); this makes for few friends, but exceptional friendships.
You have to question why you’d want to be friends again in the first place. Was it really comradeship or just lust that drew you together? If it was just lust, was there something more in that person that you came to appreciate during your relationship? You have to really really actually want to be friends again. Do you catch yourself saying or writing, “It really would be good for us to be friends…”, but not really know why you want that? Do you say the words, but not take the actions? When it’s time to act, what do you do?
Often, the most active thing you can do to further things is to do nothing at all; people need time and space to clear their heads and hearts. How long is long enough? A few weeks? Three months? A year or more? Generally, i’d recommend waiting until you stop crying, sometimes literally. I watched Le Divorce a couple nights back, and there’s this great line about forgetting someone, but never forgetting the tears you shed over them. really now, i think that’s a little self-indulgent; it sound like something i would have said in my 20’s. i think that the time for renewed friendship is approaching when you’ve done the reverse; forgotten the tears shed, but not the person.
Another big trap that i see for both myself and others is the temptation to use the re-friending process as a vehicle for discussing the relationship itself. Good friends seldom waste time talking to each other about how good of friends they are, how their relationship is progressing, or how to be better friends; they just {insert verb-form of “friend” here}.
Don’t take them for granted. Just because they might have let you get away with shit during your (now failed) love-relationship, don’t think that you can get away with that anymore. This goes both ways! Lovers tend to be both more imposing and more forgiving than regular friends; i’d behave towards a partner with less restraint than a friend, and forgive less restrained behaviour by my partner. Sure, this also goes on to a lesser degree with friends (as opposed to our dealings with strangers), but it’s still no less wrong. For instance, you might tell a friend, “get over it!”, “stop complaining!”, or, “you really are an ass sometimes!”, and expect to get away with it. Would you say these things to people you didn’t know? Saying them to a friend, are you really trying to help them, or just venting your own frustrations?
As you regain your friendship (or more accurately, forge a new one) you have to keep it slow and realize that sometimes either of you might still be a little heartbroken or resentful. Sure, we all have to move on, but it’s no use parading around your new partner in hopes of hardening your ex against the fact. For instance, i’m not surprised that my ex is dating again, and i’m not particularly jealous, but i still don’t want to have it held over me as an example of how i might “get over” things myself. Fody’s ex really shouldn’t show up drunk and making out with his new fling at a place and time when she’s just trying to be casual and friendly to him; that sucks.
Stop playing the blame game. In every breakup, there’s two people at blame, unless the clear cause of the breakup is infidelity in an otherwise monogamous relationship. Friends don’t point fingers like that. You can only be responsible for your own actions, and moreover, you should be. When the other person admits guilt or takes the blame for something, don’t say, “Yeah, i told you so!”, “That’s right, it was all your fault!”. If you’re not yet ready, or otherwise unwilling to forgive them, hold off until you are, but don’t blame them in the meantime.
The last thing i’d add is… oh crap, i just got up to dance to a B-52’s song, and it’s slipped my mind now that i’m seated at the keyboard again. Just as well…


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