Great Ex-pectations

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Susie had finally found a place where her ex-boyfriend couldn’t contact her.

I am pretty good friends with almost all of my exes, which is something I’m quite proud of. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, and the size of Adelaide, it’s quite hard to avoid people you’ve dated (which explains why my high school boyfriend moved to Melbourne), so the ability to get on well with them is a handy one.

Years ago, when you broke up with someone, it was easier to avoid them. You simply had to fake your own death and then never go to their favourite pub again. These days, with the advent of social media, it is nigh on impossible to elude an unfriendly ex. Even if you block them on Facebook, they can follow you in Instagram, look you up on LinkedIn, or stalk your Twitter feed.

I’m sure you’re starting to see why it’s easier just to be friends with them. However, this isn’t always possible. Relationships end for a myriad of different reasons, and more often than not, for unpleasant ones.

So what’s the etiquette for friendly Facebook stalking of old lovers and past flings? Do you quietly lurk? Ghosting through their pictures, being carful not to accidentally like a selfie from 2009 (rookie error, but haven’t we all been there). Or do you act casual, like a couple of funny statuses and say ‘hey’ every now and then when their name pops up on chat?

Obviously every situation is different, and your actions depend on how your relationship ended. What I’ve noticed, however, is some people don’t seem able to work out for themselves what is an appropriate level of social interaction.

Let me give you a hint, if you ended on less than friendly terms (e.g. with yelling, cheating, name calling or cold silence) then the latter option probably isn’t ideal. You can’t transition from a messy break up into casual social media interaction without a few steps in between. As a woman, I like to talk about things, rather than choosing to stoically ignore my feelings.

Nothing frustrates me more than an ex contacting me without acknowledging our shared history and talking about how we left things. If I told you that I never want to see you again, chances are I won’t appreciate you liking my pictures.

I personally find it insulting to have months or years of shared experiences and emotions swept under the rug and exchanged for distant pleasantries. Stop commenting on my status and ask me how I am. Ask me if I’m still hurting, and talk things over so we can be friends.

I don’t have a problem with being friends with my exes; I just don’t like ignoring the past in order to do so. This might just be my personal opinion; maybe others prefer to move past painful feelings without discussing them and on to a more casual friendship.

I know of at least one of my friends who feels the same way. It frustrates her to tears when an ex she hasn’t spoken to in many months causally begins a conversation over text. It’s even worse when you’re not sure why the two of you broke up in the first place, because you have so many unanswered questions, and they are just chatting about the weather.

So guys (and girls), think about how your ex will feel before you double tap that Instagram picture. Will your name on the list of likes bring up unpleasant feelings? Will painful old memories resurface when you hit send on that message? Maybe you should check that they have moved on, and that they don’t have any residual feelings of anger, sadness or guilt towards you, before you invite them to play Farmville.

On second thoughts, you should never invite anyone to play Farmville.

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3 thoughts on “Great Ex-pectations

  1. I went to see my ex a week after the break up and I was feeling all lovely and numb, to clear the air. I realise, though, they have to be receptive to want to clear the air, which I was fortunate, he was ^_^ I don’t see why you can’t be friends with exes.

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  2. I just want to say that this title is ex-cellent. *hangs head in shame*

    You said:

    “Stop commenting on my status and ask me how I am. Ask me if I’m still hurting, and talk things over so we can be friends.”

    I think that is a useful thing to look at further for people in that situation. If the person is popping up again and again it’s usually because they want to make good and don’t know how to express themselves, or because they want to retain some tiny shred of power/control in the situation/over their ex.

    The unfortunate part is that it’s usually impossible to tell which is which, especially if the other person is feeling hurt and confused.

    Nicely written.

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    • Hi Ramsay, thanks for your comment.
      If someone is popping up again and again, and you’re not sure whether they are trying to reconnect, or whether they are trying to exercise power over you, how do you know how to respond?

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