Staying Friends With Your Ex

Good idea or bad idea?

This is one of those issues where what I’d like to be differs from what I am.

I am on good terms with virtually all of my exes, yet only one of them is in my life on a regular basis. When I run into my exes, I often enjoy it. We shared powerful moments together. We invested in our relationship, so it’s nice to enjoy an afterglow.

I think of myself as a rational disciplined guy who acts based on what is right and not on the whims of his feelings. Yet if I were to spend a lot of time alone with some of my exes, I’d be wanting to hump them even though this differs drastically from the plans the Torah and Plato and Guru Singh have for my life.

The penis never lies. I respect that. You can’t trick it into standing up for someone for whom your body stands down. But I don’t want to live my life by this little fella. I want to live my life by the highest teachings of the Torah and the Talmud and the ongoing rabbinic tradition.

Staying friends with your ex seems very sophisticated and modern and gay to me. It sounds right but it doesn’t feel right. In a relationship or two I’ve had, my staying friends with an ex got in the way. In a relationship or two I’ve had, her staying friends with an ex has gotten in the way.

I wish this wasn’t true, but it feels emasculating. When my girlfriend has stayed in close touch with an ex, I felt disquieted. I felt like there was this third person in our relationship.

I hate it when you sense the ex in your bedroom, when the things you say and do get filtered through her experience with the one great love of her life, when you see her personality change, her body change, and her voice change when she says his name.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I agree with everything this chick website says:


…maybe you’re one of the few couples who can handle a mature friendship with your ex-boyfriend. After all, you still share the same friends and go to the same nightspots. The fact that you’re still getting on as friends and can have a laugh about old times together suits everyone. Except your new boyfriend. Ex-boyfriends that are still on the scene are seriously damaging to any new relationship, and vice versa. However much you assure your new partner that he has nothing to worry about, troubling thoughts will cross his mind, and would cross yours if you were in the same boat. An old relationship that is still visible and on the scene will interfere with a new relationship, and not in a good way.

So maybe it’s worth weighing up the benefits of remaining friends with your ex before you decide that your new friendship is the best thing ever. And that’s not saying that he should become Public Enemy Number One, but sometimes lines need to be drawn under the past to allow everyone to move into the future.

From pg. 250 of Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde: Oscar says: "There is to me a positive delight in cutting an author and feeling I have got beyond him."


Does this philosophy apply also to persons? Yes.  "Why should we not joyfully admit that there are some people we do not want to see again? It is not ingratitude, it is not indifference. They have simply given us all they have to give."

Jane emails: “My honest opinion? That’s not okay. Every therapist I’ve had, has said the same thing–staying friends with an ex is death to a new relationship. I’ve been on both sides of it, and now I won’t tolerate it.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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