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Your blog has been a godsend and I can’t thank you enough. After my 20-year marriage ended last year, out of the blue I fell in love with my child’s teacher. (He is divorced too.) We connected initially over our divorces and we had a 9 month whirlwind romance. I thought he was the love of my life until things spiraled downward–basically combine your “Peter Pan Syndrome” podcast with a few of the others and that was my boyfriend. (Scared of commitment, clinically depressed, and not sure he believes in monogamy etc.)

He would not text or call for a few days and then be back on board, loving and romantic. When we were together things were always amazing, but the time in between not knowing when I would hear from him or see him was a roller coaster. Despite all that, the one thing he was more than anything was honest. We talked about everything under the sun and developed a deep friendship which I think is what kept us together every time he starting to break things off – that and amazing passion which was also something I had not had. He was honest about his inability to sustain a long term relationship, despite the fact that he loves me very deeply.

All that to say – your infinite wisdom helped me “believe the negatives” and I’m trying to move on.

Towards the end, things were a bit grey and we fell into being friends with benefits (I thought we were still dating but was giving him space). When I asked him he said he was “enjoying hanging out and being friends”. I finally had to tell him I needed to cut all ties because I was still hoping for more and needed to get over him. My first question is, is that immature? It seems a little drastic to cut all ties with someone I care about so much but every time he would text or call I would get my hopes up.

I feel like I have lost a very deep, connected friendship. Not to mention I see him sometimes at my child’s school. I have read your blogs on being friends with exes and that you have many ex-girlfriends you stay in touch with. Our shared history and his help getting me through my divorce means a lot to me, and he has made it clear he would love to stay friends and always wants me in his life.

How do you know if and when you can be friends with an ex, or if it is even a good idea?

Sincerely,
Karin

Karin, I didn’t edit your question because I wanted you (and our readers) to see how painfully blind you are to the reality of your situation.

Sorry if that sounds like tough love. I just call it “love.” Anyone who cares about you would just as quickly point out why this friendship is a losing proposition.

He is — with no help from you — his own sinking ship — and you are somehow acting desperate to climb aboard and go down together.

  1. You’ve identified him as a Peter Pan who is scared of commitment, clinically depressed and not sure he believes in monogamy.

Run, Karin, Run!!! But, of course you don’t run. You stayed because it was too hard to let go of this heartwarming feeling:

  1. Not knowing when I would hear from him or see him was a roller coaster.

And if that roller coaster didn’t make you sick, you were gonna hold on for a second dose of unrequited love:

  1. We fell into being friends with benefits (I thought we were dating but was giving him space).

Evidently, giving him space didn’t do the trick, since he still didn’t want to commit to you. But, hey, give him credit. He’s an honest guy who told you the truth: You’re not “dating”…

  1. He’s enjoying hanging out and being friends.  

In case you missed the first three red flags, hopefully that one hit you upside the head. But evidently, you need a little more proof that the hot stove that you’ve got your hand on, is, in fact hot.

So here you go, my friend:

It is not drastic or immature to cut all ties with someone you care about.

It is IMPERATIVE.

The last ex-girlfriend I had cut me off entirely. No texting. No social media. No returning my occasional phone calls. Cold turkey. Next time I saw her was when she accepted my Facebook friend request three years later when she was engaged to someone else. THAT’s how it’s done.

When I say that I’m in touch with ex-girlfriends, that’s a bit misleading. I probably have 50 Facebook friends I’ve gone on dates with. However, I don’t talk to a single ex-girlfriend anymore. I don’t need to. I’m happily married with kids.

You cannot be friends with an ex if you are still in love with the ex and secretly hope that he changes his mind and/or becomes a different person.

And that’s where things are different between us. Because you’re feeling sad, lonely, unstable and disconnected, you’re clinging to this guy like he’s a life raft in a vast ocean. The problem is that he’s a life raft with a gaping hole in it.

He is — with no help from you — his own sinking ship — and you are somehow acting desperate to climb aboard and go down together.

What you haven’t considered is all the other ships in the sea that aren’t sinking.

I don’t doubt the depth of your feelings or your connection, so please don’t doubt the power of my answer, which is a simple as can be.

You can be friends with an ex if you are satisfied with the state of the friendship.

You cannot be friends with an ex if you are still in love with the ex and secretly hope that he changes his mind and/or becomes a different person.

Now pick up the phone, tell him to stop contacting you, and don’t look back at the sinking life raft until it’s no longer tempting to do so.