One Man’s Trash: Looking back at relationships with exes

By Amanda Hodgeson/ @Manda_Hodge

I am always in awe and a little bit envious, if I am honest, of the relationship my partner has with her ex’s. They still speak and maintain some sort of a relationship. There is no hate, no loathing, no love lost. And I admire that so much, to accept the completion of a relationship, accept the situation for what it is/was and move on and acknowledge that there was love there and that love doesn’t go to shit just because things didn’t work out.

She has these relationships with not only her ex’s where things ended amicably, but also with her ex’s where there was a lot of hurt and heartbreak.

75585-Lost-LoveI often wonder if it’s something about her character that fosters these kinds of interactions. I was made very aware in the beginning of our relationship that she loves incredibly well. I don’t know if that is a legitimate skill that people can possess, but she has it. It’s not because I am special that her love for me is so valiant and outstanding, it’s because that’s just the heart she has. A big one. A whole one that want’s to envelope you and make you feel at home. This doesn’t mean she is perfect. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t hurt anyone. But is it the genuineness and pureness of her love that makes you want to continue to love her, to have her love you, even if the love is no longer romantic?

In the past two weeks, after seeing a picture that a friend posted, I started speaking again to this awesome guy I dated when I was in matric. We decided we should catch up and go for lunch or coffee sometime soon. That sometime soon was this past Sunday at the Fourways Farmers Market. He is pretty much the same guy that I remember. Funny, sweet, opinionated, but he’s developed an impressive amount of wisdom and insight. We spoke mostly about what’s happened in our lives in the last ten years and the people we have become and grown in to. In essence I think we are the same people we were in matric, just with more backbone, self-assurance and chutzpah.

Upon leaving the market I spotted another ex. An ex I am not on good terms with. I must admit that I spotted him and immediately looked away and walked ahead to avoid the ‘oh shit there she is/there he is, let’s look the other way’ awkwardness. The ‘spotting’ was literally two seconds long, but juxtaposed alongside the friend ex, it really rattled me. How is it possible that on my left is an ex that I just had a really lovely day with and on my right is another ex that I am going to scurry past like I don’t know what that man’s ass crack looks like?

But why?

Why even bother wanting to maintain a friendship with someone after a romantic relationship has ended? A friend of mine, and I am sure many people share this sentiment, wishes that all his exes could just stop existing and fall off the face of the earth. Not because he hates them, but because their time together has come to an end and there is no need for him to see, let alone have lunch with anyone he has dated. And all the fibres of my being are on some ‘whaaaaaat?!? I mean I don’t know about ya’ll but when I am building a relationship with sumbarrry special I build beyond the ‘I want to have great sexy times with you’.

***

You cannot be friends with/maintain a relationship with every single person that you ever had a liking/loving for. People grow apart. People change. People become people that the people we have become cannot be down with. That’s a true and sometimes painful fact of life. And it’s hard and it sucks, but mostly it’s for the best.

I have an intense desire to be seen in a relationship. Really seen, for who and what I am, and to have that person love my whole being. Love even the bits that they don’t agree with, the bits that are different from their bits. So I intentionally build a strong- as honest as I can be -here is a window to my soul-  bond. And as a result, I think, my value and appreciation for that person goes beyond them being my partner. It goes to their personhood. And all the things that I love(d) about them, therefore, don’t go away just because we can’t be in a relationship, because those things were not based on the fact that we were in a relationship. So when I hear someone say that all their exes can go to the nearest dumping site I am, honestly, a little bit (and by a little bit, I mean a lot) offended, like, oh!! So my value as a person in your life was solely dependent on the fact that you had access to this ass?

But as a student of psychology, a feminist and a big believer in introspection, I am also aware of the cyclical nature of the universe and all the goings on in this life. And as such I am aware that my offense is also coloured by some of my own internal struggles, insecurities and questions.

You cannot be friends with/maintain a relationship with every single person that you ever had a liking/loving for. People grow apart. People change. People become people that the people we have become cannot be down with. That’s a true and sometimes painful fact of life. And it’s hard and it sucks, but mostly it’s for the best.

Going back to my envy of my girlfriend and her relationships with her exs. What a continued relationship with someone you were once romantically linked to says to me is:

 You are valid. This relationship was valid. And I value your being, not just your being when you were fucking me.

But our value, our validation, our sense of worth cannot be tied to anyone else, past or present. This is where my internal strife starts. To get to a place where I can accept the situation for what it is/was and move on and acknowledge that there was love there and that love, from my side, doesn’t go to shit regardless of how the other person feels about me and continuing a relationship with me.

I am the kind of person who needs to talk with the individual concerned in order to gain closure. I like to talk through everything really. And a big point of growth for me has been to realise and accept that sometimes the other person does not need to keep on talking. That maybe closure for them is forgetting I existed. And that is ok.

There needs to be a mutual agreement that continuing to be a part of one another’s lives is beneficial to both parties. And when you have loved someone intimately there is a lot of work that comes with changing and finding a new dynamic to your relationship.  And that work is not something we are all prepared to do.

And that is also OK.

This was first published on her blog Queer Black Feminist and check out her tumblr here.

Also check out other posts about exes and being with men, there is Outset about sex with a man, (which is along the same lines as So I let A Guy Fuck Me) and also 15 years of Marriage before finding love.

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