Valley Girl With a Brain

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Sorry, But This is Why You Can’t Be Friends with Your Ex

Ask yourself: Why do you really want to stay pals with your ex?

Reese’s peanut butter cups have always made me sick.

This morning, I ate two for breakfast. I have had a terrible stomachache since then.

You may ask why I eat them, even when I know they will make me sick.

The answer is simple: I love them.

This is the same reason why we get into trouble and do things we know are bad for us. In other words, this is why we befriend or try to befriend our exes when we know we shouldn’t.

If you are reading this, shaking your fist, and saying: “I am friends with my ex, dummy!” Then this article is clearly not for you.

According to a 2004 NBC.com poll, 48 percent of people surveyed said they stayed friends with their ex after a breakup, while 18 percent said they tried to, but it didn’t work out.

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I’m speaking to the 18 percent of you (myself included) who have tried, but failed to stay friends with a former flame.

First a disclaimer: I’m not saying you can’t be friends with any exes. Some people are perfectly capable of being chums with their past loves, particularly if their break-ups were mutual, the relationship was more platonic than passionate, or if they jointly outgrew each other. In fact, I am friendly with a couple exes, but it is because they fit into one of the above categories.

Those exes that I cannot be friends with are the ones who broke my heart. And too often, they are the only exes that I actually want to be friends with.

“Why would you even want to be friends with those people?”

Please refer to the Reese’s peanut butter cup statement from earlier.

Love is the reason we try so desperately to remain in their lives, yet, it is exactly the same reason we should not.

According to a recent YourTango.com poll, 71 percent of people surveyed admitted that they thought about their ex “too much” – and more than 57 percent of singles said that “thinking about their ex prevents them from finding new love.”

Obviously, right? If you’re still hung up on your past, it’s going to be difficult to move on to your future, especially when the person you’re hung up on is still a regular fixture in your life.

In “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” the title characters Celeste and Jesse explore the notion of friendship after a breakup. After growing up together and eventually falling in love and getting married, Celeste and Jesse decide to separate and file for divorce. However, instead of going their separate ways, the two continue to live, hang out, and spend all their time together, which prevents either from truly moving on.

Yet, each remains friends with the other for different reasons. Celeste is comfortable with Jesse and still enjoys all the benefits of his companionship, whereas Jesse believes that Celeste will eventually come back around.

For a while, it seems the pair are genuine pals – until one fateful night, when they start building IKEA furniture together, get drunk, and hook up.

Intentions are muddled. Feelings are hurt, and the couple finally comes to terms with the fact that their “friendship” is in fact, a complete fantasy.

While watching this film, I couldn’t help but relate to Jesse’s character. I too once had a similar experience, where I thought that the other person would eventually come around – if I had just waited long enough. Years passed and the guise of “just friends” became more and more difficult to muster, especially since he continued to date other people, while I pretended not to care and only tried to focus on looking as amazing as possible for the next time we would platonically see each other.

No amount of weight loss, makeup, or new wardrobe was able to revert his feelings for me. After all, we were just friends now, and he had moved on.

But where was I? I was in pain. You might say, the equivalent of eating a 1000 Reese’s peanut butter cups.

But then I had an epiphany. At last, I admitted that I didn’t actually want to be “friends” with these exes – I just didn’t want to lose them. A part of me believed that we could still be in each other’s lives, in some capacity – big or small. And if we stayed "friends" long enough, we'd eventually get back together. Everything would go back to the way things were, which is precisely why I tolerated those miserable stomachaches.

Now is the part where I tell you that I don’t know what’s going to happen in your future. Perhaps, you will get back together with your ex, after all. Amazingly, my third-grade boyfriend and I ended up rekindling our romance our first year of college. (Though it still didn’t work out the second time around either...)

But the real question is: How long will you wait to find out? How many more stomachaches will you endure for someone who has already hurt you so much?

Follow me on Twitter: @thisjenkim 

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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