This is not a fantasy scenario. Time and again, men and women find themselves face-to-face with an ex—often unsure of whether they should be open for re-kindled relationships, ranging from the platonic to the romantic, or not.
It is said that maintaining friendships between two former lovers can only mean two things: either they are still in love with each other or are just carrying on the good sex. Can this be a general truth? How platonic can relationships with an ex really be? Are the typical 20 to 30-somethings open to second chances? If so, how likely is it for a second chance to work out?
The following attempts to unlock the Case of the Ex have been derived and concluded from a series of casual interviews over lunch, cocktails and online correspondences with a handful of Filipino men and women as young as 24 to as old as 37.
The interviews all seem to indicate a common truth: a purely platonic relationship with someone whom one had been physically or emotionally intimate with is impossible. There will always be a desire or a tendency to re-live memories and repeat old habits, even when both parties are already involved with their new partners. It is only out of ethical reasons that such desires and tendencies are not acted upon. (And ethics die in the spirit of alcohol or one single touch at the “wrong” place.) For “friendship” to properly work under this set up, and without anyone ending up hurt because of concealed expectations, activities must not be regularly carried on to become routines, while special treatments should no longer be encouraged. Likewise, there should no longer be displays of affection of any kind. An ex in this setting and an ordinary friend must be dealt with similarly. In the end, when one is really over an ex, the only sure way to be friends in a purely platonic level is through being civil–the hi and hello, I’m fine and so are you, bye and see you whenever type. No touching. And certainly no more beyond that.
Now, small breakups do occur in most relationships. Some may take just a day while others may extend even to a couple of months. No guideline or formula can really determine what makes a boyfriend or a girlfriend an official ex. It is a case-to-case thing and only the parties involved can tell when it is finally the end.
The respondents are mostly open to the idea of reviving a closed relationship; one even claiming that the heart is not selective: when it is really open, it grants access to all–regardless if an ex or not. However, the following factors seem to play a crucial role in deciding for another try:
- the reason and manner of the breakup
- the length of time apart
- the current status of both parties
Meanwhile, there seems to be no wound that time cannot heal. Time gives room for people to accept and forgive. When both are achieved by the parties involved during their period of separation, then it becomes possible to start anew.
Lastly, of course, current conditions should be considered. Are the two parties still single and unattached? Are they both living in the same city or at least, in areas that do not require a country code or a plane ride to keep communication lines open? Usually, serious considerations on these items are made prior to reviving a relationship with an ex. Cheating, however, may happen when one or both parties are already involved with another.
It takes effort to make things work in serious second chances. Things are easier when they remain trivial or when they downgrade from serious to trivial. There is a risk, however, of one being hurt as expectations cannot be avoided once old passions are re-kindled. It will entirely have to depend on who is brave enough to face the risk… or who is stupid enough to make the same mistake all over again.
I would like to thank the following persons for their experiences and insights that led to the completion of this write-up: Mr. Anonymous, Mr. Ex, CTR, Mrs. Cullen, Mr. “Outsider,” Ms. Fireness and MFV.
16 November 2008