No, she’s not “just a friend”. You and your ex did not maintain “just a friendship”. And you didn’t “just happen to run into each other and spend the rest of the night, reminiscing on old times”.
I once had this boyfriend who had many female “friends”. According to him, they just “studied” together, and these “friends” would text him all the time, and then one day, he went away for the weekend to visit some male friends, and lo and behold, a picture popped up on social media with him and bunch of these female “friends” (yeah, that one didn’t end well).
Here’s the thing: we are all kind of getting to the age where we need to seriously start thinking about marriage. We aren’t just randomly dating people for the fun of it. Like, I don’t pick you because you just made the lead in the school play, and I don’t pick you because you put cute little love notes in my locker and I don’t pick you because I really like the shoes you wore. These days, it’s a do or die situation. Marriage means we are (hypothetically) bound to someone FOREVER, so whatever mistakes we make, we will have to face FOREVER. It’s kind of like hooking up with someone the first night of your cruise; if it goes awkwardly, you have the spend the whole rest of your cruise on the boat with that person, potentially running into them all the time, which then brings up those awkward, uncomfortable memories, and potentially ruins your whole entire trip. OR, you can refrain from hooking up that night (or refrain from talking to that member of the opposite sex) and not have to ever worry about those confrontations.
First, we need to ask ourselves WHAT we are getting out of this particular opposite sex relationship. Ok, so I think about my girl friendships; these friendships are useful to me because (A) I have someone to walk to the bathroom with, (B) I have someone who knows how to match outfits, (C) I have someone who understands what “AN EMERGENCY” is, and (D) I have someone who can inform me about breastfeeding someday. There is a function and a purpose to these friendships. When thinking about an ex, most of the time, however, its hard for us to let go of a relationship, because that person has witnessed so much of our own existence that we irrationally think losing them also means we are losing a very important piece of ourselves. But, that’s unfair to whoever we are currently dating, because we are not allowing ourselves the space to create new, just as important identities (plus, isn’t this what TimeHop is for?…)
We need to also to ask ourselves is WHY are we maintaining these relationships? Ok, so like when I post something on my social media, I always ask myself FIRST what is my main motivation. Am I, (A) seeking affirmation from people’s comments of how pretty I am? (B) attempting to rub something in someone else’s face? (C) clogging up everyone’s news feed so they know I wrote a book? Most of the time, our motivations to maintain these relationships with the opposite sex are because we want to keep someone on the back burner in case our current relationship doesn’t work out. I will admit, when I was a freshman in college, I did my scoping. There was a fresh pool of male specimens I’d just been introduced to; I wasn’t 100% sold on my boyfriend, so I wanted to keep my options open (but it didn’t last too long, because as you know by now, I carry a very guilty conscience, and it actually worked out in his favor because, as it turned out, most of the “men” in college are scummy). I did this when I was 18–I was very immature, marriage was NEVER in my radar, and dating was about riding around in cars with boys, having fun, meeting weird people, doing stupid things, staying out WAY too late and waking up WAY too early.
But, now as my 25 year old self, I don’t need to “keep guys on the back burner”, because if I’m dating someone, I owe it to them to be secure enough in my relationship that I don’t need someone “in case it doesn’t work out”. If I carry this mentality, I’m kind of dooming it from the beginning (and we all know what happens with the self-fulfilling prophecy). If I’m going to be marrying someone, I better damn well be sure it’s going to work out between us. My friend, Sarah, said a very mature thing today. She said, “I’ve been kind of cutting off my male relationships. I figured, if I want to have a husband someday, I shouldn’t be stringing along other men”. Right, no need to maintain these opposite sex relationships because my “Prince Charming” should be more than able to fill all the male roles I need in my life (like, he should be able to cook, clean, do finances, fix my car, paint my toe nails, do my laundry, rhinestone costumes, bring me tissues when my emotions run out of control…)
I recently read this chapter in Nicole Unice’s book, “She’s Got Issues” about anger. She wrote about all these stories she’s heard about people expressing their anger in physical means: kicking trash cans, throwing cheese graters, slamming doors. As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about how, IF people show these small, aggressive tendencies, THEN they are therefore also showing they HAVE the capacity TO be physical with their anger. Right now, I may just be slamming a door, but that means the thought has crossed my mind, and I’ve proven I have the ability to act on that thought, that could lead to a larger physical expression later on. The same is true with talking to a member of the opposite sex. Now, I believe that we are still human, and that just because we put a shiny band on our finger, our human tendencies do not magically go away. We will probably still do a double take when an attractive guy walks by. Our favorite episodes of Once Upon a Time are with Hook (because his accent is so nifty), and when that song comes on the radio, we will probably still think about our exes. But, maintaining relationships means that we have the capability and fortitude to act ON those thoughts, and who knows what kind of dangerous territory that will eventually lead us…But, if I show that am acting on my unfaithful thoughts, then I’m showing I have the ability TO BE unfaithful (and, as humans, we are not very good at resisting temptation).
So, if you are ever dating me and you give me the line “she’s just a friend”, I’m probably telling you, “That’s fine, and have a good life. Here’s a book to help you recover.”