Thanks for reading Can We Talk?, a sex and relationships column that aims to tackle the burning questions about sex, dating, relationships, and breakups that you’re too afraid to ask your partner — or maybe even your besties. Last time, relationship therapist Moraya Seeger DeGeare, LMFT, helped a reader who was struggling with the fact that her partner was friends with his exes. This week, we heard from Refinery29 readers about whether they believe in being pals with past flames, and how they’ve made it work.
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Morgan Root, 30, Syracuse, NY
In the queer, polyamorous community Morgan Root is a part of, they’ve found that it’s incredibly common to be friends with exes. Not only is it not unusual, but it’s almost required. “I can’t describe it, but — it’s usually a small community and you’ve got to save face — and it’s not only convenient to stay friends with your exes, but it’s also this ‘cool,’ ultra–queer thing to do,” they say.
Morgan has struggled with that at times. “On the one hand, you don’t have to avoid anyone, but on the other hand, it can make you feel awkward,” they say. “I also hate being fake, and you almost have to put on this mask in groups at first in order to stay part of the community… In straight culture, it’s different, because they have so many different bars and clubs and places to go to avoid their ex’s favorite spot. But if you’re in a small, gay community or there’s only one queer bar in your town, it’s tricky.”
But, there are also some pros to staying on good terms. “Everything is gonna have a little good and a little bad, it can be better than the alternative of harboring hate or resentment or bad feelings,” they say. “You almost have to get over yourself, be nice, and restart with a clean slate with an ex. It often means you’ve worked through the problem and released some of that hatred that can come from breakups. It feels good to let it go and be like, I accept that you could not care for me the way I need to be cared for.”
Morgan adds that some people outside of the community assume breakups for folks in polyamorous relationships, in which they’re dating multiple people, aren’t as difficult to process. “That’s just not true,” they say. “It’s still so hard, and it also can be isolating. If I break up with someone, I’m not going to my boyfriend and being like, I’m sad someone broke up with me. I have to process that on my own and treat it as a separate thing because it’s not healthy to use other people to help you heal.”
In the end, with a therapist and finding a support group has helped them through the difficult breakups. “Nothing is universal,” …read more