ASK LADY ESQ.
Relationship advice from a divorce attorney.
Dear Lady Esq.,
My ex doesn’t want to talk to me because it was a very painful break-up. Should I respect her wishes and avoid contact, or try to spark some form of ongoing friendship?
As Ben Harper says in one of my all-time favorite break-up songs, “They say if you love somebody you have got to set them free, but I would rather be locked to you than live in this pain and misery.”
The answer is hard to do, but easy to say – sometimes, you just have to walk away. If you love her, you have to set her free. She has made clear her wishes – she needs time and space to heal from the pain of your break-up, and you should give it to her.
In some cases it is the person who was left behind that cannot let go of the relationship and feels that they can still hold onto it in some sense by remaining friends. For this person, maintaining a friendship without a period of time and space to heal and get over the loss of the relationship is a form of denial, a way of not letting go. This person will never truly “get over it” as long as they attempt to trick themselves by still having their ex in their lives.
In other cases, it is the one who ends the relationship who wants to maintain a friendship. Perhaps they feel guilty about leaving their love in the lurch, and they feel that the best way to minimize the damage is to remain friends. Or perhaps they truly love having their ex in their lives and love the connection they have with them and don’t want to give that up, while simultaneously wanting to be free to explore other options in the dating world.
Whether you are the one who ended the relationship or the one who can’t let go, you are doing yourself and your ex a disservice by attempting to maintain a friendship at this juncture. Neither you nor your ex will be able to truly move on and heal if you attempt to remain friends right now.
Now, this is not to say that one day you will not be friends. But you cannot have a true friendship that is independent of the relationship that preceded it until you have both gotten over the relationship and moved on. Once you have both truly moved on (which may not happen until one or both of you have new significant others in your lives) you will most likely be able to start a friendship with your ex. But until that time your “friendship” will be a facade that is masking an inability of one or both of you to let go.
The fact that you want to remain friends with her likely means that she is a good person who is important to you and who has a special place in your heart. It may be hard to let go of that idea, hard to move on thinking that she will never again be a part of your life. So it may help to know that giving her time and space may be the very thing that one day leads to your having the friendship you desire. You will be respecting her and the relationship by allowing an adequate time to pass without contact. And some day down the road, months or even years from now, when her heart is healed and she is whole without you, you will both be on stable ground in your own lives and able to come together as friends from a healthy place.
I was once with someone very special for a long time. We grew to be different people and the relationship came to an end. It was painful for both of us to break up. When we did, we agreed that we were very important to each other and loved each other as people, and that we wanted to remain friends. For about two years we had occasional contact, but we were not in each other’s lives, we were not close friends. But as time passed, as we entered new relationships and as our own relationship became more of a fond memory and our break-up less of a painful one, we became friends. We will never be as close as we were before, but we talk, we laugh together, we spend time with each other’s new partners and are part of each other’s new lives. We never would have gotten there if we had tried to remain close friends right after the break-up. We needed to respect the time and space that each of us needed to heal, to move on, and to become new people before we could forge a healthy friendship.
So, Friend, know that giving your ex time and space is not a death sentence to your being in each other’s lives, but more likely the only avenue to the possibility of your one day having the friendship you desire. But the bottom line is this – if she has asked for time and space to heal, you must give that to her. It is essential for both of you to move on.
– Lady Esq.