Q: It’s been over a month since my ex and I had an argument, and we haven’t spoken since. We’ve been together for over a year and have had trivial arguments like this, and we always get back together after a few days of cooling off. I always like to settle arguments at that moment, but he likes to discuss them after a day or two. I think we both realize we love each other but are not meant to be together. He always told me if we ever broke up that he would always be my friend. Over the past month, I’ve seen him from a distance, but he doesn’t acknowledge me, and I avoid him, too. I’m over him and have no intention of getting back together, but I want us at least to be friends (I’m friends with all my exes). We’ve had no closure and I am thinking of mailing a card to him. My friend said he’s probably over me (or hurt) and it would be harder for him if I sent a card. Also, he may get the wrong idea of me wanting to get back together. What should I do?
A: This doesn’t seem like the thing to focus on, but I’m fixed on it:
“I’m friends with all my exes.”
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Then there’s the starring role of “always”: “We always get back together”; “I always like to settle arguments”; “He always told me … he would always be my friend” (barkeep, make it a double).
Without your sidebar reference to your unbroken ex streak, I might write off the “always” thing as a verbal tic.
With it, I’m thinking it’s a tell. You like certainties. You like your relationships predictable, your arguments quickly resolved, your endings neat and your exes right where you can see them, figuratively speaking, so you don’t have to worry that anyone out there dislikes you.
Which is fine, of course, because who wants enemies or mess?
There’s a difference, though, between wanting to be liked and having your sense of self riding on it, especially given the one thing you can bank on is that life gets the last word, not you.
You can’t make this relationship end the way your others did, because he’s not your other boyfriends, and you can’t make it end the way you want it to end, because he’s 50 percent of the outcome. Please accept that.
What you can do is what you can (seriously) always do: put into it what you think is right.
So, do you think it’s right to leave him alone, or is the cause of decency better served by a “no hard feelings”-type message? If the latter, would a call, text or card be most respectful?
The outcome you’re working toward is general decency, not a specific interest of yours, like batting 1.000 on ex-befriendings or making it easier to walk into mutual friends’ parties. You want to be gracious, not expedient.
Conveniently, grace covers it — the unfinished business you’re talking about, and your possible need for certainties. The way to find peace in any situation isn’t to get the best out of it — it’s to put your best in.
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