Family

No need to hide that ex is your best friend

Q: I’m back on the dating scene and have been wondering what will happen when I get close enough to someone that I have to admit this truth: My best friend is my ex-boyfriend. My ex and I spent four years together and have been broken up for two years, but we still constantly text and keep each other abreast of what’s going on in our lives. Essentially, we are best friends.

Neither of us is looking to get back together, but I know that it may cause an issue in future relationships. I don’t want to lose my friendship with my ex, but as I begin to date more seriously, I wonder how to explain the dynamic without causing unneeded jealousy or suspicion in a future partner.

I don’t want to downplay the role my ex’s friendship has in my life, but I can see why it might cause friction.

Ex’s Best Friend

A: “Admit” a friendship? When you grow “close enough” that you “have to”? (Intensifying my editors’ dream of “disabling” my “quotation mark” “key.”)

It’s hard to think of a better formula for jealousy and suspicion than withholding, spinning and defending a truth about oneself, and your letter hits that trifecta.

When you go on a date, allow your best friend to come up organically. “My friend Exter always says I (whatever)” — just as you would refer to your friend Jane. And, just as you’d mention knowing Jane since you were kids, you note you and Exter used to date.

That establishes your friendship as an ordinary, utterly non-scandalous fact about you, as no explanation could, since explaining says there’s something to explain, hiding says there’s something to hide, and admitting says someone did something wrong. Mentioning whenever it happens to come up is what says, “Nothing to see here.” If he asks: Shrug. “We’re better as friends.”

Some dates will think this friendship is weird, wrong or threatening, sure. That’s their prerogative. For your purposes, it doesn’t matter who’s right, you each just need to date others who agree with you. The best way to find these men is to be open about, and OK with, this friendship yourself.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at Washingtonpost.com.

Washington Post Writers Group

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