Dear Red: Friends With the Ex?

Dear Red,

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of a very long time because I felt like I was putting more into the relationship than he was.  He also started blowing me off, paying more attention to his other female friends, and putting work and other activities before me.  So I ended it, no big deal.

Well he totally went off the deep end.  I know that he is not over me and some space would be better for both of us.  But since the breakup he has been paying an enormous amount of attention to me. I say: too little too late, but he says, "I can't NOT have you in my life.  I think we can be just as close as we were, but without the intimacy."

I'm not sure how healthy this would be.  I still want him in my life, but knowing about each other's hookups and one nights stands could only hurt us, right?  He is constantly asking me to grab lunch or drinks and I'm a little (well, very) confused.

How do I go about this?


Might Need Some Space

Dear Might Need Some Space,

This one is tough, because I am currently working through a very similar situation. I adore my ex, I really do, and consider him one of my closest friends. We talk often, and he is someone I lean on when I feel like I have no one else to turn to.

The problem is, I can't always keep my head and heart straight on this one. There's a little book out there called, "It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken"...and the title pretty much sums it up. None of the original reasons we had for breaking up have really changed, even though I think we have become/are becoming better versions of ourselves since our breakup (hence, maybe why we can continue to spend so much time together?).

But here's the thing...if you don't feel like it's healthy, then it's not. If there is one thing I want all women to start doing, it's to really start to trust your gut and use your noggin. If your gut is telling you that you need space, it's probably not lying to you. Take a minute to then think of the reasons your gut is telling you that you need space. Is it because he's being clingy? Is it because you feel like you want to date other people? Is it because you know you can't separate your past identity together as a couple from a new identity as friends?

Listen, if he really wants to remain your friend in the future, he'll be okay if you tell him that you need a few weeks to think things through now (I did this with my ex, and I think it was healthy for both of us). And since I'm always hearing this from the men-folk, be very specific about what this time away means to you. Does it mean no contact at all? Is it two weeks or three? Will you reconnect on this or that date to talk? I think that's completely fair to ask in order for you to sort out your feelings.

The good news is, I think you can still be friends, but you need to be able to feel comfortable with how that friendship plays out (and I totally agree...I don't want to hear about new sexual conquests either!). Set boundaries if you think you need to.