DEAR, CAROLYN: It’s been over a month since my ex and I had an argument, and we haven’t spoken to each other 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 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 completely over him and have no intention of getting back together with him, but 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 you (or hurt) and it would be harder for him if you sent him a card. Also because he may get the wrong idea of you wanting to get back together. What should I do?
DEAR CONFUSED: This doesn’t seem like the thing to focus on, but I’m fixed on it:
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“(I’m friends with all my exes).”
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-“always” thing as a verbal tic.
With it, I’m thinking it’s a tell. You like your 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.
A lot of which is just fine, of course, because who wants enemies or mess?
There’s a difference, though, between wanting to be liked and having your whole 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?
Please note, 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 I’m talking about. The way to find peace in any situation isn’t to get the best out of it — it’s to put your best in.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.