Why I'm Glad I'm Still Close With My Ex

by Kae Burdo
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More often than not, I refer to one of my best friends as my brother, because in many ways, it more accurately describes our relationship. He stays the night at the apartment I share with my nesting partner at least once a week. We play video games, make jokes at each other’s expense, binge watch ridiculous sci-fi, and talk to each other about things we can’t with anyone else. We have a tradition of spending Christmas night together, and him coming by my mother’s for any holiday dinner is a normal occurrence. He’s my emergency contact on everything from my passport to my job paperwork, and has a key to my apartment no matter where I live or with whom. All of that to say: he’s my family.

He’s also my ex-boyfriend. We dated a long time ago, when we were both in high school. He wasn’t my first "boyfriend" but he was the first person I fell in love with. It was dramatic, intense, and probably a little bit emotionally abusive, but we deeply cared about one another. After it ended, we didn’t talk for about a year — it’s impossible to be “just friends” with an ex you still have simmering resentment or frothy loins for — but once we got past our hurt, he became My Person.

Over 12 years after we met in our high school drama club, my friendship with my ex has enriched my life in immeasurable ways, as have my close relationships with several other exes. Here’s why I’m glad I’m still friends with my ex. But first, check out the latest episode of our Sex and Relationships podcast, I Want It That Way:

1. I Didn't Lose Him

As with most couples, my ex and I shared a lot of important things during our relationship. Those were formative years for both of us, because duh, we were teens, but we both had a lot going on beyond normal teen stuff, too. After a year and a half of dating it was clear that we made for terrible partners, but we obviously cared deeply for each other, which is why we make great friends. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we kept the parts of our relationship that worked and dumped the parts that didn't.

Not staying friends with an ex — abuse or other toxicity not withstanding — never made sense to me. I put a lot of time, effort, and energy into my relationships, and only get into them with people I strongly connect with on levels other than sexual. Why waste all that just because our romantic aspirations didn't pan out?

2. I Didn't Lose His Family

Staying friends with my ex has meant not only that I didn't lose my relationship with him, but also I didn't lose my relationships with his family. His mom and sister became important people in my life while we were together, and I drove his sister to school for a full year after we split up. These days, I call his mom "ma" most of the time, and I was his date to his sister's wedding. Family — chosen or blood — is important to me, and family stays family even after a breakup. Hell, I even have a good relationship with my former in-laws and still spend time with children I used to co-parent.

Just as important, my family didn't lose him. My youngest siblings don't remember a time without him, and I swear my mom is more excited when he shows up for Christmas dinner than when I do.

3. He's Seen The Best And The Worst Of Me

And still stuck around, which means I don’t have to try to impress him or be embarrassed around him. Whether I hack up phlegm in my sickly state, answer the door naked, mispronounce "granite" (totally happened while playing Minecraft), or otherwise do ridiculous or embarrassing things, my social anxiety can sit down and shut up when he's around. He may mock me mercilessly, but he does it with love, and I know there's no judgement in it.

4. I Always Have A Partner-In-Crime

I know a lot of people refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend as their partner-in-crime, but mine is my ex. He knows me better than anyone else does, our list of inside jokes is longer than he is tall, and he's always up for an adventure, whether it's a cross-country move or just a night of dancing and skinny-dipping. And since our relationship isn't dependent on us bumpin' uglies, I know he'll always be game.

5. No Matter How Much I F*ck Up, He'll Always Be Here

Have you ever seen that (totally unscientific and unprovable) meme about how if you've been friends for seven years, that friendship will last a lifetime? The first time I saw that on Facebook, I tagged my ex in it and laughed about how he's stuck with me forever. It works both ways, though: no matter what happens, my ex will always be a part of my life. After all we've been through, nothing is going to pull us apart. There's a wonderful safety and comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, we'll still be sitting side-by-side at the nursing home someday, quoting Archer at each other.

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