Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Call Him Your Ex

When you invest time and energy into a relationship, the person you’re dating becomes a part of your life. This person/experience usually changes you in some ways, and even if the relationship ends, you still have new memories, ideas, and maybe even outlooks as a direct result of the time you spent with this person.

These things don’t stop being relevant when the relationship ends. Let’s say you spent the last summer at your boyfriend’s house in Edgartown, and coworker starts talking about a Vineyard trip she’s planning. Of course you want to tell her the best ferry parking lot, but somehow it comes out like this, “My ex has a place on the island—I used to go there all the time. The thing is, when you drive in to the ferry parking area, they’re going to direct you to the lot…”

What information wasn’t relevant? The fact that he’s your ex-boyfriend. From your coworker’s point of view, does it make one iota of difference whether it was your ex-boyfriend or third cousin who summered on the liberal man’s Nantucket?

When you call him “my ex-boyfriend,” you’re drawing attention to the breakup. For no reason. It makes it seem like you’re not over it, like you still think of him romantically (which, if you’re describing him in terms of your past relationship, you probably do), possibly even like you’re bitter.

There’s nothing less attractive than someone who seems hung up on a failed relationship. You never hear, “There’s nothing sexier than a guy who won’t shut up about his ex.”

Dwelling on the past is never something we look for in new partners.  A new relationship is nothing if not hope for happiness in the future. And while dropping the ex bomb might not be the same thing as spending three hours crying about it to a total stranger, it’s not helping anything either.

You’re not gaining anything by calling him your ex, and you’re not losing anything by using an ambiguous term, like “friend.”

“Ex-boyfriend” is a word with negative connotations. “Friend” is, at the very least, neutral, and usually positive.

So why not tell people it was your friend who got you tickets to the Modest Mouse show, who introduced you to Gogol, who let you crash at his parent’s apartment in the city.

At the very least, you’ll come across as more of an optimist, and you won’t get branded as that crazy girl who starts every sentence with, “Well, my ex-boyfriend used to say…”

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