Dear Dude’s Thoughts on Friendly Exes


You can go ahead and imagine this is me and Dear Dude
playing a game of ‘telephone.’ In a field.
Dear Dude is a twice-monthly column in which my good friend, The Dude, answers some of your questions about the hairier sex. Dear Dude is an industrial designer by day and a serial flirt by night. He owns entirely too many bikes and a fairly well-behaved dog. He loves good food, good music and smart ladies.
Dear Dude,
I have an ex-boyfriend who, after nearly ten years since our breakup, still texts (or calls!) me a couple of times a year to update me on his life. e.g., “moved in w/ my girlfriend,” or “starting a new job on Monday,” etc.

We live in different states and I am now happily married to someone else. I don’t want to be rude, so I keep my responses brief and friendly, but it baffles the mind! Is he seeking my approval? Or just trying to stay connected? Should I say something to help him “move on”? Or do you think it will peter out in (more) time? Thanks!

Dear (noun plural),
You will have to pardon me here, but I guess I don’t see what is so baffling… texting or (gasp!!) calling a couple of times a year? How dare he! Can’t he just be obsessed with his current girlfriend, that he lives with, like a normal guy, and leave you alone for those precious minutes of your time?

Yes, I am being sarcastic. And a little bit of a dick. Why? Because I think most people (men and women) would gladly trade their memories of a douchey ex for what you are experiencing right now.

Have you ever stayed friends with an ex? Was it a bad break up? Was he hung up on you after, pestering you? Begging to take him back? Did he cheat? Hurt you? There really isn’t enough information here to make even a reasonable assessment, but to be completely honest and frank, every time I read your question I get the impression that perhaps you think he is still in love with you. Nothing you wrote seems strange to me except the fact that you don’t understand why an ex would want to stay in touch.

So you had an amicable breakup, and he still wants to talk to you? Congratulations! Revel in that! Not everyone can be so lucky! Not convinced? Then TELL HIM. You don’t have “put up” with these unwelcome, occasional, seemingly warm updates about his life, when you clearly want him 110% out of your life.

So lets just assume that you still feel this way after reading my guilt trip: how do you let him know his updates are no longer welcome? Try saying this:

“Sir, while I am happy you are successful in your career, and are happily pursuing new relationships since we dated 10 years ago; but I feel that whatever connection we had has since faded, and I am no longer interested in your life.”

Ok, so maybe not super nice, but he will get the point. You could even text it! Otherwise, just stop replying. Clearly being “polite” is sending him the wrong message.

I hope this helps, and is not too harsh, but I am a bit mystified by your question… I am not kidding when I say that I think this is one of the toughest questions I have read, only because I think what you have is actually pretty ideal. Occasional, genial conversation between two people who have shared something deeper (hopefully) than fluids, and have no bad blood?

That is all I have,
xoxo,
Dude

How would you guys respond to very occasional messages from a long-past ex? Are you friends with your exes? What advice would you give our friend?

13 Comments

Kara

I'm with Dude on this one. What's the big deal? I am friends with a couple of my ex's (including my ex husband). We chat once in a while, catch up on each others lives and move on. These people were big parts of my life and I think it's healthier to acknowledge that than to try to excise entire years. If you don't want to continue to talk to him, then simply say so .. "Hey I'm uncomfortable keeping in contact, but I wish you well."

But baffles the mind? Really? Consider yourself lucky.

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Ella

This seems pretty innocent, but it's not so out there to think that a "friendly" ex is acting strange. I had a friend who's ex would send him "friendly" updates that were really thinly veiled attempts to create jealousy. Updates on her dating life, how much her new fitness routine was paying off, about guys hitting on her, stuff like that.

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brookem

i disagree with the dude. sure, i'd prefer friendly texts and updates compared to the opposite, but after ten years? and the fact that the ex is just sending one liners, "just moved in with my girlfriend" seems odd to me. maybe we don't know the whole story. i don't know. but i kind of think it's weird too. at the same time, if i were her, i'd probably slowly do the fade out or not reply all together, or, tell him as politely as possible that you wish him all the best, but you feel funny keeping in touch after all this time.

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Amy --- Just A Titch

I am friends with all but one of my exes, and if he's not sending you flirtatious texts or anything strange, I think it's nice. As always, if it makes you uncomfortable (or your husband) than you should just stop responding—he'll get it.

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Anonymous

being in contact maybe once or twice a year is pretty innocuous, but i know i had a bad personal experience with a friendly ex. we had a totally amicable breakup and wanted to stay friends, but it got to the point that we were still in touch very frequently (more than 3 times a week or so) although we were living in different places. eventually, i asked him what was up, he said he was just trying to be friends, and i was pretty much crushed because i was holding out hope he still cared. i've ended up more upset with him than when we actually broke up and now we never talk, although we're currently living in the same place again. obviously, this all sounds very "duh" after the fact, but being friends with an ex can be tricky business.

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Jillian

i think dude is right on this one. i have 2 exes who occasionally call, gchat or write on my facebook wall to say HI. i think it is nice that we can still be friends even though the relationship did not work out. i broke up with both exes and i am currently in a serious relationship– both exes are aware of this and very respectful. i am glad i can still be friends with people who were a very important part of my life at one time. as long as your current boyfriend or husband/parnter doesnt mind (you shouldnt have to hide your friendship!) then i dont think it should be a problem. jcd

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meliasaurus

I agree with the dude…
There's a guy who was not my boyfriend but still broke my heart. We're friends now. He moved away for a year and things were kind of bad in my life and it was nice to hear someone with good news when we'd occasionally talk on the phone. Or someone to just have small talk with about food or abortion vs adoption, who knows… there aren't a lot of people i feel comfortable having small talk with so i take it where i can get it.

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fawn

OK guys, it's me.

@Dude Thank you for your thoughtful input as always. I'm a huge fan. In hindsight, I probably didn't supply enough information, so here's a clear backstory:

We we together for about a year between 1999-2000. Our breakup was sad, but not particularly nasty. We remained friends in the traditional sense of the word (hanging out, calling, etc.) for the next 3-4 years. Then he moved and there was a strong sense (to me) that our friendship was fading. There was far less contact via text and email and if there was it was just friendly fluff.

Fast forward to the present.

The communications I currently receive from him are not flirty, nostalgic, or even all that friend-like. They are *updates* on important events happening to him. They are the weird one-liners a handful of times throughout the year.

—> He doesn't ask me how I am or even what I've been up to. I don't wish to sound cruel, but it feels like I've subscribed to a news feed. It's even stranger to talk in person because the conversation seems "forced" and one-sided.

I long stopped initiating contact, but do reply or pick up when he texts or calls (rare) – Precisely, because I don't want to be a jerk!

So to rephrase: "Should I make this stop?" and "What motivates a guy to keep a gal up-to-date on his life-happenings if he's not interested in hers?"

I'm sorry my initial phrasing was too pared back.

@brookem – nice intuition and thanks for the tip.

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Rachael

I'm friends with two ex's – one who, like the woman's ex, just sends occasional updates a couple times a year – and another who I have long, deep, more meaningful (and strictly friend-orientated) catch-up conversations with (just a smattering throughout the year).

Fawn – honestly, as he seems to just be giving you the RSS feed of his life, I say just stop replying back to him :/

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Anonymous

Hi everyone!
Well I do not agree with dude. I believe it is too tricky to be friends with an ex. Sometimes one person gets hurt in the end. I am not friends with my ex and personally like it that way. I do not know about his life or the other way around.

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Lorra Fae

I'm friends with the majority of my exes, and the rest I am on good terms with (and uh, it's a lot of people, I guess. I started early and am now almost 33). There is only one person I am not on good terms with, but could be if he wasn't a cowardly dork.

ANYWAY, I like hearing from my exes, though it depends which one. I do think that random "status update" style text messages are strange, especially if it's just one sided and there is no interest in her life.
If it's annoying I would just ignore it, or confront him about it. Don't worry about being a jerk, just be honest. If you don't have any interest in him or his life, then it shouldn't matter if he thinks you're a jerk anyway.

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Flight Attendant Extraordinaire

I'd say there is probably only one dude I've dated who I don't still care enough about to occasionally drop an email to. These emails generally fall along the lines of "Hey, how are things going for you? I heard from so-and-so that you got a new job & moved. That's great!" This is mostly because I am nosy.

Gotta say though, it does seem odd that this dude is just sending out a newsfeed of his life.

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penn

I have one ex I speak with occasionally — mostly on facebook every rare once in awhile, and we've seen each other once since we broke up 3 years ago (we live in different states). That's fine because the split was amicable and I do wish him the best, but any more contact would be weird.

With another ex, we had a less than happy split. I tolerated his contact (phone calls, seeing him once a year when I went home for Christmas, etc) for quite awhile. Then, he slowly started sliding into wanting to control my life like he did in our relationship. He's married now, btw. At first, I'd just cut down on contact with him, but I finally realized I had to cut it all off. I did so almost a year ago, and I couldn't be happier.

In short: to the letter writer, if you don't want to hear from the guy, either ignore him or tell him to leave you alone.

Reply

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