The Wednesday Weigh-In: Exes Edition

All human relationships hold the potential for engendering complicated emotions. But in my experience—and that of many of my friends— the relationship between exes can be one of the most complicated and rocky of all.

Those of us who have exes may know this all too well. Some days we can feel totally at peace with this ghost of our past love. And some days their mere existence can inspire any number of emotions that range from sadness to nostalgia to anger to remorse.

Common wisdom dictates that your relationship to your exes says a lot about you. Are you able to remain friends with your ex after a breakup? Catch the occasional drink with a person you used to bone? Have the self control to avoid late night calls or texts to someone who was once toxic to your life? You might be considered “well-adjusted” or classified as being in a “healthy place” with the situation.

But I don’t totally buy it. Unfortunately, as a feminist blog, we’ve covered too many cases where an ex-lover became dangerous, unhealthy, and violent in response to a breakup or other perceived scorn.  So it’s important to remember that our relationship to our ex says as much about them as it does about us:  who they are, how communicative or emotionally mature they are able to be, and their feelings about how things ended.

Part of what makes our relationship to our exes so tricky is that socially acceptable forms of “love” are so often confined, branded, and appropriated by social norms. There are so many invisible lines that dictate how we’re supposed to behave towards people that we love. But the script is less clear for those who we have loved in the past, and there are less pre-established routes for successful ex-relationship models.

I personally have a wide range of relationships with my exes. I have exes I’d consider among my closest friends, exes who it’s too painful to even talk to, and exes who still know how to drop into my life just long enough to wreak emotional havoc, and then drop out again.

And these relationships show me that there’s certainly great potential for complexity when feelings are hurt or parties experience loss. But is there’s also potential for rich friendship and growth.

This week’s Wednesday Weigh-In deals with exes: Do you have ’em, love ’em, or wish you could leave ’em completely? What role do exes play in your life, and what role do you wish they could play?

Leave it in the comments, folks!

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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