Brian McFadden is right, pretending your ex doesn’t exist is the only way to move on
I’ve always been suspicious of those who have the ability to forge friendships with someone they loved.
To toddle off to a fortnightly brunch with the person whose heart you broke or to want to catch up with the one who shattered yours into a million pieces is baffling to me.
I’ve witnessed my friends lie to themselves, swearing blindly that they’ve successfully managed to transform what was once romantic into a valuable friendship and I’ve seen these transformed relationships come crashing down after a few months, usually upon hearing the news that an ex has moved on.
They've managed to find something more worthy than what they once had.
It’s long been my belief that attempting to forge a friendship with someone you loved is like continuously picking at a scab, prolonging the pain by refusing to acknowledge that what you had together is broken, cracked and over for a reason.
Earlier this week, former Westlifer Brian McFadden admitted to ITV’s Loose Women panel that he is no longer in contact with his ex-wife Vogue Williams, whom he split with in 2015. McFadden questioned why anyone would want to be friends with an ex and said he coped with the aftermath of a break up by pretending his former lovers don’t exist.
"I can switch straight off away," he dished to the ladies, who quizzed him on his relationship with Williams.
"Instead of mourning somebody, I train my head to imagine they don't exist. Simple things like unfollowing them on social media, getting rid of all pictures, anything that would remind me of them and just carry on with life."
While I never thought I’d recommend that the general public follow the relationship advice of Brian McFadden, I certainly think his attitude is much healthier than those who continuously expose themselves to fresh pain and fool themselves into believing that the love that was there can be reshaped and re-purposed for genuine friendship.
Those who are sceptical of McFadden’s advice, or are preparing to call me bitter in the comments, need only look at the scientific evidence that suggests that hanging onto an ex is bad for your health.
A recent study carried out in Oakland University in the US found that people who stay friends with an ex are more likely to display cunning, manipulative and narcissistic traits.
Another, carried out in the same institution by psychologist Tara Marshall, found that playing happy families and keeping in touch with your ex on social media has a negative impact on your mental health and inhibits one’s ability to draw a line beneath a relationship.
It also puts a ceiling on their own personal value and growth, she said.
I have been at the brunt of a heart wrenching break-up where the grief was all-consuming. I know how tempting it is, when your heart is bruised and loneliness is overwhelming, to send that text, to suggest that we might meet up and be able to “stay friends”. To want to keep something alive even if you have both agreed that is it broken.
However, even in the depths of my sadness, I knew that doing so was unhealthy and I was protecting myself. I couldn't possibly bear feeling worse than I already did.
Cutting clean ties from that relationship afforded me time to focus on other aspects of my life. I met up with friends that I had ashamedly let slip to the wayside and after a few weeks, I realised that it was possible to enjoy myself on my own, to go out and actually have fun, to kiss new boys and be excited about seeing them again - something I didn't think was possible in the midst of grief.
I focused on my career and approached my work with new gusto, I took to the gym to fill up my evenings and was delighted to find my jeans had become looser. Even though I wanted to sometimes, I never once sent that text and looking back on that I'm thrilled that I upheld my self respect.
I’m glad I protected my shattered ego because I feel proud that I never gave that person the satisfaction that I was sad or desperate enough to cling onto something they had so easily moved on from, to beg for a drink and pretend we were friends who cared about one another when that wasn't the case.
I have also had relationships that have ended amicably and on my terms with a shared agreement that it wasn’t working out. After a few weeks of Facebook creeping (mutual I’m sure), it was healthy to cut ties. I realised that looking at an edited snapshot of the life of my ex did not have a purpose. It was, as the research suggests, stopping me from drawing that necessary line and moving on.
I have never asked any of my exes to be my friend, to go for a pint, to talk about our new loves and reminisce about the good old days because it’s unhealthy and weird.
Author Greg Behrendt, a friend of Oprah who penned modern heartbreak bible It’s Called a Break-Up Because It’s Broken makes the point that the end of a relationship is tough enough without trying to create a faux friendship.
He writes: "So many of us find ourselves saying, 'he was so great' but the people who got on the Titanic thought they were going on vacation. Things changed and it’s important to remember that they did."
Why would you want to be friends with someone who gave you enough reason to break-up with them? Or waste time on someone who treated you like you were disposable?
As tempting as it can be to convince yourself otherwise, an ex isn’t worthy of your tears, your time or your friendship. Take Brian’s advice and find someone better to go to brunch with.