Wednesday 22 January 2020

Upfront: So when it comes to cultivating friendships with exes, the gays are uniquely qualified

Declan Cashin

Breaking up is never easy. In fact, one might say it's hard to do (hey, maybe I should copyright that and pen a song along those lines?) But breaking up isn't what it used to be, either. Increasingly, finishing with someone isn't the end. It's often the beginning.

Let me explain. What I'm talking about is 'ex-iquette': the art of dealing with an ex.

It's simply not the case anymore that splitting up with someone is the absolute end of a relationship with that person.

Instead, if you're lucky, you can get to transition him/her to the friendship category.

It's a tricky process – and it's one that featured as the subject of last year's "anti-romcom" Celeste and Jesse Forever.

At the time, some commentators dismissed the friendship depicted in that film as being so implausible as to be science-fiction.

Perhaps it is a novel breakthrough for heterosexual exes. Alas, such a concept is nothing new to the gays. Now, us rainbow warriors like to think we're better at everything than anyone else. But, when it comes to cultivating friendships with exes, the gays are uniquely qualified.

Just recently I stopped seeing someone after a few weeks, and almost immediately set about building upon our mutual and mutually sincere "let's be friends" sentiments.

There's still the awkward break-up conversation. But, after that, you should lock down a date together that establishes the boundaries of your newly reformatted relationship as pals.

In my case, there was a little awkwardness, but we got through it, and by the time we met a second time a week or so later for a play, it flowed a lot more casually and comfortably.

We're not exactly at the deep-and-meaningful/take-the-piss/let's-talk-about-our-respective-love-lives stage of friendship, but we'll hopefully get there.

Funnily enough, on the same day I was setting off on my first ex-to-friend transition date, a friend in Dublin texted to say he was doing likewise with his recently parted beau.

"It's gotta be done!" he said. And meant it.

My own theory as for why gay people have long put more stock in staying friends with exes is that most of us come out after a period of being closeted, explode onto a gay scene and immediately think that netting a boyfriend will be the solution to everything.

What most of us realise, very quickly, is that what we're really looking for are friends.

Don't get me wrong: there are always going to be romances that end badly, from which no friendship can or should ever be salvaged.

Similarly, some people won't be interested in pursuing anything platonic with you afterwards, and that's their choice.

But if friendship was always the strongest part of your relationship, and there's a modicum of respect on both sides, then you have potential.

All I know is that some of the best friends I have today I know only because we once tried to make a go of it as a couple first.

It's like the inverse of that Michael Bolton song: "How can we be friends if we can't be lovers?"

And the answer to that? Pretty easily, actually. It's worth a shot anyway. Trust me. Don't make me quote Michael Bolton to you again. Because I will. I'm crazy.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top